Aug 15 2012

A funny thing happened on the way home from the conference

Valerie Hayes

We decided to check out the Freer and Sackler Galleries on Monday before leaving DC. One of the museum guards saw my husband’s No Kill Revolution t-shirt, and asked, “No Kill? What is that?”

We explained that it is the movement to end the killing of animals in shelters. He said, “Well, what about people?”

People aren’t rounded up and killed simply for being lost or homeless. We explained that 8 million lost and homeless pets enter American shelters every year and 4 million are killed, even though a lot more than 4 million people are looking to adopt pets. Some animals are even killed when rescuers are on their way to save them. Some places, like certain counties in Georgia, have kill rates of 80%, 90% or even more. They don’t even try to find homes for animals. I told him about my experience at Tompkins County, how we ended the needless killing there, saving thousands of animals as a result.

He replied that it was “a beautiful story.” Not only that, he wanted to learn more and asked me to write down some website urls for him. He even expressed interest in attending next year’s conference.

Wow.

Sometimes, when you’ve spent too much time trying to convince killing apologists to grow a brain, a soul, and a heart, you can forget that we really do have the support of the public on our side.
The animals need us to make sure that everyone knows that this movement exists.
Wear it with pride and never, ever pass up an opportunity to educate someone.

You’ll be doing the animals, the movement, and the person you educate a favor.

No Kill means hope for all.


Aug 13 2012

Why are you here?

Valerie Hayes
One of the kittens from that first foster litter.

One of the kittens from that first foster litter.

In the (very few) quiet moments I’ve had since arriving in DC for No Kill Conference 2012, I’ve been thinking about why I’m here.

When I was eight years old and I found out that homeless animals were killed at the pound simply for being homeless, that knowledge preyed on my mind until, finally, one night I just broke down crying and couldn’t stop until my parents agreed to take me to the pound to adopt a dog.  Saving one dog brought   some relief, and I would be a completely different person had I not grown up with Muffin at my side.

But, basically, I’m here because I was there, because the shelter I volunteered at killed two of my foster kittens, and with them the illusion that I had that nobody would kill healthy, adorable kittens that had a place to go.

No way to un-ring that bell.

Painful and glorious, that experience was two object lessons.  Physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Two lessons so diametrically opposed cannot either, but they came rapid-fire, so very close together, that they were almost simultaneous.  The ugliest and best of humanity can  exist side-by-side, at least for a time.

Lesson 1:   “Nobody wants to kill” is the biggest damn lie in animal welfare.   The current sheltering system is so mired in gratuitous killing and abuse that only a complete fool could possibly argue that it could fix itself, even if it wanted to, which, in general, it does not.  Why would someone kill two healthy, adorable kittens who were wanted by someone who they knew personally and saw every week?  How could she?  How dead does your soul  have to be to choose the needle over the telephone?   I have had twelve years to ponder this.  Those kittens lived with me for a month and I will remember them forever.  Of the millions of animals killed in shelters in 2000, or before or since,  none were any less worthy of life than my kittens.   The current “sheltering” model is abusive and degrading to all involved, to all humans and animals that come into contact with it.

Lesson 2:  Normal people do not tolerate this crap.  We are human beings, not doormats.  We unapologetically demand to be treated like human beings.  When people reject this affront to their humanity, they can make some pretty amazing things happen.  Thousands of animals are alive and Tompkins County is a much better place for people and animals because a couple dozen ordinary people rejected the lies and the abuse.  The sea change of 2001 was more and faster than anyone dared hope.

A new documentary on the No Kill movement will be  released this fall, and Nathan Winograd showed a trailer of it as part of his closing remarks at the conference.  Of course, it includes the story of Tompkins County.

When asked what it was like when the killing stopped, Bob Wise (whose stalwart advocacy was a crucial factor in making the transition happen) said that it was like we’d been living in darkness and “the sun came up.”

What made you a No Kill advocate?

 

No Kill Conference 2012 logo

The theme of No Kill Conference 2012 is ‘Reaching Higher’. Lifesaving success offers a new vantage point from which to see ways to expand the safety net for shelter pets–the ‘expanded possible’.

