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!”

Jul 18 2011

Wonderful world

Valerie Hayes
Kapone, a family's pit bull.  Missing since he was picked up by MAS employee Demetria Hogan back in June.

Where's Kapone?

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much about biology
Don’t know much about a certain book
Don’t know much about that dog she took

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much about transparency
Don’t have much humanity
Don’t know what a catch pole is for

I don’t claim to be a songwriter
Which is why I only have about half the lyrics
But I do know what people can do
And what a wonderful world it could be.

Jul 14 2011

Cobb County Animal Control to waive fees for ‘senior’ cats

Valerie Hayes
Dewey the cat  (ID No. 531900) is 9 years young and still has many more years ahead of him.

Dewey the cat (ID No. 531900) is 9 years young and still has many more years ahead of him.

What can one (determined) person do?  With the backing of a lot of other determined people, quite a lot.

I recently received an email from Vicki Hammond, who writes about pets for the Smyrna Patch:

I was told tonight by the operations manager at Cobb County Animal Control that he is willing to give senior cats for free (waving the $110 adoption rate) so he doesn’t have to put them down. (I believe his heart is melting and I want to take advantage of the opportunity) The shelter has so many cats and as usual the senior ones aren’t being adopted (7 years and up – fully vetted). This is a milestone (as any of you that know the workings of the shelter will attest to). He will give them to rescue groups or to individuals. If you have room (or someone you know has room) at your rescue, home, or business for a senior cat please contact me ASAP and I will make sure it happens.

I hope that we can get some of these babes out and into loving homes.

It is okay to post this on Facebook and to send out to your rescue groups. It is an official (although unofficial) notice. Don is tired of seeing so many put down - alleluia.

Please contact me* since the staff (other than those in the meeting will most likely not be aware). I will hold him to his word, and I have witnesses.   [emphasis added]

A seven-year-old cat still has many more years ahead of them.  Cats can routinely live into their teens with good care, and some even make it into their twenties.  Cats that have been around the proverbial block a couple of times are generally a bit more laid-back than the youngsters, so a ‘pre-owned’ cat may even be preferable for your home.  This idea is definitely a step in the right direction, and it would be great if this offer could be extended to dogs as well.  Heck, I’d like to see promotions like this offered for any animal whose life is in danger in any shelter anywhere, regardless of their age.  The Nevada Humane Society under the direction of Bonney Brown has done many creative adoption promotions, and they have one of the best save rates in the nation to show for it.

Maybe you could do what Vicki did and negotiate an offer they can’t refuse at your local shelter.  What are they going to do?  Say no?

Cobb County Animal Control is located at:

1060 Al Bishop Drive
Marietta, Georgia 30008

Phone: (770) 499-4136
Fax: (770) 590-5620

Adoption hours are:  Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 am-5:30 pm and Sunday 2-5 pm.

*Link goes to Vicki’s article, which has an ‘email the author’ link for contacting her.

If you’ve tried anything like this, I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Jul 11 2011

The same river twice

Valerie Hayes

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

Redemption,  the book that kicked the No Kill movement into high gear when it was published in 2007, opens with a description of a public execution of animals by a shelter director in California in the early 1990s.  Over twenty years after that dark day, just over ten years after the birth of the first No Kill community, and almost four years after the publication of Redemption, a New Mexico shelter director pulled the same despicable publicity stunt.*

Redemption begins:

As director of the little known Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, California, Kim Sturla oversaw an animal shelter that took in thousands of dogs and cats every year, the majority of whom were put to death.  Her record was hardly impressive.  But on October 27, 1990, reporters from across the nation converged upon a small room in her shelter, and she had their full and rapt attention.

