Apr 25 2013

An open letter in support of removing PETA’s ‘animal shelter’ designation

Valerie Hayes
PETA needle
Below is a version of emails I sent to Commissioner Lohr and Dr. Dan Kovich of VDACS.  I encourage everyone who cares about animals and people to write to them as well in support of the No Kill Advocacy Center’s petition to remove PETA’s designation as an ‘animal shelter’.  Other than employees of animal shelters, only licensed veterinarians can legally euthanize or kill pets, so removing the shelter designation would remove the cover under which PETA kills thousands of healthy and treatable pets every year, leaving them with nary a lettuce bikini to hide it behind.  A shelter is supposed to be a place for adoptions, not a place of mass killings.

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to send your own emails to Commissioner Lohr: matt.lohr@vdacs.virginia.gov  and to Dr. Kovich: dan.kovich@vdacs.virginia.gov, because enough is enough.

Dear Sirs,

On June 15, 2013, it will be eight years since the real PETA was revealed to the world.  I am talking, of course, about the Piggly Wiggly Dumpster Incident and subsequent trial.  Since learning the painful truth about how an organization claiming to work on behalf of the rights of animals instead perverts the definitions of ‘rights’, ‘ethical’, and ‘animal shelter’ by seeking out and killing thousands of healthy and treatable pets every year, I have done what I can to spread the word, in hope that the more voices raised against this perversion, the sooner it would come to an end.

You have the power to put an end to it by granting the petition filed by the No Kill Advocacy Center, and I implore you to do so.  Your state’s own shelter statistics reporting webpage shows that many of Virginia’s shelters and rescues are capable of great things and save many lives (and on budgets a tiny fraction of PETA’s).  Your own findings in your site visit of almost two years ago show that PETA does not even have proper facilities nor the inclination to house and adopt out pets.  Some of Virginia’s open-admission animal control shelters save an impressive 90% or more of the animals they take in and more are working towards that admirable and achievable goal.  PETA, with its wealth, national reach, and claim to be a leading voice for animal rights, should be leading the way in saving the lives of lost and homeless pets, yet it uses its wealth and its platform to fight against saving these animals and seeing them into new homes.  They are perverts.  To them a shelter designation is nothing else but a license to kill.  Please take their license to kill away.

As a witness to the creation of the first No Kill community in the nation, I am well aware of, and profoundly concerned with the negative effects that the needless killing of homeless pets has on individual people and on the community at large.  Allowing PETA to keep it’s shelter designation would not only be fatal to thousands of healthy and treatable pets every year, but would also be very bad for people as well.  It is bad for the people who are deprived of an opportunity to adopt those animals and share their lives with them.  It is bad for the people who surrender animals to PETA, having been led to believe that “the world’s leading voice for animal rights” would find them a good home.  Why should anyone have to face that betrayal?  It is bad for the animal rescuers and the staffs and volunteers of shelters targeted by PETA in their twisted little war on the No Kill movement.  Those people work hard to better the plight of homeless animals and seek to do all they can for the animals in front of them, animals that PETA would kill within minutes to further their sick agenda.  It is bad for the people who go to work for PETA, perhaps with the good intention of making the world better for animals, and who instead end up allowing themselves to be manipulated into becoming those who seek out and kill healthy and treatable pets and make no effort to find them homes–perhaps the worst possible perversion of their better selves.  What does the future hold for them?  Why should this organization be allowed to destroy their souls?

There is a better way.  Please remove PETA’s designation as an animal shelter.  Please take away their license to kill animals and to cut a destructive swath through the community of animal lovers.

Sure, they’ll make a ruckus about it, but so what?  The shouts of joy from real animal lovers across the country and around the globe will drown it out.

Valerie Hayes

Feb 27 2012

Protected: The real PETA letter

Valerie Hayes

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Feb 24 2012

PETA went down to Georgia

Valerie Hayes

Think PETA cares about homeless pets?

Think again.

Let me get my violin.

PETA went down to Georgia, they were looking for some souls to steal.
Ingrid’s in a bind ‘cos she’s way behind and she’s willin’ to make a deal.
When she came across some people savin’ animals and bloggin’ on the ‘net.
So she jumped up on a Piggly Wiggly dumpster and said: “Mayor, let me tell you what:
“I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m an animal killer too.
“And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.
“Now you tell some a pretty good lies, Mayor, but give Old Ingrid her due:
“I bet a needle of gold against your soul, ‘cos I think I’m better than you.”
The people said: “We’re just regular folks, and it might be a sin,
“But if she takes your bet, she’s gonna regret, ‘cos we’re the best that’s ever been.”

Mayor, you do your “research” and fight those advocates hard.
‘Cos hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the PETA don’t deal the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny needle made of gold.
But if you lose, well, either way, the Butcher of Norfolk gets your soul.

Old Ingrid opened up her case and she said: “I’ll start this show.”
And fire flew from her fingertips as she pulled up the blue juice, you know.
Then she pushed the plunger down and it made an evil hiss.
And a band of morons joined in and it sounded something like this:

[Hoarders! Dogfighters! Irresponsible public! Pit bulls! Feral cats! Pet overpopulation! We have to kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! KILL!!!]

When she’d finished, the people said: “Well, if it was about money, you’dve won.
“But sit down in that chair, right there, and let us show you how it’s done.”

Feral cats in the community?  T-N-R
Puppies in homes gettin’ foster care.
Volunteers at an offsite, adoptin’ out pets.
“Boss, are we done now?”
“No, not, yet.”

Old Ingrid wouldn’t bow her head, couldn’t admit that she’d been beat.
She snatched that golden needle from the ground at the Mayor’s feet.
The people said: “PETA, just come on back if you ever want to try again.
‘cause we done told you once, you son of a bitch (no offense to female dogs), we’re the best that’s ever been.”

