We Are a No Kill Nation Saving Lives Thu, 18 Jun 2009 20:01:52 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.7 en hourly 1 Good News from Austin /?p=1204 /?p=1204#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2009 20:01:52 +0000 sue_cosby /?p=1204 (from Fix Austin)

Hello all,

Tonight was an historic evening at the Austin Animal Advisory Commission. For the first time ever, the Commission unanimously voted to recommend that Town Lake Animal Center adopt programs and policies that have ended unnecessary shelter killing in other communities. Among the recommendations were that TLAC implement a comprehensive adoption program including off-site adoptions, a large-scale foster program, improved customer service, and candor and honesty with the public.

I cannot underscore how important this was. And I would specifically thank Larry Tucker, Vice Chair of the Commission, for drafting the plan and getting it unanimously passed by the citizen commission.

The next step is that we need the Austin City Council to adopt these recommendations and implement them as a mandate to staff. Please begin e-mailing the City Council at
http://bit.ly/19xZGto tell them to implement the Animal Advisory Commission’s No Kill recommendations.

Please forward and cross-post.

Warmest regards,
The FixAustin.org Team
Is the Customer Ever Right at SF Animal Care and Control? /?p=1201 /?p=1201#comments Sun, 14 Jun 2009 20:40:04 +0000 Barbara Saunders /?p=1201 Another agency Doing It Wrong:

I live in San Francisco, where I’ve worked for two nonprofit shelters. People in my circles come to me with their animal questions. Most of my experience is in the sheltering, rehabilitation, and adoption side of things rather than redemption. So, when asked, I repeat the instructions that I’ve learned: lose your pet - report it to SF Animal Care and Control and go down to look at the strays in their kennels; find an animal - call SF Animal Care and Control, who can assist in getting the animal redeemed or rehomed.

This morning, a friend told me this story: Driving into the neighborhood at 1am, he saw a cat strolling the periphery of the dog park. When he stopped to check on it, the cat approached right away and jumped into his car. He called the number written on the animal’s tag but got only a message machine. He couldn’t take the cat into his apartment because he has a cat of his own and didn’t think it was a good idea to put them together. So, he followed up with ACC.

Textbook bad customer service ensued:

ACC: “It’s not our policy to pick up stray cats.”

Concerned Citizen: “I’m willing to drive him down there.”

ACC: “We’re closed. And we have no room right now.”


My friend knocked on a neighbor’s door for help, but this person had a dog and wasn’t prepared to take in a cat. So, my friend put the cat in his back yard and hoped for the best.

In so many ways, this exchange was a gross failure - not the least of those ways being simple manners.

As it turns out, I know this cat. Tito lives in a home across the street from the dog park and just around the corner from the neighbor who found him. The occupants are members of a big, intergenerational family and have lots of people coming and going. I have frequently seen Tito sitting in the small garden right outside the front door. I hope he found his way home. It is a shame that I do not have the option of ringing my neighbor’s door bell and telling them he is safe and sound, waiting for them at SF Animal Care and Control.

We have much work to do in reforming animal control.

Victory in Shelby County, Kentucky /?p=1198 /?p=1198#comments Sun, 31 May 2009 14:37:15 +0000 A No Kill Nation /?p=1198 One county in Kentucky is getting positive press this week for becoming the first No Kill county in the state. This Saturday Shelby County celebrated the first full year of No Kill meaning they have saved every animal that could be treated or rehabilitated.

What’s their key to success? Hard work by all!

It has taken ten years for them to achieve this great feat but they’ve done it! 

Read the news story here. 

Saying goodbye … sort of /?p=1195 /?p=1195#comments Thu, 28 May 2009 03:39:25 +0000 sue_cosby /?p=1195 To my Friends and Readers,

I am honored and humbled to share with you the news that I have been offered and accepted the position of the CEO of the Pennsylvania SPCA. It gives me a feeling of incredible hope for the future that the Board of Directors has taken the bold step to hire someone who has been such an outspoken advocate of saving the lives of sheltered animals. No Kill is a philosophy that treasures and values the lives of animals and merges hand in glove with the PSPCA’s mission to prevent cruelty and neglect.

There is no doubt that this will be the most difficult and challenging job of my life. Despite the uphill road ahead, I am eager to join with my friends and colleagues, dedicating all of our efforts to the animals, a community and a region I know and love so well. 

For this reason it is unlikely that I will be able to continue to contribute much content to thenokillnation.com in the foreseeable future. The site was started about one year ago in the hope of giving voice to the many people across the country who are fighting and succeeding in ending the killing of savable animals. I am hoping that others will continue to contribute to the site and build on its library of content.

Thank you all so very much for your hard work and dedication!