While cameras clicked and onlookers gasped, Sturla took a tan-and-gray calico cat and her four tiger-striped kittens–all healthy, adoptable animals–and injected them in the stomach with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal Plus.”  One by one, their tiny bodies went limp and they slumped on the table.  By the time she had finished, Sturla had killed eight animals, five cats and three dogs on television.  Dubbed a “public execution,” the first-of-its-kind public relations ploy was an instant sensation.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and organization whose hard-line advocacy on behalf of animals is legendary, should have decried the killings.  At least, that is the reaction one would expect–and hope for–when animals are killed as a public relations gimmick.  But it didn’t happen.  PETA, in fact, labeled the acts “courageous.”

I remember reading about that incident in the New York Times when I was in college.  I remember feeling sick and speechless that anyone would do that, and that people would take pictures rather than intervene.  It was just so warped, so creepy.  How could anyone feel good about this?  How could anyone celebrate it?  How could anyone not feel some combination of dirty and angry that this was allowed to happen, that it was endorsed by even one organization that was supposed to protect animals?  Some things cross the line.  Some things don’t make you a bigger journalist, though they lessen your humanity.  There was a room full of people who could have adopted those animals on the spot.  Why didn’t they?

That same article I read all those years ago is now available on the internet.   “San Mateo Journal; A Crusade to Save Unwanted Lives” starts with:

The dog in her arms was shaking, its rheumy eyes wide with fear.

“Just relax, sweetheart, it’s O.K.,” crooned Chris Powell, the manager of the Peninsula Humane Society animal shelter, where 10,000 unwanted pets are put to death each year.

And ends:

Last week, the shelter bought advertising inserts in three local newspapers, and 178,000 families on the peninsula south of San Francisco looked at pictures of trash barrels full of dead cats along with their morning coffee.

Then, reporters and television crews were invited to witness what one newspaper called a “public execution” of four kittens, a cat and three dogs. One reporter cried, another began adoption proceedings and a third left the room because the dog being killed resembled one he once owned.

The shelter has received many “How dare you!” telephone calls, but Ms. Sturla said she was unrepentant.

“You have to see it to experience the immorality of it,” she said. “We tried to tell the public with numbers, but it didn’t work. It’s time to take a 2-by-4 and hit them over the head.”

In between is quite the irony sandwich.  I’ll just take a deep breath and think of the “Crusade to Save Unwanted Lives” line as one of those frilly toothpicks.

This golden-haired dog, a new mother was killed on camera by a shelter in NM.

This golden-haired dog, a new mother was killed on camera by a shelter in NM.  Remember her.  She was an individual and her life had meaning.   It was all she had and the people who were supposed to protect her took it away out of ego and incompetence.

I suppose that  if  your only tools are syringe full of “Fatal Plus” and the proverbial “2-by-4″, then animals and people all start to look like they should either be getting an injection or getting whacked over the head.  Those of us who fought for change in Tompkins County got beaten bloody with that 2-by-4.  We’ll never forget that.  We’re not the same people we once were.

The July 6, 2011 article from New Mexico, titled “Too Many Animals Crowding Shelter”, starts:

Too expensive, unwanted or forgotten are among endless excuses contributing to the highest intake a Las Cruces animal shelter has ever seen.

Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, director of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley, says the euthanasia rate is skyrocketing.

And, in the spirit of fighting fire with fire  straw men with lame excuses while proclaiming your inability to do even a halfway decent  job, ends:

Inside a small room with a metal table, Herring shaved the fur off part of her paw. Another man, held her in his arms. For this brief moment, she is not alone. Then there is a quick injection, and her final breath. Her final resting place is a black garbage bag stuffed in a freezer.

“It’s heartbreaking, definitely, when you think about your own animals that you have at home that you love and you’re caring for, and then you see the way people throw these away like garbage,” Herring said. “They throw it on us, saying, ‘Well we’re leaving the dog with you, it’s your decision,’ and it’s not our decision because you’re the one who is burdening our shelter with this animal knowing we don’t have the space for it.”

Vesco-Mock says she does believe this could change, but says it will not change until the community takes a serious look at education for how to responsibly care for a pet.

“I’m sure the public is tired of hearing this problem but unfortunately, it is a community problem – it is not a shelter problem,” Vesco-Mock said.