And they went: Feral cats in the community? T-N-R
Puppies in homes gettin’ foster care.
Volunteers at an offsite, adoptin’ out pets.
“Boss, are we done now?”
“No, not, yet.”

"I bet a needle of gold against your soul, 'cos I think I'm better than you."

"I bet a needle of gold against your soul, 'cos I think I'm better than you."

With apologies to the great Charlie Daniels.

Feb 24 2012

Truth is stranger than fiction, or: When a Georgia politician cites PETA as a reason to kill shelter pets

Valerie Hayes

“The most potent and cost-effective outreach vehicle is the development of a creative volunteer program. Were shelters to place a high priority on this area through attracting, training, and skillfully utilizing a volunteer outreach corps, they could begin the transition from killing site to a community resource center. A true shelter should be a place where life is affirmed, both in teaching and practice, not a building permeated with the odor of death”  ~Ed Duvin, “In the name of mercy,” 1989


Lexie was killed in Columbus, GA this week despite being friendly and having an adoption committment.

PETA has some advice for communities looking to end the population-control killing of homeless pets:  keep right on killing.

My head hurts.  My heart hurts.  I am not surprised.

Some weeks have a theme.  This week’s theme has been cognitive dissonance, that feeling you get when presented with inconceivably mind-bending scenarios. It can lead to a search for answers, a further exploration and questioning of oneself and the world, to a desire to reshape the world and oneself, or it can lead to a distortion of thought, forcing it to fit where it does not.  What you choose to do with it makes all the difference in the world.

To become a No Kill advocate is to step through the looking glass of animal welfare, into a world where what is is so often the opposite of what is logical, just, and common sense.  Every day is filled with cognitive dissonance.  Killing is kindness.  Nobody wants to kill, yet shelters kill 3-4 million pets every year—half of all they take in.  Shelters kill animals with rescue on the way.  People calling themselves animal lovers make excuses for these things.  Killing healthy and treatable and friendly pets is “euthanasia.”  We call the places that do the killing “shelters.”  Pets are labeled “unwanted,” blaming them for their own killing.  And so on, and so on.

And the organization billing itself as the “largest animal rights organization in the world,” the one known for extremism in advocating against the wearing of fur, the eating of meat, and the testing of cosmetics on animals, the one known for its founder’s statement that “animals are not ours to eat, wear or experiment on,” the one for which no ad campaign in the name of veganism is too tasteless, makes excuses for the killing of homeless pets, advocates the killing of homeless pets, and kills thousands of homeless pets every year.

How do “animal rights” and “needless killing” manage to peacefully coexist within the same organization and within the individuals that comprise it?  The right to live is fundamental to all others.  Without that, there are no other rights.  How are they unable to see the hypocrisy of this, even when it is pointed out to them repeatedly, even when the evidence piles as high as the stack of dead bodies in that infamous walk-in freezer?  How do they recognize the role cognitive dissonance plays in how other people justify what they do to animals, choosing to keep the same old beliefs when confronted with conflicting information, yet can’t see it in themselves?

Up is down and black is white.

The excuses are a slow-moving target, but a moving target nonetheless.  There’s the irresponsible public, which has enjoyed perhaps the longest popularity–over 35 years; pet overpopulation, another classic; and, more recently the notion that animal rescue is often a front for hoarding and dog fighting has been on the ascent, perhaps as the previous two are losing some of their old appeal.  These excuses all have a few things in common—they are false—myths created from gross exaggerations and deliberate misrepresentations, but with small grains of truth that have given them traction.  A minority of pet owners are irresponsible, that is true, and those who work in shelters or rescue will see a disproportionate number of this minority, but that is not why shelters kill.  There are a lot of homeless animals, but that is not the same thing as ‘overpopulation.’  Hoarding and dog fighting exist, but to say that they are epidemic in animal rescue is nothing but a lie concocted to serve a nefarious purpose.

Hoarding is a mental illness, and hoarding of animals is a relatively rare mental illness.  Mental health experts have yet to reach a consensus as to its underlying cause.  Animal hoarding cases receive an increasing amount of media attention because they are so freakish and unusual.  A search of the Pet-Abuse website, a site that tracks all manner of cases of pet abuse, for hoarding cases* with the keyword ‘Georgia’ yielded 12 cases in the entire state in over 10 years.  Of those, two involved rescue—one was a volunteer (but not a foster care volunteer) at a rescue, the other, was the Loonie Farms case.

The state of Georgia, unlike many, requires that animal shelters and rescues be licensed and inspected by the Department of Agriculture.  There are currently over 400 nonprofit rescue groups licensed in Georgia.  Suffice to say, that rescue hoarding is very, very rare.

Shelter killing is commonplace.  A report prepared by the Georgia Voters for Animal Welfare estimates that Georgia’s taxpayer-funded animal control shelters kill 62% of the animals they take in–260,000 dogs and cats every year, so in the past 10 years, Georgia shelters killed upwards of 2.6 million animals. (The overall trend nationwide is that killing is declining, so would likely have been even higher in the years prior to the GVAW report.)  Many thousands of animals die in Georgia shelters for every one that may end up in these bad rescue situations.

And how many dogfighters would want to get a rescue license from the Department of Agriculture and deal with paperwork and inspections so that they could pull animals from shelters when they could steal them or get them from ‘free-to-good homes’ ads?  Clearly these risks are grossly overstated.

