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« Update: Another tragic fatality reported today | Main | Public voices can save animal lives - Mimi returns home »

November 17, 2010



"Changing the mentality can lead to saved lives - not in 10 years, but tomorrow."

Yeah baby.


Spectacular news! It proves what Nathan Winograd has been saying all along and that is that shelter leadership is THE determining factor in whether a shelter will stop killing. Like so many other kill shelters, I am quite sure that before Stray Rescue took over, the city of St. Louis claimed that they could not stop killing.

kelly lange

I visited strays rescue while in st louis 2 weeks ago. I was so impressed with the facility. I wish kcmo would have taken the route st louis did. After all, st louis has a higher poverty rate, and higher crime rates than kcmo.... yet, they have more progressive sheltering policy. Congrats st louis, and Randy Grim! Also, their "pitbulls" are labeled terrier mixes, and the cages are called doggy apartments!

Lori S.

I'm on the fence about "terrier mixes" at shelters. I've seen one too many people adopt a "terrier mix" not realizing that kind of ownership restrictions they might be facing because they don't realize that their "terrier mix" is what many politicians/BSL consider a "pit bull" mix. (A lot of people don't realize that APBTs can be "wirey" rather than the cartoony image they have imagined: muscle-bound with massive musculature and big heads with "gator" jaws.)

I understand why people don't like the generic (de facto) definition that has become associated with the terms "pit bull" but I also hate to see someone living in fear that their small town that BANNED "pit bulls" long before they ever adopted their "terrier mix" is one day going to decide to kill the dog because it's a "pit bull."

Jennifer Brighton

Lori S., while I am the proud owner of two pit mixes and share their "breed" with anyone and everyone I meet, I really like the term "American Shelter Dog." I can't remember whose book I was reading, but they suggested that term for adopted shelter dogs to prevent breed discrimination, the reason being that most shelters are not qualified or 100% able to identify the breed of a dog that comes into the shelter unless it arrives with papers.

In the long run, while I understand for prospective adopters that it helps to know what breed of dog you are adopting as they all have traits specific to a breed, who the heck cares what the breed is as long as it's a good canine citizen and the person adopting intends to be a responsible owner? I also understand about rental policies and banning, but that's the point. It's such a screwed up way of discrimination and needs to be changed.

If we called all adopted dogs "American Shelter Dogs," it would take away some of the automatic distrust of certain breeds.

Ah, to dream...


Doesn't St. Louis still have a city-wide mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for everything? I think they do. Where in the heck are all these dogs coming from if they have MSN? (yea, I know - trick question!)

Re: the "Terrier Mixes" - there are surrounding suburbs that have BSL - Black Jack, U-City, Florissant (I think), and parts of Fenton come to mind(the part of Fenton that's in the county but not incorporated, or vice versa. It's confusing. A Fenton resident explained it to me once and I glazed over before he was finished).

There was actually a Missouri Dept. of Ag inspector who lived in U-City, but she lost her job when the governor's mansion switched parties in the last election, because the head of the Ag department is a political appointment. She owned a "pit bull" and was working on U-City rescinding their BSL. Maybe she'll come back and return to that project someday!

This is a nice story, but I'm very, very skeptical of anything out of St. Louis and West County. It is a veritable hotbed of animal rights activity - They can't get through an article without mentioning "puppy mill dogs" and this article was no exception. St. Louis was responsible for Prop B, for example. St. Louis, West County, St. Charles County, and Jefferson County are the source of nearly all of our headaches at the Capitol, like the nutjob state rep. from St. Louis who introduced a bill that would have instituted a state-wide leash law because St. Louis wasn't enforcing their city's leash law!

You can't make this up!


I have mixed feelings on the breed ID thing. Sure, calling them mixed breeds is the most honest thing to do -- because without DNA testing, there is really no way of knowing. On the flip side, people who adopt a dog that may be banned in certain places sure need to realize that they may be at risk of having their dog seized and killed for no reason.

But there has to be a legitimate compromise between labeling all dogs "terrier mixes" and then the other extreme (which is more common) and labeling anything that is stocky with short hair, or has a brindle coat, as a pit bull and sentencing it to death based on a bad breed ID.

Lori S.

Any ideas for the compromise that makes sure adopters are aware of potential challenges they may face due to the appearance of the short-haired, jowl-less "American Shelter Dog" they are about to adopt -- yet doesn't scare them away from adopting that dog? It's something I often ponder, but haven't been able to think of a solution that I really like.


how do they handle the pit bulls? Do they all get adopted out, just like other types?


