We can do something.

From an editorial in a Memphis newspaper:

As long as the city is plagued with thousands of irresponsible pet owners — and we’re talking mainly about dog owners — who don’t get their animals spayed or neutered, who let them run loose or abandon them in the streets when the owners decide they don’t want the dogs anymore, the shelter will have no choice but to euthanize animals.

I used to think this too.  I had heard this “too many pets, not enough homes” mantra from every animal group everywhere, ever.  And although I am a lifelong Questioner of Stuff (you can verify this with my Mom), I believed that this was true because obviously, no animal shelter in America would kill pets needlessly.  There just had to be no alternatives.  We as a nation were at the most desperate of last resorts in our shelter system and I didn’t know how to fix it.

I thought we could each help a little bit by doing things like neutering our pets, educating our pet owning friends and co-workers about the benefits of neutering, and rescuing a pet from a shelter here and there.  But I knew this was a drop in the bucket and there could never be enough drops.  Too many irresponsible, uncaring pet owners and too many pets in need.  I tried to put shelter killing out of my mind because there was nothing I could do about it and I thought, there was nothing anyone could do about it.  It was just one of those horrible realities like childhood cancer or war.

But then I started reading some material on the internet by and about Nathan Winograd and a book he had written called RedemptionThis is one of the first articles I remember reading and it’s by my friend Christie Keith:

Winograd’s argument is simply this: Based on data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, and the latest census, there are more than enough homes for every dog and cat being killed in shelters every year.

Oh, what?  I’m listening.

“When I argue that pet overpopulation is a myth, I’m not saying that we can all go home,” [Winograd] said. “And I’m not saying that there aren’t certain people who are irresponsible with their animals. And I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of animals entering shelters. Again, I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be better if there were fewer of them being impounded. But it does mean that the problem is not insurmountable and it does mean that we can do something short of killing for all savable animals today.”

We can do something.  Hello hope.

After reading Redemption and looking at the many successful no kill communities throughout the U.S., I changed my belief from “Shelters have no choice but to kill pets” to “Killing is a choice shelters can make regarding their pets but so is saving.  I’m for saving.”

After a few false starts, I started writing the YesBiscuit! blog in 2008.  At the end of this week, I’ll be heading to Washington D.C. to attend the No Kill Conference.  Together with Brent Toellner of KC Dog Blog, I’ll be talking about advocacy blogging.  (We’re giving the presentation twice – once on Saturday and again on Sunday.)  I’m looking forward to attending as many other presentations as I can since there are so many good ones on the schedule.  I hope to meet some of you there.

35 thoughts on “We can do something.

  1. Shirley, we keep hearing and reading about “The Irresponsible Public” but we don’t see any solutions being offered to turn people into “The Responsible Public.”

    Shelter Revolution is promoting “Dog Training For Humans” as the long term solution to this problem. Most shelters and rescue groups trying to deal with this problem do so by counceling pet owners when they are at the end of their patience and have already given up on their pet.

    Our solution is more proactive and preventative. It advocates for turning pet owners into guardians at the time of the adoption. It is an attempt to teach proper leadership skills which will teach people to anticipate problems before they develop and deal with them or seek help.

    The benefit of this will be a reduction in the HUGE numbers of animals surrendered to shelters and rescue groups every day across America.

    Want an example? This is people training, it is not dog training. And this extreme example is being taught after the problems have surfaced. This is an example of guardians being trained. See if you can spot all the teaching going on during the video = http://youtu.be/CfLa9c8C45E

    If you like this please pass it on at the conference. There is hope…

    1. Well, community education is part of the No Kill Solution, so I can see where “training people” fits right in!

      This is part of the reason MAS and others fail so miserably – they whine about the irresponsible public, but do NOTHING to change it. Get some puppies into the schools and teach the kids, have trainers donate time to work with new adopters, have a “cat expert” on hand who can talk people through behavior issues (so many people don’t even realize that peeing outside the box is very often a MEDICAL issue and they should take the cat to the vet…they simply do not know because no one has told them!), etc.

      A shelter isn’t just a box building on the edge of town where animals go to die, anymore. It’s part of the community and the shelter director is a community leader. Well, that is except for those who refuse to join the rest of us living in 2011 and not 1975.

