Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Give Me Shelter: Is a No Kill Nation Possible?

Published on March 1, 2010 by   ·   20 Comments Pin It
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We should all know by now that buying animals is wrong.   Then why is it still happening?   And why are animals still dying by the millions in shelters nationwide? Kelly Bensimon (“Real Housewives of New York”) twittered yesterday (@kikilet) “The best shelter is Animal Haven. I love those guys. Their puppies are beautiful” and then minutes later; “Anyone know a good breeder for a lab? I want to get one for the girls.”   She may not be the brightest bulb in the candelabra, but she clearly knows that shelters are where homeless animals go.   And yet, seconds later she gives her thumbs up to buying from a breeder.   Incongruous, Ms. Bensimon.   Get with it.   It’s time for all of us to recognize and spread the word on adoption.   Shelters will never be able to go no-kill without the abolition of breeders and pet stores.   But it is up to each of us to educate everyone we know on the obvious benefits of adoption. GirlieGirlArmy posts weekly urgent dogs and cats in need here and on our facebook and twitter pages, but you can always go to your local shelter and adopt.   And we hope (and pray, for the animals sake) that you do.

Today, Jessica Reid, an animal rescue expert, shares her insight on creating a no-kill nation;

Give Me Shelter: Is a No Kill Nation Possible?

From the day I started volunteering at my local shelter, I was “indoctrinated,” so to speak, with all the traditional sheltering ideas about an “irresponsible public” and “too many to save them all.”   I believed as I was told and even shared those thoughts with others.

“There are so many people who simply do not care,” I’d say shaking my head with a frown as another volunteer or shelter worker would nod in agreement and shrug.   “What can we do? We are left with no other choice.”

Then, a shelter employee opened my eyes.   She believed there was a different answer than “save a few, kill the rest” to the question “what can we do?”     She directed me to a book called “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd.   I read it, feasting on every word of hope and possibility and devouring the idea of “No Kill” until it was part of me.

What is No Kill?
The true definition of the term “euthanasia” is providing a merciful death to the suffering.   The traditional sheltering system has stolen this word to make it seem like a kindness to kill the animals.   No Kill reclaims it.   No Kill advocates, shelters, and rescues reject the idea of killing animals because they are too old, too young, the wrong color (black animals are often considered unadoptable by traditional shelters), have treatable illnesses, or for “time and space.”

Animals are only euthanized if they are truly suffering from an illness or an injury that is not treatable or if they are proven to be so aggressive they would be dangerous to the public.

But there are too many, we can’t save them all, right?
As I said, I too believed this.   But, after months of volunteering and experiencing, first hand, the problems at my local shelter, I began to see how and why No Kill can and should work in every city and rural area in the United States.

The truth is you cannot blame having to kill shelter animals on an “irresponsible public” or “too many animals” when a shelter doesn’t implement lifesaving and low cost programs. I personally witnessed missed opportunity after missed opportunity from alienating potential fosters to terrible customer service to rude behavior toward rescue groups. I heard the same stories from other volunteers.   These were not isolated cases. These were failures of management and staff to do what they should be doing: saving lives.

It is the ultimate hypocrisy for shelters to point the finger at the public while acting as the largest killer of dogs and cats in the United States. A fact made even more egregious when you consider that shelters continue to kill animals by the millions while, by in large, ignoring the people and programs that could stop it.

The No Kill model is a simple one, but it requires the commitment of a shelter’s staff and volunteers. In fact, you, me, and anyone who cares about animals should demand it and work to educate our public officials on how it can and does work.

These are the proven steps that have worked in both rural and urban environments to becoming a No Kill community.*

    1. Implement a Feral Cat TNR Progam – groups like Alley Cat Allies are already embracing Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) as a way to reduce death rates and meet obligations to public welfare.   It lowers the population without killing cats who often live long and happy lives in their outdoor homes.  
    2. High-Volume, Low Cost Spay/Neuter – this leads to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives.
    3. Rescue Groups – No Kill cannot work unless shelters partner with animal rescue groups. However, most shelters don’t even contact rescues even as staff kills thousands of dogs and cats.
    4. Foster Care – foster homes are a low to no-cost way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives.
    5. Comprehensive Adoption Programs – this means having convenient hours for working people, offsite adoptions, adoption incentives, and effective marketing.
    6. Pet Retention – Saving animals requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. The more a community sees its shelters as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be.
    7. Medical and Behavior Programs – this includes comprehensive cleaning, handling, and vaccination protocols to keep the animals healthy.   It also means behavioral assessments and rehabilitation work done by qualified behavioralists.   I’ve seen first-hand the “behavioral assessments” in my local shelter which consist of kicking the kennel and seeing how a dog reacts.
    8. Public Relations/Community Involvement – Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter’s exposure.
    9. Volunteers – Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources.
    10. Proactive RedemptionsOne of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Changing the way Animal Control Officers respond to picking up a stray can make a difference. Sometimes just knocking on a few doors or hanging notices in the neighborhood can mean a happy reunion with an owner.
    11. A Compassionate Director – A hard-working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to regurgitate tired cliches or hide behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.”

