No Kill Conference Open Thread

The 2013 No Kill Conference was held in Washington D.C. last weekend.  This is the first time in recent years that I can recall such a dearth of liveblogging from the event.  Alas I found just a single post:

Feral Nerd Guy’s Guide to Community Cat Activism: Peter Wolf at the 2013 No Kill Conference – Christie Keith

I hope more people with laptops will consider liveblogging at next year’s conference.  There is obviously a need.

The No Kill Advocacy Center has made available a link for downloading information from the speakers at the conference:

If anyone has any additional links for conference info, please share.  Alternatively, if you attended the conference and would like to share your notes, thoughts or impressions, please consider this an open thread for conference related comments.  We want to hear from you!

No Kill Conference – Reports Wanted!

The annual No Kill Conference is being held in Washington D.C. this Saturday and Sunday.  As of this morning, I have confirmed just one person who will be live blogging from the conference – Christie Keith at Dogged.  I am assuming Animal Wise Radio will be broadcasting live from D.C. this weekend as they have in years past.

If you know of anyone else who will be live blogging or otherwise reporting from the event, please leave a comment with a link.  Also, if anyone attending is interested in posting about the conference but doesn’t have a place to do it, e-mail me and I can offer you space here.

No Kill Conference 2012 Links and Open Thread

The 2012 No Kill Conference was held over the weekend.  Here are some links to liveblogs covering various workshops and topics.  Please add a comment if you see any additional links to share.  Also, please consider this an open thread to comment about the conference or any animal related subject.

From Christie Keith:

Dr. Robin Downing on palliative and hospice care

Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Ryan Clinton on No-Kill in Austin, Texas

Thoughts over lunch

John Sibley on advocacy blogging

From Valerie Hayes:

Reforming Animal Control as an Outsider Panel

Advocacy Blogging

Why are you here?

No Kill Conference 2012

The No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C. is underway!  I have already noticed this morning several No Kill Conference attendees posting on Facebook including Atlanta Animal Welfare Examiner, Vox Felina, Animal Wise Radio, Animal Farm Foundation, No Kill Revolution and No Kill Nation. Let us know who else you see posting there.

Christie Keith is liveblogging and Valerie Hayes will be too.  If you have links to other livebloggers, please share in the comments.

You can follow #NoKill on Twitter for updates from attendees as well.

These Things Take Time

When discussing shelter reform, we often hear that we must be patient and allow management time to make improvements at the shelter.  In some areas, I agree that this is reasonable.  For example, it takes time to amend the union contract which covers staff.  It takes time to update an employee manual.  It takes time to get employees to continuing education classes.  It takes time to institute the programs of the No Kill Equation.

But this is not to say that the time allowance should be open-ended or to be considered in any way a pass on requiring accountability.  Nor should these reasonable allowances be used as an excuse to avoid taking immediate action where the well being of shelter pets is concerned.  Some things can not wait for months, weeks, days or even hours.

I offer that the most urgent issue at any shelter is the suffering and killing of pets.  There can be no more pressing matter for any shelter director than putting an immediate and unequivocal end to the abuse and killing of animals at the facility.  If abuse is suspected of happening at any shelter, rooting out the abusers must be the top priority.  If there is solid evidence of animal cruelty, such as is the case in Memphis, the abusers must be removed from having contact with animals immediately.  There is no retraining, no policy manual update, no test score that can reform someone who doesn’t inherently know it’s wrong to hurt animals.  They must be immediately removed from having contact with animals and criminal charges should be considered by the authorities.

If the leadership in Memphis is truly interested in bringing meaningful reform to the pound, I offer a basic plan for consideration which can be fleshed out and expanded upon as appropriate.

1.  Stop the abuse.  Immediately remove those workers who are documented on video abusing pets.  Turn their cases over to the DA and request a review for criminal charges.  Suspend the use of chokepoles until the remaining and newly hired staff (after the abusers have been removed) can be trained on their proper use by a knowledgeable trainer.

2.  Stop the killing.  Immediately end the practice of killing healthy/treatable pets.

3.  Shout it from the rooftops.  Hold a press conference, reach out to local and out of state rescue groups, former and potential volunteers, all forms of media, and the general public to announce that MAS has removed the abusers and ended the killing.  Let people know that MAS is implementing every program of the No Kill Equation and that they are part of those programs.  Tell the public that help is needed, wanted, appreciated and will be accepted in order to save the pets who are at MAS today and while the city works to get the No Kill Equation programs fully functional.

4.  Utilize the Chameleon software to upload every pet at MAS to PetHarbor.  This can be done immediately, with no extra effort, since MAS is already using the program but purposefully preventing the pet listings from being uploaded to PetHarbor.  Simply stop preventing the uploads.

