(Ponca City, OK)
I thought that no kill animal shelters were as described. But I am not sure that is true and I don’t know how many there are. I also don’t understand how a “shelter” can be anything but what it says it is. The word shelter brings visions of a refuge or a haven from danger or distress so I don’t see why they need to incorporate the phrase, “no kill”. If you kill an animal when it gets to a shelter it can’t be a shelter can it? Well, yes it can in the rather strange world of no kill animal shelters in the USA.
I have been educating myself about animal shelters. I am reading a well regarded book entitled: REDEMPTION by Nathan J Winograd. This book caused a bit of stir in the animal welfare business when it came out.
I had thought that the reason why shelters kill the animals in their care was for the simple reason that supply outstripped demand, meaning that there were more homeless cats and dogs than there were new homes for them.
Nathan Winograd, says that this is not the case. Animals in shelters do not have to be killed. There are enough people and homes for them to go to. And his argument is compelling and professionally thought out. I think it is almost too well thought out for the directors and managers of animal shelters. And he has tested his arguments under real life conditions in running the Tompkins County SPCA as Executive Director in 2001. Under his charge Tompkins County became the first community in the US to save:
- all healthy dogs
- all healthy cats
- all sick, injured and treatable cats and dogs
- and feral cats
Now that is what I call a no kill animal shelter. San Francisco also lead the way on genuine no kill animal welfare.
So, what is the trick, the method and why aren’t all the animal shelters doing it?
As the answer is long and quite involved I thought that I would try and answer it in bite sized pieces and provide an overview here. I will quote bits of the book for accuracy as I am allowed to do. Further discussion follows and it will be linked to this page.
It is the shelter directors who “find killing easier than doing what it necessary to stop it” who are primarily to blame. Then there are the local governments who underfund shelters and “place them under the regressive oversight of health and police departments…” And the shelter managers are also to blame because they protect cruel and uncaring employees. That is not to say that all employees are cruel – far from it but clearly there are some people who work in animal shelters who should not and that includes it seems a good number of senior people.
Nathan Winograd says that shelter directors blame pet overpopulation for killing animals without testing this clichéd concept and seeing if, with proper all encompassing methods, no kill can become a reality. With proper commitment and energy from shelter directors the problem of mass killing of animal companions could be a thing of the past.
My comment: the entrenched narrow minded view of some shelters may be a cover for the obvious, namely, that directors of shelters are often on good salaries. What if with proper no kill sheltering and accompanying systems the problem of homeless cats abated? Wouldn’t that jeopardise the “business of animal rescue? HSUS is a massive organisation with a lot of dollars at stake. Winograd argues that they have consistently been against adopting his well tested methods that eliminate the need to kill companion animals. HSUS themselves have a very high kill rate. Is there a hidden agenda that any form of greater efficiency in animal welfare will jeopardise the business of animal welfare?
Lets look at some figures:
|Cats and dogs killed in shelters each year in USA||4 – 5 million|
|Percentage of savable animals & the number||90% – 3.6 to 4.5 million|
|Number of dogs and cats in homes 2009 in USA||165 million|
|The required percentage increase of the market for shelter pets that would absorb all the savable animals||3 % – note this means a mere 3 % increase in those people rehoming shelter animals would eliminate all killing in shelters|
So a 3% increase is required (in 2008 HSUS agreed this). Winograd says that that increase is already in place – it just needs to be tapped into through good shelter management.
Winograd goes on to say the decision to kill kittens is due to a failure to implement a foster care program. Sick cats and dogs can be saved with a proper “targeted program that shelter directors refuse to implement".” Very often it is down to shelter directors and managers making the correct decision. When decisions are made to save rather than kill stunning changes are possible:
|Reno, Nevada. New director appointed||Adoptions increased by 80%. Deaths fell by 51%|
Rather than wait for enlightened shelter management to turn up Winograd says that the running of shelters should be governed by law that enshrines the objective of no kill and which protects the most fundamental right of all animals: the right to life. The large animal welfare organisations like HSUS and PETA need to lead the way to nationwide no kill animal shelters rather than supporting the utterly unacceptable status quo……more to come.