With Affection,


Breed Ambassador: Bastardized /?p=1122 /?p=1122#comments Thu, 07 May 2009 12:58:05 +0000 sue_cosby /?p=1122 The idea sounded like a good one.

In an effort to make some sense of the slaughter of pit bull after pit bull in shelters across the country and develop pit bull adoption programs where there were none, Breed Ambassador programs were created to showcase the best of the best.

Breed Ambassadors would shatter the myths of pit bulls as crazed creatures, bent on destruction.

Breed Ambassadors would set an example in the community and encourage more pit bull adoptions. 

The theory behind Breed Ambassador programs was simple: to highlight the best of the best in an effort to introduce pit bull adoption programs in shelters that were resistant and to challenge and even sway public opinion towards this oft maligned dog.

But the good idea neglected the reality that the overwhelming majority of pit bulls were not crazed creatures but just dogs after all.  And in the wrong hands this seemingly good idea that started with the best of intentions … became a bad one. 

What started as a positive program has now been co-opted by those who are using it as an excuse to continue to kill savable dogs. Just as the term No Kill was used (and still is used) by organizations who kill 50% or more of the animals entering the shelter, Breed Ambassador programs have shined a spotlight on a precious few while hiding the deaths of the majority backstage, behind the scenes.

At first glance a shelter trumpeting its pit bull adoption program may not appear to be the one where good pit bulls are likely to die but if you look a little closer, you might be disturbed by what you see and hear. I was disturbed myself when I walked through the halls of a shelter and overheard a meeting of that shelter’s managment and behavior staff. The phrase that hit my ears as if it had been broadcast over a loudspeaker was shocking to me.

You don’t understand, it’s not that we are opposed to pit bull adoptions, it’s just the dogs we are going to bring to the adoption center have to be ambassadors of the breed.

The words were ringing in my ears as continued walking. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to decipher the code in that message. As I walked away I noted the frustration in the faces of the staff I knew to be pit bull advocates working in a shelter literally filled with pit bulls. Tragically for the dogs, I knew that they had little power to create change. 

What it meant in real terms was that dogs who were simply normal dogs, bouncy, energetic, obnoxious at times, chewy, barky, untrained, you name it, would not be considered as candidates to move to the adoption center. Without that consideration they had very little chance of leaving alive.  Ultimately, unless major changes in leadership and focus occur at that shelter, there will be a large number of wonderful, normal pit bulls who will lose their lives because of this now bastardized policy.


MOJO in his undies

MOJO is a dog who barely made it out alive. Although he looks comfy enough dressed up in his underwear, if it wasn’t for Hurricane Katrina, MOJO would have never found his new home. He faced many challenges along the way but they weren’t just water related. 

When MOJO was rescued he was just one of many dogs in need of placement. Most strikingy, he was one of many pit bulls. As in most sheltering situations he was evaluated for temperament. In MOJO’s case though, he was deemed “unadoptable” by his evaluators who were looking for …

… ambassadors.

Faced with so many dogs they were searching for the best of the best and MOJO

didn’t pass the test.  

Luckily for MOJO the large number of animal rescuers gathered together to save lives after Katrina meant he had other options. Those options eventually lead him to a loving home where he is the prince of the household and even went on to become a calendar dog, featured on the cover:


Whenever I have the pleasure of visiting MOJO (after he’s done licking my ankles, perhaps knocking me over in his excitement to say hello) I can’t help but think about what would happen to MOJO if there hadn’t been a hurricane. What would have happened to MOJO if he was in a shelter that restricted those precious few adoption cages for the best of the best?

What would have happened to MOJO if he hadn’t been in the eye of the storm?

And looking into his eyes I can’t help but wonder if he redefines the idea of a Breed Ambassador program for pit bull advocates. If, in our efforts to save them we have ultimately given shelters an excuse or a free pass to kill many, we need to rethink our tactics.

  • Have we allowed shelters to set the bar too high? 
  • Have we allowed shelters to pay little attention to comprehensive adoption programs because so few reach the lofty standards of Ambassador? 
  • Have we segregated these dogs so singularly that they aren’t even included in otherwise successful adoption efforts? 

I’m all too familiar with a program that, although it did not use the term Ambassador to describe it, used the philosophy behind it. Yet despite being the best of the best, the dogs for adoption were prohibited from off-site events. The dogs were prohibited from being walked by volunteers. The dogs had special application and adoption counselling requirements.

The dogs were treated as so very special they were literally loved …

to death

What have we done.


By all accounts, the 3-month-old pit bull puppy at Loudoun County’s animal shelter was a happy, sociable and gentle dog. He didn’t fit the breed’s vicious image. The brown-and-white puppy jumped up on shelter employees’ laps and loved to play. In evaluations, workers described him as “silly,” “wiggly” and “very lovey.”

