Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stop the Killing – Why Everyone Should Join the Battle for No Kill New York

Today is Day 21 in the Battle for No Kill New York.  I’ve been participating since Day 1.  In addition to sending emails, I’ve been sharing each day’s action plan on my Facebook page.  I continue to post each night’s kill lists, and give updates on the statuses of the dogs. 

Last night while cooking dinner, a thought popped into my head.  Everyone – and I mean everyone – should be participating.  It doesn’t matter what state you live in.  It doesn’t matter if you will never be able to visit New York City.  It does matter whether or not you join the battle. 

NYC ACC is probably the worst shelter in the country.  The killing happens 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  At least 10,000 companion animals are killed each year.  That’s an average of 27 per day.  The director, executive staff, and employees are uncaring.  City officials and the ASPCA worked to defeat Oreo’s Law and pass Intro 655

‎"How will things change unless we make waves? How will we end the killing? How will we stop the abuse unless we expose it?" - Nathan J. Winograd, Courage & Cowardice in the Fight for a No Kill Nation

If we all join together and fight to reform NYC ACC, we will make a huge wave.  If you saw the movie Deep Impact, you probably remember the massive tidal wave washing over New York City (along with a sizeable portion of the east coast).  This is what we need to accomplish, and it will take all of us to do it.  We need to bury New York City and state officials under a massive wave of protests and demand for change.

So why should you join the fight?

If we can take down the very broken and out of control NYC ACC, then we can take down any other kill shelter in this country.

By participating, we gain experience.

By participating, we see what works and what doesn’t.

By participating, we gain a blueprint to use in other fights.

We should not look at this fight as being solely about New York.  We should look at it as just one of the battles we will encounter in our fight to save the shelter animals of our nation.  

To win the war, we all need to fight each and every battle.

The Battle for No Kill New York Has Begun

Stop the Killing – Speak Out

Why I Am Fighting Against NYC ACC

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I Am Fighting Against NYC ACC

I live in Alabama, about 900 miles away (as the crow flies) from New York City.  So why in the heck do I care about what goes on in the ACC?

Pure and simple – it’s a slaughter by an uncaring director who lies, and uncaring, poorly trained employees.  NYC ACC is one of, if not the, worst shelters in our nation.  No one – not any one of us – should find it acceptable. 

A few weeks ago, I began posting the To Be Destroyed album for dogs each evening.  Then I added the one for cats, and finally I added status updates for the dogs to my postings.

I post the albums hoping my readers will share them.  Once the kill lists come out, there is a window of 10 to 12 hours in which to find these cats and dogs adoption or rescue.  It should not have to come down to this last ditch effort to save lives, but it does because ACC doesn’t market or advertise the animals to try and get them adopted. 

I post the status updates to help show the number of kills versus the number of saves, as well as showing which animals did not die that night but are returned to the hellhole to await death on another night.

I post articles, as well as my own blog posts.

Now that The Battle for No Kill New York has begun, I post each day’s call to action. 

The Battle for No Kill New York Has Begun

The Battle for No Kill New York - Day 2 - Demand the Resignation of Julie Bank

The Battle for No Kill New York - Day 3 - Calling Out the Board of Mis-Directors

I do all of this to raise awareness.  I do it hoping it will make my readers angry enough to do something. 

I joined the fight because I am horrified and disgusted by the deplorable conditions and happenings at ACC.  I joined because I am angry.  I joined because my voice, even from 900 miles away, is needed to help bring about reform.

I don’t have to live in NYC, or even New York State, to have an impact.  I am a potential tourist who might spend money in the city for food, hotel, and more.  But because of ACC, I’ll be damned if I will ever set foot in NYC while the slaughter continues.  I will never visit NYC, or New York State, until there is reform.

No Kill New York needs you to join the fight too – the more people who protest, the more difficult it is for city officials to ignore us.  It only takes a few minutes to write and send an email, slightly longer for a letter because of the envelope and needing to put it in the mailbox.

Please join the fight. EVERYONE is needed to make this happen. There are NO excuses.  Everyone can take a few minutes to write a letter or email.


Petition: Reform the NYC ACC Now

Sadness! Another Life Is Silenced before It Is Time!

