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Nathan Winograd:
The No-Kill Solutions Interview
By Claudette Vaughn

He's vegan. His attitude is enlightened and revolutionary towards pound animals. His successes to date have been remarkable. Nathan Winograd is the guru of no-kill sheltering in the world today.

He once said, "Once a fringe movement dismissed by the status quo, the no-kill movement is now only the legitimate standard for animal sheltering". No Kill is also the only legitimate standard for the animal rights movement to embrace as well. If the AR Movement refuses to embrace No-Kill options for all animals then not only will it have a credibility problem on it's hands but, if neglected, this one thing alone will plant the seed for the destruction of the continuance of the animal rights movement. Here he speaks with the Abolitionist.

Nathan Winograd is the Director of www.NoKillSolutions.com

Abolitionist: For those people not familiar with your work Nathan can you speak on how you got started in No-Kill and what sort of work have you accomplished so far in No-Kill communities set up by you around the United States?

Nathan Winograd: My mother was one of the cat ladies of the neighbourhood who took care of the neighbourhood strays. From a very very young age I have always been exposed to animals and have been schooled by my parents, particularly my mother, in caring for homeless animals.

So it seemed only natural when I got to law school at Stanford University that I would get involved with the group on campus that was trying to save the feral cats of the community. I became involved with a group that came to be known as the 'Stanford Cat Network' which was formed because the Administration on campus wanted to round up and exterminate all the homeless cats.

That was my primary lesson in animal sheltering in the US because we did turn to the local humane society and we turned to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other groups who we thought would be on our side but in effect they sided with the Administration and said that since these were wild cats and could not be adopted into homes they should be taken to the local shelter where they would be destroyed.

This was shocking to someone like myself who naturally assumed that humane organizations and shelters would rally around the cats.

Abolitionist: There's a whole sub-culture happening within these societies where peoples' trust in them is being shattered. Questions arise like: Where does the money that's donated go to if killing is the primary function of these organizations? There's a whole deception around playing on the word "humane" in as far as people naturally associate it with providing love and support for abandoned animals and shelter animals and this has, all too frequently, not been the case at all.

Nathan Winograd: It's really -- I'll use this word because I think it captures it -- it's really a betrayal and one of the things that was valuable to me when I first got into animal sheltering after being an attorney, a prosecutor, for a number of years is that I didn't come into the job with the baggage of "this is what we must do" or "this is the way we've always done it -- there's no other way." I came in thinking I was going to make a contribution and trying to find creative and new solutions to age-old problems because I didn't have the baggage.

I eventually became the Director of Operations for the San Francisco SPCA and at the time through a series of innovative programs San Francisco became the first city in the United States to end the killing of healthy dogs and cats and really started to penetrate the treatable ones -- the sick or injured ones that could be medically rehabilitated and placed into homes. By the time I left in the Year 2000 the rate of shelter killings in San Francisco, both in the private SPCA were I worked and the city pounds because we pulled our animals from there was a fraction of the national average.

What I keep hearing while I was there was "Maybe you can do it in a city like San Francisco, in a wealthy urban community but you'll never do it in poor rural America where people had more antiquated views of animals".

That opportunity presented itself and I took it ultimately becoming a Director in a shelter in upstate New York -- Tompkins County New York. Literally I took the No-Kill model that was successful in San Francisco to rural America and the results were just phenomenal. We reduced killing by 75%. We stopped killing healthy dogs and cats. We stopped killing sick and injured but treatable dogs and we stopped killing feral cats.

We created the first No-Kill Community in the United States . That doesn't mean no animals were killed but the only animals that were killed were animals that were irremediably suffering or truly vicious dogs who posed an immediate threat to public safety. Not shy dogs, not scared dogs, not dogs who growled into food bowls or

anything like that but truly vicious dogs. This enabled us to save about 93% of all dogs and cats that came through our facility despite being an open door animal control shelter.

Since leaving there I have tried to help other communities and have had success in Philadelphia and other places.