      1. I consider one of my goals to be to try to keep cats in homes. More organizations & shelters need to try & do this. I’m inspired by Feline Outreach, who provide free, non-commercial educational assistance necessary to help people care for their cats so problems can be prevented and solved. http://www.felineoutreach.org/

        There are a surprising number of things that cat owners/guardians do that contribute to the problems cats can have. It’s beneficial to let cat owners/guardians know that they can usually create good conditions that don’t cause cats to pee outside the litter box, as well as how to resolve such problems without getting rid of their cat.

    1. I am not one of the hip kids – I have no laptop or iPad or smartphone. I have a cell phone but it only makes phone calls. So I will be offline for the weekend unfortunately.

      1. That’s what I hear about you…”nice lady, but just not one of the hip kids…”

  2. Congratulations Shirley. It is an honor to speak at the No Kill Conference and I know they will learn and enjoy your presentation on animal advocacy blogging. You have such a wonderful way of writing.

    Looking forward to hearing all about your experiences there.

  3. The conference will give you opportunities to network and recharge your batteries (if needed). I hope you find a lot of folks there who have been keeping up with the mess at MAS and hope that numbers will grow in the effort to effect positive changes at MAS (and so many other places also).

  4. YAY SHIRLEY! I wanted to go, but alas, the furkidz would have no Mommy….make sure to post your presentation on the blog please!…Your devoted and fellow Luddite.

  5. Great article, Shirley! Getting the message out to the public is a huge concern in my community & many others.

    I would love to get a transcript or notes about your presentation. Perhaps you can make them available afterwards?

    If Calgary is making a presentation or people have a chance to review their info, I’d love to know what others think about their model as my community is interested too. They have a model of sheltering they talk about, and their director travells around talking about it, saying he thinks they can become no-kill. Their programs are self-funded through affordable license fees & they see it as their responsibility to educate the public & offer free spay/neuter services. They don’t have BSL or pet limits. They don’t mention feral cats on their website, but TNR is done through a separate non-profit organization.

    A recent initiative had them going door-to-door in an targeted area of the city, giving out info on their free s/n services for pets because research shows the lower someone’s income, the less likely they are to sterilize their pets.

    “Calgary Success”, http://saveourdogs.net/category/successes/

    Gimme Shelter Portland is working to build a no kill community. They say:


    The most successful animal services funding model is Calgary Animal Services in the City of Calgary, Alberta Canada.” http://www.gimmeshelterportland.org/faq/what-is-a-working-model-for-a-stable-sustainable-source-of-funding/

    Includes link to HSUS article on the Calgary (funding) model.

  6. Hey, Cee, a fellow Canuck. We’re going thru a period of uncertainty in Toronto, all core services including Toronto Animal Services were reviewed by a third party and recommendations for service reductions were made. There are meetings of the Committee charged with reviewing the recommendations, at which the public can speak or to which the public can send written deputations. Most core services have their cheerleaders – animal services and libraries spring to mind – so it will be an interesting and nerve-wracking process to try to ensure that animal services isn’t gutted or outsourced. Privatization of animal services in Canada has had more than a few horror stories, that’s not the path anyone wants to see it take.

    1. Hopefully they will go with the self-funded model, remove any barriers & focus on positive incentives like the I Heart My Pet rewards savings card rather than gestapo-like tactics I’ve heard some places use. Did Bill Bruce only speak with Toronto Humane Society when he was there?

      I like the looks of the Feral Toronto Cat Project site & how they’re offering workshops, http://feraltoronto.com/en/ website. Looks like they collaborated with Neighborhood Cats for that, http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/.

      I’d like to see Calgary’s info & data & to ask why they don’t have any info on feral cats or TNR on their city website. Do residents of Calgary only find out out about it if they phone? I have a feeling that they still kill a lot of feral cats. Bill Bruce agreed to be in that awful “Cat Crazy” mocumentary.

  7. It’s a darn good thing there are no irresponsible people in Shelby County, KY or Ithaca, NY or Reno, NV or all those other places. Really, it’s mostly in Memphis.

    1. We have some irresponsible people here in SC unfortunately but I am trying to get them all moved to Memphis so we can go no kill here.

  8. You’re as hip as you need to be to me. You exactly what it takes & you don’t need the electronic traps. If a fraction of the people were doing half as much as you for shelter animals, there would be no problems.