Stop the Slaughter

Urgent Death Row Dogs

Stop the Killing – Wall of Shame: NYC ACC

Stop the Killing – Speak Out

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stop the Killing - Battle for No Kill New York Has Begun

I make no secret of how I feel about NYC ACC and what goes on there.  I alternate between disgust, horror and sadness – and ultimately seethe with anger.

A week ago, I put the ACC on a “wall of shame”, outlining a list of problems as well as giving a list of informational links. 

On October 4th, No Kill New York launched their campaign to prepare for to prepare for 2012: The Year of No Kill New York.  This plan is 90 days of action to influence anyone who has a say in how New York City manages its homeless, lost or injured animals.

I don’t know what all the actions will be, but I do know at least some of it is simply writing letters or emails to city officials. 

If there is to be reform at the ACC, we need as many people as possible to join the fight.  Even if you do not live in New York City or state, you can participate by helping to spread the word and by writing emails or letters.

The campaign kicked off with the explanatory note The Battle for No Kill New York Has Begun.  It gives a brief overview of the plan, who will be targeted, and how to sign up for action alerts, as well as NKNY’s mission statement. 

If you want to receive the alerts to know how you can help, email nokill-newyork@optonline.net

Please join the fight. EVERYONE is needed to make this happen. There are NO excuses.  Everyone can take a few minutes to write a letter or email.


Petition: Reform the NYC ACC Now

Sadness! Another Life Is Silenced before It Is Time!

Stop the Slaughter

Urgent Death Row Dogs

Stop the Killing – Wall of Shame: NYC ACC

Stop the Killing – Speak Out

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stop the Killing – Speak Out

‎"How will things change unless we make waves? How will we end the killing? How will we stop the abuse unless we expose it?" - Nathan J. Winograd

In his most recent blog post, Courage & Cowardice in the Fight for a No Kill Nation, Winograd talks about his experiences with those who wish to remain anonymous. 

While he did not put it into words, the underlying message is there - this is a war to reform our country’s shelter system and stop the killing of millions of companion animals, and, as unfortunate as it is, there will be casualties, primarily the animals we so desperately want to save.  We will lose some in order to save millions more

I hate the thought of losing more animals because of petty retaliation by shelters.  I hate that shelters use them as pawns to force people to shut up.  I hate that shelters manipulate people by yanking on their heartstrings.  But I hate the killing of millions of cats and dogs every year even more.  In shelter reform, there are only two choices – remain silent and watch the killings continue, or speak out knowing some will be lost in the effort to reform our shelter system.

Either choice will weigh heavy on our hearts.  Animals will die in shelters no matter which choice we make. 

Throughout history, those who have protested injustice have had to make the choice to be silent or to speak out.  They accepted the risks as the price of bringing justice and righting wrongs.  Millions have died, been incarcerated, been ostracized, been attacked, been injured, had their homes destroyed … all because of speaking out.

These people accepted the consequences of the American Civil Rights Movement, the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the attempt to derail Hitler’s genocide of Jews, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 where as many as 800 (perhaps more) protestors were killed in a single night, and many other social movements.

The difference here is that NO PERSON is in danger of being killed, jailed, etc because of speaking out against what is wrong at the shelters.  Volunteers may be dismissed.  Shelter employees may be fired.  Rescues may be banned from pulling.  Some may be called names or have their name dragged through the mud.  All of which are favorite tactics by the opposition of social movements when people dare to speak. But these retaliations do not kill or physically harm us.

We need the people in the know – the volunteers, shelter employees and rescues – to speak out for the animals.  Without this insider knowledge, protests against shelters become a he said – she said scenario.  The proof provided by insiders is invaluable in bringing about change.


Every person who is an animal lover, and/or cares about what goes on in our nation’s shelters, and/or hates all the killing, and/or is aware of animal welfare issues, needs to speak out too.

Every day in my Facebook newsfeed, I see comments on posts, articles, and pictures complaining about what is happening.  Sometimes it’s about the shelters; sometimes it’s about abuse, neglect or cruelty.  They complain or otherwise voice their opinion, but my questions to these people are …

Did YOU do something?  Do you do ANYTHING?

Do you sign petitions?  Do you write your state senator(s) and representative(s) about animal welfare issues?  Do you write your city/town and county officials?  Do you write letters to the editor of a newspaper?  Do you speak out against the wrongs and speak up for the animals in any way? 