Abolitionist: You wrote a paper called "Do Feral Cats Have A Right To Live" which is available free on your website. Can you summarize it for us here? Also how did you have succeed where so many others have failed in the past?

Nathan Winograd: To me the feral cat is really, really a grim reminder of how far we have come in the Movement yet how far we still have to go. When I started a number of years ago the status quo for animal sheltering in the United States was basically to kill all feral cats and that fact is still the case in many parts of the country but it definitely is in the minority now.

More and more communities in the United States are signing feral cat declarations, TNR resolutions. If shelters kill feral cats the community is definitely opposed to it. We have come far but the sad fact is if you look at the one segment of the shelter population of feral cats, if they do end up in shelters they are killed more than any other animal because they have 100% death rate unless they can be kept out of a shelter through a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program. That to me is a great tragedy because they don't pose threats to public safety, they stay away from human beings, there are millions in the US and I would assume also in Australia and everywhere else � there are millions of cat lovers and compassionate people who brave the elements regardless of whether it's Christmas or New Year Day they are out there caring for these cats only to have animal control agencies trap them and kill them. It really is a blight on local government and what should be evolving compassion as these are the cousin of the most popular pet in America .

Where I have succeeded where others have failed is not because I have any magical powers or because I am more gifted than anybody else but there are programs and services -- what I have come to call -- the No-Kill Equation and if every shelter implemented those programs they would have equal success. The problem is they don't and just to give you an example: If a shelter is not taking animals off-side for adoption because as we know most shelters are located in out-of-the-way communities. They have been intentionally placed away from retail, commerce and residential areas -- far away from where people live, work and play as possible, and so it is not enough to be passive and open your doors in the morning and wait for people to come to adopt. You really need to take these animals to the community -- where they work and where they play. In my shelters as many as 25% - 50% of all adoptions were done off-site at the Mall, on the Commons, in financial districts -- all the places where people congregate. That's where the people are, so you need to bring the animals to where the people are and if a shelter doesn't do that then what they are saying is they are willing to accept a certain body count. That is true of all the programs and services that make up the no-kill equation.

One of the things I did before leaving Tompkins County is I was hired by the City of Philadelphia , which is the fifth largest city in the United States . It had a deplorable animal control shelter. They were taking in roughly 25,000 dogs and cats a year and killing about 22,000. That's about 88% of all the animals being killed. I went in and did a thorough review and a thorough reorganization, hired a new team and we put in place the programs and services of the No-Kill Equation.

Programs were initiated such as the Feral Cat TNR program, off-site adoptions, we let volunteers in the shelter, we started a foster care program, we partnered with private veterinarians in the veterinary community to create the medical and rehabilitation programs. We started socializing dogs. Very basic animal orientated programs and here's an agency that arguably had one of the worst records of life saving in the United States and for the first time in Philadelphia 's history more animals were being saved rather than killed. They are saving 56% which is still not clearly enough, there are a lot of animals still in risk, but those results come from less than a year working with our programs. Going from killing 88% to killing 44% and not having killed a healthy cat since January 1 st and continuously making progress -- not because of any magic or because of who I am but because they looked at the success of San Francisco and looked at the success of Tompkins County NY and they're implementing those programs and services and it's making an impact. So to the extent that others have failed it's their own failure to learn from the past and implement the programs that work.

Abolitionist: You and No Kill Solutions have created a new culture through the changing of language and implementing successful programs that challenges the old ways of the entrenched mindset of the �Catch and Kill' mentality that's rampant in other sheltering facilities. Where else did you achieve your most successful results to date -- education or legislation for instance?

Nathan Winograd: Well, actually neither. What's causing the great failure in the United States in terms of all the killing is the fact that these agencies are run by people who should have been out of this Movement a long time ago.

If you take any industry and you were to fail 80 -- 90% of the time -- and that's not uncommon in some of these larger urban shelters -- that is a profound failure. In any other field those people would be out of a job but the way they have been able to avoid that kind of public scrutiny is because 1). It's not a issue of great importance to local governments unless citizens complain which is what they are starting to do and which is why you're starting to see a lot of attention being placed on these agencies and 2). They have been able to blame the public for their own failure.