5.  Open up the shelter to the public 7 days a week.  In order to get people in the door and pets out the door to foster, rescue and permanent homes, MAS needs to be open when the public can get there.  This means both weekend days and every weekday.

6.  Open up the entire shelter to the public.  Save for obvious rare exceptions such as rabies quarantine or sick pets under treatment who can not tolerate visitors in their present condition, all pets at the shelter should be available for people to see and touch.  Petting and holding animals is how people fall in love.  Let them.

7.  Put the security camera feeds from the areas which show animals online for the public to view.  This will reassure potential donors, volunteers, foster homes and others that they are contributing to a transparent and positive effort to reform MAS.  And it offers a measure of protection for the animals who have been abused at MAS in the past.

8.  Attend the No Kill Conference on August 11-12 in Washington D.C.  I have offered privately to help raise funds for the new interim director to attend if he has an interest but he did not reply.  The offer stands.  Attending the conference provides an opportunity to hear from open admission shelter directors and rescuers who save more than 90% of their pets.  In addition, there are many other workshops which would provide valuable and useful information for MAS.

These things take time.  We get it.  But some things take no time at all (such as utilizing the PetHarbor upload capability from Chameleon) and other things can not wait (such as animals being abused and killed).  Pet advocates would be eager and very willing to support MAS in the long haul if we were given a reason to believe that meaningful reform was happening.  Removing the animal abusers and stopping the killing at MAS would give me a reason to believe.

I would love to offer my support to Memphis as the city transforms the shelter.  Give me some hard-to-place pets to post.  Give me some public security camera feeds to watch so I can see that the pets at MAS aren’t being hurt anymore.  Give me something to believe in.

I’m available to believe in you now, Memphis.  I don’t need time.  I’m ready to help you this hour – this minute.  What is the city of Memphis prepared to do right now?



You can’t beat this with a stick!

From the No Kill Conference page on FB:

Times are tough, so while we are offering more–including a hot breakfast, more speakers, additional seminars, lots of take home goodies, and a special treat we’ll announce later–we are also dropping the price 25% over last year. When we say we’re a non-profit, we mean it! We hope that encourages more people to attend. No Kill Conference 2012 is August 11-12, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Registration begins in January.

If you visit the FB page, you can scroll down to see some of the great workshops lined up for next year including:

  • Feral cats and the law
  • Taking over AC through private contract
  • How Austin went no kill
  • Redefining pet stores
  • and many more!

A Few Photos to Share

This was our workshop on Advocacy Blogging on day one of the No Kill Conference last weekend.

On day two, I attended Christie's Keith's workshop on Getting More Media. I enjoyed the material but also wanted to share this photo because it shows how close I got to sit to an actual for real beauty queen. (You can see her crown and sash in the audience.)

Ladies Man Henry in his new foster home.

I can't wrap my brain around the fact that MAS was minutes away from putting this dog in a dumpster. Thank goodness for the damn irresponsible public, again.

No Kill Conference Wrap-Up: #3

Here are some tidbits from the notes I took at two of the workshops I attended on day one of the conference.  Both Mitch Schneider and Bonney Brown are no kill leaders in Washoe Co, Nevada.

No Kill Animal Control – Mitch Schneider

Before Washoe Co Animal Control went no kill, there were two staff members who killed pets daily.  There was a lot of staff burnout.  Hiring and training of new staff is expensive.  There was no cost increase to go from killing pets to saving pets in Washoe Co.  Mr. Schneider’s business model:  Return to Owner!  RTO reduces costs by reducing facility needs, staff, food, treatment and utilities.  There is also decreased risk because fewer pets are being handled.  A little more effort by ACOs in the field reduces the work load for everyone at the shelter.  First ride home for stray dogs is free.  They return chronic offenders’ dogs too but will issue citation.

It is the responsibility of the ACO in the field to call ALL phone numbers on the dog’s ID tag, scan for chip, check lost pet reports and check with area residents to try and find owner.  If appropriate, ACO can secure dog in the owner’s yard or leave with a friend.  If not successful finding the owner, must post notice at residence suspected of owning the dog with the cell number of the ACO.  If possible, photograph the dog and upload the information to PetHarbor in case the owner checks online before the ACO returns to the shelter.

Once impounded, re-scan for chip, vet check, vaccinate and, if not done in the field, photograph and upload dog’s info to PetHarbor.  If the owner comes to redeem but can’t afford fees, offer a billing option.

Most communities have no legal right to impound free living cats as they are not included in either the leash or licensing laws.


