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« Aurora (CO) continues to look at loosening breed restrictions, media perpetuates fuzzy math | Main | Kansas City Area Elections tomorrow (& three types of politicians) »

March 17, 2011



Janipurr -- it's actually $25,000 dollars (you missed a zero) for an HSUS assessment. But your point is right on.

Disappointed - I'm always fascinated when people aren't willing to pay even an nominal fee to learn something that could help someone save hundreds of lives, and be more efficient at their work. In every line of work there is a need for "continuing education" to learn new/better ways of doing what you do...and I'm always disappointed/saddened when animal welfare people can't/don't make the effort to do so. I realize money is tight, but some effort to learn better practices is important, and as others have noted, much of the information is available for free.

I also want to note that this post highlights the worst of the worst when it comes to sheltering, but then also mentions basic things that are not as often noticed, but impact shelter killing like basic laws. As a nation, we kill about 4 million pets a year...and a huge number of those are in shelters that barely put forth the basics of trying or from cities that mandate the killing of certain types of animals. We could make a HUGE dent in that 4 million number if we could just replace the shelter directors in these heartless catch and kill shelters and get particular laws repealed across the nation.

Disappointed - -and while it is commonplace to say that "you can't afford" no kill, studies have continually shown that money isn't a dictating factor in becoming no kill -- in fact, many shelters that have become no kill have done so at a very low dollar per animal rate, and others with a lot of money continue to kill. The leading indicator of whether or not a shelter becomes no kill is good leadership.

Yes, there are certainly shelters that are putting forth great efforts and are struggling to get to not kill. Some may be struggling with lack of available low cost spay/neuter options, feral cats laws, etc - -or may be negatively impacted by communities around them (for instance my own community struggles with a lot of 'pit bull' type dogs in the shelter, but is impacted by neighboring communities that have bans on these types of dogs.

By and large, communities that have made a commitment to no kill, have had success in achieving it. And even if they haven't gotten there right away, they have seen tremendous improvements. They've seen help from outside volunteers and financial donations to help (as Valerie notes).

Robert, in fairness to the No Kill movement, their most celebrated successes are entire communities that have achieved no kill. There are many of them out there -- and it is the entire community that makes it happen. While this isn't a slam on 'no kill shelters', that should be everyone's goal -- and those are the biggest successes. Certainly there are also a lot of self proclaimed no kill shelters that don't do all of the things they should be doing but are fine sending the killing elesewhere. But there are a LOT of communities that are getting this right.

Bonnie, I have little patience for people who are willing to look everywhere to blame people for their shelter killing....heck, you even went so far as to blame Valerie.

Amy Pyland

I can't believe this happens all over the world. It's such a shame that so many of us feel we have to save animals from the "animal savers"...
I recently experienced something similar at our local shelter here in College Station, TX. I have been "banned" from our shelter and the board president will not say why, although I'm almost sure it is because I ask too many questions. Anyhow, I started a petition asking for our city council here to please reconsider before signing another 10year contract with these people. If anyone out there reads this and wants to help my cause in our little town, please sign my petition electronically at

I helped save these 2 dogs and had homes lined up.... the shelter killed them. You can see in my personal video at that they were VERY sweet and adoptable. I am disgusted and heartbroken.

Thanks for reading : )


And thanks for commenting Amy.

Yes, it's sadly too common. Fixable. But common. And we need to do what you did instead of excusing this type of activity.


My, my, my. I'm a bit behind on this blog as I've been out of town but nothing gets the old blood flowing and the fingers typing like discussions about No-Kill.

Brent's previous post addressing some of the criticism is quite good (wow, Bonnie - are YOU a veritable ray of sunshine?).

I think you were all a bit hard on Jennifer. She does have a point when she states some shelters must kill animals because others don't. In our area "no-kill" has come to mean, "If we don't let anything in the shelter we won't have to kill it". Don't believe me? check out this link -

gosh, is that a great no-kill policy or WHAT? We even have a taxpayer funded shelter in our area that's refusing to take animals! I told a city councilmember they HAD to take animals from residents and I didn't care if they stacked crates in the mayor's office. This is NOT an acceptable way to achieve no-kill!

There's been a major "animal shuffle" going on in this area and shelters that claim to be "no kill" are in fact sucking up vast resources from the rest of the metro and sending animals to both kill and no-kill shelters,and I'm sure Brent has written about this before. These "saviors" are also refusing to address bad municipal laws that, if repealed, could keep animals out of the shelter in the first place. Why are we taking animals out of perfectly good homes? Oh yea, because we CAN! It's fun to pick on law-abiding citizens. As Ayn Rand wrote, government has to criminalize everything because they have no control over law-abiding citizens.