How many of you who read my post Wall of Shame: NYC ACC used the link to the contact form to speak out against the shelter and for the animals?  The link was right there – just click it to go to the form page.  The form is set up to send to every official who needs to be aware of what is happening at the ACC – no need to find email addresses.  You didn’t have to do the research into what is wrong – I provided a list and links.  All you had to do was type a note. 

If we remain silent, the animals will continue to be the ones who suffer and die.  We must face the truth of what is going on in our country and speak out.  We must bring awareness to those who have no idea what is happening.  We must act and exercise our right to inform our local, state and national leaders that we want change.  We must take every opportunity to speak out against injustice towards animals.

By not acting, we allow ‘the opposition’ to continue.  By not speaking out or taking action, we give tacit approval of what they do.  By remaining silent, we give them the power.    

We must tell the truth and speak out no matter our fears, no matter how much it hurts. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stop the Killing – Wall of Shame: NYC ACC

Every day, 7 days a week, New York City Animal Care & Control creates a nightly "kill list".   The only days a list is not created are those when the next day is a holiday, or because of major weather conditions, and the shelter will be closed.

In my watching of the kill lists, I've seen animals just days old and seniors of 12+ years. Animals killed because of a runny nose, a slight cough, a single sneeze. Animals killed because they didn't do well on their evaluation, mostly due to the stress and fear being in this shelter causes - especially those surrendered by the only family they've ever known.

NYCACC’s qualifications for the Wall of Shame:

·         Phone number is not listed
·         No one answers the phone – “keep trying” is the mantra
·         Must be a local adopter to put a hold on an animal
·         Must be a pre-approved New Hope rescue organization
·         Fired a New Hope department employee because she cared too much
·         Only about 20 percent of the dogs at AC&C are viewable for adoption at any given time
·         Failure to take detailed information about animals from owner surrenders
·         Rating system that gives ACC the power to deny an animal a chance at life
·         A director who tries to cover her incompetence and the issues with smokescreens and lies
·         Killing animals that have a rescue hold
·         Deplorable conditions including dogs wallowing in their own waste; bed sheets soaked and soiled; cages caked with filth; cat food mixed with kitty litter
·         Employees and volunteers threatened with termination if they make negative comments about the organization
·         A breeding ground for disease – a cold or kennel cough is a death warrant
·         Animals labeled as diseased or “bad” to justify killing them
·         Perfectly healthy and adoptable animals are killed
·         Failure to advertise and market animals for adoption
·         Volunteers terminated for speaking out
·         Suspended all new rescues that were recently approved
·         Animals do not receive needed medical care or medicine
·         Volunteers are asked to pay for the privilege and check their constitutional rights at the door
·         Fired an extremely dedicated volunteer who gave more than 750 hours of his time to help scared dogs open up plus countless hours at home writing about and advocating for them
If you are as horrified, disgusted and angry as I am about NYCACC, use this contact form to send an email blast to the Mayor, NYC AC&C, City Council, etc.  

Please keep your comments polite and respectful.  Remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Not to mention that ‘impolite’ (to put it mildly) messages are often discarded and may actually cause them to not take us seriously.

Please help spread the word about NYCACC.  Change will not happen without awareness, and it will not happen without our speaking out.


Posting of each night's kill list:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Am I Here and What Am I Going to Do About It - Part 2

An email I received last week has caused me to do some thinking.

What is my mission? 

This is the biggie.  Without a mission, I can end up running in circles and drifting aimlessly.  I can't do it all - no one can - and I shouldn't try. 

The header of my blog states: Education - Information - Awareness

These 3 things are my mission - to bring awareness of issues regarding companion animals; to provide information; and to educate.

In addition to sharing news articles, various blogs, and Facebook postings, I want to really make people aware of what is happening with companion animals.  The Stop the Killing series on my blog is a part of that.  It's unfortunate, but sometimes you have to smack people upside the head with graphic pictures and facts that are horrifying. 

Information covers a lot of territory, ranging from awareness to local resources to contacting officials and more.  I want to have and make available a wide range of information for people who need or want it.

Education, well, that's another large territory.  So much of what I post is educational in some way.  When you make someone aware of something, you are, in effect, educating them about it.  But that's not all I want to do.  If you read parts 2 and 3 (Causes and Solutions) of my blog series, you know I listed a number of educational issues.  This is the type of education I want to do.