Turbocharging Pet Adoptions – Bonney Brown

Reno is home to the highest per capita rate of felons in the country, it was voted the second drunkest city in the U.S., 14% unemployment, housing crisis.  [Nathan Winograd characterized Reno in a separate talk by saying something like, “This is a city made up of criminals who have no job, no place to live – and they’re drunk.  And they went no kill.”]

Make the shelter a welcoming, comfortable environment.  Engage visitors in conversation.  Staff wears colored t-shirts instead of scrubs because people have an aversion to clinical attire.  Encourage interaction between pets and people because touch is key to forming a bond.  “Make it easy to fall in love.”  Not only does this increase adoptions, it boosts pets’ immune systems.  Keep hand sanitizer available in multiple locations.  Nevada Humane Society is open 11am to 6:30pm every day.  Adoption counselors help visitors find pets who will be a good match.  Offsite adoptions.  Impulse adoptions are not necessarily negative.  Humans have good impulses sometimes.  “People save lives on impulse.”  (e.g. running into a burning building)  The adoption counselor helps to ensure there is a good outcome.

Fractious cats do better in a colony, less stress, healthier and area is easier to clean. is a good resource.

Free/low cost adoptions – money doesn’t ensure love.

Streamline the adoption process.  Good screening eliminates need for waiting period.  Follow-up calls to adopters using a script designed to uncover any possible problems.  (People will try to gloss over at first.)

Individuals don’t adopt a pet every month or every year so it’s important to continually market your shelter and your pets with aggressive promotions.  That way, when it is time for someone to adopt, they will think of you.  Get the word out and people in.

No Kill Conference Wrap-Up: #2


New for the conference, a printable guide to reforming animal control in your community – Everyone should have a copy!

Shelters’ Killing of Dogs Will End – Toledo Blade

Random Thoughts about the No Kill Conference – KC Dog Blog

How Will We Become a No Kill Nation? – Mike Fry

Here Comes Social Media – No Kill Nation

Keynote Address – Pet Connection

Shelter Directors Who are Saving 90% and More – Pet Connection

Get Your Paws on More Media – Pet Connection

No Kill Advocacy with Ryan Clinton – Pet Connection

Turbocharging Pitbull Adoptions – Pet Connection

And lastly, the workshop that Brent Toellner and I did:

Advocacy Blogging – Pet Connection

Advocacy Blogging – Save Shelter Pets

I will add to this list as I come across additional links today.  Please feel welcome to share links in the comments too.

Added:  Download the materials which accompanied each workshop by visiting the No Kill Advocacy Center and choosing which workshops interest you.

No Kill Conference Wrap-Up: #1

My first post about the No Kill Conference is not going to cover any of the brilliant workshops I attended but rather some of my personal experiences.  While a conference is appropriately designed to educate the masses, I’ve always been a one-on-one or very small group oriented person.  So I really appreciate the individuals who approached me to talk (I’m shy) – some just for a minute, others a little longer – and wanted to share some valuable insights I gained through these exchanges.

For starters, I’ll refer you to David Greene’s post on Pet Connection since he puts it much better than I could.  Basically, in the context of stepping up and taking action, David stated that someone in Memphis needs to (metaphorically) fire on Fort Sumter.  This resonated with me and if you read the post, I hope it will with you too.  We have a lot of Fort Sumters in the animal sheltering world.  We need a lot of Someones.

I also spent some time chatting with Christie Keith and Jamie Horton after the end of the conference on Sunday afternoon.  We talked about how so many well-intentioned pet advocates have all their eggs in the Spay-Neuter Basket.  Their belief being that, if they post enough Facebook status messages reminding people to neuter their pets, and if they get out their Spay-Neuter Soapbox at every mention of pets in polite conversation with strangers, and if they wear their “Don’t breed or buy while shelter pets die” t-shirts enough times – we will become a no kill nation.  The reality is that it would be a miracle if we could become a no kill nation based upon a single action (encouraging more owners to neuter their pets) and, as Christie put it, “We’ve already had our spay-neuter miracle”.

Christie is referring to the fact that several decades ago, spay-neuter was far more barbaric and far less commonplace than it is today.  But with veterinary advances and public education, we have dramatically increased the number of owners who neuter their pets and decreased the number of pets killed in shelters – from about 24 million pets a year in the 1970s to roughly 4 million in recent decades.  That was our “spay-neuter miracle” but there is no more miracle to be squeezed from that stone.  There will probably always be a need for targeted neuter campaigns in isolated areas but by and large, we are doing an excellent job marketing the benefits of neutering to pet owners and pet owners are responding fabulously.