Which brings me to a letter sent from PETA to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson of Columbus, GA.  You can read it by clicking here.  Apparently the No kill advocacy going on in Columbus caught PETA’s attention and they wanted to offer the beleaguered mayor some advice that only an organization that kills nearly every animal they get their hands on can.  They hope their letter finds her well.  They always hope their letters find the recipient well.  It’s like they don’t have the social skills or brainpower to come up with a different opening line.

Things have been heating up in Columbus in recent months as a growing number of its citizens become aware of the mismanagement and rampant killing there, and of the fact that there is a better way.  This past week a dog named Lexie was killed despite having an adoption commitment.  Further background on the Columbus situation is available here, here, and here.  The local TV station aired this piece recently, and the public response to it led to another one airing February 22 in which the Mayor cited this letter from PETA as support for her claim that not killing would be harmful to animals.

And this during not just any week, but the very week that PETA’s own kill stats for 2011 were released.  PETA kills the animals it seeks out and takes in to its Bates Motel for pets so-called shelter (they alternately refer to it as a ‘shelter’ or an ‘office building,’ depending on the situation) at a rate of 97%–far worse than all but a handful of Georgia animal controls.  This is despite, or perhaps because of its budget of over $30 million.  Bill yourself as a champion of rights, build a relentless publicity machine, and you too can get away with murder.

In 2011, PETA took in 2029 animals (mostly dogs and cats, and some “other” animals such as rabbits) “for purpose of adoption.”  They killed 1965 of them.  Only 28 were adopted and 11 reclaimed. PETA transferred 34 to kill shelters, where they may or may not have been adopted and other animals may or may not have been killed to make room for them.  PETA’s adoption rate in 2011 was 1.4%.  One-point-four percent. 97% went on to occupy the walk-in freezer in PETA’s headquarters.  Keep in mind that over 90% of pets entering shelters are healthy or treatable, and there is no evidence that the pets taken in and killed by PETA are any different.  PETA has been consistently unable to produce evidence otherwise, even when pointedly asked.

PETA would prefer that the status quo continue.  Though they apparently aren’t aware that rescues are licensed and inspected in GA, they disparage concerned citizens, animal rescuers and  No Kill advocates (some of whom are or have been shelter directors themselves) as “individuals and groups unfamiliar with the inner workings of animal care and control facilities (or the daily challenges and heartbreaks that shelter workers face).”  Really?  What is it about these “inner workings” that cannot be understood by ordinary people not inducted into the mysteries?  They don’t explain that but present a collection of straw men, falsehoods and a couple of articles, one of them poorly written fear mongering about hoarding, the other one they apparently didn’t read very carefully.  It concludes with the story of how Best Friends, perhaps the best-known no-kill animal sanctuary in the country, and host of the annual No More Homeless Pets Conference, orchestrated rescue and adoption for the hundreds of feline victims of the FLOCK hoarding case in Pahrump, NV.

They cite cases where No Kill has not succeeded, but fail to mention that none of those were following the No Kill Equation, the only proven method for ending population control killing in open-admission shelters.  They ignore the growing list of communities where No Kill is succeeding—28 as of this writing.  They ignore that we have known that it can be done for almost 11 years.

The letter is signed by Jennifer Brown, who notes that she can be reached at (630)966-8895 or JenniferB@peta.org.

On one side we have the product of the nation’s oldest animal welfare organization, the ASPCA’s Tactics of the Extremist Agenda, and on the other the product of an organization over 100 years younger, one that prides itself on being seen as extremist in the name of animal rights, yet which kills and rehashes excuses for killing that mostly date from before it was founded.  PETA has nothing of substance to offer.  It is weak, derivative and backward, trading off the false image it has crafted.

Why would anyone want to take advice (and say so on TV!) on animal sheltering from an organization, which, despite a budget of over $30 million, has an even worse kill rate than all but a very few in Georgia?  Why align oneself with an organization that is unpopular with those who don’t care about animals and is doubly so with informed people who care about homeless pets?  Why do so while claiming to be “the most progressive”?  That is not a winning situation no matter how you look at it.

PETA anti-TNR ad

PETA uses lies to try to prevent a bill that would clarify that TNR, the most humane and effective way of managing feral cat populations, is not prohibited in Virginia.

Ed Duvin, who sparked the No Kill movement with his 1989 essay “In the Name of Mercy,” could have been rebutting PETA’s campaign against the No Kill movement in general, and against Virginia’s S.B 359 in particular when he wrote “Speciesism:  Alive and Well”.  Heck, I hope this finds them well:

“Instead of recognizing our movement’s historical and contemporary role in this holocaust, many leaders continue to rationalize it on the basis of a “humane” death being preferable to a “miserable” life – further arguing that we are best able to provide this “merciful” end. Desperate humans are grievously suffering by the tens of millions all over the world, but who can imagine relief agencies endorsing systematic euthanasia as an acceptable policy. A vastly different ethic applies for companion animals, however, and most of our movement remains silent.”


“Deciding that death for other beings is preferable to a risk-filled life is not euthanasia in its traditional form, but rather a lethal manifestation of speciesism that projects our own fears and values onto another species, and then proclaims – as though we were omniscient gods – that death is our loving “gift” to them.”


“A recent issue of the leading shelter publication spared no effort in denigrating progressive programs to support feral cats. The thrust of this dogmatic criticism was that euthanasia is preferable to neuter-and release programs, claiming such programs expose ferals to the risk of “terrifying lives and tragic deaths.” Here again, we see the “kill, kill, kill” mentality – arrogantly presuming that certain death is a kinder fate for ferals than uncertain life. How ironic, as Thoreau pointed out, that the most desperate lives are lived quietly by humans, and yet no one is euthanizing us for our own protection!”


“During the past few years, I have witnessed more anger from the Shelter Establishment directed at critics than the grotesque slaughter, and this sorrowful lack of priority and proportion is indicative of a malignancy in the soul of our movement.”