While working on my most recent blog post, I realized outreach programs are part of what I want to do.  Not necessarily starting or running them myself, but to advocate for them and try to help them come into being.

Reading through what I have written so far, I realize it's all extremely broad in scope, perhaps too much for one person.  I started this note yesterday morning, saved it, went about my day, came back to it, edited a little bit, saved and went about my day, went back to it and saved, went to bed, and now here I am back at it again this morning.

Why?  Looking through my newsfeed throughout the day, I am bombarded with pictures and stories of Pit Bulls in shelters, in rescue, in foster, in the temporary care of a Good Samaritan, who were shot, cities considering BSL against them, over 2 dozen killed in Memphis in a single day, the poor bait dogs like Sissy, dog fighting busts involving them, the inhumanely starved like Rocco and Patrick, and even one killed by his owner because she apparently decided to not work to re-home him.  These pictures and stories flow through my newsfeed like a bleeding wound that cannot be stopped on a daily basis. 

My heart aches to see them posted by pages like Urgent Part 2, or by crossposters.  My heart aches when I read their stories of abuse or neglect, or being bounced around and never knowing what a loving home is like.  My heart aches when I read about bait dogs like Sissy.  I have to constantly remind myself that I can't take them - the Cocoa's, Deja's, Monte's, China Doll's, Angel's, Axle's, and too many more to remember and list – because I can’t take them, not even one, at this time.

Don't get me wrong, I shed tears and say prayers for all the other animals too.  But the Pit Bulls really touch me in a way I can't explain.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been against prejudice and racism in all its forms, and Pit Bulls are certainly on the receiving end of this in our society.  In Sister Act II, Whoopi's character told one of her students "If you wake up in the morning, and you can't think anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl." 

I am always thinking about Pit Bulls, so it follows that this is where my focus should lay.  It doesn't mean I will ignore all the others, because I won't.  A lot of what I want to do applies to all companion animals.  A lot of the information, both for awareness and education, applies to all.  So it won't matter if I'm talking in general or specific terms, you can apply it to your pets, the animals you work with or rescue, and/or the animals you share and crosspost.

For months now, I’ve had a dream of a sanctuary where the Pit Bulls found on the streets or are in a shelter can live while they wait for their forever homes.  I am not a non-profit (at least not yet – I am seriously considering it) and I cannot swing it financially on my own, but it’s something that a single day does not go by without me thinking about it.

Sometimes you have to follow your heart.  I’ve started slowly, even hesitantly, taking “baby steps” as I waded into the world of animal advocacy.  As I’ve learned, I’ve grown, and I’ve kept following my heart to try to help companion animals in some way.  Since early June when I met Simba, my heart has cried out for the Pit Bulls more and more, louder and louder.  I can’t ignore it any longer.

So now I need to research; write out ideas, plans and drafts; to work out my “battle plan” for what I want to accomplish.  If I want to make my dream a reality, I will have to do even more planning and work, including becoming a non-profit.

In the meantime, I will continue to post on APAA as I always have.  I plan on sharing my “journey” as is appropriate.  I hope you understand and will continue to support me.

Thank you to all the advocates who like APAA, and to those who simply visit, read and share.  Each of you help the animals in your own way, and it takes all of us together to make a difference. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stop the Killing – Solutions Part 2

In Stop the Killing – Part 3: Solutions, I listed a number of things that can help reduce the kill rate at our nation’s shelters.

Part of the solution is one that is very simple in concept, but more difficult in doing … keep the animals from entering shelters in the first place.  If dogs and cats are not going to shelters, they’re not being killed.

And like the problem and solutions I already wrote about, this one is multi-faceted.  I covered education in Part 3.  Educating current, soon-to-be, and potential pet owners can help reduce the number of companion animals in shelters.  But that’s only a part of it.  We must also help pet owners KEEP their pets rather than surrendering or dumping them.

While no exact figures exist, we know owner surrendered animals make up a healthy chunk of the shelter animal population.  Those of us who advocate for animals on Facebook see this term far too often. 