Unfortunately for him, he made a few key mistakes in two required behavioral assessments in July 2007. Most puppies would have survived the gaffes, several animal rescue groups allege. But this puppy — he didn’t have a name, only a county-issued identification number, 43063 — was a pit bull in Loudoun County, the only Northern Virginia jurisdiction that prohibits public adoptions of the breed. So he was euthanized. …

… Loudoun euthanized all abandoned pit bulls for years before changing its policy in 2007 to allow the animals to be transferred to rescue groups or shelters in other jurisdictions – as long as the dogs passed a temperament test.

(all emphasis mine) Two-Day Trial Challenges County’s Policy on Euthanizing Pit Bulls: Washington Post, May 7, 2009


Read Nathan Winograd’s companion piece Sit, Fetch, Stay or Die: The Pit Bull Ambassador Program here.

It’s a Wonderful World: The No Kill Conference Keynote Address /?p=1112 /?p=1112#comments Wed, 06 May 2009 00:46:48 +0000 Nathan J. Winograd /?p=1112 A deep thank you to all who made the No Kill Conference in Washington DC a tremendous success. We had representatives from 37 states, the District of Columbia, and six countries (the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, France, and Thailand). Thank you to the attendees, to the speakers, to the sponsors, to the hosts, to the supporters, and to the No Kill Advocacy Center and George Washington University Animal Law Program for making it possible. The following was my keynote presentation which opened the conference on Saturday morning:



You are among friends here. And they are all available to you to share in this great revolution taking place all across the country. Here, you will find shelter directors saving 9 out of 10 animals. They have heard and rejected the excuses of why every community can’t do the same. And the trail they are blazing will lead the way to our goal of ending the killing of almost 4 million dogs and cats nationally.

Two of them work in a community that takes in four times the per capita rate of animals than Los Angeles, over five times the rate of San Francisco and over twice the national average. But they are still saving 90% of sheltered animals. Another runs a No Kill open door animal control shelter which has been saving at least 92% of animals each year for the last seven years.

Here, you will find animal lawyers who are on the vanguard of litigation and legislation to give sheltered animals the right to live. Others aren’t waiting for society to catch up and pass these laws, they are breaking new ground with existing laws. One of them used the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act to require shelters to provide better care and more lifesaving opportunities for the animals. Another helped make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal if a rescue group was willing to save that animal’s life.

You will find attorneys who give voice to feral cats, to Pit Bulls, and who are using their legal skills to close down abusive puppy mills. Here, you will find activists who are challenging the killing in their communities through campaigns for reform: That harness the power of the Internet; That harness the reach of the media; By promoting pro-No Kill candidates for city council; and, Even by taking over animal control commissions to set shelters policies themselves.

In some cases they have no formal power, but they are forcing changes because they carry the mantle of justice and truth and they are proving that the power of compassion is mightier than the power of the largest and wealthiest institutions who still cling to outdated ideologies and failed philosophies.

Here, you will find a reflection of yourself: People who share your values. Who believe—as you do—that killing animals is never an act of kindness, when those animals are not suffering.

And it is our desire, our most ardent goal, that you will leave inspired. With the tools you need to achieve success. And with a renewed faith that a No Kill nation is within our reach. Whether you are an attorney, an animal control director, a veterinarian, a rescue group, a volunteer, an activist, or simply someone who loves animals, You are part of a larger army of compassion that is sweeping across the U.S. in the battle for the heart and soul of our nation’s shelters.

A battle we are winning—and will win. We have found our voice, and recognize the potential its fullest expression can create. No more compromises. No more killing.

This is our country, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will. The power to change the status quo is in our hands. And we will use that power to achieve our dream. Together, we’ll bring sheltering into the 21st Century. Together, we’ll create a No Kill nation.

But not everyone shares our optimism. I received a letter from a woman who has spent 50 years doing animal rescue work. She described her experiences over the years, including a heart-breaking rescue of a near dead kitten abandoned near a dumpster. It was clear she cared deeply about animals. And yet she opposes No Kill. Because she believes “there are fates worse than death.” Because she believes “there are too many animals, not enough homes.” Because she believes “there is a crisis of uncaring” in the U.S.

She cannot conceive of a No Kill nation because of decades of experience seeing abandoned, neglected, and abused animals. She says she knows this not from “percentages, data, and studies.” But from “what she has seen with her own eyes.” She has been in the trenches of rescue work so long, she has become myopic. To her, the world of animals is a world of pain and suffering. The national organizations she turns to for guidance reaffirm her point of view. Visiting shelters on a regular basis, she sees scared, sick animals going out the back door in body bags. She blames the public for it. And believes in the inevitability of certain outcomes.