The thing is, he wrote that back in 1990.  It’s 2012 and they still don’t get it.

If you are from Virginia, please join Alley Cat Allies, No Kill advocates, and some of the best-performing shelters in the country in voicing your support for S.B. 359, which clarifies that TNR is not prohibited in Virginia by clicking here.

Feb 16 2012

An open letter to Mary Jo White, Chair of the ASPCA Board of Directors

Valerie Hayes

Dear Ms. White,

I am writing to you as a longtime observer and critic of the ASPCA who would like nothing better than for the ASPCA to become an organization  that I could wholeheartedly support.  I love animals and all of my pets are rescues.  Almost all of them are refugees of our nation’s broken animal sheltering system, rescued from, rather than by the shelters that are supposed to be their safety net.  The fact that animals have to be rescued from shelters which are not places of safety but are places of abuse and killing is the irony at the heart of why I cannot support the ASPCA, an organization which claims to be on the side of animals, and was founded to be on the side of animals, but which is instead fighting to maintain the deplorable status quo in NYCACC and “shelters” across the country, and fighting against No Kill shelter reform in Austin, TX and elsewhere (thankfully FixAustin and Austin Pets Alive! won that round).  Tragic irony is the way of the warped world of animal sheltering.  (I almost said “way of life,” but that would have been utterly inappropriate.)

Your ad campaigns are ubiquitous.  When I was sitting down to write this, I found that articles I’d written critical of the ASPCA and articles I’d written about situations which illustrate the need for shelter reform and genuine shelter access legislation had ASPCA ads on them.  One had a total of four ASPCA ads, and it was specifically about the ASPCA’s opposition to shelter reform and access legislation!  No wonder people are so confused and continue to send you enormous amounts of money even as you fail to clean up the mess you helped create in your own backyard and even as you promote legislation like the Quick Kill Bill (sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin) and oppose legislation  like CAARA (sponsored by Assemblyman Micah Kellner), which would save animal lives and go a long way to advancing the humane treatment of  animal rescuers by guaranteeing them the right to rescue even when they speak out about abuses that they witness.

Oreo--ASPCA irony 3

Ad placement FAIL!

Do not try to tell me that the Paulin bill is wonderful for animals or that the Kellner bill is inadequate.  Nonsense!  I have the unfair advantage of having actually read them both.  I will not be fooled, only further irritated by any such attempts to insult my intelligence, and I’m already pretty ticked off.

I used to live near the ASPCA’s home turf of New York City, and I’ve known the ugly reality hidden behind the cute calendars for many years—since the early-mid 1980s, to be more precise, when the ASPCA ran animal control for NYC, and when I first heard the below parable of the accountant and the veterinarian, which I recounted in a previous article about the ASPCA’s opposition to Oreo’s Law.  It was quite the chamber of horrors back then, worse even than NYCACC is now.  (I’m always perplexed by people who, upon finding out the truth about the ASPCA, think that it has very recently strayed, like in the past few years.  Not so.  It’s just that more people are becoming aware of it)

The ASPCA has long been a nice comfortable killing machine.  It’s really quite amazing how times have changed and not changed…

An accountant was visiting his client, a veterinarian who worked for the ASPCA in addition to his private practice. In fact, he seemed to spend a lot more hours at the ASPCA than he devoted to his private practice, even though they weren’t paying him all that much. The accountant was at the vet’s office wrestling the books into some semblance of order and a very friendly dog with a badly scarred and misshapen head came galumphing over to be petted, and the accountant obliged him. The dog was friendly to the point of making a pest of himself by attempting to be an oversized lap dog. The accountant shooed him away so that he could get some work done. He could hear the clop-clop of the dog’s paws on the floor as he went down the hall, around a corner, and back up another hall to reappear at the opposite door of the office he was working in, with a look on his scarred face that said “Hi, I’m a different dog than the one that was just here a minute ago, pet me too”.

The dog had come to reside temporarily at the vet’s office as a result of the vet’s work for the ASPCA. He’d come in as a badly injured stray. Someone had apparently beaten him and he had multiple fractures to his skull, which the vet, who is well-respected for his considerable skills as a surgeon, had spent hours in surgery wiring back together. He practically donated some very fancy surgery to them because that’s the kind of person he is. They wanted to kill the dog after all that–”a friendly dog who wouldn’t win any beauty contests”, as the accountant described him. The vet removed the dog from their custody instead. The accountant told the vet that while he admired the work he did on behalf of this dog and other animals at the ASPCA, it was his responsibility as accountant to advise him to leave the ASPCA and concentrate on his private practice, and frankly, he couldn’t understand why he took that kind of abuse from them, and for so little money. The vet’s reply was impossible to argue with: 

“The animals need me.”

One protector in the killing machine was better than nothing at all. I can’t imagine how he did it for as long as he did. The tradition of killing animals for being there and abusing those who would do otherwise is a long one there. I am perpetually amazed at people who see it as a benevolent place. Apparently their marketing has done its job, but it would take a lot more than some nice packaging to remove the image of that dog my father described so vividly and what the ASPCA wanted to do to him, and to the vet.

I hadn’t thought of that dog in years, but recent events have made him restless. He’s been making his circuit down the hall, around the corner, and up the other hall, to reappear at the opposite door. Always the same question:

“Will it be different this time?”

When will it ever be different?