And they say that with a straight face, a 70% kill rate, and this as their mission statement:

The Mission of the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley is to provide safe shelter for all lost, mistreated, and abandoned animals of the Mesilla Valley and surrounding communities. The Center utilizes all avenues available to it in placing each animal into a safe, loving, and permanent home whenever possible. We strive to meet the highest standards of humane animal care and husbandry, and to promote responsible pet ownership through public education and outreach.

It is a bit old, this use of public killing, ostensibly to sell ideas that have never gotten lifesaving results.  And, under the circumstances, the statements they make about the public are of questionable credibility. The pound staff can be reached here.  The mayor can be reached here.

But is it the New Mexico public execution the same despicable publicity stunt after all that has happened in the intervening years?  How could it be? Have the people running ‘shelters’ learned anything in the past 20 years?


Ed Duvin published “In the name of mercy” in 1989.  Many believe that this article marks the start of the No Kill movement.  It set off such a firestorm of controversy that shelter directors everywhere, including Kim Sturla, must certainly have been aware of it when she orchestrated her 1990 publicity stunt.

The San Francisco SPCA, under the leadership of Richard Avanzino began spearheading the practical application of No Kill ideals, including foster care and offsite adoptions.  These things which are familiar were once, incredibly, controversial.  In 1989, it got rid of its costly animal control contract.  In 1994, with the Adoption Pact, it began saving all of the city’s healthy animals and dramatically reduced the killing of treatable animals, but, after a disastrous change in leadership, the SFSPCA went from inspiration to cautionary tale.

Tompkins County, NY became the first No Kill community in the United States in 2001.  It recently celebrated 10 years of saving every healthy or treatable homeless pet that came through its open doors.  Nobody could truthfully say that No Kill communities were an impossible dream anymore.

Charlottesville, VA became the second No Kill community in the US in 2006 under the leadership of Susanne Kogut.

Reno, NV  followed in 2007, under the leadership of Bonney Brown and Mitch Schneider.

Redemption was published in 2007, providing many people with the knowledge and inspiration they needed.  The word is out.  It’s been out for years.  Anyone who hasn’t read it and taken its message to heart has no business running an animal shelter.

The ’90% Club’ continues to grow, and each new member has its own inspiring story.

No Kill advocacy groups are proliferating, and they’re using social media to further accelerate change.  Among them is New Mexico Pets Alive, which invites concerned citizens to their meeting next week.

Thanks to social media, the word is out. We’re not so isolated any more.   Times have changed.  Where Kim Sturla had the luxury of remaining unrepentant and keeping her job 20 years ago, her counterpart, Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock will face an increasingly organized and savvy force of No Kill advocates, people who are constantly learning, and who will do more than just annoy her with a few “‘how dare you’ phone calls.”  They will fight until she is replaced with a shelter director committed to the No Kill Equation.

Think about it:   they don’t kill pets on camera in Tompkins County, NY; or Charlottesville, VA; or Reno, NV; or at UPAWS in Michigan; and they don’t do it anymore in Austin, TX.

This river’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Sink or swim.

UPDATE, 7/11/11:  New Mexico Pets Alive! has issued a formal response to the televised killing of a shelter dog last week.  You can read it here.  The letter (which is excellent)  includes contact information for the mayor (who is apparently sympathetic to NMPA’s position) and to others in authority.  It also reveals that this is the second time this ‘shelter’ director has killed an animal as a publicity stunt.  Argh!  Hint:  when you’re doing stuff like this, the third time is not the charm.

UPDATE, 7/13/11:  Apparently Dr. Vesco-Mock once directed a Georgia shelter, but was fired after 6 months, on the heels of an incident in which an impounded dog was kept in a hot animal control vehicle and died as a result.  Article here.

*Note that this link goes to a video which depicts the killing of the dog pictured here and an accompanying article.  I do not recommend watching the video.  Unlike Ms. Sturla,  I believe that the immorality of this whole sordid story is quite evident to any normal person.