I don't doubt that the public is irresponsible which is why shelters are filled with animals in the first place. That doesn't explain all the killings. What explains all the killings is the shelter's failure to respond with effective programs to that irresponsibility. There are a lot of government agencies that deal with a lot of public irresponsibility like child protection services. They don't use that as an excuse to negate their own responsibility to come up with alternatives to killing. Can you imagine if child protection services took in orphaned or abused children and then killed them because they didn't have enough homes. The only way we accept that now is because they are animals and that's an alternative because that is palatable to animal control directors and the local governments. When that stops -- when you take killing off the table or make killing the last option in extreme cases rather than the first option which it currently is, it will force these agencies to come up with other solutions rather than a lethal injection.

So it was less about trying to educate the public or legislate changes in their behaviour than changing our own sheltering practices. To me the difference between no kill and 'Catch and Kill' sheltering is 'Catch and Kill' sheltering is passive where no-kill is proactive. An example I gave you earlier was 'Catch and Kill' sheltering opens the door in the morning, closes it at the end of the day, they tally the number of animals that comes in, they tally the number of animals that goes out, if they come out with more came in than went out they kill the difference. Where No-Kill says "OK. If people aren't going to come to the shelter because we're in the worst part of town, or because we are inconvenient or because they don't want to walk into the shelter and look in the eyes of the animals that they pass by because they think those animals are going to be killed, we'll take the animals to them".

'Catch and Kill' sheltering says when cages are fill we'll kill the rest. When No-Kill sheltering, on occasion, gets full we're going to rely on volunteer foster homes, we're going to work with rescue groups, we're going to work with pet owners to help them overcome whatever behavioural or medical or environmental problems they're facing.

No Kill is proactive and creative and it's the passivity and the failure of 'Catch and Kill' sheltering that is responsible for the volume of killing. Despite our best efforts, unfortunately, there will be some animals that are too injured or too truly vicious dogs to be safely placed into homes but for the bulk of the killing it's really the failure of the shelters. With the shelters you don't need education or legislation. All you need is hard working and compassionate shelter directors who are not content to hide behind the cliché of too many animals and not enough homes.

I am an ethical vegan and I don't think that's necessary to be a shelter director but you really want people who loves animals and who hurt by the killing and if you really hurt by the killing you will stop at nothing to save lives. Yet every community I go to -- and I've worked with 40 communities and visited over 40 shelters in the last 2 years -- there's always programs they don't do because they are inconvenient or they don't want to or it's too much of a hassle and that to me is them saying they are willing to accept a certain amount of killing.

If you really hurt at the killing you will do off-site adoptions and you will let volunteers come in and help you and you will work with the rescue groups and you will do TNR with feral animals because all of that is infinitely preferable to killing. Yet this is not being done uniformly. That's why we have 5million dogs and cats being slaughtered every year in our nation's shelters.

Abolitionist: What are your views on these large and wealthy animal rights and animal welfare organizations turning their back on no-kill solutions and the fact remains that if the animal rights movement does not embrace no-kill and defends it vigorously as it has done so with intensively-farmed animals, then the movement will not only lose credibility in the eyes of the public but this one feature alone -- the relentless slaughter of pound animals - will plant the seed of it's own destruction for the continuance of the animal rights movement.

Nathan Winograd: What is shocking to me is that here are these groups that rightfully -- it's something I am sympathetic to -- are arguing that we should stop killing animals for sports and we should stop killing them for entertainment and we should think about what we should eat because we really don't need to eat animals and we're healthier without it.