Years later, in 2000-2001, I had the excruciatingly painful experience of volunteering at a shelter and fostering a litter of kittens in my home for a month.  They were healthy and delightful little kittens and I did what I was told, returned them to the shelter when they were old enough for adoption.  The shelter reneged on its promise to call me if they were in danger of being killed for any reason and instead killed two of them when I had made it clear that I was only a phone call away.  Boy, was I naive! There wasn’t even any call.  Those two adorable little kittens were instead injected with poison and thrown in the trash as if their lives truly did not matter and I was treated like trash, my efforts, my ideas, my feelings, my personhood of no consequence to people for whom making a phone call was a greater inconvenience than killing two little kittens.  Its not like I was anonymous to them either, I was at the shelter volunteering every week.  Did they think I would take that lying down or that I wouldn’t find out?  Or perhaps, more chillingly, did killing kittens with a human attachment, and to someone they saw every week, have an added measure of attraction?  All of these scenarios are possible, and all of them happen in shelters.  Thankfully, the volunteers at the Tompkins County SPCA rebelled against the status quo.  We looked at each other and realized that we were not alone.  We stood up for the animals and we stood up for ourselves.  The animals deserved to live and we deserved to be treated like human beings.  Less than a year after my kittens were so needlessly killed, Tompkins County made history by ending its killing of healthy and treatable pets and becoming the first No Kill community in the country.  To this day, it remains the only one in New York State.

I was there-ASPCA irony

The ASPCA wasn't there, but their ads sure are everywhere!

What the heck are you people doing with that $140 million that you raise every year?

I wrote about that experience and received many comments and emails that went like this:

I run a rescue group. My local shelter killed animals I specifically called and said I was on my way to pick up. Why? Because like you, I complained about the shelter publicly. I tried to work with them, but my concerns were ignored. They said I was unreasonable because I thought dogs should have access to clean water. I am so sick of people saying shelters have no choice but to kill, that they work hard, that they care so much. Tell it to the two dogs I was on my way to save when they thought they would teach me a lesson by killing them. I will never forget the look on the staff’s face when I arrived. They were smiling and smirking. As soon as I saw them, I knew something was terribly wrong. I just could not imagine that it was that. I’ve not been back since then.

Have you ever thought for a minute what it is like for someone to have an animal they had offered to rescue killed to spite them or because of rampant incompetence?  Have you ever thought about what it is like to have that agony compounded by the knowledge that huge, enormously wealthy organizations not only won’t go to bat for you and the animals you’re trying to save, but that they’ll label you ‘divisive’ or an ‘extremist’ for speaking out about it, that they’ll instead back those who kill animals out of spite and incompetence, even going so far as to enshrine this sort of abuse in legislation?  Spend a few minutes trying to put yourself in the shoes of animal advocates and rescuers.  If you have a pet, hold them on your lap. Picture them being killed in a shelter while you were on your way to pick them up.  How would that make you feel?  How would you feel if you were then called names by your pet’s killers?  What would you do next?  Would you be able to continue rescuing, knowing that this could happen again and again?

Floyd ASPCA irony

Will the A actually do something to prevent tragedies like this from happening in NYS? I sure hope so for the sake of animals and rescuers in NYS, and in GA.

Why on earth should this be allowed?  Why on earth is one of the largest and wealthiest animal organizations on earth trying to pass legislation that would ensure that it continues happening, to block legislation that would make it illegal, and to fight grassroots reform efforts?

Unlike the animals in shelters, and unlike those of us who have experienced firsthand the need for CAARA and other genuine shelter access and reform legislation,   you are in a position that affords you tremendous leverage.  You are Chair of the Board of one of the largest and wealthiest animal organizations in the world.  You could literally turn the world around for the 3-4 million animals who die annually in America’s shelters because what you decide to do right here, right now in New York State will set a precedent for every shelter and every legislature in the country.  You could save so many animal rescuers from the torment they face every day without laws protecting their right to rescue.  You could make a huge positive difference in the lives of shelter employees.  You could spare untold numbers of pet owners the agony of having their pet killed in a shelter before they could get there to pick them up.

Carroll-ASPCA irony 2

Will the A act to end rampant killing in NYS? It would make it easier to do the same in GA and we need all the help we can get. Dead kitties don't make such good valentines.

You have the power to hold your CEO, Ed Sayres accountable for actually protecting animals and animal rescuers for the first time in his life.  You can order him to withdraw ASPCA support for A5449, the Quick Kill Bill and to join the No Kill Advocacy Center, Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, No Kill Nation, and thousands of private citizens in support of  CAARA instead.

You have the power to fire him.

You have the power to hire someone who would make Henry Bergh proud.

You have the power to make it different this time.  You have the responsibility to make it different this time.

I, and many others will rejoice if you do.  We’ll keep fighting if you fail to.


Valerie Hayes

P.S. I said that almost all of my pets were refugees from the broken animal sheltering system.  Ernest had the good fortune to arrive at the Tompkins County SPCA in August 2001.  She was only 10 days old.  (What can I say? kittens are hard to sex at that age!) She arrived at a shelter that was truly a shelter for her, a place where she and her mother and litter mates were guaranteed continued life and the foster care placement that they needed.  Had she arrived at the shelter just two months earlier, prior to June 11, 2001, her story would very likely have ended in much the same way as those two little kittens I’d fostered only to have the shelter turn around and kill them–luckless, betrayed and dead in a trash bag.

I thought I’d built up an immunity to cuteness, but the charms of the little runt kitten with the Don King hairdo proved too much for me, and I ended up adopting her.  We were both very lucky.  She had a shelter that was truly a shelter when she needed it most.  So many are not so fortunate.  They are the voiceless, the ghosts that haunt the animal welfare movement, the unseen, unsaved millions.

Ernest as kittten

Ernest as a kitten



Ernest at the window
Ernest at the window


Jan 29 2012

Truth in advertising

Valerie Hayes

Which is more humane, crate training or killing and dumping? Which is more consistent with the concept of animal rights?