For years I had a hard time convincing people, particularly younger people, we didn't have "pet overpopulation". People my age and older were an easier sell - when I pointed out there were few puppies, small dogs, and purebreds in shelters they would think about it and agree. However, younger people clinged to the cause and effect model - "We're still killing animals, ergo we have pet overpopulation". It wasn't until Nathan Winograd came to town and gave a presentation that some of the naysayers realized I wasn't crazy (not on that topic, anyway).

I am absolutely a firm believer in the no-kill concept when it's implemented correctly, and as has been stated, leadership is a larger factor than money. It also literally "takes a village". When people aren't hammered with stupid laws (BSL, MSN, limit laws) they WILL help. they WILL donate money. Where I live there is not even a pet license and the community has been very generous helping the city support and maintain a very nice dog park.

Unfortunately, in our area so many of the purebred people have gone underground, and these are the very people with the knowledge and resources that can make a difference. Much of that is due to local limit laws, but then along came the "stupid laws". The APBT people haven't licensed their dogs in Kansas City, MO or anywhere else since the 80s, because they saw what happened when pit bull owners licensed their dogs - the dogs ended up dead. then along came the 90s and talk of mandatory spay/neuter, and suddenly everyone's purebred dog "died" and those people ceased to license their dogs. This is costing cities revenue and manpower.

And it goes without saying that 2/3 of the animals killed in shelters are cats so TNR is a must. I don't know what it is about cats, but go to any city or county government meeting where they are addressing dogs in any form and they totally glaze over at the mention of the word, "Cat". You can almost see them putting their hands over their ears and shouting "I don't hear you".

When you point out the problem with euthansia at the city shelter is largely a cat problem, they glaze over.
When you point out the vast majority of the bites are cat bites, they glaze over.
And when you point out the majority of animal control calls are related to cats, they REALLY don't want to hear it and they're likely to whack you with a gavel.

Until our leaders wake up and face the reality of the animal situation rather than persisting in blaming the public and thinking coercive legislation will solve every problem, nothing will change.


Commenter Jennifer's post was right on! I too am so tired of hearing that shelters are terrible and don't care about animals etc, while no-kill shelters are supposedly wonderful and the pets they take in all live happily ever after. Balderdash!

Here's an example. In this post you referred to a video that "recently surfaced" showing a couple of guys clowning around while someone chanted "Kill the Kitty". Combined with the rest of your post, the reference to the video was yet another swipe at the reputation of shelters.
But did you know that the video in question was made at least TWENTY years ago? If you knew that and knowingly left that out, it doesn't say a lot for your credibility. And if you didn't know it, then can we expect you to put it in an upcoming blog as prominantly placed as the video was in this one?



Again, re-read my post. My point was not to group all shelters in the same category. In fact, I specifically called out that that was not the case. However, there are far too many of these instances of neglect and outright cruelty that exist in public shelters in 2011. While these conditions don't necessarily represent even the majority of shelters across the country, they, sadly, are NOT isolated instances.

While it is very common for people in the shelter/rescue community to blame 'pet overpopulation' for the deaths of 4 million dogs and cats in this country every year, there is a huge percentage of that number (and possibly all of them) that are killed because shelters like what I described DO exist, are not as uncommon as people want to believe. Maybe they're not actively engaging in dog fighting (like one of the shelters mentioned above has been charged with), but neglect is certainly a problem.

Combine this with the number of shelters that have set policies for killing all feral cats, or killing all pit bulls, or a set of laws that require this, and you have the makings of a LOT of animals needlessly dying. And we need to put the blame where the blame deserves to go.

As for the Kill the Kitty video, I became aware of the age of the video after I originally posted this. Maybe I should have gone back and updated this post, but I didn't. It wasn't in an effort to mislead anyone. Even with the age of the video, in fairness, this animal control officer had been promoted to shelter director and was still acting in that role until last week when the video surfaced.


Commenter Liz C., you accused Jennifer of being insulting when she remarked that there's something wrong, not truly animal-loving, about people who don't support kill shelters. I don't follow your reasoning on

Surely you're not suggesting that true animal lovers would not volunteer at any shelter that wasn't "no-kill". I think anyone who truly loves animals is going to be drawn to help out where the need is greatest. Likewise, I disagree with your contention that ,"it's actually EASIER to get animals adopted from a No Kill shelter, where adopters know they're not leaving any animal they don't adopt to likely be killed". I think it's just the opposite. If I'm looking to adopt a pet, I'd choose what you call a "kill" shelter over a "no-kill" shelter because theoretically, the animals at the no-kill shelter are safe and will be taken care of, but by adopting from a so-called "kill shelter" I know I'll be SAVING A LIFE!