We're definitely on the right track in terms of how animals are viewed in these other areas but when it comes to dogs and cats in shelters there's a huge blind spot where they seem to think it's OK to kill them because they erroneously believe there's no alternative or there are too many animals and not enough homes. It could be because we, as a movement, a humane movement, are doing the killing. But could you imagine if groups like PeTA and these other groups actually said "Well, the killing that's going on in slaughterhouses for food animals is open ended. We're going to take them over and we're going to kill them for people because we'll do it much more humanely". That would be ludicrous.

If the animal rights movement is going to succeed and by succeed I mean winning the hearts and minds of the middle class and the bulk of the population to change their behaviour, its got to embrace those values. Isn't it ironic that when it comes to dogs and cats your average pet owner would be horrified with what's going on in shelters but here are these known �animal rights' people, not only condoning pound slaughter but legitimizing and protecting it.

If you don't embrace No-Kill which basically says "We Can Do Better" to those animals closest to our families and who live in our homes as companions, as pets, as members of our family, how are we going to convince the public that it's wrong to eat a chicken? It'll never happen.

The only exception I would take to your question is these groups aren't poor. I mean we have humane societies and SPCAs here in the States with assets approaching 100 million dollars. We have humane societies and SPCAs where directors are making six figure salaries. $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 a year yet they are still killing 60, 70, 80% of the animals that go through their shelters or legitimizing that level of killing.

To me, nothing could be more abominable, unconscionable or outrageous. Even the shelters that are failing miserably are protected by these millionaire organizations.

Abolitionist: In a recent letter to the editor of the Abolitionist Ingrid Newkirk argued the exception rather than the rule when reasoning why PeTA chooses to kill thousands upon thousands of pound animals annually. Newkirk says PeTA offers pound animals "the gift of euthanasia". What's your opinion of PeTA's stance on killing pound animals and I single them out because of their proactive drive against no-kill solutions.

Nathan Winograd: I have actually crossed swords with Ingrid Newkirk on a number of occasions. I've debated her on the issue of feral cats because PeTA is pro-killing of feral cats and been harmful to efforts to implement TNR for a number of years. In the San Francisco Examiner when I was with the San Francisco SPCA we were really pulling out all the stops to try and save the cities pitbull population -- we were offering free spay/neuter or in some cases we were paying people to allow us to spay and neuter their pitbulls for free. We had a medical care program where we provided care for pitbulls at a minimal cost. Literally we tried to do pitbull promotion and education and here's Ingrid Newkirk on the pages of our newspaper saying all shelters around the country should ban adoption of pitbulls.

Basically what she is saying is that millions of pitbulls that enter shelters should be slaughtered for no other reason than they are pitbulls. It didn't matter that they were friendly or someone's missing pet but the message was the way to protect pitbulls was to kill them.

It's an ethical contradiction to me that cannot be reconciled. For example, the way to protect feral cats is to kill them. The way to protect sheltered animals is to kill them. And here is an agency that is very, very progressive in terms of its views on other animals but when it comes to dogs and cats in shelters their approach is to kill them and kill them in the face of life saving alternatives which no-kill provides.

They have a policy against No-Kill shelters and, my best guess is, that their founder Ingrid Newkirk rose from the ranks of animal control at the Washington Humane Society and actually spent a good part of her career killing animals instead of protecting them. When you take an animal and bring them into your shelter to kill them, that is not a rescue. That's not protection particularly when there are plenty of humane alternatives.

Recently in the United States 2 PeTA staffers were charged with a number of crimes in North Carolina including animal cruelty for allegedly taking animals from various places and promising these shelters and veterinarians that they would find these animals a home only to kill them very, very quickly and throw their bodies into a dumpster behind a shopping mall.

They interviewed one of the people, the veterinarian, who turned to PeTA because they thought that PeTA had an advanced adoption network - this was a mother cat and her kittens that was healthy, highly adoptable and according to the vet were in no danger of losing their lives. He said it would be easy for him to place them with his clients but PeTA were saying, "Here, we have this vast adoption program. We can take care of this for you because we can do better screening than you can", the vet believed them and the cats were allegedly dead within an hour.