    Go get ’em in Washington.

  9. Look forward to hearing all about your trip. Safe travels — will miss your blog on the weekend!

    Memphis Gangbanger

  10. Shirley – I’m getting excited to hear you and Brent speak in D.C. this weekend! There are a lot of great seminars scheduled at the conference, it is going to be difficult to choose which ones to attend (other than yours of course).

    I’m looking forward to getting re-energized and inspired!

  11. Wait…did I read that editorial right? The Rotary Club offered to/is going to review shelter operations? The Rotary Club?

    Whoa. They may have good intentions but I can’t imagine that would be the least bit effective.

  12. Wow- thats awesome Shirley! Be sure to tell us all about it when ya get back! :) Have a good time.

    As far as this blog goes, I completely agree, I feel like I couldve written this because my attitude was/is the same. Unfortunately until MAS actually starts caring about the animals they are sheltering (what a concept!) by say I dont know, opening up the part of the shelter where 100-200 dogs are stored, getting dogs right back to the shelter before they die of heatstroke in the truck, feeding them during the 3-day stay so they dont die of starvation before their strayhold is up, etc, then Id say that would help a lot.

  13. Looking forward to seeing you Shirley! I’ll be there to get as many great ideas (& inspiration) to bring back to Charlotte…Like how to NOT photograph cats for Facebook! LOL!!

  14. willie wonkahttp://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/we-can-do-something/#comment-form-wordpress says:

    Adoption Centers + Spay/Neuter + Owner responsibility and ending puppy mills will solve the problem. No more Killing. Nathan saying that there is “no homeless pet overpopulation” is totally false. We have enough food in this country for everyone to east all they want, but many are starving and go hungry.
    Why ? It is the same argument. Adoption centers will allow these animals to show off their best qualities and get adopted. People assume shelter animals are bad or broken. I work there 3x a week and I know- they ask me all the time, “what did they do wrong” .
    The “SHELTER REVOLUTION” on FB and http://www.shelterrevolution.org has the answers. This can be fixed if people will be willing to change what does not work. We have been killing for 100’s of years and have more homeless pets than ever. It is time for something different, and much more humane.

    1. willie wonka, please see “We Can Do More” post,


      I also used to think there was an overpopulation problem, but data at our own shelter also shows they are actually receiving fewer animals than they did twenty years ago. Until recently, they had too many staff.

      Secondly, adoption centers are great. The other points mentioned on that site are parts of the No Kill Equation. But other programs must also be in place if the killing is to end. The public really doesn’t want to visits a place that says it loves animals, but kills them for space in their back room. See http://nokilladvocacycenter.org/reforming-animal-control.html

      (PETA doesn’t like to talk about what they do to thousands of cats & dogs at their facility at their headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia as it would probably impact their donations. http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/the-truth-about-peta/)

      Based on thier history, the HSUS probably isn’t going to help fund your adoption shelters. “The Truth About the HSUS”, http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/the-truth-about-hsus/

      Nathan wrote: “Mitch Schneider runs Washoe County Regional Animal Services. I once made the mistake of calling him a “former marine.” As he barked at me, “Once a marine, always a marine.” He is definitely not what you would call “soft and cuddly…”

      This is what Mitch had to say about No Kill:

      “I didn’t believe it could work, at least not in Reno. I did the math and remember thinking that maybe it would work in a more affluent community but we had a more transient population and a high intake rate.

      His skepticism was not a problem, because he also had an open mind:

      “No matter what any of us believes, we ultimately won’t know if we don’t try. On top of that, if in fact No Kill failed, I didn’t want it to be because our agency refused to think outside the box or because I didn’t like the term. Even if we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, I knew it could still be better than now. We could save more animals. And that would make thousands of animals pretty happy, and it would make thousands of animal lovers pretty happy.”