*The above steps were summarized using information from Nathan Winograd’s website www.nokilladvocacycenter.org.   Mr. Winograd has written “Redemption” which not only chronicles how traditional sheltering ideas came about but why and how the above No Kill steps work.   He most recently published “Irreconcilable Differences” which is a collection of his essays and is a response to many of the naysayers about No Kill’s validity in the years since “Redemption” was published.

There will be a free No Kill seminar in Shelby County, KY, on Saturday, March 6.   I’m one of the lucky ones who will be there to hear Mr. Winograd speak.   There are several similar seminars scheduled in other states as well as a No Kill conference in Washington, D.C.   Click this link to learn more about future seminars and conferences: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/conference.html

Jessica Reid is currently a volunteer at Metro Animal Services, the government run animal shelter in Louisville, KY.   She is former Executive Producer of TV news and current Director of Public Relations and Communications at a Louisville non-profit group. Jessica helps local shelter animals by writing grants for shelter improvements, producing a weekly “Furry Features” profiling adoptable animals, volunteering at adoption events, organizing rescues and bringing together a group of dedicated volunteers in a concentrated effort to educate public officials about the benefits of a No Kill sheltering policy.   Jessica is a vegetarian who lives with four of the funniest cats on the planet and a very loving and patient husband.

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Readers Comments (20)

  1. Allison Tray says:

    Great article. It amazes me that so many people STILL don’t get it. I am going to share this information. xo

  2. brook says:

    as someone who works in a high-kill animal control facility, i cannot tell you the horrors i witness on the daily. i am so glad to see winograd and his no-kill philosophy get some publicity here.

    all these tips are helpful and great–however, i’d also like to add how fundamentally important it is for the public to take their donation $ and give it to folks who actually support no-kill–which peta and the hsus do not. they are both, to different degrees, incredibly shady organizations.

    peta actually kills animals themselves and the hsus has a history of repeatedly using donations given in one name (e.g., hurricane katrina, the vick dogs, etc) and use that $ for something altogether different. winograd has ample evidence of all these schemes on his blog: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/

    great blog post jessica!

  3. g says:

    Thanks for this informative, well-written article!

    I’m surprised at how “underground” No Kill is. The bottom-line is that killing has always been seen as easier than finding new solutions. Well, we have the new solution. And that solution is both more desirable and cost-effective! All it takes is effort…which is a lot to ask for these days. That’s why we must DEMAND effort from politicians, organizations, and ourselves!

  4. elaine says:

    Great post. I am with you completely — at least in spirit and in theory.

    I put that caveat in because it’s my understanding that no kill shelters are much more expensive to run than traditional shelters. In order to make the no kill mentality a reality (didn’t mean that to rhyme), shelters need to be larger and better staffed, with better coordination with some of the specialists you mention (who may not be on staff at the shelter itself).

    I have always adopted my pets; never have had a purebred one or one I paid for. I LOVE the ideas of fostering and having exclusively no kill shelters as well as widespread neuter/spay programs.

    However, I think the article would be even stronger had it included the cost differences between running a no kill facility and a “regular” one. I’m not advocating for the regular ones, just pointing out that one of the impediments to the world you envision is dumb old money. I’m curious why the previous poster claims this is “cost-effective”? Everything I’ve heard suggests that it is cost-intensive.

  5. Jessica Reid (Newsie) says:

    Great point you brought up Elaine! Cost is most definitely a big seller or impediment for change. I do realize government agencies are most often underfunded and understaffed.

    BUT, I disagree with you on the thought that No Kill must be more expensive. It can be, yes, but it’s not requirement of going no kill.