It is the height of hypocrisy. Her position is these animals should be dead even in the face of life saving alternatives. Because of that, PeTA has stopped making sense to us as vegans, as animal rights people, as animal lovers and we have chosen to focus on other groups that have a more enlightened stance when it comes to dogs and cats.

I don't think most people know about PeTA's position. I have a copy of a postcard that Ingrid sent me back in 1992/3 where she says she does not believe in 'a right for life' for feral cats and she does have a policy against no-kill shelters and then there's the whole thing about the pitbulls.

Now she's getting smarter though. She's feeling the heat from a new generation of animal rights activists who don't buy into this "Better Dead Than Fed" party-line when it comes to sheltered animals. She's couching it whereas 5,6,7 years ago and depending on the circumstances she would have said that all pitbulls should be killed in shelters which she put in the newspaper -- now she's being more subtle saying things like "giving them the gift of euthanasia because they would have faced a harsher death in a gas chamber" -- she doesn't say it directly anymore because she knows politically there are real alternatives.

If you were to call PeTA she would couch things differently now. They would be much more sophisticated in their response but the bottom line is for the feral cats, for the sheltered pitbulls, for a lot of these dogs and cats in shelters in the United States the enemy is less the "irresponsible public". The enemy is groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) and all of these groups who should be pound animals' protectors but instead are engaged in a vilification program against no-kill. To me that is abominable.

Abolitionist: You yourself are a former criminal prosecutor and you offered your services pro bono to the North Carolina prosecution team concerning the current pending criminal case against PeTA staff. Is that true?

Nathan Winograd: That is true. I did that because I was a prosecutor for a number of years. I wanted to offer myself as a witness to prove that it wasn't a choice between one way of killing versus another; that it was a choice between killing and not killing and that there were alternatives. The very same alternatives that conquered San Francisco and that has been spreading its life affirming march across the country.

There was no reason why PeTA couldn't find these animals a home because that in fact is what they promised they would do. Unfortunately they didn't take me up on the offer but my hope is, and we're starting to see it more and more, that PeTA gets its comeuppance. To take peoples' money and tell them you are going to champion the lives of animals and then turn around and end those lives is, in my view, bordering on criminal. If it is not criminal at least it is incredibly immoral, unethical and dead wrong.

Abolitionist: At the time of Hurricane Katrina the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were down there rescuing animals. We saw the videos of the rescue and it was gut wrenching and heroic. So we know they were rescuing animals as they told us so and they had the evidence but they failed to say that the HSUS owns not one shelter for pound animals. These animals rescued from Katrina were going back into small local shelters and as people were mass evacuated what was happening to their companion animals in the meantime? HSUS had vigorously asked for donations from the general public and by all accounts received them.

Nathan Winograd: A lot of things are coming to light now and there is ongoing investigations happening. I read in the newspaper the other day that the Louisiana Attorney General is investigating the Humane Society of the United States as to whether they took in $30, 40, or 50 million dollars for a Katrina Rescue and then left without having spent all the money in what they told their donors they would. What the outcome of that investigation is going to be I cannot tell you. I know the Attorney General is concerned and is looking into it according to the newspaper articles I've read but one of the things that really disturbed me about the whole Hurricane Katrina issue, it kind of begs the question of the larger No-Kill Movement as a whole, is a lot of these animals were being sent to other kill shelters.

Now politically other shelters could not kill the Katrina animals but they were killing their own animals in order to make room for the Katrina animals. That right there is really an ethical dubious trade-off to say we're going to take these 10 Katrina rescues to say, Los Angeles -- a city that kills tens of thousands of cats and dogs a year so they had no business taking in animals in from Louisiana only to kill their own animals to make room for these ones. That's not fair and the larger issue of course is, had HSUS and PeTA not opposed No-Kill historically; instead if they had encouraged and promoted it -- demanded it of local shelters instead of fighting and vilifying it and providing protecting for these dysfunctional shelters, would we have a no-kill nation today?