Ten out of ten pets surveyed indicated that they would prefer crate training to a ride in the PETA death van. Ten out of ten pets surveyed would prefer eating treats bought at the Piggly Wiggly over being thrown dead into the dumpster behind the Piggly Wiggly.

Apparently, opposing No Kill shelter reforms isn’t crazy enough for them, the wingnuts at PETA also find it necessary to show how little they know about the care of pets that are actually, you know, still breathing, that they are campaigning against the use of crates.  Above is an actual PETA ad that has been edited for truthfulness.

Oct 17 2011

Pennsylvania, gassing homeless pets since 1872

Valerie Hayes
The now-defunct Macon, GA gas chamber.
The now-defunct Macon, GA gas chamber.

Since writing about gas chambers in Pennsylvania last week, I had a nagging thought at the back of my mind that there was a particular connection between the use of gas chambers to kill shelter pets and the state of Pennsylvania, something that went beyond their simply continuing to use this cruel and outmoded method of killing.  What was it?

I grabbed my dog-earerd copy of Redemption off the shelf and consulted the index, which led me to this:

While by far the largest, the ASPCA was not the first SPCA to make the transition from prosecuting animal cruelty to running the dog pound.  In 1872, in an effort to reduce the public exhibition of cruelty favored at the time by Philadelphians in ridding the city of stray dogs, the Women’s Pennsylvania SPCA* accepted the first pound contract in the United States by a private humane society and established a three-pronged approach to stray animals.  First, it began a humane education program promoting lifetime commitments and the importance of keeping animals in the home.  Second, it offered homeless animals for adoption. Third, it  introduced the use of the gas chamber to replace old, slow and more painful practices of killing stray animals, primarily in the form of drowning, beating and shooting. [emphasis added]

So, we are living with, and animals are suffering and dying in the gas chamber because an organization took the more ‘ladylike’ route of taking up and promoting ‘kinder’ killing rather than sticking to principles, and the state of Pennsylvania has the longest history of gassing shelter pets.  It’s time to finally do something unladylike and ban the gas chamber in the state that gave it its start.

It is worth noting that while “shelters” have killed homeless pets in the gas chamber for 140 years, the excuses killing apologists give for doing so have changed.  In 1872 it was because it wasn’t as bad as drowning, beating and shooting.  In 2011, the excuse that it is humane looks utterly ridiculous to normal people, and apologists are relying more on false economic arguments to preserve the status quo.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Time marches on.

We know that the gas chamber is far from humane, that it is itself old, slow and painful.  A handful of “shelters” in Pennsylvania continue to use this cruel method of killing, hiding the shameful practice from taxpayers and donors.  It seems highly unlikely that they will stop doing so until they are forced to by the passage of  PA S.B. 969.

Pennsylvania residents should call or write their Representatives and Senators in support of S.B. 969.  Politely let them know that you want them to do the right thing and move the bill along as is and vote to end the use of the gas chamber in your state, and that their vote will influence yours.

One obstacle to banning gassing in PA is the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.  They are actively blocking the bill.  Why?  Apparently because they can.  Some have cited economics as the reason, but that begs the questions of how is the PAVMA benefiting financially from the continued use of a handful of gas chambers, and is this ‘benefit’ really greater than the cost to the PAVMA’s reputation.  Other organizations, notably the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, recognize the cruelty inherent in gas chambers and have stated unequivocally that they have no place in animal shelters.

You can (politely) ask the PAVMA why they are supporting continued cruelty to shelter pets and placing their own organization’s reputation in self-destruct mode here:

Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association
8574 Paxton Street
Hummelstown, PA 17036

Charlene Wandzilak
Executive Director

They can still turn things around.  I’m willing to bet that most veterinarians in Pennsylvania are not happy about what the PAVMA is doing in and to their names.  If and when I get a response, I’ll publish it, and I’d like to see any responses you get as well, so feel free to post them in the comments below.

The gas chamber may have seemed expedient almost 140 years ago, but ‘expedient’ and ‘right’ are two completely different things.  We are still having to contend with the cruel legacy of that expediency.  Let’s set things right.

Ban the gas chamber in the state where it has been used the longest.

*The Women’s Pennsylvania SPCA is now known as the Women’s Humane Society.  Their ‘about’ page indicates how 140 years has produced little fundamental change in their organization’s mindset:

The Women’s Humane Society is a non-profit organization serving the Delaware Valley area.  We are located in lower Bucks County.  Our Bensalem facility is our only location and place to visit our adoptable animals.  We receive no government funding, relying instead on donations and fees that reflect our animal welfare mission.  We shelter unwanted dogs, cats, domestic rodents, birds, and the occasional ferret.  In addition to our adoption services, we offer a walk in vet clinic for routine care, cruelty investigations, an animal ambulance service for the pick up of animals being surrendered to our facility, obedience training classes and humane education programs.  Volunteers assist us in working with the public and in clerical roles.  Most of our adopted animals are spayed or neutered at our on-site veterinary hospital, which is also open to the public.

The Women’s Humane Society is an open admissions or unlimited access shelter.  We do request that people live within 50 miles of our facility as we are confident that there are other facilities with similar practices, policies, and successes between us and someone living 50 miles from our location.  If you have several adult cats to trap on your property, we request that you limit your use of the humane trap to two surrenders a week in an effort to avoid the euthanasia of adoptable cats when cages and rescue spots fill during kitten season.  We will euthanize when space becomes an issue.  We have not had to euthanize dogs because of space issues since 1999, when the internet became a popular tool in pet adoption.  There continue to be many more cats and kittens that will need homes than there are shelter, rescue, foster care space and adopters during the busy kitten season of summer and early fall.

