Where I’m At

  • Isn’t it good when a shelter is killing less animals than they used to?
  • At least the shelter is posting pictures of the animals online now, even if the photos depict animals being scared, mishandled and/or misidentified… isn’t that an improvement?
  • So what if some healthy/treatable animals are being killed – as long as a shelter is saving at least 90%, isn’t that great?

I see these types of comments regularly.  And I’m going to answer them the long way around.

Yes, killing less is better than killing more.  Posting awful pictures is better than posting none at all.  Saving 90% of your animals is great.  These things all have a place in the political game of shelter reform.  If you are engaged in a political battle against the powers that be in your city or county, trying to get them to stop killing animals by will or by force, you may wish to play these cards carefully.  They may represent advantages to you in negotiations or might offer you leverage in your effort to create meaningful change.

I recognize that.  I appreciate that some of you have plans in place and mark your progress on a different scale than mine.  I get it.

But that’s not my thing.  My thing is a relentless and uncompromising spotlight on every failure, big and small, that contributes to the needless killing of 4 million shelter animals each year.  I will not be placated by less killing. I will not ease up because someone makes an inadequate effort to improve.  I will not click and treat in recognition of failure to save every healthy/treatable pet just because a certain percentage of animals are making it out alive.

Puppy at the Humane Society of Richmond Co in Rockingham, NC, as posted on Facebook.

If your plan to affect change involves praising shelters for any effort of any kind, I understand that you may be doing so because you believe it will lead to a greater good.  I respect that.  But the field is wide and there is room for more than one approach.  In fact, there is room for many different philosophies in the world of shelter pet advocacy.  I can sit at the table with people who disagree with me.  And actually, I’m very thankful there are lots of people who think differently than I do.  That’s how I learn.  That’s how I improve, hopefully.  It’s how I embraced the no kill philosophy in the first place.

I like to think of the whole spectrum of diverse opinions and tactics as being more effective than a narrow “my way or the highway” approach.  It’s one reason I believe that we will succeed in our effort to end shelter pet killing sooner rather than later.

I say all this because I think it’s important for readers to know where I’m coming from while simultaneously understanding that I have no expectation that we all feel exactly the same way on every detail.  It’s better that way, I think.  I know the nature of blogs is that most people read while only a small number comment.  I hope more people will consider commenting – even if it’s to offer an alternate viewpoint.  Maybe especially then.  I may be a hardliner in one sense but I’ve always been very open with the comments.  Trolls, bullies and bigots are roundfiled but I really enjoy intelligent discussion among smart and compassionate people.

So come on in, the water’s fine.  Like the water in The Perfect Storm.  Or Jaws.

33 thoughts on “Where I’m At

  1. There is no alternative viewpoint that makes complete sense! Anything else is ‘making do’, ‘accepting less than ideal circumstances’, ‘settling for less’, etc.

    Just my opinion. If everyone was a ‘hardliner’ like you (your self-assessment, lol), then No Kill would already be happening all over the country. Simple.
    YOU ROCK!!

  2. If a BREEDER posted a picture like that, the AR-zombie folks would be turing them in for neglect (MAJORLY RUSTY CAGE). If that breeder was USDA-licensed (and even some local or state licensed), they would be written up and fined for keeping an animal in that rusty cage (even a cage with a little rust on it can be written up as a violation of USDA rules), or perhaps their animals would be seized by locals (or national groups that are trying to beef up donations) if there was even one or two other minor things that opportunistic thieves/anti-breeders could point to (like a dog needing its teeth cleaned, a mat in the coat, water overturned, etc.–yes, dogs have been seized for these reasons). Why should shelters be so blind OR arrogant to think that posting a picture like that is acceptable because they are shelters? Is some rust on a cage acceptable? Well, yes, IMO, because one can’t just throw out cages because there’s a little rust spot. But is a totally rusted cage acceptable? No, IMO, if it’s a cage the animal will be in for a while, and especially if the integrity of the caging is in question or the animal is one that would chew on the bars and ingest rust (not all will do that). For temporary transport, it’s unsightly but adequate so long as it is sound. Common sense and looking at the welfare of the animals is needed, whether critiquing breeders or shelters.

