My Photo


follow us in feedly

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Best Of KC Dog Blog

Become a Fan

« Top 5 + 1 for July, 2010 | Main | A better way »

August 09, 2010



There are some who oppose anything that falls into the "shades of grey" category. They don't want to distinguish between killing and euthanasia or between hoarder and rescuer who's in over her head. It's just easier for them to constantly reproduce catchy phrases like "Don't buy while shelter pets die" instead of getting in too deep. Thinking about and committing to no kill requires you to get into shades of grey up to your elbows and it's not nearly so comfortable or convenient as swallowing the blue pill.


To me, what is the most appauling is the lack of compassion for shelter animals by those that oppose/don't believe/disagree with the "No Kill" philosophy. It is 100% the fault of the "irresponsible public" so if it dies - not my fault and not the fault of the so called "shelters" that are in place to save them. Imagine saying "too bad that child was raped in foster care but if their parents weren't so irresponsible it would have never happened!"

The animal welfare community also takes a huge part of the blame in supporting the policies that lead to killing. Much of the reluctance to change comes from them having to admit they were/are wrong. I think some get off on playing God - not that they even realize it. If there is no excuse to kill or deny adopters this role is taken away. And you know how huge the egos are and how much people hate losing their power...

Most in the AW world haven't even read Redemption - which EVEN if you don't agree SHAME on you for not keeping up with the latest information in your field. As a whole, AW could be equated to the newspaper industry that was too slow to adapt to new technologies and times. Like YB said, they spout off "don't breed or buy..." like its a strategy instead of tagline. At this point it doesn't even make sense when people are getting put on waiting lists to adopt puppies!


YB, it seems like it would be more comfortable to me to not be killing healthy animals....

Michelle -- I agree that it's frustrating that so few people in the AW world have read Redemption (because they don't have "time" to learn how to save them because they're "too busy") and how they rely on old sayings vs actual data in trying to get their point across.

Stephanie Feldstein

I think a lot of the controversy is rooted in the people, not the principles. There are a lot of strong personalities, on all sides of animal welfare issues, and there's a lot of time spent on who's to blame - the "public," shelter workers, breeders, etc.

I think there's a difference between laziness and feeling overwhelmed, too. For a shelter worker who sees the cages fill up day after day, being told that they're lying to themselves about pet overpopulation and that they're killing animals for no good reason isn't exactly inspiring. However, when they're approached with the solution, when they're told there's another way and let's start moving in that direction even if it can't happen overnight, it changes the conversation. There's a huge difference between "You're killing animals. Stop." and "Hey, let's start with a foster care program and work from there."

If everyone spent less time on the blame game and more time on the solutions, I think we'd see euthanasia rates drop dramatically.



And alas, I think you've hit on a couple of the key problems.

I get overwhelmed at my real job too. And yet, it is important for me to make time to constantly be learning of better ways of doing my job otherwise I will not be doing my best and will quickly become irrelevant.

And yet, many seem to be "too overwhelmed" to be willing to learn more about how to do better by the animals.

Meanwhile, we need to quit with the nonsense of who is right, who is wrong and who gets credit and start making the animals our #1 priority. Egos should not get in the way of us doing right by the animals.

Have there been errors made in communicating the message? Probably. But at the end of the day, if the idea works, saves lives (which is what we all SHOULD be in this for) then we need to put personal issues asside and save their lives -- don't you think?

Nathan Winograd

A response to Stephanie:

The model of how to save lives has been available for over 15 years. It is a model ignored, attacked, and denigrated by those vested in the status quo.

They can call No Kill a "cancer," "smoke and mirrors," and "delusional."

They can call TNR "subsidized abandonment."

They can call offsite adoptions "sidewalk giveaways."

They can call rescuers "hoarders and dog fighters" in disguise.

But when you defend yourself, when you speak the truth, when you refuse to speak in euphemisms that make the task of killing easier, by--for example--calling killing "killing" and not "euthanasia" or "putting them to sleep," that makes you divisive and unfair.