We are a humane shelter, meaning we will end suffering or the high risk of suffering in the future for that animal or others at the shelter, in an adopter’s home, or their community.  While we respect the work of our limited access or no kill counterparts in the animal rescue and adoption field, we stand by our position to turn no one away and keep adoption affordable.  You may learn more about how we determine suffering and risks by reading the section on ‘Giving Up an Animal’ and the two adoption pages on the menu to the left.  We invite you to sign our guest book and review the many topics covered on this site.

Aug 13 2011

What they said: notable quotes from day 2 of No Kill Conference 2011

Valerie Hayes
No Kill Conference 2011 logo.

"Fight the Power!"

Day 2 continued the whirlwind begun in day 1 of No Kill Conference 2011.  There were many more talks than any one person could possibly–so many more that two people could attend every session and have no overlap in content.  Brent Toellner, one of the presenters from yesterday, has a collection of links to blog posts on the conference overall and on particular presentations.

Attorney Kate Neiswender on ‘Legislating No Kill‘:

Politicians have a long memory for the people who help them.

Legislators love numbers.

You will find help in strange places.

An editorial in support of your bill in the local paper is legislative gold.

Diane Blankenberg of Nevada Humane Society on ‘Harnessing Community Compassion’:

 “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”  –Sun Tzu

Volunteers are ambassadors in the community.  They will tell other people about their experiences.

The average volunteer is with the organization for 90 days.  That is a lot of turnover.  make it easy and flexible to be a volunteer.

Get rid of patronizing rules.  They are unwelcoming.

The focus is on fun.  Match people with what they want to do.  Challenge them to name a skill that they have that can’t be used by the shelter.

Reach out to the media.  Be responsive to them and they will be responsive to you.

Keeping volunteers is a challenge.  People need to feel like they are using their talents.

“Enthusiasm is contagious.  Start an epidemic.”  –Don Ward

Create positive experiences.

Example of a car decal given to volunteers at a recognition event:  “I’m a Nevada Humane Society foster parent.  I save lives.”

Your program doesn’t have to be perfect.  It is a work in progress.

We make it easy for rescue groups–they can have any animal they want at no charge, and we help with spay-neuter.  We don’t complain about ‘cherry-picking’–we’re glad to let them have animals.

“The combined force of a thousand sparks makes a powerful bolt of lightning.” –Arlo Guthrie

During lunch Nathan Winograd spoke about leadership:

For so long, the bar has been set so low that we get excited about crumbs, but we deserve more.

What is the most important characteristic of a leader?  I would argue that it is imagination.

Directors of kill ‘shelters’ need to ask themselves:  “What do you want your legacy to be?”

It is never too late to do the right thing.

Excuses will be proven false.

Imagination = Lifesaving²

Robyn Kippenberger of the RNZSPCA spoke about “Leadership” (do you see a theme here?):

Proverbs 29:18–”Where there is no vision, the people [and animals] perish.”

You need to re-sensitize  people, many of them have killed for a long time. You have to come forward and let yourself feel in this work.  If you don’t, your heart is not in it, the passion isn’t there.

Imagine that the animal before you is your animal.  If you do not, then you are not doing the best for that animal.

Save one life at a time, with the intention of saving them all.

“When placed in command, take charge.”  –General Norman Schwarzkopf

With leadership comes responsibility.  When you know this stuff [the stuff in Redemption], you can’t un-know it.

We bring joy–and so much more.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  –Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s the “Can do!” that will save lives.

My philosophy is, if we’ve got money in the bank, we should be spending it on saving  lives.

“Neuter is cuter.”

Storytelling is part of bringing people into the circle, into the tribe, and people will remember and tell the stories.

“To the world, you may be just one person, but to one life, you may be the world.” –Anonymous

Christie Keith spoke about “Getting Your Paws on More Media”:

Many media figures have pets, but few really understand your issues.

Your best media contacts may be weather guys, sportscasters, movie reviewers, etc.  They have pets or their audience does.  Their audience is unexploited territory for you!

Think of it as courtship, relationship-building.  Don’t ask for something right away.  For 20 you reach out to, you will be lucky to get one.

Journalists are used to being reached out to, so get over your shyness and be more professional.

Cute animals are the greatest PR tool ever.

Before you send a press release, put it on your website, or at least as a Facebook note.  Journalists must be able to link to you.

Bloggers have more influence than their readership numbers may indicate.  When you have a cause, you want to target influencers.

Reporters may have relationships with regressive shelter directors.  Never target them or tell them that they are wrong, reach out to them on a human level.

Be professional and brief.

It takes an enormous army of people, of the dogs themselves, an enormous wave, to combat the propaganda against pit bulls that’s out there.

Journalists get frustrated when people want to tell them what the story is, especially if it’s controversial.  Your goal is to get attention.

Remember the difference between advertising and news.

Investigative journalists are few and far between.  Bloggers are filling this niche.

Is it a story?  Does it have a hook?  is it interesting?

Set out to be newsworthy (like Bonney Brown).

From the closing remarks by Nathan Winograd:

Lifesaving is the only criteria of success.

The status quo will call you crazy.  But No Kill is far from crazy.  Every new idea has been called “crazy”.

“‘We’ve always done it this way’ never justifies anything.” –Mitch Schneider

Most resistance to change is laziness.

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”  –Goethe

No Kill represents nothing short of a paradigm shift in animal sheltering, a completely new, rigorously positive, forward-thinking way, and that is perhaps the hardest part, especially if you have been steeped in the old ways, especially if you have killed animals.  The rest is just work.