Brent, I appreciate your response. You say you're not trying to group all shelters in the same category, but just look at your own headline, "This is your American shelter system". That clearly suggests that what is to follow is represenitive of shelters nationwide as opposed to being merely anectdotical.


My hope is that people read more than the headline...and it could have been a bad headline. And I certainly wish I had left out the last sentence because I definitely didn't intend the post to pit no kill shelters against kill ones as much as highlight the number of shelters in this country that are making no effort at all to save lives.

I do think the frequency with which we see these stories makes it more than anecdotal. Is it all? definitely not. Is it most? probably not. Is it too many? Absolutely. The idea that even some city run shelters are allowed to run with such disregard to humane treatment and have policies that are designed specifically to kill animals is appalling. The fact that many then blame the public for this, makes it worse to me.

Robert Garnett

In the eyes of a No Kill Shelter what exactly is TNR? Is it a program that they put in place sponsored by the shelter with financial and human resources allocated to ensure it is successfully run to save feral cats?Or is TNR another rescue group(Pit bull rescue Feral cat rescue) that shelters want to turn over these cats to(if they can determine if a cat is feral or not).No Kill shelters don't want to accept feral cats(and rightly so) because they are not adoptable(except for kittens).It is estimated that between 50% and 70% of cats entering shelters are feral and about 65% of all animals entering shelters are cats and that about 80% of all animals killed in shelters are cats.So if a shelter wants to move closer to no kill fix the feral cat problem. Just not accepting them and paying lip service to TNR might work for the shelter but certainly doesn't work for the community.



Here's my take on TNR and the feral cat issues (and is similar to those in the no kill movement).

Feral cats are a reality in pretty much every community. And as you note, they are not generally adoptable.

Given this, there are three different solutions:

1) Let them be and do nothing. Most communities don't support this as it leads to increased breeding and thus, more cats.

2) Round them all up and kill them. This isn't terribly practical in most cities as most people aren't on board with doing this and most cities don't have the financial resources to spend rounding up feral cats. It also doesn't make sense because we certainly don't do this with other animals like squirrels...

3) Allow compassionate people to effectively do TNR, to manage the cat populations. Capturing the cats and releasing them back to the area they came from.

If it is unknown where the cat is from, a lot of shelters in our area have been very effective in having barn cat programs -- 'adopting' these cats out to area farmers who like having them on their farms to catch mice in barns and field mice.

Of the 3 options, this is by far the most humane and cost-efficient way to deal with the situation.

Lis C

Stratobill, Jennifer blamed No Kill shelters for the killing in kill shelters, and implied that if they REALLY loved animals they'd Make the Hard Decisions etc. Maybe you don't see that as insulting. I'm fairly confident Jennifer did not mean it as a compliment.

I didn't say no animal lover would volunteer in a kill shelter; you made that up in your own head. Many do, and not every kill shelter is like the hellholes that Brent is talking about and that Shirley covers so effectively. If what Jennifer tells us about her shelter is accurate, it sounds like an excellent one.

But as long as your definition of "loves animals" includes a requirement of being willing to hold healthy, friendly animals while they die, you are going to limit how many volunteers you get, and how long they're going to last before they burn out. You're also going to limit you donations, because, whether you or Jennifer or Bonnie think it's morally shallow or not, there are a lot of people who will not give you money to help kill friendly, healthy animals.

Finally, YOU may prefer to adopt from kill shelters. That's nice. Go for it. BUT YOU ARE NOT THE AVERAGE PERSON. The average person looking to adopt a pet is looking for a happy, healthy new family member, and wants to feel GOOD about the experience. They really truly do not want to walk out of there with their new pet feeling they've condemned to death every animal they didn't choose.

Guilt is a lousy marketing tool.


What is often overlooked in our zeal to balme shelter managers is that typically these shelter managers, who work for the taxpayers, are only following the directions set forth by the politicians would fund the shelters. As much as I despised our own shelter director for her incompetence at the end of the day she was powerless to over rule her boss - the police department - or the county commissioners with which her boss reported too. We can blame the sheter manager all we want but without enough local citizen involvement including raising awareness on the importance of being politically active it's nothing more then blowing smoke.


Randy -- don't confuse blaming shelter management and blaming shelter managers. If the shelter is performing poorly because of policies put in place by someone in charge, regardless of the title of that person, then the shelter's management is failing -- regardless of the actual title the policy-maker holds.

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