      As Mitch notes, you have to be willing to take risks. If you are to succeed, you have to try new things. Even “crazy” things.” http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=6074

  15. I know that this doesnt have much to do with the topic at hand, but Cee here was talking about rescuing cats and it made me think of it. I was watching a show the other night and they mentioned how theres some show out there called “The Lady With 700 Cats” and she literally (I guess?) has 700 cats inside AND outside her home. I cant help but wonder how many of those were spayed to begin with and now she has a huge population problem. I dont care how much you like cats, no one thinks to themselves “Im going to get as many as I can” and then breathe a sigh of relief when you reach 700. Im not saying that this lady is the only cause of the population/shelter problem, nor am I saying that S/N laws are the only way to get less animals in shelters, but it can sure help. I look at S/N laws like drunk driving laws. If you put a S/N law, some people still arent going to do it, just like some people are always going to drink and drive. But those who are going to be responsible pet owners and get their dogs S/N, it at least helps out somewhat. Just my .02.

    1. MSN is not part of the No Kill Equation. The truth is, MSN looks good on paper & can make a city seem like it’s doing something, but it’s a law that targets a small percentage of the public who still might be responsible pet owners or they may be unable to afford to spay/neuter their pets.

      MSN, like pet limits and BSL, will make “offenders” out of ordinary people, and those people are NOT going to give themselves away by licensing their pets; those mandatory laws are barriers licensing. Fewer pets licensed and wearing ID means fewer pets who can be returned to their families if they get lost, which means more animals in the shelter. Decreased revenue from licenses means less money to spend on shelter animals, if that’s the model being used. Also, the majority of pets are already fixed. To see posts about it, click on MSN in the tag cloud or type it into the search box in the right margin of this blog. (Pet limit laws in privately owned dwellings are not necessary as existing property standards and animal welfare legislation should be enforceable and sufficient. )

      The data on Mandatory Spay/Neuter, or MSN laws show they increase the numbers of animals taken to shelters, which increases the kill rate.

      Proactive measures and incentive have proven to be more successful than reactive and punitive ones when it comes to both the No Kill Equation and the Calgary model. Both models reject MSN, Breed Specific Bans and Pet Limits.

      Calgary has mandatory licensing as they want all pets to be licenced to increase the return to owner rate and provide money to fund the free spay/neuter service, vetting and other programs that benefit shelter animals and their community. Compliance rates are higher than 90% for dogs and 55% for pet cats, but has been increasing. They may have the highest return to owner rate in North America. Their director states that “it’s 90% education and only 10% enforcement”.

      Because of this, their incentive discount rewards card program and reduced license fees for altered pets, pet owners AND the public, people recognize the value and actual services that CAS provides; pets who are licensed and are wearing ID receive a free ride directly to their home if they are picked up as strays. CAS is flexible and compassionate, and will provide licenses to pets if someone can’t afford them. The director said many people donate to the license fund.

      Spaying/neutering IS part of the No Kill Equation in that all shelters need to be fixing their pets before adopting them out, communities need to implement TNR for feral or community cats to successfully curb their population, and free and subsidised high volume spay/neutering needs to be available to alter pets for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

      Info on the No Kill Equation and Reforming Animal Control, http://nokilladvocacycenter.org/reforming-animal-control.html

      No-Kill Community links, http://www.no-killnews.com/?page_id=702

  16. Mandatory S/N mandates to the shelter, without providing the funding, is a death sentence for millions more . Colorado is a perfect example. They passed that mandatory law and the euthanasia rate went up in the shelters. There has to be a companion funding bill to pay for this mandate. I totally agree every shelter animal adopted should be sterile. WE need to make sure we can pay for that before we doom many more to death. We had a law passed, starting ” Adopt A Shelter Pet” vanity license plate . In it’s first year, Adopt A Shelter Pet will raise over $3,000,000 for the Colorado Shelters for S/N and special needs. That meant no tax money is being used. It was a no brainer for the lawmakers. Check it out !!! Good intentions are one thing but you have to be sure it is paid for before it is implemented !I We gave the same advise to Gov. Christy in NJ and Sen. Sweeny. They listened and are working to fund that mandate before he signs it into law.

  17. MSN:
    “Information about AB-1121. This is a bill that will remove barriers to licensing, make it easier for people to license their puppies as soon as they get them and provide local governments access to revenue streams currently unavailable.

    The easiest way for animal agencies to save lives and encourage responsible dog ownership is to have a progressive licensing program. The best way to increase killing is to have a mandatory spay and neuter program.” Vimeo video, 20 minutes,

    Bill Bruce, short video “NCRC Interview with Bill Bruce on Ineffective Dog Laws”, including pet limits.

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