To her, the choice is a quick death at a shelter or a slow death on the street. Because she lacks personal experience at progressive shelters which would debunk these points of view. She hasn’t seen the success of shelters who have embraced the public. She doesn’t live in a No Kill community. San Francisco, Tompkins County, Charlottesville, Reno, and now a dozen and more communities are just points on a map. But they tell an exciting story which she and others like her need to hear. A story that begins in San Francisco.

Where over 20,000 animals were being impounded annually. Most of whom were put to death. It was nothing short of a “Blood Bath.” And we were told that the public was to be blame. And then along came a man named Richard Avanzino. He believed in the public and he started a series of programs and services which would harness their compassion to save the animals. Programs like Offsite Adoptions, Foster Care, Behavior Advice, Feral Cat TNR, Socialization & Training, Behavior Rehabilitation, and high volume spay/neuter. Programs which embraced the public and made it easy for them to do the right thing.

And the results were so dramatic that San Francisco was ready to take the next bold leap. What the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association and all local shelters said was impossible. A lifesaving guarantee for each and every healthy dog and cat in San Francisco. The first of its kind in the country. No matter which shelter they enter. No matter how many there are. And no matter how long it takes to find them a home.

The number of healthy dogs and cats killed in San Francisco under Richard Avanzino since 1994 was zero.

In 2000, I was the Director of Operations for the San Francisco SPCA. And the one question I received more than any other was whether San Francisco was so unique it’s success could not happen anywhere else? It was time to find out. In 2001, I traveled across country to Ithaca, New York. Taking the Private SPCA No Kill Model to an open door animal control shelter which impounded animals for 10 towns and municipalities. Impounded rabies suspect animals for the Tompkins County Health Department. Enforced New York State’s animal cruelty laws. Enforced Tompkins County pet ordinances. And enforced the “Dangerous Dog” laws.

And by implementing the programs Avanzino pioneered–the programs & Services I have come to call  “The No Kill Equation”–in 2002, Tompkins County went from a community:

  • that was killing healthy dogs and cats to killing none
  • that was killing treatable sick/injured dogs and cats to killing none
  • that was killing feral cats to killing none
  • that reduced the death rate by 75%
  • that increased the total save rate to 93%, well beyond San Francisco

It should have been a celebration. Sadly, it was not. Entrenched shelter directors across the country were overcome with a case of collective amnesia. When San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. saving all healthy dogs and cats, shelters said: “You can do it in an urban community, but you can’t in a rural one.” When Tompkins County becomes the first No Kill community in rural America, shelters said: “You can do it in a rural community, but not in an urban one.” At the very least, they argued, it could not be replicated in what they mean-spiritedly called the “backward” South because of the “Bubba Factor.”

So we took the No Kill Equation to Charlottesville, Virginia. To an animal control shelter which hired a new director who was passionate about the No Kill philosophy and committed to implementing the programs and services which make it possible.  And in her first year, she saved 87% of all dogs and cats. In 2006, she saved 92% of all dogs and cats. And in 2007 and 2008, she repeated the No Kill achievement. At an open door animal control shelter in the South. That should have ended the debate. But it did not.

There was still another hurdle to overcome. When Charlottesville achieved No Kill in 2006, these Naysayers who were running shelters which still killed the bulk of their occupants argued that No Kill could not be achieved in a rapidly developing community because the influx of new people would mean more animals, which would overwhelm the infrastructure of animal control, “forcing” them to kill.

So we took the No Kill Equation to Reno, NV, the fastest growing county in one of the fastest growing states. To a community which takes in over three times the per capita rate of dogs and cats than Los Angeles, five times the rate of San Francisco and over two times the national average. So if there is a problem with “pet overpopulation,” they certainly face it in Washoe County (Reno), Nevada.

But in 2007, compared to 2006:

  • The kill rate for dogs dropped 51%
  • The kill rate for cats dropped 52%

At the same time:

  • The adoption rate for dogs increased 53%
  • The adoption rate for cats increased 84%

The 2007 save rate (including animal control) for dogs was 92% and 78% for cats. In 2008, the save rate for cats climbed to 83%. The goal in 2009 is a 90th percentile for both.

There are others: in California, in Texas, in Indiana, in Colorado, in North Carolina, in Montana, in Utah, in Kansas, in Kentucky, and elsewhere. Some of these are urban. Some are rural. Some are public. Some are private. Some are politically liberal. Some are politically conservative. And at least one is in the “reddest” part of the “reddest” state. Proving that people of all walks of life want to build a better world for animals.

Dorothy doesn’t see that, because what is happening in these communities isn’t happening everywhere. Not because it isn’t possible, but because it has not been a priority for shelter managers or the government officials who oversee them. The contrast between a fully functioning No Kill shelter and a regressive one could not be more stark. But people like Dorothy don’t see the former and keep being told that the latter is the “best we can do.” So Dorothy lacks the larger perspective.