The public–those people you’ve been led to believe were the enemy, the ones that criticize shelter killing–they’re the key to saving lives.  If you stop punishing them and yourself, and ask them for help, sincerely ask them, and if you commit yourself to laying down the needle, you will be amazed at what can happen.  There is a groundswell of change in the world of animal sheltering.  You can choose to be a part of this lifesaving adventure, or you can fight it bitterly for a time, kill some more animals, make some human lives that much more miserable, and then be swept away.  We’re past the point of no return.

Spaying and neutering and humane education are not “the only way”, they put off success until some vague time in the future.  They will do nothing to stop the rampant gratuitous killing and abuse in shelters today That is the task before us.  People want to save lives now, and we have a proven model for doing so.  Join the growing list of No Kill communities by following the No Kill Equation.

It has worked everywhere that it has been wholeheartedly implemented–Shelby County, Kentucky, Marquette, Michigan, Tompkins County, New York, Austin, Texas, Reno, Nevada, and in communities in Australia and New Zealand.  It doesn’t matter if the community is urban or rural, in the desert or in the mountains, on an island or on the mainland, in a politically liberal or conservative area.  It doesn’t even matter if you drive on the left side of the road.

It works.  No excuses.


Aug 11 2011

Notable Quotes From Day 1 of No Kill Conference 2011

Valerie Hayes
No Kill Conference 2011 logo.

"Fight the Power!"

The following are from my notes taken at No Kill Conference 2011 in Washington, DC July 30-31, 2011.  I have tried to get these quotes as exact as possible.  I’ll be posting more extensive write-ups of some of the talks I attended.  The conference was a heady and exciting experience.  Despite being at the same venue as last year, it seemed bigger, almost overwhelming, even.  Last year’s theme was “A new day dawns”, and this year, we are seeing the results.  I used to have the list of No Kill communities and those closing in on joining the ‘90% Club‘ memorized.  I can’t keep track of them anymore.  No Kill initiatives are popping up everywhere, testament to the theme of this year’s conference–the power of individual No Kill advocates to lead and to make a difference in their community and beyond.  The refrain throughout Winograd’s keynote address set the tone: ” One person. One moment. One decision.”

Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center,  from his opening remarks:

Killing an animal is never an act of kindness, especially if the animal is not suffering…We have recognized the value of the full expression of our values…One person can change the status quo.

It took a fight in Austin, Texas.

Whether Austin’s emerging story is your story depends on: one person, one moment, one decision.

We want to leave the darkness.  Our love for animals is not unique as we have been led to believe…History will vindicate us.

Our battle is against the few, not the many–the vested interests.  Millions of lives could be saved if you find the courage.  They will fight you.  They will attack you.  They will ridicule you.  You have support.  We have your back.

The No Kill revolution starts with you.  Go give ‘em Hell!

From ‘Advocacy Blogging’ with Brent Toellner of the KC Dog Blog and Shirley Thistlethwaite of the Yesbiscuit! blog:

Opinions are fine, facts are better.

[crickets] ~On how to win friends through advocacy blogging (i.e. you won’t).

From ‘Shelter Medicine for Non-Veterinarians’ with Dr. Diana Lucree of the Nevada Humane Society:

Every place has different challenges, and many excuses.

Feral cats–for those who like a little spunk in their cats.

Every animal is unique, and a potential source of infection.

Your intake protocols will make or break the health of the animals in your shelter.

Plan for days of high intake so that your intake protocols do not suffer–July 5 or days after high winds.

There’s somebody out there for everybody.

Most diseases are benign, but can be deadly in the shelter environment.

The take home lesson:  follow your intake protocol, never deviate from it!

From Seth Godin’s talk ‘Be the Tribe Leader’:

You don’t have to reach everyone.  Give people something to believe in and talk about.

People are waiting for someone to organize them, but nobody joins a boring movement.

We are all weird.

Bring humanity to a problem, not a manual.

People want you to fit in so they can ignore you.

There is no map.  You have to figure it out.  Report what works.  Make the map.

We need people who can solve interesting problems.

Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.

Emotional labor–doing what scares you.

How was your day?  Leaders are never ‘fine’.

To stay put, argue about minutiae.

From ‘Overcoming Internal Obstacles to Success’, with Michael Linke, CEO of the Royal SPCA in the Australian Capital Territory and the State of Tasmania in Australia:

We’re in the business of saving lives.

Temperament testing as a tool for euthanasia is rubbish.

Staff turnover is not a bad thing.  Cemeteries are full of people who thought they were indispensable.

It is better to lose poor staff than to compromise animals.

Why bother?  We can fall into the trap of not bothering, but this is life or death.  Remove obstacles.  Remove excuses.  If there is still a problem, remove staff.

You need to micromanage at the start, need to do something immediately.

From Alan Rosenblatt’s talk ‘Here Comes Social Advocacy’:

Social media is about reciprocal relationships, not just two-way communication–your audience talks to each other while you talk to them.

Audience size doesn’t necessarily matter–quality is more important.  Size is good if it includes the right people–influencers.

Now consumers of content, not producers, determine distribution.

Tumblr is great for animal pictures (one of the best marketing tools in the world) and can be linked to twitter and Facebook.

Manage your social media–tweet 2-3 times per day.  Ten minutes per day can be very effective.

‘How to’ is still being figured out.

Just a sampling of snippets from day one.  I’ll cover day two in my next post.  The ideas were flying fast both in the sessions and during the ‘downtime’, and I got to meet many interesting people.  Some you’ve heard of, others you haven’t heard of yet. To be in a room with hundreds of people who ‘get it’ and are generous with their expertise regarding how to ‘get it done’ is a powerful thing, and something to keep in mind when you are in a room full of people who don’t yet and some who may never.

“Fight the power!”