Cases where the reason just really wasn’t valid, or where there was no reason, makes us angry.  Some people just dump their pets and leave.  There have been cases of boxes of puppies left at the door in the middle of the night.  There has even been one case of a dog tossed out of a moving car in the driveway of a shelter.  There are cases where the anger comes from an invalid excuse – “We’re moving” (could you not look for a place that allows pets?) or “She’s old/sick/pregnant” (seriously?).

There are the cases that cause empathy and sadness.  Owners who tearfully surrender their beloved pets due to illness, personal crisis, unemployment, homelessness, limited income, or just not being able to afford vet care.  They don’t want to give up their pet, but feel they have no other choice.  Often our military personnel are transferred to an area or country where they cannot bring their pets.  If they don’t find a new home, the pet can end up in a shelter.

Our nation’s current economic situation is contributing to the problem.  More pets than ever before are being dumped or surrendered because people cannot afford them or their proper care.

Outreach programs can help reduce the number of companion animals entering shelters by providing assistance that allows people to keep their pets. 

Pet Food Assistance

There have always been those who have not been able to afford enough or proper food for their pet.  The current economic situation has dramatically increased the number of people in this situation.

There are some programs across the country, but not nearly enough.  Some are run through shelters, such as Casper’s Cupboard in Tampa.  Some are state organizations, such as Save Our Pets Foodbank in Georgia.  Others, such as Autumn’s Harvest, are private initiatives.

Some of the programs allow qualified people to pick up food at one or more distribution points.  Some programs deliver food to those who are housebound.

Whatever form the program takes, however the food is collected and distributed, we need these programs.

Vet Care Assistance

Medical care for pets can be expensive.  Those on limited incomes have difficulty providing even the most basic care, such as vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and spay/neuter.  Sometimes a pet becomes seriously ill or is injured.  Such medical care is expensive, and some owners bring their pets to a shelter believing it will be given the care it needs.

Many areas already have low cost vaccination and/or spay neuter clinics.  These need to be expanded so they are available everywhere.  I believe they should also offer free “wellness checks” for their clients.  Catching a problem early can reduce the cost of medical treatment.  Many retail stores offer these monthly clinics for people.  Why should companion animals not have them too?

Veterinarians need to establish reduced cost services for those who qualify.  They also need to set up a payment plan system for those who can make monthly payments but are not able to pay large, upfront, lump sum fees. 

Veterinarians should also provide free or low cost heartworm preventative to those who qualify.  Heartworm, a condition that can be prevented with a monthly pill that costs $10 or less, is expensive to treat, especially severe cases.  Keeping the pets healthy costs less.  Low cost clinics should also offer this to their clients.

Going hand-in-hand with the low cost clinics is government and state veterinary boards allowing them to continue helping people and their pets get the care they need.  The low cost spay/neuter clinics in Alabama are under attack.  Some have been closed, others are still fighting.

Crisis Assistance

Imagine your house burning down … or having to be hospitalized for an extended period … or any one of many personal crises that can occur at any time.  What will happen to your beloved pet in this circumstance?

A crisis assistance program would allow people to keep their pets while they deal with emergency situations.  This should include low cost (including free or subsidized for qualified people) boarding or temporary fostering.  Imagine the peace of mind knowing your pet will be cared for while you get your life back together or recover from illness or surgery.

Helping Military Members

When a service member is going to a war zone, a pet must be left behind.  When a service is transferred to a new duty station, sometimes they just cannot bring their pets.  In times like these, service members need and deserve help with the re-homing or fostering of their pets. 

There are a few private organizations, as well as some shelters will temporarily foster or board a service member’s pet.  But there’s not nearly enough.  Every state needs such an organization since our service members come from all 50 states. 

Helping service members keep their pets is the least we can do for those who serve.

New York City has a program that should be copied in other cities.  Pets for Life is a broad program with the goal of keeping pets with their owners.  In addition to food, veterinary, and life crisis assistance, it also a number of other services such as behavioral training and information.

“Pets for Life” is a concept that we must advocate for, educate about, and assist when necessary.  We need these outreach programs in every county in every state.  If we keep pets with their owners, we keep them out of the shelters.  If we keep them out of the shelters, we reduce the kill rate.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Irony of Gassing Shelter Animals

What is a shelter?  If you look at the definition, it is a safe haven or refuge; an establishment that gives basic care (food, shelter, medical) to homeless animals.  Animal shelters, no matter their official name, do this … to a point.  Some do it more or better than others, perhaps due to funding and donations (monetary and supplies), staffing and volunteers, and/or following their mission statement.