To her, the story is about the 4 million being killed in shelters she has been told we can’t save. Which obscures the bigger, happier, more accurate story. The story about the 165 million in homes, the vast majority of whom are part of families who are crazy about them and consider them cherished members of the family.

Yes, some may become homeless during their life. But as San Francisco and other communities have proved, shelters can be temporary way stations with good care and plenty of comfort until they find loving new homes. The story of the 4 million doesn’t have to be a tragedy. If all shelters embrace the public’s love of animals. Plenty of communities have proved it. But so do the “percentages, data, and studies” Dorothy dismisses so casually.

Nationally, about 4 million dogs and cats are killed annually in shelters, of which roughly 90% are savable, meaning they are not suffering, or hopelessly ill, or truly vicious dogs. On top of that, not all animals entering shelters need adoption. Some will be reclaimed by families after becoming lost. Some of the cats will be feral and don’t need adoption. They need sterilization and release. Some will be suffering or hopelessly ill and, sadly, will be killed. A shelter can save 90% but only needs to find a home for fewer. And there are plenty of people who are willing to provide that home.

There are roughly 30 million people who are going to get an animal next year, and most have not decided where that animal will come from. We just need to convince a small percentage of these people to adopt from a shelter. And, in the end, that is why shelters exist in the first place. To be a safety net for animals whose caretakers no longer can or want to take care of them. And shelters can do so without killing. That is what they are doing in communities across the country. That is what we are going to teach you to do in your own hometowns. And that is the perspective we are asking you to take back to the Dorothies in your communities.

To let them know that our perceptions do not always reflect the truth. In the trenches, the problem appears larger and more pervasive that it really is. Visiting poorly performing shelters on a regular basis, seeing scared, sick animals who are not being properly cared for and the occasional victim of abuse and neglect, people like Dorothy lose sight of a broader, more accurate perspective of people and how most of them really feel about animals.

Even while virtually all other sectors of the economy plummet, purchases for our companion animals increase every year and increased again in 2008 to $47 billion. And give hundreds of millions more to animal related charities. In fact, giving to animal related charities is the fastest growing segment in American philanthropy. They miss work when their animals get sick. And they cut back on their own needs to meet the needs of their animal companions.

Dorothy and people like Dorothy forget that No Kill success throughout the country is a result of people—people who care deeply. Evidence of this caring is all around them, but they doesn’t always recognize it as such or dismiss it as the “exception” even when they are constantly seeing exceptions. When people who adopt rescued animals send them thank you letters telling them how much they love their animals.

When they see people at the dog park. Or on their morning walks through the neighborhoods. They fail to recognize it at the veterinarian’s office—the waiting rooms always filled, the faces of scared people wondering what is wrong, the tears as they emerge from the exam rooms after saying good bye for the last time.

They don’t see that books about animals who have touched people’s lives are not only being written in ever-increasing numbers but are all best sellers because people do care, and the stories touch them very deeply and very personally. They don’t see that the success of movies about animals is also a reflection of the love people have for animals.

They fail to see how people were terrified as news spread of the pet food recall in 2007, when tainted pet food from China devastated lives. And while animals lost their lives because of tainted food, they were not the only ones to suffer. Their caretakers did, too, as thousands of caring, of helpless people had to witness the suffering of their pets as their government and a government overseas betrayed them for industry profits.

They don’t draw lessons from the fact that people support animal-related legislation, even at the expense of their own economic interests:


  • During the 2008 election, for example, Massachusetts voters ended greyhound racing.
  • In 2007, Oregon voters followed Florida’s 2002 lead and banned gestation crates for pigs.
  • In 2006, Arizona voters passed a farm animal protection statute banning veal crates, while Michigan voters defeated a measure to increase hunting in the State.
  • And in November 2008, Californians voted overwhelmingly to end battery cages for chickens.

The conclusion they should draw from these votes but fail to reach is that Americans don’t just care about dogs and cats; they even care about animals with which they do not have personal relationships. So we need to put to bed, once and for all, the idea that dogs and cats—animals most Americans now consider cherished members of their family—need to die in U.S. shelters because people are irresponsible and don’t care enough about them .

If they would only open their eyes, they would see tremendous proof of caring all around them, which has been growing over the years. It is what I call in my book as “The Changing B’s.” For much of 19th Century, animals lived in our barns and were seen as commodities: they herded sheep, pulled plows, took goods to market, and kept barns free of mice.

In the 20th Century, they moved t our backyards. Increasing affluence, education, division of labor, and urbanization changed our views of dogs and cats. They became “pets” instead of workers.

Recently, we see the ethic shift significantly, as they move into our bedrooms. The “companion animal” comes of age.When it set itself up as an adversary with the public, our movement got it wrong. People love animals. To end the killing, we need to harness that compassion. By implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. And that is how achieve a No Kill nation.