 


Aug 12 2012

Liveblogging No Kill Conference 2012: Advocacy Blogging

Valerie Hayes

Speaker John Sibley has been blogging since 2004, starting as a humor blogger, but his blogging has evolved into more writing and advocacy on behalf of New York animals.  His writing was instrumental in killing the ‘Quick Kill’ Bill in New York.

First, tech stuff–Blogger (from Google) is quick and easy and you don’t need to know tech to use it.  If you know something about HTML, self-hosting WordPress [this blog is self-hosted with WordPress] is a great way to go.  It is versatile and powerful.  Avoid Examiner.com, a blogging network disguised as a newspaper.  I know others may disagree.  Don’t take ads.  You won’t make any money and some ad services will give you ads you don’t want, like puppy mills!

Content and style–write what you know best.  Explain what you are an expert on and give it to someone with no knowledge of the subject and ask if they understand your point.  Be clear and engaging.

Always be gathering new information.  You  must use Google Alerts!  You can get a lot of info from watching Facebook, especially other advocates,  and following up on it.  RSS Readers draw together multiple blogs that you subscribe to.  It is an old technology compared to FB, but very useful.

Be active in your chosen community, constantly on the search for new information.  Attend meetings, lectures, protests.  Personal contact means a lot!  Use 3rd party sources when necessary (ie when shelters won’t let you in).  make sure your readers can contact you directly–email, FB , twitter, etc.  You will get spam.  A different attitude to privacy.  FB feed is public, but comments are restricted to those he knows due to time constraints.

FOIA requests:  you have the right to view many government documents.  Christie Keith   and Yesbiscuit! know a lot about this subject.

Screenshots of important data that is likely to disappear.  Collect puzzle pieces over time to make a complete picture.  Rarely will you get something actionable all at once.

Calling someone out publicly depends on whether they are a public figure and the degree of their wrongdoing.  Use personal ethical guidelines, and protect sources that do not want to be identified.

Blogging is not journalism!  It has an overt opinion, it presents a point of view.  It is dishonest to present opinion as fact.

Think about your style.  The must-read Yesbiscuit! mixes news and sarcasm and does her own investigations (sometimes of distant shelters) using FOIA requests, emails and contacts with her dedicated fan base.  Read what other people are writing–Christie Keith, this blog, Kathy Pobloskie, Brent Toellner (best at analyzing stats that we have).

Avoid common pitfalls:

“Spewing”/ constant negativity.  Getting very emotional, can be a turn off for many, including me–show, don’t tell.

Don’t rely on shocking or very graphic photos or techniques.  But before/after pics of Patrick are an example of effective pictures.

pay attention to grammar and spelling–use Word if necessary.

Avoid unnecessary detail.  Only include details that further the story.  Short and to the point.

Anonymity–you need people to trust you.  This is hard if they don’t knwo who you are.  Understandably, you may be afraid of losing access, but people cant build a relationship with you if they don’t know who you are.

If you have a blog and you are the head of a  nonprofit, your blog will be associated with that organization.  People should find out your associations from you or it will look like you are hiding something.

Check the bylaws.  You can disclose your association in  a disclaimer.  If you are an employee of an organization, and you are writing about a topic related to what they do, you need to let them know.  There should be a policy.

Know your target audience!

Posts should stand on their own and be free of excessive jargon.  Include links to backstory, for further exploration.

Comment policy:  if you are writing about controversial topics, you need to think about and possibly post a comments policy so that people know what is/is not appropriate.  Personally I advocate an open but moderated discussion.  You are not obligated to provide a forum for crazy.  Know how to block people/IP addresses but don’t do it often.

Expect pressure–it is a sign of success.  In 2009, HSUS tried to get me fired for a piece of commentary on a video that was unflattering to HSUS.  They called my boss who told me to take the post down. Now I work in a different industry,  HSUS could not exert that kind of influence.  I didn’t take it down and kept my job.  Today a similar incident would simply provide me with tons of material.

Get the word out.  People need to find it to read it–use social media.  FB is king. Also RSS, twitter.  twitter attracts power users.  Things can go viral very quickly on FB. FB great for reaching people directly.

PARTICIPATE in FB and twitter communities, not just for self-promotion.  Be a regular part of the community.  Submit your posts to No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution.  If they pick it up, you can get a lot of readers.  Some posts have only local interest, though.

Many people are annoyed by email.  Google+ has much lower traffic.