    1. I think you are overly optimistic in saying a USDA breeder would be fined or in any way penalized for the rusty cage, the raw paw pads, etc. The USDA is, to the extent that it is not concentrating on promoting the products of US agriculture, primarily interested in making sure that our food supply is minimally safe for human consumption. They do not really have much time for inspecting USDA commercial pet breeders, and almost never bother to penalize them for anything.

      An ordinary pet owner, though, or a responsible, careful breeder whose dogs either live inside the home or spend a lot of their time there–yeah, they’d call a bit of rust on the outside dog run “cruelty” for sure.

  3. Speaking of shining a spotlight on failure … heeeere’s Memphis again!

    It appears Nola may have been “accidentally euthanized” http://wreg.com/2012/06/06/memphis-animal-shelter-may-have-accidentally-euthanized-womans-dog/

    Christ on a cracker, it’s like a chain reaction of indifference and ineptitude …
    “Memphis Animal Shelter Director James Rogers says the officer who picked the dogs up didn’t take a proper picture of Nola. The dogs also have chips with their contact information, but those were never scanned. When Nola was brought into the shelter a clerk typed April 4th instead of May 3rd for Nola’s intake take… leaving her lost in the system. The Shelter says they cannot confirm is Nola has been euthanized or no, and they can’t look back at security tapes because they were taped over after fourteen days.”

    1. I don’t get how registering the dog one day later could get him killed, especially with an embedded tracking device. Why aren’t they scanning every dog? Why don’t they make a slight effort to locate owners? They know every lost dog belongs to someone.

      MAS is still an evil place run by evil people.

      1. funisbest, the clerk put in May 3rd as the intake date, instead of April 4th. So, in the computer, it looked like the dog had already been there for a month.

        As for why not scanning every dog…yeah.

  4. I am one with an alternate viewpoint but I realize there are many different routes one can take to get to the same outcome. In both my personal life and professional life, I have taken an approach that is more gentle than the hardline. The best way for me to explain it is this: If my child was having a rough time at school and getting failing grades, I might not be thrilled if they were only able to work their way up to a “C” but it is a major improvement from an “F”. So yes, there would be some reward for that improvement. Now that in no way means we are going to settle for a “C” or allow that to become the status quo but it is a starting point to seek further improvement. My personal feelings are that if all you ever hear about are the negatives, then it makes it that much more difficult to be motivated to try and change for the better. Maybe I grew up seeing too many “Children Learn What They Live” posters

    “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

    If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

    If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

    If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.”

    But do not despair, the poem seems to say. It continues:

    “If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

    If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

    If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

    If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.”

    1. I think a different rule has to be applied to shelters/institutions where abuse/neglect is systemic. The only thing that has changed MAS at all, for example, is relentless spotlighting of their failures. Have they improved? Yes, yes they have. Is it enough? No, it sure as hell isn’t. Thing is, they keep saying, “we’ve gotten sooooo much better!” and we’re supposed to say, “Yes you have, well done!” but their “soooo much better” is still resulting in needless suffering and deaths at the shelter.

      So just because a kid isn’t kicking his puppy as hard as he used to, it doesn’t make it ok that he’s kicking his puppy.

      Do the staff need encouragement and positive feedback on their improved behaviors? Yes, they do. And that is the duty of management. If they cannot punish the wrongdoing and reward the right, then they’re not managing their people properly.