Regressive shelters and their large national allies have already had enough time to willingly and voluntarily implement lifesaving programs and it is the height of naivety and revisionist history to suggest they don't know about them or need to be talked to in a kinder voice.

I'd ask people to look at their own communities. Is animal control willingly embracing alternatives to killing? Or do you only get their attention when you are exasperated at their refusal to change, to innovate, and/or to modernize that you feel you have no choice but to call them out for their refusal to do so.

Too often in our country's pounds and shelters is some variation of the following: Rescue groups turned away while shelters kill the very animals they were willing to save, retribution killing, neglect and cruelty, animal control quotas to impound and kill more animals, embracing and pushing for BSL, punitive laws to punish the public by killing their animals, a refusal to implement foster care programs, offsite adoptions, or any of the other cost-effective, common-sense alternatives to killing.

What is counterproductive is not speaking truth to power. What is counterproductive is to pretend that what they are deliberately doing amounts to anything else than what it is: people who kill in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement.


There will always be unwanted pets just like there is unwanted children. We can do things to make it better but we can not make people change. There will always be bad people. We need to educate the public, bring this to the kids in school. It starts with the plain and simple idea that life is precious, valuable and worth saving. Why do we abort so many babies every year? We live in a throw away society with a throw away mentality. If woumbs had windows, would abortion stop? We need to quit sticking our heads in the sand on this issue as well as other issues and be willing to face the truth and look at it, not run from it or cover it up. The government is not going to be responisble for cleaning this up. It is up to we the people. Like I said, you can't save them all but you can make a difference to some. We live in a fallen world and our duty on this earth is to leave it a better place. We have not been good stewards of anything these days. So lets stop talking and get to doing.


"But when you defend yourself, when you speak the truth, when you refuse to speak in euphemisms that make the task of killing easier, by--for example--calling killing "killing" and not "euthanasia" or "putting them to sleep," that makes you divisive and unfair."


are you supporting or attacking the use of the word "euthanasia" instead of "killing"?


Emily, I am not optimistic that Nathan will check the comments here -- but I feel pretty comfortable in saying that what he is condemming is the interchangable use of the words "euthanasia" and "Killing" -- and using the former to make yourself feel better about the latter.

Euthanasia is the act of ending suffering because an animal is sick or badly psychologically damaged. Killing is making something be dead that didn't need to be euthanaized.

It is best if the two aren't use interchangably.



Yes, there will always be unwanted pets -- and irresponsible pet owners. That is what the shelter system is designed for -- to be a last chance for these animals. And we need to be a better "last chance" than just a place that kills them because their owner failed them.

Barbara Saunders

Making comparison to the child adoption world opens up a can of worms, but I think there is an important comparison to be made in the way that these problems are conceptualized and described.

There are people having children by choice and raising those children themselves. Then there are people whose children end up in the child welfare system, whether they are given up or taken away. While many people would agree that some people are ill-equipped to have children and shouldn't have them while others are irresponsible, no one describes this problem as "overpopulation."

Rather, these are recognized as the conditions that call for a child welfare system because a humane and responsible society responds to children in need. The standards for what happens within the child welfare system should derive from the standards of a humane and responsible attitude towards the animals. The behavior of the "irresponsible owners" is not relevant to those standards.

Barbara Saunders

Oops ... that should read: The standards for what happens within the ANIMAL welfare system should derive from the standards of a humane and responsible attitude towards the animals.

Chris Shaughness

I challenge anyone with an opinion on this subject to work for a week in an animal shelter (if they haven't already) in the shoes of the staff who are going out on animal control calls, working the front desk taking in surrenders and strays, caring for the animals and making the euthanasia decisions. Many animals shelters are unimaginably difficult places to work. I know of one shelter that is so completely overwhelmed AND they are doing so many things right: spay/neuter clinics, aggressive foster/adoption programs and alliances with rescue groups, use of Petfinder and other resources. But...this shelter receives an average of 700 cats a month and only has the capacity for about 100, not to mention the dogs and other critters. To top it off, several counties surrounding this shelter have declared their municipal shelters as "no kill" and the strays from those areas occasionally come into this overwhelmed shelter. I pray for a solution,more community awareness and involvement, and not just the assumption that the shelters will deal with the problem.