Christie Keith–we should all get G+ accounts and post to it at least one a month to keep it active.  It improve Google ranking.

Are your posts FB friendly?  You get a thumbnail, title, a couple of lines (unless mobile) and it must be compelling or it won’t get shared.  You need to control your metadata.

Use pics as much as possible.  When you publish your blog matters less than when you announce it on FB and twitter.  9am-6pm M-F is best for social media.  If you publish at 3 am, announce during peak hours.  Don’t announce on Sunday.

Make it easy for people to share your posts.  Sociable makes plugins for sharing on social media.

Post titles–be the New York post, Not the Wall Street Journal.

Example–Anthony Weiner’s image rehab in People

WSJ: Weiner won’t rule out a run

NYP:  Weiner shows off his little one

Other Networking:

Have a relationship with your readers, but also other writers/bloggers/power users.  They can help you with stories, technical issues, sources, tips, etc.  Read them, link to them, comment and participate.   ALWAYS make time for reporters.  Be a source.  Give them independently verifiable data.  Be a reliable source of information.

I have had 3 reporters come along on rescue pulls with me.

Case Studies:

1. Gloria and the ASPCA–story started with photo of cage card “Left at ASPCA Mobil clinic” Why was the wealthy ASPCA bringing animals to NYCACC?  They are where lost animals are taken, but a welfare group should have a hard time taking animals there.

Wrote about Gloria and another cat Benny (rescued by ECC) posing question of why she was taken to ACC by ASPCA..  Thought that was the end.  Then she was put on kill list.  Sent to pull her.  Cool to meet her.  It was clear something was wrong with her, not just URI, really wrong with her.

X-Ray revealed severe leg fracture.  ASPCA knew about this and brought her to NYCACC and told them about fracture.  NYCACC did nothing in 3 weeks.  2 medical exams failed to note the fracture.  The break was a month old.  We had the records to prove it.  Continued to write about the case as it unfolded (with permission of Pets Alive, the rescue he pulled her for).

Usually the ASPCA ignores you and never apologizes.  Kerry Clair of Pets Alive called her contacts in ASPCA.  They were horrified.  Uncharacteristically, the ASPCA quickly apologized and said they’d reexamine their policy.

Gloria had to have the leg amputated and was adopted by a friend.

If the ASPCA would apologize and fix things more often, they would get more respect.

Key factors:

  • rock solid information
  • great pictures
  • the involvement of the ASPCA, publicly documenting what local rescuers already know

2.  NYCACC New Computer Rescue System–costly and flawed, leading to animal deaths

An example of needing to protect source–redacted identifying info from screenshots supplied by NYCACC employee

Screenshots showed failure of the system.  Picked up by the NY Post and Daily Mail, which needed photos of the animals in question in 45 minutes. Also News 4.  A very successful story.

NY has been very dysfunctional for a very long time.  Reporters and editors feel the story has been done to death.

This story started with a reader tip, then the employy sent 15 screenshots.

3. Killing the Quick Kill Bill

The ASPCA’s attempt to derail shelter access law in NY

Who reads legislation?

2/10/12 Nathan published a piece detailing the A’s plan to introduce a trojan horse bill in partnership with the Mayor’s Alliance and the Animal Law Coalition

2/11/12 The Quick Kill Bill, promoted by Amy “Quick Kill” Bill is born, complete with cheeky graphic after the Kill Bill movie poster–went viral quickly.

Her FB page was innundated with opposition.  2000:1 opposed.  She dug in her heels and would not respond to reason.

Mounted campaign.  Loosely organized coalition of people doing their own thing–no one was particularly in charge.  There were online and offline components.

In Dog We Trust served as info clearinghouse.  Nathan took out newspaper ads which got a huge response.  A sticker ended up on Paulin’s office door (with photographic documentation).

Sent postcard mailers to all of her constituents in wealthy Scarsdale–targeting her financial base.  This got a big reaction.  Cost of postcards $2200.  Raised money quickly online.

This was a great example of changing the terms of the debate–reporters, legislators and staff referred to it as the Quick Kill Bill.

Petitions are often useless.  People often not targeted correctly.  Easy to ignore.   Best way to stop something is to flood their office with angry phone calls–must be overwhelming.

Nathan wrote a post about Paulin’s love of pen certificates, urging readers to send her a pen.