It is the public which has made the difference in successful communities because the public cares. That is what Dorothy must be made to see. That is what we must make all the Dorothies see. Every where you look, there is deep love for animals. Every where you look, there is our own reflection of that love. We must make them see that it truly is a wonderful world.

But no talk of No Kill can be complete without hearing from our next keynote speaker. It was his seminal achievement in San Francisco that was the spark for where we are today. He is the hero of Redemption whose achievement I described as follows:

With a huge groundswell of support, he took a SPCA on the verge of bankruptcy in a city that took in over 20,000 animals per year, the vast majority of whom were killed, and turned it into the safest urban community for homeless pets in the United States. Ultimately, his most important legacy was the paradigm shift he took from the hypothetical to the real, with a series of programs and services that lowered birthrates, increased adoptions, and helped keep animals with their caretakers. His wasn’t the first No Kill shelter; others had been doing it on varying scales for years. Unlike other shelters without animal control contracts, however, he focused all the resources of th

e San Francisco SPCA to extend their lifesaving guarantee throughout the city. So that each and every healthy homeless dog or cat, no matter what shelter they entered in San Francisco, would be guaranteed a home. By the time he left the SPCA, San Francisco’s rate of shelter killing was a fraction of the national average and over thirty times less than communities with the highest death rates. He had made San Francisco into America’s first and, at the time, only city saving all healthy dogs and cats. The proverbial Rubicon had been crossed. The San Francisco SPCA had fired the first volley, and with it began a revolution.

He was the first to light a candle in the darkness. The first person to give us hope. The man who showed us there was a better way. And he is, without question, the Father of the No Kill movement. When others were championing killing:

“It is essential that some agency take on the responsibility of killing an animal… It is a hoax when the public is led to believe otherwise.” –Roger Caras, President, ASPCA (1997).

He drew a line in the sand:

“What is unconscionable, abominable and outrageous is that animals, healthy and well-behaved, are being killed because someone says there are too many. That is something we do not accept. That is something we find intolerable.” (1997)

He was my boss. He was my mentor. He is my friend. Join me in giving him the thunderous welcome he deserves. Ladies & Gentlemen…Mr. Richard Avanzino.

[Avanzino then spoke that a No Kill nation was inevitable.]

The No Kill Conference 2009 an Amazing Success /?p=1077 /?p=1077#comments Wed, 06 May 2009 00:34:57 +0000 sue_cosby /?p=1077 Almost a year ago I started The No Kill Nation website in the hopes that it could become a voice and a resource for No Kill advocates from across the country and the world. To get the site going we started by asking people to contribute answers to the question:

What is No Kill?

Although the answer seems clear to those of us who live and breathe it, it is a term that has been misused and misapplied. Then those very same people who have misused and misapplied the term claim that the public doesn’t understand what it is.

  • No Kill has been described by those who claim to be working on behalf of companion animals as impossible, divisive, or something no organization should even strive to achieve;  
  • No Kill has been called a fraud, a pipe dream thought up by crazy rescue folks, something not to be taken seriously by “real” animal advocates or attempted by “real” shelters;
  • No Kill has been sidelined, labelled a “special project” for shelters and rescues who limited their admissions or a philosophy that equaled warehousing with poor care as a result. 

The answers to our question one year ago were heartfelt:

I bought into the Humane Society rhetoric that it was better to provide a humane death because there just weren’t enough homes for them all, but it always bothered me to think that perfectly wonderful animals were dying. I thought I was alone. But, I’m not … Connie Swaim

Connie was not alone then and she is surely not alone now. As the first No Kill Conference has come to an end we have officially entered a new era.  The conference sold out two months in advance. I was bombarded with requests from both friends and complete strangers to help get them in the door. Many people bought plane tickets, flew into DC or drove for hours just in the hopes of getting in the door even though registration was closed and the conference declared full.

What does it all mean? It means that in 2009 we have a new answer to the question, “What is No Kill?”:

  • No Kill is an unstoppable movement that must be taken seriously;
  • No Kill is embraced by open admission, limited admission, private and municipal animal control shelters;
  • No Kill communities have been achieved with more successes in every type of community;
  • No Kill is not the fantasy of unstable activists on the fringe of animal welfare but a mainstream movement comprised of professionals - attorneys, veterinarians, shelter administrators and more;
  • No Kill is, in the words of Rich Avanzino, the father of the No Kill movement: inevitable.

Rich Avanzino and Nathan Winograd together for the keynote address

What was most striking about the conference was the intelligence level of the attendees. This was not a naive audience who could be bought off with a happy kitty story and a round of kumbaya singing. They wanted solid answers and they wanted tools to take home and put to use. They were professionals, activists, shelter administrators, attorneys, animal control officers … you name it, they were all there.