When people hear “animal shelter” they presume it means what it implies.  They believe it is a safe place for animals until they can be re-homed or reunited with owners.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Of all the animals that enter shelters each year, at least 50% do not make it out alive.  For some ‘shelters’, the number is as high as 90%.

Shelters that kill animals, whatever the reason, do so by one of three methods – heartstick, lethal injection or by gassing.  Lethal injection is the more humane method as it is quick, although not without pain.  Heartstick is exactly what the name implies - the needle of a poison-filled syringe is inserted directly into the heart.  It is not painless and it is not humane.  Gassing is extremly painful.  It burns the delicate and sensitive mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat.  It slowly chokes and suffocates the animals, taking as long as 40 minutes, perhaps more.

During World War II, Nazi Germany killed 4 million Jews in an effort to exterminate the “race”.  While exact numbers are not known, anywhere from one-third to one-half (perhaps more) of these deaths were in the gas chambers.  Gender and age did not matter.  The civilized world as a whole abhorred this horrible event.

From 1922 to 1992, the gas chamber was a preferred method of execution of our country’s worst criminals.  The use of gas chambers as a means of execution was banned as being too painful, causing extreme suffering, and inhumane.

The gas is visible to the condemned, and he/she is advised to take several deep breaths to speed unconsciousness in order to prevent unnecessary suffering. Accordingly, execution by gas chamber is especially unpleasant for the witnesses to the execution due to the physical responses exhibited by the condemned during the process of dying. These responses can be violent, and can include convulsions and excessive drooling.  The longest time of suffering recorded during an execution was 11 minutes.

So why do we, as a nation, allow the use of gas chambers to kill animals?  If it was too inhumane for murderers, rapists, etc, why is it humane enough for cats and dogs?  The animals are neither advised to breathe deeply to speed unconsciousness, nor are given any sort of sedative to ease their suffering.  They cry in terror and pain.  They desperately try to escape.  They futilely gasp for breath as the gas fills their lungs.  They suffer for well over 11 minutes.

While I abhor the thought and practice of killing shelter animals, I find the use of gas chambers especially repugnant.  As a nation, we have failed these animals.  Let us at least let them die humanely and without fear and pain.

Video: The Kill Box

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stop the Killing – Solutions

In Part 1, I took a look at the number of cats and dogs killed in US shelters every year.  Sadly, the numbers are a best guess because there are no requirements for shelters to keep statistics.  The estimated kill rate of 64% was based on a 14-year-old study with only 1000 shelters participating.

In Part 2, I took a look at causes for the killing.  The primary cause is the shelters themselves, with irresponsible owners being secondary.  There are also a number of contributing factors.

Today, I conclude with solutions.

Because the problem itself is multi-faceted, there is no single solution.  There are a number of parts, that when put together create a whole.  Each component must be utilized if there is to be widespread success.  While any one component certainly helps, it can be overwhelmed when the others are ignored.

So what is the solution?  I believe there are two primary solutions … no kill shelters and education.  But neither is as simple as the words imply.  The problem is multi-faceted, and so is each solution.

No Kill Shelters

If shelters stop killing all the adoptable animals, then the kill rate drops to 15% or less.  Simple, yes?  Not really.  Part of the current problem is what the shelters do or don’t do. 

Some, such as the shelter in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, is rescue only.  Most rescues are foster-home based and are limited in the number of animals they can handle.  Shelters such as this one must allow adoption of their animals.

Some shelters, such as Bladen County, North Carolina, have restricted days and hours, making it difficult for people to adopt or rescue.  To make matters worse, this shelter only has one rescue day each week, and the day changes weekly.  Rescues must also call for an appointment.  Adoption and rescue friendly policies must be put into place. 

Some shelters, including my local ‘humane’ society, do not market or advertise their animals as they should, if at all.  If people do not know about the available animals, they can’t adopt or rescue them.  Adoptable animals must be marketed and advertised appropriately.