Got custom syringe pens with her name on them, and gave them out at an adoption event in her district.  She came to the event in an effort to rehab her image.

Met with Kerry Clair and dropped the bill.

Key factors:

  • grassroots faster and more agile than big orgs, know right from wrong,
  • legwork–scouring NYS Assembly site for updates,
  • crossover to mass media
  • persistence
  • branding, repetition, good visuals

Contact info:  John Sibley

john@johnsibley.com

twitter: @jbsibley


Aug 12 2012

Liveblogging No Kill Conference 2012: Reforming Animal Control as an Outsider Panel

Valerie Hayes

Yesterday I live-tweeted the talks I attended.  Today I will liveblog.  The panel includes Kelly Jedlicki, Larry Tucker, Peter Masloch, and Michael Kitkoski and is moderated by Nathan Winograd.

First, a brief intro by NW:  Why do shelters kill?  Basically, it cones down to failure.  Failure of accountability, failure of care, etc.  Shelters blame the public for failure to s-n or failure to be responsible.

At HSUS Expo a few years ago, a national “expert” denied that shelters killed-actually said that they are not killing when the “take their life”, “humanely, destroy” (she could barely get the last word out–NW played a tape of the quote), etc  Denial and blame the public underlie the sustained killing paradigm.

We are living the movie Groundhog Day–the story is the same, though the names of people and places change.  Wherever there is killing, there are directors who refuse to change, national organizations that defend the killing and the shelter, and ordinary people who need to take  up the fight whether they like it or not.  The keys are available to everyone.  We have known how to do this for over 10 years.

Your info packets have guides to advocacy, No Kill economics and other aspects of No Kill.

Panelists:  Kelly Jedlicki of Shelby Co KY No Kill Mission–95%+ save rate for dogs and cats.  Larry Tucker from Austin, former Chair of Austin Commission, fought for NK, including the ASPCA.  Peter Masloch walked into the Allegheny Co MD Shelter and said “There will be no more killing in the shelter!”  One year later they are saving over 90%. Michael kitkoski of Rockwall Pets saw the shelter was not doing it’s job.  Did marketing, adoptions, achieving 95%+ save rates.

Self-Intros:

MK:  We are shape-shifters, started as a couple of naive volunteers who wanted to help.  Had 501c3.  After taking the same few dogs to Petco every week and seeing all the empty cages, he realized they were killing most of the dogs, not even trying.  Asked for a month of no killing and he’d take responsibility for failure–96% save rate.  Shelter is now privatized (after a fight which the shelter started) and required by contract to be No Kill.

LT:  Was chair of Animal Advisory Commission.  In TX, cities beyond a certain size are required to have such commissions.  Had to ask City Council to expand their scope when.

PM:  Founded organization after his famous statement.  Didn’t even know about NW when he started, but soon found out.  Started NK Allegheny Counted.  Organization is growing.

KJ:  Took a different approach–saw email pleas as a volunteer.  Approached County saying “look what I can do for you”.  Rural area NK Mission is small group of about 20 volunteers.  The group fills in the gaps not covered by the shelter–spay-neuter, offsites.  They are the workhorses and all have full-time jobs.

Q&A

NW TO MK:  The most important thing a shelter can do to stop killing is adoptions, and that is what your group did.  How would someone go about doing what you did?

A recent newspaper article said that 74% of people don’t want tax dollars used for killing animals.  The shelter was annoyed about our referring adopters to the shelter.  We did offsites and increased adoptions.  We found a back door.

How did you partner /someone hostile–you did their job and they didn’t appreciate it and even filed harassment suits against you?

They became afraid of us, oddly enough.  Afraid of publicity.

NW to LT:  Why should everyone create a NK Plan like Austin? How did you get the AA Commission to be NK?

Lightning rod moment was when shelter said feral cats should not be relocated –too stressful, even from a construction site that was going to be blasted!

Shelter Director complained about ads for pet adoption–too many ppl came in to adopt–took too much employee time!  I decided to run ads weekly rather than monthly.

Passing a moratorium on empty cage killing was a pivotal moment.  Getting the Commission to No kill was a Battle Royale.  ASPCA and other pro-kill types wanted seats on the Commission.  The council would not utter the term No Kill.