All I can say is I’m excited about the movement to end the senseless killing of dogs and cats in our shelters.  I’m excited by how many people are involved. I’m excited that as a country we’re as close as we are to achieving this goal (even though it may not seem like it at times). Brent Toellner

Didn’t make it to the conference? Unlike any animal welfare conference I’ve attended before, this one was intensively covered by writers and bloggers helping spread the word to those who couldn’t make it. In that respect, the modern concept of No Kill was well reflected in up-to-the-moment methods of communication. You can read more about it here:

Driving by on the way back to the hotelCoincidentally our hotel was right down the street from the headquarters of the country’s wealthiest animal welfare and protection organization.

Despite the close proximity, they were noticably absent from the event although I heard that someone from the organization was there. In passing their building late at night after dinner I had a brief but exhilarating feeling … as if I was a part of a new party, elected to office

… the change had come and it was our town now.

I am certain that many people left DC motivated and armed to make change in their communities and they won’t be taking no for an answer.

They will find a way.

It’s their town now.

Can anyone say No Kill Conference 2010?  Let’s see a show of hands!

UPDATE: More Conference Links

Taylor’s Ghost in the Killing Machine /?p=1073 /?p=1073#comments Tue, 05 May 2009 04:45:40 +0000 Barbara Saunders /?p=1073 As No Kill proponents, we ask ourselves over and over again: why such resistance from the shelter management establishment both in public animal control agencies and in nonprofit humane societies and SPCAs? Fifteen years after Richard Avanzino pioneered the elements of the No Kill Equation, what stops others in the field from adopting them comprehensively?

Nathan Winograd and others have written about lack of caring, laziness, and 19th-century attitudes about our obligations towards the dogs and cats in our midst. There has been less discussion about the inadequacy of the 19th-century management principles and techniques still employed in many animal welfare organizations.

Frederick Winslow Taylor developed his theories of scientific management in the Victorian era. His principles are best illustrated by the assembly line.  Breaking down work into discrete, trainable tasks makes it possible to hire “de-skilled” workers instead of specially trained ones. Once the workflow is established, authoritarian managers exercise tight control over their subordinates’ moment-to-moment activities.

Scientific management had its critics even in Taylor’s time, among them that the practice dehumanizes workers and leads to burdensome levels of oversight by too many supervisors. (Ironically this intellectual product of the Efficiency Movement can be terribly inefficient.) In most industries, service industries in particular, Taylorism has been largely displaced by other methods, almost all of which leverage employee domain expertise and discretion.

I thought of old Taylor often in my despairing moments on staff at animal welfare agencies. It was then I understood the meaningful concepts behind the overused buzzwords I learned in corporate settings.

I get what a “flat team” is when I see my employer’s 100 employees distributed among more than a dozen job levels, with duties assigned based upon those levels rather than on the talents individual workers bring to the table or, even better, skill sets deliberately sought via organized recruitment.

I get what a “knowledge worker” is when I ask along with Nathan why the heck the Los Angeles animal control department needs eleven typists—and what a “typist” even does in 2009.

I get what “professionalization” is when I observe a manager or director commanding four employees step-by-step through a three-day process that a single person with market-caliber skills could accomplish alone in a couple of hours.

I get what the “disciplinary approach” is when I hear that a friend who dreamed for a decade of working for a particular organization quit after a few weeks because managers don’t have the organizational skills it takes to give workers reasonably stable or predictable schedules.

Process obstacles such as these drain time, energy, and money away from the goal of saving lives: implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation requires modern management approaches.

A scholar in the 1970s noted that Taylor’s “ideological message required the suppression of all evidence of worker’s dissent, of coercion, or of any human motives or aspirations other than those his vision of progress could encompass.” Therein, I believe, is the emotional core of the resistance from some of the old guard. The lack of trust of the public is coupled with a dictatorial bent with regard to colleagues further down the organizational ladder.

In other words, the expulsion of rescue groups, firing of staff who complain about the animals’ treatment, gag orders for volunteers, and even suspicion of the Internet’s openness are the angry responses of people content with a culture where power, once gained, need never be shared.

Happily for all of us who care about animals, clinging to the past is a losing strategy.  The success of the recent No Kill Conference and the blossoming of this blog demonstrate why.  Those hoping to maintain the Ford factory circa 1915 are simply no match for activist veterinarians and attorneys asking rigorous questions, innovative No Kill shelter directors spreading ideas through Webinars, community members savvy enough to reach the press directly, and the emergent generations of employees and volunteers who are not accustomed to the expectation that they give unquestioning compliance to their bosses.

Maddie’s Awards $474K to Berkeley Alliance for Saving All Healthy & Treatable Shelter Pets /?p=1070 /?p=1070#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2009 14:54:58 +0000 sue_cosby /?p=1070 Maddie’s Fund® has given the Berkeley Alliance for Homeless Animals Coalition (BAHAC) a $474,000  Maddie’s®Lifesaving Award* for achieving and maintaining an adoption guarantee for healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats in Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville and Piedmont, California.