If we were further along the line than what we are today it's basically because they have been fighting it for all of these years. We are in a situation where there aren't enough no-kill shelters to accept Katrina animals yet that's not a given and should not have been.

As early as the mid - 1970's HSUS and all of these large groups were opposing the very types of efforts that made San Francisco so incredibly successful. In fact right after San Francisco did achieve success the HSUS started vilification campaigns against no-kill. I believe there's a body count attached to their anti no-kill rhetoric and positions.

Abolitionist: One of the killing pounds in Australia -- Blacktown Pound is open on a Saturday between the hours of 9am to 11am because they say they don't want to pay higher wages to their staff for weekend work. If these killing pounds had been challenged 10, 20 years ago we wouldn't find ourselves today in the situation of having, very few if no successes at all to date because the killing pound culture has not been challenged to any significant degree. Here also lies a betrayal to pound animals.

Nathan Winograd: Well you know it's worse than that because they cry they don't have enough resources but to me that's one of their big lies. They say they don't have enough staff to do these things but staff always have time to talk football or smoke another cigarette or stand around while the animals are sitting in their own waste -- there's always time for that and that type of under-performance by animal control employees is endemic in the United States . It's not uncommon to walk into an animal control shelter and see an inefficient and ineffectively run operation so there is always resources there, they just seem to be wasted.

The other thing is it's more cost effective to save lives than it is to kill them. To give one example. If you were to take a feral cat and impound that cat and hold that cat for 2,3, 4 days -- whatever the holding period is -- clean and feed the cat then you kill that cat and dispose of that cat's body here in the United States you're in $100 - $170 by the time that's over. If you had a vet on staff do you know how much that would cost to neuter that cat? $1.67.

If you didn't have a vet run the cat out to a local vet to do it then it would cost anywhere between $25.00 to $40.00 and you've saved a life and now you've opened up a cage for a pet cat looking for a home. It's actually cheaper to save feral cats than it is to kill them. It's also cheaper to save lives in terms of adoption. Your two most important adopter demographics are working people because obviously they can afford to care for their pets and families with children and yet most shelters are open when those two groups are unavailable � either they are working or the kids are in school. Your big adoption days are Saturday and Sunday so instead of closing Saturday and Sunday you can close Monday and Tuesday when people are just starting their week and they are at their busiest and guess what? You haven't spent a single extra dollar on personnel costs but you have made your shelter more accessible to the public. But they don't want to do that. They would rather cry they don't have the money than take responsibility for the fact that their policies directly contribute to the high body count.

And another thing is why open 9-5 Monday to Friday? How about 11am to 7pm? It's the same number of hours giving working people and people with families an opportunity to visit your shelter in the afternoon to early evening. And if you do that, if your experience was the same as ours was in San Francisco and Tompkins County and what they are experiencing now in Philadelphia the number of people coming to re-claim their animals won't have to choose between missing work and coming to the shelter goes up and your number of adoptions goes up and you haven't spent a single extra dime. In fact you have made money because with adoptions you get revenue and with killings you get expenses.

Abolitionist: It seems to me that rescuers are flat out rescuing animals from shelters, feeding, re-homing, fostering etc there's not enough hours in the day for these activists to lobby government as well. How do you address this at No Kill Solutions?

Nathan Winograd: One of the things I encourage people to do is demand more accountability of local government. One of the things we have going for us is obviously shelters are a local government function and traditionally and historically local governments are more sensitive to constituent demands than a federal government whose much more removed from the people. So there is certainly a power in that. Unfortunately what I see are activists who are particularly involved in rescue and are so overwhelmed in with the number of animals because they also have full time jobs that they spend very little time on the long-term goal of reforming animal control. And I have seen time and time again where if a group puts their efforts together to reform the animals they can literally move mountains.

Philadelphia didn't hire me because they loved animals or out of the goodness of their hearts.