Candidate forums were key.  It was a huge fight.

NW to LT;  What advice do you have for ppl in an apparently hopeless situation?

Never stop.  Have many meetings.  Brainstorm.  have frequent meetings.  Run full-page ads (standby rates) they are expensive but essential.  Reject defeat.  Change course when necessary.  The ASPCA opposition was enormous.  NW  did a lot of work behind the scenes.

NW:  I admit that I like to fight.

LT:  ASPCA sent high level speakers to say that NK was a threat to success.  We gave shelter director many opportunities to get on board.  As she was about to be fired, she finally admitted that NK was working, and that she wanted to quit when the killing moratorium was initially passed.

We had weekly public meetings.  We had to prove that it would work.  Not just that we thought it would work.  had to compile report about places like Reno with NK success (available at City of Austin website).

Once the shelter director was fired, success was immediate.

NW to PM How did you do it?  they didn’t just listen to you when you walked in and said the killing must stop.

It was a typical rural shelter–off in the woods, no published stats,l most staff was on leave for some reason or other. What I read about it was against my morals.  we told County we could take over operations, naively.  Went in back to a small room.  Shelter was designed to kill not care for animals.  Small room was “euthanasia room”.  I decided we didn’t need that.  Got rid of that big table to make space for cats, also got rid of office furniture to make room for cats.  Who has time to sit anyway?  volunteer numbers grew.  Had no manager Nov 2012-Apr 2011.  Needed to partner with other groups.  brought animals to vet, much to vet’s surprise–old shelter never brought animals in.

Community support was great–ppl donated food and cleaning supplies.  We did not plan ahead.  We kept it going.  We did not know how to run a shelter.  just cared for the animals.

NW to PM:  You had opponents, including thew local Humane Society, and ppl who testified against saving animals at commission meetings.  How did you deal with them?

I sat down with the new Commissioner and talked with him about the NKE and what we were trying to do.  He said it was great.  I didn’t trust him at first, but found that he meant it.  I gave 5 min report at the weekly commission meeting. Some ppl did not like that but the commissioners didn’t listen to them. They knew that the public was behind saving animals.

NW to KJ:  you work full-time and live in a different county and commute to the shelter.  How did you manage to do this?

I started out volunteering for a limited admission HS and getting email pleas.  At the county shelter, cats were housed singly unvetted.  sick and injured animals were killed.  Few animals were rescued.  Director held many titles –fire chief, EMS, judge etc-not at shelter.

What to do?  Read Redemption, which made sense.  Was on HS Board.  Approached them with her idea, approached the senior ACO and he skimmed it.  Approached Shelter Director with plan.  SCNKM would be under HS, would do all the work.  Rely on donations.  Wouldn’t cost County anything, would improve County image.  They wet for it.

Got blindsided at HS Board meeting–they wanted to put SKNKM “on hold” becasue they wanted to build a sanctuary and did not want to compete for funds.  I moved to break from the HS–motion approved.  What had I done?  People stepped up–Tompkins County webmaster built a website, others did other things.  Got rid of “blue room”.  Office is now mother/baby kitten room.  Now lobbying to make one of the bathrooms into animal housing.

Audience Q&A

What if it isn’t the shelter director that is your problem, what if it is the mayor or some other higher-up?

LT:  The movie Schindler’s List comes to mind.  Schindler wanted to appear powerful–didn’t yet have agenda of saving lives–made himself known to powerful people.  I’d talk to important people–small talk without an agenda and follow up with an email mentioning that I wanted to get on Animal Advisory Commission.

NW In Austin, there was a good cop and a bad cop.  Larry was the good cop–offered to get FixAustin and critics off their back.

How do you deal with a nonprofit that is not required by contract but does take in and kill cats? The guy in charge is a national figure.

MK:  Look for a back door.  Would they let someone pull cats?

KJ:  Who donates to them? Do those ppl know what is going on.

LT: Take the Feral Freedom model to the media.

NW:  Use paid advertising to get the word out if they aren’t picking up your press releases.  you can influence public opinion another way–a “Lover’s List”– people of influence and affluence–clerks, aides, elected officials, local celebrities, movers and shakers.  Once or twice a year, send them a short (2 pages max) white paper explaining the situation.  Do not ask permission.  Do not ask for money.  Just send it.  Give them something to talk about on the golf links, etc.