      But criticism is something to be embraced by the system that is truly invested in changing for the better. Perhaps it’s the nature of the criticism that some people find…harsh? Maybe instead of “here is what you’re doing, it sucks ass” can have the addendum of “here is what you’re doing, it sucks ass, here is what you should be doing, instead of your ass sucky behavior”? You know, added illustration to make it more constructive for those who simply do not know what the proper use of a chokepole is or how much more food a big dog needs than a small dog or how to hold a kitty correctly…

      Because I think some of the mentality is, “you’re just picking on me!” with their animal handling bullshit and crap photos and whatnot, but if they could see examples of other shelters doing these things properly, then maybe they would be able to apply that information constructively? *IF* they’re invested in change, that is…

      This has the dual benefit of positively highlighting those doing it right and providing a bit of guidance to those doing it wrong who might give enough of a crap to change.

      We don’t kick the puppy, we pet the puppy like this. See? He likes it and wants to be your friend. Isn’t that better than hurting him and making him afraid of you? Yes it is.

      And if I catch you kicking him again, I’m going to chop your leg off.

    2. MAS is in the business of sheltering & careing for dogs & cats. The killing is their choice, which all too often, ends up being someone’s lost companion. I don’t know how to give “encouragement” or “praise” to those who are so wrong in what they do, they shouldn’t even be there. I am not satisfied with cover-ups, erased over tapes never seen by the public, or “oops, we made a fatal mistake” and I offer them nothing positive until their “mistakes” cease & killing stops.

  5. I guess I vaccilate between the hardline and the some-improvement-is-better-than-none approach. But I’d rather see some improvement *toward the higher goal* than none, just staying stuck with the status quo. It’s sort of the starfish on the beach idea; saving that one starfish . . . But damn it; why can’t they ALL (almost) be saved – dozens of communities are already actually doing!

  6. Good post! I also like hearing other people’s opinion on stuff; it’s how we learn/grow. As for my feelings on it, SOME improvements are def. better than none, but some places I just cant help but feel like arent trying at all. Those are the places that are easy/easier to criticize.

  7. I am with you, BIscuit, and want complete annhilation of the killing of animals needlessly.

    No, praising them for efforts to kill less can backfire as such killers may think they have satisfied enough and go back to killing once they feel they appeased us… No, the answer is to be relentless in a battle to STOP THE KILLING OF ALL ANIMALS… Notice I did not state healthy animals, but ALL ANIMALS… Why? Because all too often it is that these “shelters” (& I use the word loosely) will kill savable dogs with treatable illnesses like Valley Fever, Tick Fever and so on, so NO, it must be the SAVING AND STOP THE KILLING OF ALL ANIMALS!!!!! Such “Shelters” care not to give these animals proper treatment, inclusive of medical treatment that can treat the ills that are treatable so they kill instead a perfectly wonderful animal that can be healthy again…

  8. And I would like to add that even the animals listed as biters or multiple biters can be rehabbed successfully given the proper training, love and their learning to trust again… However in the swill of a shelter like MAS, nothing can trust again…

  9. My comment didn’t go thru will try again –

    It’s got to be animal sheltering = no kill and about service (for animals and people) or it will be animal control = about killing and enforcement.

    not only is the life of the animal at stake – so is the humanity of a person/society. With all this killing of the innocents we’re knotting our own noose as people.

  10. I’m afraid far too many dogs are killed with lame, wrong excuses of being “too aggressive” when they are not, sicknesses when treatable, or cats labled as ferrel when only fearful. “Shelters” seem to use every wrong excuse possible to kill great dogs & cats daily. Those making the decisions of who to kill are so burnt out seeing so many dog/cats, they just want to clear the place out by killing more. It’s sad, tragic & unnecessary. I blame shelter directors & incompetent shelter veternarians… and our society for allowing it to happen.

      1. Problem is most cat owners know cats cannot be “kept”. Cats are night wanderers and I am certain all of us have heard, in a film, a wife saying to her hubby, “Don’t forget to put the cat out before you come to bed!”. It has been like that for centuries & there is no way for buttnugget animal catchers from knowing, in reality, what cats are “feral” and what cats belong to someone who put it out to do the natural thing, catch mice..