It was a group of people who finally got the local newspaper to look into this issue and because of a series of scathing articles in the press really mobilized popular opinion against the shelter and forced changes to occur. I've seen this time and time again. In Atlanta , Georgia . In NYC. In San Francisco even where the renascence of live saving come on the heels of a scathing grand jury report talking about poor shelter practices so what I've done is put together a step by step guide on how to reform animal control and have encouraged activists, far and wide, it's a simple guide that's very effective, very comprehensive and it's free.

If people were to go to my website at www.NoKillSolutions.com and go to the Resource Library you'll see a link there saying "Reforming Animal Control'.

It starts with getting life-minded citizens together, start petitioning local government, putting together a White Paper which compares how their shelter is doing compared to some of the more successful models, it talks about the cost effectiveness of the program and everything you and I have discussed today and the demands of how they implemented for an investigation or for a sub-committee. This is a whole series of steps which includes being effective with the media. This takes some time but the end result is a life spared instead of killed is well worth it.

My feeling is no-kill conquest of the status quo is inevitable. We need to push that process along because the longer it takes, obviously, the higher the body count and that is totally unacceptable.

Abolitionist: How does one change a culture when so many pound animals are chosen as an extension of that person's preference rather than seeing them as an autonomous being? This way is a precarious and overly emotional method of rehoming yet it still meets with success. So then, how does one change the existing culture without destabilizing the good of what's already in place also?

Nathan Winograd: There are always going to be people who make irresponsible decisions about animals. I was a prosecutor for about 5 years and I used to work on crimes of violence and domestic violence and child sexual assault -- people do horrible things to each other and they do horrible things to animals but that's why shelters exist in the first place. Given my 10 years in sheltering I'm past the point where that to me explains the killing.

Here's one case we had. We had a dog we named Lucy. Lucy was born with two birth defects -- her 2 front paws were little stumps. She only developed with 2 back feet. Consequently she jumped. In fact she walked like a chicken does. Here was a very special needs animal but we've had blind dogs, three-legged cats, the whole bit and every time we put out a call to the community to really help us find a loving home for these special animals the lion was out the door because people from all walks of life want a better world for animals.

What you see if you are responsive to the public and if you show the public what a great agency you are and that you care, the public will adopt a 10 year old tom cat with chewed off ears, they will adopt a blind dog and will adopt animals with special impediments for adoption.

What they won't do is support a shelter that kills the bulk of its occupants and you can't expect people to volunteer or donate to that organization if they feel like their hard earned dollars are going to go into replenishing your stock of sodium binaural which is the barbiturate used to kill these animals.

You also can't expect people who loves dogs to come in and walk a dog to find out the next day that the animal has been killed. That is incredibly unfair.

So the first thing shelters need to do is reform themselves and what they will see, inevitably, is their volunteerism build up, the number of rescues and people willing to work with them goes up, foster parents goes up, the number of adoptions goes up and the number of donations goes up.

What they thought was impossible becomes possible and that which becomes probable becomes real. That is the central lesson of San Francisco and other places. Keep in mind when San Francisco started its march to No-Kill the SPCA was 90 days away from bankruptcy but instead of saying there's nothing we can do it started a slow methodical march towards greater life saving and when I left in the Year 2000 we had a $8 million dollar budget and $50 million bucks in the bank -- but it wasn't always like that.

It was doing good things for animals, telling people about it and asking for their help. If you look at the demographics for San Francisco it is apart from being the most congested urban area in the United States outside of Manhattan, it is one of the most culturally, radically, ethnically, economically diverse cities in the United States.

This year it's going to save over 85-90% of all the dogs and cats that goes through its animal control shelter. Almost 9 out of 10 that go into animal control in San Francisco will find new beginnings instead of it being the end of the line for them.

Exactly the mirror opposite of most cities around the world. If that proves anything, it proves that people of all walks of life want to help build a world for animals and that stereo-type can be meaningless.

It's up to us to tap into that compassion rather than relying on that mostly false notion that people don't care and that they are irresponsible. That's true of a segment of the population but that's why shelters exist in the first place and yes, we can do something about it short of killing. Not only should we, we must.

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