What happens when you are getting stonewalled when you try collaboration?  When do you start to fight?

MK:  use your instincts.  At a certain point you will have a community behind you.  What we did wrong was have Rockwall Pets do everything.  When we criticized, we got backlash.  You need someone separate to fight.  Austin did it right.

What about LA County?

NW;  No Kill LA is a marketing scam–a way to kick the can down the field.  It doesn’t take 5 years.  it can be frustrating if the kill rate goes down but slowly.  NYC is making no progress.  Where do you focus your energy?  10 years is not acceptable.  What is the day-to-day plan.  LA is on its 3rd 5 year plan.

What is you opinion of limited admission shelters?

NW I focus on reforming animal control.

What if you have an incompetent director and volunteers arepersecuted for speaking up?

PM;  go to the media.

NW:  It is illegal for a shelter to retaliate against volunteers and rescues–it violates your constitutional rights.  See the document ‘Section 1983 to the rescue”.  You can sue the county and the shelter director as an individual.  The Guide in your packet “The NK revolution starts with you” has step-by-step strategies for reforming animal control.  The biggest failure in reforming AC is expecting it to be easier than it will be and giving up too soon.

What if your group’s lawyers tell you not to get involved in politics?

NW:  You don’t need a group.  You have the right to freedom of assembly.  You can start a new group, get letterhead, etc. and lobby for change.

Maryland recently had a dangerous BSL ruling.  How do you deal with BSL?

PM: We were told we can’t adopt out pit bulls.  We are hoping that the House will reverse the ruling.

NW:  To each speaker.  State one key lesson.

MK:  We were stupid and you can only be naive once.  It can be a good thing.  Please do not keep your mouth shut.  We are now consulting with nearby counties and they are saving 80% and improving.  Get the ball rolling.  IN OUR LIFETIMES, WE WILL BE A NO KILL NATION!

LT:  We spent way too much time on collaboration.  We thought the ASPCA might come on board, that their leader might have a soul.  We didn’t listen to Nathan at first when he said it would be a fight.  It was a huge fight.

PM:  Never give up.  you may become the most hated person in your community, but it is a matter of life and death.

NW;  Would you re-create that moment?

PM: (stands) THERE WILL BE NO MORE KILLING IN THE SHELTER!

KJ;  One person can make a difference.  I never thought that I would do this.  You need to toot your horn.  Have people out front tooting your horn.

NW:  The session is officially over, but the speakers are hostage to your questions.

What if the mayor and city officials take credit for the work of the volunteers and rescues and the media takes their side and they don’t want to be told what to do?

LT:  That happened in Austin–ASPCA leader was promoted based on Austin success!  Media is different today.  A wel-written keyword-optimized press release can be picked up by bloggers.

NW:  there is also tabling, lover’s list, etc.

How do you combat lies, like when a shelter claims that it’s 73% kill rate is for “medial reasons”?

LT:  Our ordinance defined the medical reasons.

KJ:  We tell the public about the animals we treat, and explain to people that you don’t see amputees, ringworm etc at other shelters because they just kill them.

My shelter has no SOP, and I’ve gone over heads to talk to ACO’s supervisors, elected officials to get input into writing SOP, should ACO be able to writ it herself?

NW: Not a conflict of interest to have ACO write manual.  There should be public input.  An Animal Advisory Commission like Austin would be a good start.

What more can my coalition be doing to advance No Kill?

NW:  You need to take the issue to the politicians, hold them accountable for abuses and killing at the shelter.  Make it a political issue and get the media interested in the story.  If you say the media isn’t interested, you are doing it wrong.  They need to sell papers.  Scandals sell papers.

Is it better for the shelter to report directly to the mayor or through another department.

PM:  It is different in different communities.

 

NW:  I differ.  If a shelter is under Health, they will view animals as a health risk.  Under Police, dogs are viewed as a public safety risk.  Under Sanitation, they are treated like trash.  While not a panacea, it is better if they are a separate department.

LT: To project a new image to the public we changed ACO to Animal Protection Officer, changed the logos, etc.

I understand that we need to project a professional image, but some of our group get emotional and make outrageous statements.

NW: Don’t be in that group. Be the rational one.  Be the good cop who offers to get the crazies off the officials’ backs.