The Berkeley Coalition is the first in California to achieve community-wide no-kill status (saving all healthy and treatable shelter pets), and is only the third to receive Maddie’s® prestigious Lifesaving Award nationwide.

The BAHAC is made up of three organizations. Each will share in the grant according to their 2007 adoption performance. The recipients are: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society ($200,240); Berkeley Animal Care Services ($176,320); and Home at Last Animal Rescue ($97,440).

In spite of the fact that many of the animals awaiting adoption at Berkeley Animal Care Services are pit bulls and pit mixes, and that as many as 40-50% of the animals at Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society and Home at Last Animal Rescue are elderly, FIV positive, in need of extra socialization or have other treatable conditions, the live release for the coalition is 93%. Intake for all organizations in 2007 was 2,570.

“Maddie’s Fund is proud to reward this incredible lifesaving accomplishment,” said President, Richard Avanzino. “Although an adoption guarantee has been in place for the past six years, the Berkeley coalition has operated under the radar in the Bay Area shelter community. We hope these outstanding East Bay organizations will now receive the recognition they richly deserve.”

The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society will focus the added resources on older cats and dogs and treatable pets; Home at Last Rescue will use the award to pay veterinary expenses and create a reserve fund to weather the recession; the City of Berkeley will apply its grant money to a new shelter and existing programs.

*Maddie’s Fund Lifesaving Awards acknowledge the outstanding contributions being made by communities that have implemented an adoption guarantee for all healthy shelter pets or have achieved no-kill status (an adoption guarantee for healthy and treatable pets) in their target communities and are likely to sustain it in the future. Awards range from $200,000 to $3 million, depending upon the size of the community. For more information, go towww.maddiesfund.org/grant_guidelines/lifesaving_awards.html.

Transforming Your Community /?p=1020 /?p=1020#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2009 21:26:30 +0000 Nathan J. Winograd /?p=1020  

The first step to building a No Kill community is rebuilding your relationship with the community. And that is done by showing them that you are true to your mission. Two years ago, in January 2007, as part of a top-down assessment of the agency, I did a series of Town Hall-type meetings and surveys to determine how the Washoe County (Reno) NV community felt about its shelter, the Nevada Humane Society.

Those efforts revealed deep dissatisfaction in the community, especially among animal welfare stakeholders (rescue groups, feral cat caretakers, No Kill shelters, and others) with the job being done. The vast majority did not believe the humane society was doing enough to save lives.

Rather than circle the wagons as too many shelters do, the Board of Directors promised the community they would do better, and they idealized that promise by embracing and launching an ambitious No Kill initiative despite a combined intake rate of 16,000 dogs and cats per year; three times the per capita rate of Los Angeles, five times the per capita rate of San Francisco, and over twice the national average. In other words, they didn’t just point the finger of blame at the “irresponsible public,” they said they would save the animals despite whatever irresponsibility existed in the community.

The following two years were marked by significant and substantial efforts in that regard. A new executive director committed to and passionate about saving lives was hired. The entire management team was replaced. And of nearly seventy employees, only three of the original group was allowed to remain. In other words, they got the right people on the bus. And then they took that bus in a whole new direction. That meant launching a series of programs and services in line with the No Kill Equation model of sheltering. And the results have been dramatic.

In 2007,

  • The Washoe County adoption rate increased 53% for dogs and 84% for cats (compared to 2006), a higher increase than any other community in the nation.
  • The Washoe County killing rate decreased by 51% for dogs and 52% for cats.
  • The countywide save rate was 92% for dogs and 78% for cats despite a per capita intake rate that is twice the national average.

In 2008, the agency increased dog and cat adoptions an additional 9% over 2007, decreased the number of dogs and cats killed in Washoe County by an additional 10%, and increased the save rate for cats to 83%. So far this year, 86% of cats are being saved. Nine out of ten dogs also continue to be saved.

Not surprisingly, public perception today stands in sharp contrast to what it was. With the help of the Reno Gazette Journal, a community survey in January 2009 revealed that:

  • 93% support the No Kill initiative;
  • 95% gave the humane society positive ratings on adoption efforts and results; and,
  • 93% say NHS has a good or great public image.

Open-ended public comments were overwhelmingly positive and coalesced around two major themes:

  • “We believe NHS does an excellent job for the citizens of Washoe County.”
  • “NHS does a great job of taking care of the animals in its care.”

That success can be every community’s success. And the only thing standing in the way of it is the vision, commitment, and follow-through of its leadership.

Read “How We Did It” by the Nevada Humane Society by clicking here. And make their success yours.