Chris, I am wondering if that shelter taking in 700 cats a month has a large-enough, aggressive-enough, comprehensive-enough TNR program.



I know it's not easy -- and I know that there are many shelters that are struggling even though they are attempting to do a lot of things right. I don't want to dismiss them.

At the conference last week, one of the things I was stunned to find out is that Charlottesville, VA (which has achieved No Kill) has a volunteer/foster base of over 700 people. 700! Obviously that frees up a lot of space, and the volunteers do a lot more than walk dogs and clean kennels -- they handle taking photos and getting them posted on petfinder, they run off-site adoption events, they coordinate with rescue groups, etc.

For most shelters, just doing some of the things on the list isn't going to be enough -- all of them will be required. And yes, as Kerryann points out, some county laws and policies may be driving some of the problem (like TNR policies).

If you'd like, I'd be happy to offer some helpful advice if you want to email me more specifics offline....


Chris, PLEASE suggest to this shelter that they track animals dropped off that are from other municipalities. Where are you located? I personally don't think its acceptable for municiple shelters to limit their intake and push them off to other communities that are over capacity. We have this issue in KC.

It sounds like you have some real policy issues at a city level if you are 600 cats over capacity.


Great post Barbara!

Chris Shaughness

Thanks everyone for your offers to help. It's a real can of worms that I can't get into for confidentiality reasons. Yes, they need more volunteers, more resources to do TNR, better policies at the city/county level and also the motivation to do better. Some people are very burned out and either are not willing to change or feel that it's fruitless due to previous unsuccessful attempts to make changes. We all know how human nature can tell some people to give up when faced with adversity, while others (like myself) meet the challenge head on. I'm doing what I can to inject some change...but it's slow.


If people are bringing in 700 cats a month to a shelter, unless it's New York City with 7 million people, someone didn't get the memo about speutering. Clearly there needs to be more education about and access to low cost speutering, and not just for feral cats.

Additionally, we've seen the phenomenon in our area where shelters achieve "no kill" by not allowing animals to come into the shelter. One shelter has gone so far as to place cameras all over their property to catch anyone dropping an animal in the parking lot. While private shelters may have that luxury, stupid as it is, MUNICIPAL TAXPAYER FUNDED SHELTERS DO NOT AND SHOULD NOT. Taxpayer funded shelters must take any animal a taxpaying resident brings to them, and I don't care if they have to put a crate in the mayor's office to house the critter.

Residents need to insist that taxpayer funded shelters provide service, not decide willy-nilly that they're "no kill" and achieve that goal by sending their animals elsewhere. I guess we can chalk this one up to "The Law of Unintended Consequences".


People need to get there pets fixed. theres not enough homes for all these pets to go and that lead to uthinizing!!! NOT NICE!!!


I confess, some days I'm unclear whether certain comments are intentionally trying to be funny or unintentionally ironic.

Jan Randolph

A huge part of the problem is that the shelter Boards of Directors fail to demand change. Every Board member is accountable for the every death of every dog and cat. Board members of kill shelters are on the wrong side of history, just as the Nazis were. When we become a No-Kill nation - which is inevitable - they will carry the shame for the rest of their lives if they have done nothing to stop the killing.

Joyce Madsen

Unfortunately,"the numbers" study is biased, outdated, and statically flawed, and it is based strictly on possibility, not actuality. That's why people don't trust "no-kill" (Which really is not accurate either, is it? It's really less-kill, not "no-kill.")


Joyce, you missed the point of the whole post. It really doesn't matter if "the numbers" are wrong (although, by all means, please share more accurate ones because while I don't love many of the numbers used myself, I've certainly not found more accurate ones). What matters is that shelters/rescues do everything they can do to save lives and a large number of them simply don't do many things that have proven to save lives. "The numbers" don't give them an excuse to not do everything they can do to save lives. And there are a fair number of shelters that are saving them all in actuality, not just possibility.

As for the "no kill" part of it, the words "kill" and "euthanize" should not be used interchangably...

The comments to this entry are closed.