We continue to linger around that 4 million mark in shelter killings and it’s not because we need to encourage more pet owners to neuter their pets.  It’s because we need to stop killing pets in shelters and get them into homes.  What kind of homes?  ALMOST ANY HOMES.  This is something I feel very strongly about so I’ll try to keep the all caps to a minimum.  The fact is, we have people coming to shelters and rescue groups saying, “I want a pet” and being either discouraged by intrusive screening processes (such as home checks and background checks) or being turned down outright.  The shelters and rescues are doing this “for the protection of the pets” which is a noble and understandable idea.  But it’s totally wrong in my view and here’s why:  We are killing about 4 million pets in shelters in this country every year.

If someone wants a pet, I say place a pet with them.  That is a generalization of course.  It is not meant to include the tiny fraction of people who would approach a shelter or rescue about adoption with an animal cruelty conviction on their record.  I am very much in favor of reasonably screening adopters to catch anyone like that.  Similarly, within that tiny group, there might be someone who, for example, appears to be severely mentally ill and has no caretaker to assist them.  Again, I’m in favor of common sense screening to avoid placing pets with people who demonstrate a clear inability to care for a pet.

But this is where it gets even more complicated:  What exactly defines the “ability to care for a pet”?  To many people, it means “someone who will care for the pet just like I care for my pet”.  This is wrong thinking.  And in my view, we will never achieve a no kill nation if our shelters and rescues don’t open their minds to the idea that we can and should place pets with people who care for them in ways we dislike.  If a pet can be loved – and specifically I mean have daily human companionship/affection, be fed and watered adequately, and have sufficient protection from the elements – that is good by me.  I’m not saying I like the idea of a dog being tied to a stake all day, being fed generic “dog food” from the grocery store and hanging out in his dirty barrel (dog house) while he waits for the owner to get home from work.  Nope, I don’t like it.  But you know what I like an awful lot – that dog is alive.  Alive trumps dead, any day of the week.  And to reiterate, I’m talking about pets who are loved by their owners, as I defined previously.

Placing a shelter or rescue pet with someone who wants one, regardless of whether the adopter will provide a life similar to the one your pets enjoy, is a good thing:

  1. You have established a relationship with the adopter.  You know their name and where they live.  You will be calling them for follow-up calls to ask how things are going with the new pet.  You will have their ear and they will look to you for advice.  They like you because you gave them a pet they wanted.  They will not only listen to what you have to say but they will probably refer their friends and family to you when they want pets.
  2. You have placed a pet in a loving home.  Yay everybody!
  3. You have freed up a space that can immediately be filled by another pet who would otherwise be killed in your local pound.

By “protecting” the pets in your care and discouraging/refusing adopters who don’t meet your arbitrary criteria for goodness, you have done a bad thing:

  1. You have alienated an adopter.  This person will get a pet from another source.  That pet will be living the life you felt was sub-standard but you have no relationship with the person.  You don’t know their phone number and even if you did, they are not likely to be interested in anything you have to offer since you judged them unworthy of having a pet.  In future, that person will not turn to you when he sees a dog hit by a car on the side of the road and he will tell his friends and family to avoid you altogether.
  2. You have not placed a pet in a loving home.  Loserville.
  3. You must continue to keep the pet they wanted in your facility, while other pets are being killed in your local pound.  In the case of a kill shelter, you will be killing the dog the adopter wanted in order to free up space for a new intake.  No additional pet will be saved.

Let me give you a recent example from social media.  One of my virtual friends mentioned on Facebook that her neighbor had asked her to look after her dogs while she was away.  The neighbor had explained that the dogs were low-maintenance but when the water in the buckets turned green, they needed to be changed.  My friend cringed, I cringed, probably many of you did too when you read that.  But you know what?  That person loves her dogs.  I can tell because she cares enough about them to secure care for them while she’s away from home.  And she gives instructions to the caregiver in order that her personal standards of care are maintained for her dogs in her absence.

Now I’m not saying it’s fantastic that there are dogs drinking algae water all summer long.  But they are loved and they are alive.  I have no idea where this person obtained her pets but if it was from a shelter or rescue then I say kudos to that group.  You did a good thing.

Advocates are dancing naked on tabletops with bullhorns (possible slight exaggeration) in order to get the word out about pets in urgent need of homes and yet, some of these same advocates are discouraging or turning away adopters who come to them seeking a pet.  While 4 million pets are being killed in US shelters year after year.  I see a way we could start saving more pets immediately and at no additional cost – put a Revolving Door of Life on the front of your facility.  Keep it moving with a continual flow of pets going home with happy adopters and new pets coming in to take their place for their opportunity to get a loving home.