We need to quit calling every short haired dog in the shelter a pit bull because they're not. And we need to fight EVERY SINGLE instance were a mix is IDd a pit bull in these cities with BSL - we will win every time. You cannot visually ID a dog and determine its breed with 100% accuracy even in seemingly purebreds. We start making this breed id thing a really expensive treat for these cities and BSL will go away.

I'm always skeptical of anyone calling themselves no kill - but these folks did supply some hard numbers.

Lori S.

Michelle, I agree that they shouldn't all be called pit bulls and I believe that it's not possible to visually ID mixed breed dogs with a high degree of accuracy.

I agree that people should fight every ID in cities with BSL, but some people don't have the resources (time or money) to do so. I think they should know AT THE TIME OF ADOPTION that they could *possibly* face that kind of discrimination in the future so that they can decide if they are willing to fight for that dog should BSL ever come to town (or if they ever have to sell their home and move to rental housing).

I'm not sure if the answer is to label most mixed breeds with a generic label (American Shelter Dog or whatever) with a long list of all reasonable possible breeds attached with asterisks after the breeds that are more likely to face BSL & housing restrictions. Or do they all get listed with the generic mixed breed label of the shelter's choosing then make sure that those who are adopting "short-haired" dogs are given information on potential discrimination they may face in the future?

There are a lot of ways to try to balance having a well-informed adopter and not scaring them off. I just haven't thought-of or found one that seems like it works really well.


"There are a lot of ways to try to balance having a well-informed adopter and not scaring them off." Yes, this is the goal. But people SAYING a dog is a pit bull mix or SAYING that it is a boxer mix goes a LONG way - in either direction.

People have more resources than they think - many are just scared off by jerks in badges. Ah, one more thing to educate people on...

Emily - what would you call the "No Kill" movement if you had your druthers? Even a lot of people that agree and support the movement don't like the name. I see three things happening: 1) it seems like such an unattainable goal to some that they refuse to believe it can happen and therefore refuse to do anything to even try to reduce the killing. 2) Good groups won't take on hard shelters if they don't think they can be no kill immediately - the NAME is more important than saving more lives. 3) Like kmk says, some people are simply reducing their intake to get the NAME and leaving the burden to others without that luxury. Not only do the hard numbers need to be disclosed by their annual $$ intake.


Michelle.. it's a question many of us have pondered and I'm not sure what the answer is (and the ship has sailed so it may be too late). I think the "no kill" name has a variety of negative consequences that you list.. but one thing for sure, if people are using the notion that it can't be achieved as an excuse not to IMPROVE, then that's a really bad thing.

That's why I wish there WERE a different name, because the steps Winograd outlines to greatly improve successful adoptions and pet retention and reduce killing, are absolutely do-able.

And the Winogradians should be supporting and applauding shelters that are adopting those strategies AND are being completely transparent about their intake/release/kill numbers ... even if they don't call themselves "no kill"... rather than vituperatively bashing them.

Especially in cases of dogs with questionable temperament like certain ones we could name. I don't think I know any "pit bull" advocates who support Winogradian "no kill". Call us cruel or whatever... we don't want (more) bad pit bulls entering society and risking the lives and status of OUR dogs. Yes, we will "play God".

mary frances

Jennifer Brighton said

"If we called all adopted dogs "American Shelter Dogs" it wouldtake away some of the automatic distrust of certain breeds."

American Shelter Dogs, I think that's a brilliant idea...the new name.

And another dream, Community cats instead of feral cats. (a great name I read on Pet Connection)

Long live No Kill and Viva la Pit Bulls!


Emily, I think most people who oppose "Winogradian no kill" for the reason you mention don't really seem to understand what his policy is on dogs of "questionable" temperament.

Obviously no one wants aggressive dogs adopted into homes. However, in most cases, if dogs have someone who is willing to work with dogs with temperament issues the dogs are usually able to overcome them...and that should be the goal, to help them overcome issues like possession aggression and undersocialization -- similar to how you'd help a dog with basic health issues.

Obviously some will not be able to be adopted -- in which case, ideally there would be sanctuary opportunities for them, or in worst case, yes, euthanasia would be an option.

That's pretty much how the "winogradian" no kill lays it out. I'm not sure how anyone would be majorly opposed to that. It certainly is better than the killing because it has minor food aggression system that is going on in shelters now...


"Under-socialization" and "possession aggression" (or being a "pit bull") are not questionable or irredeemable conditions.

Over- the- top human aggression is.