        Mary Francis, most government animal facilites that catch “strays” (used lightly) are already called ANIMAL CONTROLS. What we need to end is their control over our animals lives and ours…

        I am going to say this not lightly, “allow this to continue and animal control facilities using actual laws to their own definition and we will see humans owning animals becoming a crime. And any rulings like that is the government controlling us, which, in reality if we take note on something being called “The War on Women” being perpetrated by Congress, mostly adhered to by Republicans who are hiding behind religious backers to controls as church once did, is where this is all leading… Think seriously about this folks…

      2. Cats can be kept – I have four who do not go outside. One goes out with me under direct supervision (and she is 16 and mostly goes out to lie in the sunshine). So I don’t buy that old cats must be left outside to roam. It’s quite possible to provide an enriching environment for them as indoor/supervised outdoor cats. Feral cats are an entirely different story.
        Bottom line, many folks don’t understand cat so fearful/shy cats are being killed along with the truly feral ones.

      3. That’s what it said. All the killing is for “excuses” that is unnessary & wrong.

  11. Meant to add animal control vs. animal sheltering – its boils down to what we are:

    Humankind vs. Humankill or Humankind vs. Humancruel.

    Since I learned about animal control and what they really do – this is how I feel and am grateful for others who feel this way too and want this to stop.

  12. I agree. I watch that new show “Dogs in the City” and the guy in the show is an “expert” animal trainer and there are so many situations where the dog would be considered too aggressive because of how they are towards the children in the home or whatever the case may be. He comes in, trains the animal the right way, and then the situation is good as new. I cant help but think about how many dogs go into a shelter with these aggression issues and whatever else, but no one will bother to train the animals the right way, which seals their fate.

  13. Lately I’ve fallen into the read & not comment group. :(

    But Shirley, I just wanted to jump on and tell you how much I just love you. I love your hard hitching, no bullshitting approach and realize how much of an important balance against my constant ‘praise each good deed on the way’ approach it is. Must be the dog trainer in me coming out?!?!?

    ~I realized just now I owe you some videos…sending tomorrow…cross my heart…

  14. I’m often asked of all the methods out there, why am I such a staunch advocate of one – the no kill equation as developed by Nathan and espoused by the NKAC. What about Best Friends campaigns? What about the ASPCA’s Project Orange? I have been called dogmatic because I have chosen to hang my hat on a proven formula and because I will never excuse killing of healthy and treatable animals by people who want to cry me a river about doing the public’s dirty work while expecting to be thanked for it and making no effort at all to learn about the successes of others across the country. I have had multiple, very long conversations with shelter directors (and have received long, rambling email messages which likely took quite some type to write) in which they defend killing and try to explain to me how naive and uninformed I am. Perhaps I’m not the smartest kid in the class, but my question is always this: what could you have done to save the life of that dog in Kennel 31 during the hour you spent trying to sell me on how hard life is for you? How many kittens could you have put into foster care during those 40 minutes you spent composing an email to me in which you explain how uninformed I am about realiity?

    As for the other methods, if someone would convince me they work, by all means I’d take a look at them. The Best Friends initiative for no kill in Los Angeles is a 5 year plan. That’s a very long time to use a whole lot of Fatal Plus. A contact in MN once told me people call Project Orange by the name Agent Orange since it seems to cause more death. I’m in the category of firmly believing what I do because I have seen no evidence that other methods actually work. By all means, prove me wrong. I’d love for there to be many road to the same place: saving the lives of healthy and treatable animals because we value them and because we are not the hypocrites other cultures often think we are as we say one thing and do another.

    1. I love the “don’t expect to be thanked for doing the dirty work of killing.” Right. I’ll never thank those who kill. For anything they may do good, the killing will always over-shadow anything else. That goes for anyone in society who kills…anything.

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