Some shelters do not allow adoption or rescue of animals at all.  Every animal they intake is killed.  The question is why. 
·         If it is because of local/county government policies, then the citizens of the area must speak out against such policies.  It is up to the citizens to ensure elected officials do what is desired of them.  If they don’t, boot them out of office and elect someone who will.  These policies must be changed.
·         If it is because the employees themselves would rather kill than have to care for the animals, then the employees need to be fired and replaced with those who will care for the animals.  Employment policies must be changed.

Some shelters, such as the one in Memphis, Tennessee, do not make all of their adoptable animals available to the public.  If these animals are never seen, they can never be adopted or rescued.  All adoptable animals must be made available to the public.

Some shelters kill because they think no one will want to adopt a senior dog or cat, or simply because it’s ‘euthanasia’ day.  This is an employee problem, and yes, shelter directors are employees too.  Policies must be in place to ensure this type of thinking is not condoned or allowed, and if necessary, employees replaced.

Some shelters kill dogs of certain breeds and all black animals upon intake, no matter how the animal arrived at the shelter.  Policies must change and this type of killing not allowed.

Many shelters kill owner surrenders upon intake.  Most of these animals are healthy and adoptable.  Policies must change and this type of killing not allowed.

Many shelters do not give strays a chance.  Once the stray hold is up, the animal is killed.  How can an animal be adopted if it’s killed before it’s even seen by anyone?  Policies must change and this type of killing not allowed.

Some animals are killed because they have not been adopted after weeks or even months.  Why these animals are not adopted is another multi-faceted issue.  Often, it is because the animal doesn’t present itself well at the shelter due to fear, anxiety and stress.  Sometimes it’s because of the breed and/or color.  Sometimes it’s because of the animal’s condition.  Read this blog post for a few stories that illustrate this.  Sometimes it’s because the dog needs some training and socialization.  Read Save Marshall to see a current real life situation.  Shelter employees and volunteers must be trained to recognize these animals and work to make the animal more adoptable.

Some shelters either do not allow volunteers to help, or restrict what volunteers are allowed to do and say.  Some, such as the shelter in New York City, require volunteers to sign non-disclosure agreements so they cannot say anything about what they see.  These policies must change, and the shelters must change if they are so afraid of what volunteers may say about them.

Some shelters kill animals who fail their temperament testing, even when the test is improperly administered and interpreted, even when the dog is under duress from being in the shelter.  Some test results may even be deliberately fudged to justify killing the dog.  This must change with tests appropriately and properly administered by qualified, impartial testers.

Most shelters are not transparent.  They do not publicize their adoption versus kill rates.  They do not advertise their policy regarding owner surrender.  They do not advertise their policies concerning strays.  They do not publicize their budgets or where all their money goes.  This has to change.  Shelters must be transparent.

And when a county shelter, such as the one in Seagoville, Texas, wants and works to be no kill even when county policies are not written that way, county government needs to rewrite their policies and support the shelter’s efforts.

Simply addressing the problems above could dramatically reduce the kill rate, even without officially becoming a no kill shelter.  Taken together, everything above is what a no kill shelter is about.  But no kill shelters also go beyond this.  They hire and properly train caring employees.  The animals’ best interests come first.  They make the commitment to the no kill philosophy and to the animals. 

Irresponsible Owners

Virtually everything I listed under irresponsible owners is a matter of education
·         Many people don’t know how to choose the right pet for them. 
·         Many people don’t know why an animal should be altered, and many are under false impressions concerning altering. 
·         Many people don’t know about the proper care of their chosen pet, which includes everything from feeding to exercise to breed characteristics to vet care.
·         Many people do not know what resources are available to them when they have a problem.
·         Many people don’t know what their local and county animal laws are.
·         Many people don’t know why they should train and socialize their puppy.

For a real life story that illustrates some of my points about the lack of knowledge, please read about Miss Pig and her mom.  It is a story of life, love and lessons.  You may want to have a tissue handy.

Shelters, rescues and other animal welfare groups, as well as veterinarians, need to work to compile information and resources, and disseminate it in multiple ways.  It does no good if you have the information and don’t share it or otherwise make it available.  And you have to market/advertise the fact that you have this information.

Classes, pamphlets/booklets, document files (on websites), handouts, posters, and more will go a long way in helping to educate people.  Programs where presentations are given at schools, social groups, town meetings, etc are another way to educate.