Personally, I don't want any of the money I donate to support irredeemably human aggressive dogs in "sanctuary".. at least not until every dog with solvable/curable conditions, including the condition of being a "pit bull", has a safe place.

And btw, I'm well aware, because I actually have read Winograd, that his definition of "no kill" is explicit that a "no kill" shelter can kill 5-10% of the dogs it take in and still call itself "no kill" because they're not "killing", they're "euthanizing". It's a good death, as long as the reason is temperament or health.

But I don't believe that every shelter that calls itself "no kill" actually limits its killing to dogs of irredeemable temperament or health (or at least not the few open admission ones). Do you?


Emily S wrote, "But I don't believe that every shelter that calls itself "no kill" actually limits its killing to dogs of irredeemable temperament or health (or at least not the few open admission ones). Do you?"

EmilyS - that's where the "transparency of records" comes into play.

It's certainly dishonest to have a shelter in a city with BSL, MSN, and a limit of two dogs/two cats (even for properties on acreage where livestock is allowed)that only takes animals from the city shelter (half of which probably shouldn't be there!), doesn't accept owner turn-ins, shuffles the animals to other shelters and sucks up those taxpayers' resources, proudly proclaims itself "no kill", and gets big articles in the local paper about how wonderful they are.

How about if cities get rid of any coercive ordinances (limit laws, BSL, MSN) and the shelter just makes an honest effort to work with rescues, foster homes, and uses every other resource available to adopt out animals or get them back into their homes if they've become lost. We'll call that "The Return to Sanity Shelter". Thank you John Stewart.

No animal that's aggressive toward people should be adopted out, cats included, and foo-foo dogs especially included. Shelters hate to euthanize those foo-foo dogs because they bring in big money.

Animal aggression is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish and there are people capable of working with that issue, or there are single-pet homes. There are plenty of dogs that don't like other dogs and they aren't all "pit bulls".

I often get students that went to the shelter and adopted a dog with big dreams of going to dog parks, romping with other dogs, etc. only to find out the dog hates other dogs. If that was important to them then getting any old dog out of the shelter wasn't the best plan. If you want a dog that will fetch tennis balls out of the pond, get a Labrador! Don't assume your All American Shelter Dog will like water.

I have no problem with shelter dogs. I've had several and loved them all dearly. But it's important people are realistic when they adopt a pet from a shelter and that's where good shelter workers can be a big help.

As for the mixed breeds, just call them mixed breeds if they aren't an obvious purebred dog or cat. The last time I checked purebred dogs were 5 to 7% of the shelter population and purebred cats were less than 1% of the shelter cat population. Or, I don't have a problem with "American Shelter Dog". I just wish shelters would stop attaching impossible breed names to dogs, like 'Ibizan Hound/French Bulldog Mix". Uh, probably not! And just because it looks like a 'pit bull mix' doesn't mean it's part 'pit bull'.


"But I don't believe that every shelter that calls itself "no kill" actually limits its killing to dogs of irredeemable temperament or health (or at least not the few open admission ones). Do you?"

Of course not. But does this mean the "Winogradian" idea of no kill is wrong? Or that others have bastardized the concept because they are trying to capitalize on it? And if so, where should the 'blame' be placed?

I hear you on the Sanctuary thing. But if others have decided that's their calling in life, why deny them that? It's just not where I'd opt to spend my time/money.

kelly lange

When I toured strays rescue, I noticed that 90% of the dogs there were what the majority of shelters would like a "pitbull". I noticed the kennel cards said terrier mixes. I asked if st louis has bsl, and was told they do not. Being that I didn't go there to adopt, they very well could explain policies like bsl to those adopting a "terrier mix". I know they do require a home check, which most shelters who run as animal control never do. They aren't open access though- another non profit in the area is, and saves roughly 60% of the animals taken in. I would be interested in seeing their stats since stray rescue took over the city contract.

kelly lange

It is interesting that st louis did take the opposite approach that kcmo did.....a local vet wanted the city contract, and to keep the old building, and be a for profit.... the city said no. If a for profit took over the city shelter, the fear was that animals would be killed to save resources, and cash.... sounds familiar.....

kelly lange

Also, breed id isn't the only issue in kcmo- gender id seems to puzzle them also. This week, a hound mix went into rescue that had been on the kill list. The rescue expected a male dog, yet the dog was female. How can we expect them to even fairly evaluate breed id, when they cannot even tell if the dog has a penis or not???


Not to mention KCMO killing a dog that was wearing a current animal license from another city.

Maybe it's a vision problem. Perhaps they all need eye check-ups.

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