    Volunteers, rescues and foster homes really are key to keeping the cost down. IF a shelter makes it known it’s going No Kill and asks for the help in areas that can most benefit, I believe, that people will respond. If they need behavioralists, reach out into the community and ask for help for those experts. If they need vets, partner with vets. There are ways to reach out to the people and have nooks and crannies filled without extra money. For one, talking with the local media is free, putting up blogs on their own city-run website is free, asking for help in local community listings can also be free. In addition, more effectively working with rescues and fosters can save money because not only is the shelter not have to house the animals BUT most often fosters will pay to care for the cats or dogs and, in the case of rescues, there is a “pull fee” that shelters charge to cover expenses.

    When you consider staff time, the time and money it takes to house and care for an animal, and the cost of actually killing an animal, these other options can prove to be more cost effective.

    I can go on with many, many examples such as how local organizations are already in place to spay/neuter “feral” (what some call simply “unowned”) cats to keep them out of the shelters. But, many communities don’t have progressive laws to keep these cats out of shelter and, thereby, save even more money.

    In truth, the money issue comes down to one thing: How will a community approach going No Kill?

    I’m happy you brought up the point because it is a good one. It continues to be a barrier that all of us who support No Kill must approach intelligently. I do know I only touched on many of the components of the No Kill equation, so I hope everyone who reads the above will continue to educate themselves and others on a new approach to animal care in our cities and rural agencies.

  6. Angela Moore says:

    I am total agreement with the NO-Kill shelter ideas . They are a wonderful alternative! I have 2 rescue dogs and 3 rescue cats. However, I don’t think it is fair to point blame at legitimate breeders. I bred and showed bengal cats for 10 years. I had a contract and health guarantee, and I took animals back if the owner couldn’t keep them. I have many friends that are breeders and they are VERY responsible. Many work in breed rescue.
    Do I think there is a pet over population issue, absolutely, BUT let’s place some blame on the ignorant people who have cats/dogs out there breeding indiscriminately liter after litter. The ones throwing them out on the side of the road.. the puppy mills, the backyard breeders selling unhealthy animals for anyone willing to offer the cash.
    Everyone should have the right to chose adoption or buying. Don’t punish the people who just love there breed, and have the ethics and standards to back it up.
    Also try to make adoption less intimidating. I know a lot people are turned off by 5 pages applications, calls to there work and home visits. Yes I do see the reasoning behind it, and yes I have filled them out and went through quite an extensive approval process for my last dog (who I have had for 3 years now)… but I know ALOT of people who have just moved on to something more accessible, and they are good pet owners.
    Just my two cents…..

  7. E.D. says:

    Thank you thank you for writing such a comprehensive and reader friendly blog! This is the style of information sharing that can really main-stream no-kill practices in local communities. This makes me wonder if there are any less contreversial community organizing nonprofits that work to spread the word in smaller communities that don’t have major activist movements already.

  8. Kiddo says:

    Life, and this issue, are not so black and white as this article has assumed. I’ve spent my adult life, now 56yo, fostering and taking in I have no idea how many cats and dogs. 14 cats at the moment and 2 dogs. But I firmly believe we all have the right to choose. That’s not to say that I don’t agree that there are entirely too many breeders, but many of us are very responsible regarding our animals abilities to reproduce. Most of the animals I have had were “hand-me-downs”. But if for whatever reason I felt the need for a specific temperament or ability that I knew was likely with a particular breed, then I would feel fine making that my choice.

    Just because there are so many irresponsible pet owners, does not mean the rest of us lose our freedom of choice.

    Use your head. Look at the whole issue.

  9. jesseanneo says:

    Interesting article and I believe that these are all effective programs. I especially support TNR and have been a feral cat advocate for about 6 years (I ran a TNR nfp for approx 5 of them).

    I wonder, at times, about the idea of overloading shelters under the No Kill movement – as most people in animal welfare know, the more overloaded a physical shelter is, the more stressed the animals are and the more quickly they fall ill. Most physical shelters can only support a certain number of animals – in both kennel space/cleaning protocols and staffing/volunteer manpower. I know that transport/partner programs are supposed to alleviate that stress on the shelter, but they don’t always. I think no-kill makes a lot of fantastic points but doesn’t seem to be the panacea everyone claims it to be.