Shelters and rescues must have policies in place and appropriately trained staff or volunteers to help potential adopters choose the right pet for them.  When the wrong animal is chosen, it is often returned, and this is not the animal’s fault.  Please read Cocoa’s story, a real life situation where a dog was not a good fit for the family that adopted her and is now in danger of being killed.

I remember that while reading Badd Newz: The Untold Story of the Michael Vick Dog Fighting Case the author recounted an incident where a woman brought in a puppy to surrender because it was destructive and then wanted to adopt another.  When asked, the woman admitted she had never taken the puppy to any sort of training class.  Thankfully, the staff member on duty at the time accepted the puppy and refused to let the woman look at others.  If this isn’t a case of a lack of understanding and education about puppies, I don’t know what is.  And sadly enough, it probably happens far more often than we’d care to think about. 

Any of us could recount multiple instances of problems caused by a lack of education about companion animals.  Use your knowledge and personal experience to help others learn.

Contributing Factors

Blissful ignorance, disposable society, and thinking of animals as being property or things are all a matter of education.  These are probably the toughest education issues.  People believe what they want to believe, and sometimes, no matter what you say you can’t change their minds.  But that does not mean you shouldn’t try.

Dissemination of information will help educate the public about what is going on with our shelters, which is why I wrote this series of posts.

Education programs can help people rethink how they view and treat animals as being property or disposable.  Put a link on your website or print out copies to hand out of I am a dog, not a thing by Penny Eims, National Dog News Examiner.  Some people just never look at or think about animals from this point of view.  Until they do, animals are just a thing to be treated however the owner wants, or to be disposed of when a newer model comes out.

Animal neglect and cruelty often results in the abused animals being taken to a shelter.  Neglect is sometimes a matter of education where people just don’t know any better.  While we will never be able to change or educate abusers, better animal welfare laws and penalties can serve as a deterrent.  Weak laws and “slap on the wrist” penalties do nothing to make people think twice about abusing an animal.  Unfortunately, this will not eradicate the problem, but it may lessen it and thereby the number of animals going to shelters.

Going hand-in-hand with better laws is the establishment of Guardian ad litem programs where trained volunteers are assigned to abuse and criminal cases and represent the animals in courts.  These programs can help prevent animals from being killed when the case is resolved and they are no longer considered evidence.  Their guardian will be able to speak for them, and make sure they have been evaluated for potential adoption or rehabilitation.

Overpopulation is not a cause of the killing, although it certainly contributes to it.  There are more than enough homes for all the animals entering shelters each year.  Many people advocate mandatory spay/neuter laws, but I’m not sure mandatory laws are the way to go.  A lot of people get very stubborn and testy when any level of government mandates they have to do something in regards to their property.  Yes, we think of our pets as members of the family, but according to law they are property, and we must remember that fact.  Yes, altering pets will reduce the number of unwanted litters and pregnant females that end up in shelters but mandating it is not the solution.  Educate people about the benefits of altering their pets, as well as dispelling some of the myths concerning altering.  People are more likely to respond positively to benefits than they are to mandatory laws.

When it comes to terminology, the simple solution is to tell the truth.  Unless a shelter is no kill (officially or by actions), it does not deserve to, and should not, use the term.  Same thing applies to humane societies.  What term is better?  That’s a tough one.  I’m not sure “pound” is the way to go, although it is a familiar term to most people.  Don't use the term "euthanasia" unless the animal is truly being put down for humane reasons.  Most are being KILLED and not as mercy killings.  Avoid using "put to sleep" as it is misleading and implies a peaceful end by going to sleep forever.  It doesn't matter if the killing is by gas, injection or heartstick ... it is painful and not peaceful.

There are other contributing factors, such as Breed Specific Legislation and media hyperbole and sensationalism, which I have not included.  These also need to be appropriately addressed if we are to make any headway with them.

In conclusion, it is possible to stop the killing at our shelters … but it will take time and effort on the part of many people.  It will require making tough decisions, and opening yourself to pain and sorrow.  It will require people to open their eyes, minds and hearts to that which they would prefer not to.  It will require many people to speak up and be the voice of the animals.  It will require “the powers that be” at shelters to admit the truth.

Every positive change made by a shelter is a step towards no kill.  Every person who is educated is a step toward reducing the number of animals entering shelters.

It can be done.  It is a matter of doing it.

Stop the Killing - Solutions Part 2