  10. Chastity says:

    I am so happy this was brought up here.I admit I am not too familiar with the No Kill movement but I have been wanting to learn more about it and I feel compelled to add Redemption onto my booklist. Judging from this post, I can envision it being a very effective solution. I also come from one of the puppy mill capitals (Quebec) in North America and having heard horror story after horror story (starting at the age of 5!), it’s really nice to see that No Kill is a refreshing approach to this. I also wanted to mention that we have two SPCAs in Quebec: one in Montreal which is a high kill shelter and another one outside of Montreal which is a No Kill one. To make matters worse, the Montreal SPCA routinely mismanages donations and threatens to kill the nonhuman animals if we pet them during a visit. I can understand if the shelter fears an onslaught of illness but given their sordid history, I would not be surprised if it was a mere excuse to throw another one in that dark room. They have even found themselves amidst scandal and if I’m not mistaken, one of the directors was fired because of being caught spending donation money elsewhere.

    I also attended an Animal Law session where an animal lawyer talked about the importance in removing the property status. I imagine that this would become another law to implement in there as it will not only be aimed at dogs and cats but the entire animal kingdom.

    I also wanted to put my two cents in regards to the breeders and supporters who commented. With all due respect, I am going to have to disagree. It’s not about treatment of the nonhuman animals, it’s about usage. Every one of us lives in a heavily speciesist society who considers animal cruelty to solely equate with physical (and verbal) abuse but animal cruelty begins from the breeding of an animal either for pleasure, convenience or amusement to nonhuman slavery (confinement, entertainment, commodifying, etc) to murder. These are all aspects of animal exploitation. It’s okay if this seems surprising because as I’ve said, we have been indoctrinated to believe that animal cruelty lies in how we treat them. I hate to say it but all breeders (reputable, backyard and puppy mills) contribute to this problem. It does not matter whether it is for profit or hobby–breeding is still a factor and for so long, reputable breeders have gotten away with washing their hands of the problem while pointing the finger at someone else. Yes, I do find it admirable that some of you will get involved with breed rescue BUT it is akin to an anti racist who spends their week educating the public on how to fight racism but then will spend weekends yelling out racial slurs at others. I’m not trying to insult anyone’s efforts, I’m simply pointing out a loophole that is often overlooked.

  11. […] Jessica Reid asks GGA readers if a No Kill Nation is possible when it comes to dog shelters. There’s always a fierce […]

  12. Kaeley says:

    I can’t stand the people who say adopting is the best to go (which is), but they breed dogs constantly. I’ve met several of these people.

  13. admin says:

    Couldn’t agree more.. there is NO SUCH THING AS ETHICAL BREEDING!! If you love dogs – you adopt. PERDIOD.

  14. […] The GirlieGirl Army: Is a No Kill Nation Possible? A poignant reminder about kill shelters, why not to buy animals, and how to help your community become no-kill. […]

  15. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by GirlieGirlArmy: Give Me Shelter: Is a No Kill Nation Possible? http://girliegirlarmy.com/blog/20100301/give-me-shelter-is-a-no-kill-nation-possible/

  16. Sara says:

    I get so frustrated when breeders use the line “We do it for the love of the breed.” In reality, breeds, especially dog breeds, were all created for the benefit of humans, not animals. It made them better hunters, shepherds, fighters, and so forth. Why do we need this concept of breed? I love my mutts. Sure, my rescue doxie was adorable, but she’s going to have terrible back problems later because of they way humans formed her breed. I will repeat what has already been stated, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RESPONSIBLE BREEDING!

  17. Great article, we were glad to share!

  18. Audiogirl says:

    Thank you very much for this post. As always, I’m a fan of your content!

    Pinups for Pitbulls posts urgent pit bulls on our Facebook and Twitter as well. If anyone is interested in helping with pit bull/ bully-breed foster and transport, we are starting a mailing list for that, to share with rescues nationwide. Hit up our home page to sign up.

    Yes, Spay and Neuter is also an issue for overpopulated shelters. Google for low cost or free days offered locally – may cities have organizations who offer this at least once a year.

  19. Audrey says:

    Thank you so much for helping promote Winograd’s book, REDEMPTION! I was ready to drop out of animal rescue work entirely, and then I read it. It completely changed my perspective and gave me hope that a no kill world is possible.

  20. ss says:

    I wish I could say that I agree with everything here. As it is I only agree with most. There is such a thing as responsible breeding and responsible pet ownership. If there were only truly responsible breeders, there would be no need for shelters. Responsible breeders interview extensively and always take back a puppy or dog–for the life of the animal–no matter what the reason. Using this logic you could also say that people should never have babies–having a baby is denying an orphan a home. I’ve seen plenty of baby articles on this website so I’m assuming that you don’t agree with this. Come on girls, open your minds. There is a place in the world for educated and compassionate minds–there’s no reason for this dogma.




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