reply to “Slamming the System…”

Bound Angels Blog

After my recent blog post, I received the following email.  I’d like to address it here.  My comments are in italics:

Thank you.  Most of the kinds of people who would adopt the animals in the pounds — the kind who would give them good homes — say they “can’t” go into the pound.  I feel it is because they realize that killing goes on there, and it is very traumatic and difficult for humans to face.  The poor animals are so desperate to get out because the animals know the fate that awaits them — they can smell the fear and the death.  If the animals were not being killed, then the “shelter” would be a happy place, one to which most people would be very willing to go, and then adoptions would soar.  ****

***I agree that animals can sense the fear and death in the shelters and many know the fate that awaits them.  However, stopping the killing can happen if there’s enough room for the new animals being dumped there by careless, selfish people or if more people adopt from shelters in the first place.  Most municipal shelters face serious overcrowding now, and without the extra space to house the animals, I only wonder where we can put them.  Believe me, I do not believe in killing any animals even those with behavioral or medical issues.  If these people truly wanted to make adoptions soar, they should do it now to keep the shelters from this needless killing.  Do we really believe there is a contingent of people that are waiting for this magical moment before they flood the shelters with their presence?  I think not!  I do feel it is a simple poke at the problem without suggesting a viable option to the problem.

Also, if the killing were stopped, it would cease to attract many of the wrong kinds of employees (Nathan Winograd said that when he stopped the killing in Tompkins County, NY, he fired 90% of the employees and replaced them with those who were in line with the no-kill program).  There are various reasons that people work in the “shelters,” according to an independent filmmaker who researched the subject (her first name is Judy, but I don’t recall her last name):  1) the bleeding hearts; 2) the “zombies” — those who do what they have to do and collect their paychecks; and those who ENJOY the killing (and those employees are often the ones who rise to the top in “shelter” kennel management). ****

** I read Nathan’s book, but have not been able to see the follow through. His expertise did not lend to managing a large municipal shelter except for the San Fransisco Humane where he worked under Richard Avanzino.

There are countless real-life programs that I have created that are documented on and also many other programs that I have seen work in large city shelters as well as small suburban shelters.  Many of these were implemented by a manager named Ed Boks who has transformed many shelters by implementing life-saving programs and  lowering their kill numbers.  When dealing  with a major city, managers are often faced with union employees, that will do as the union prescribes, not necessarily a manager.  I strongly disagree that any employees “enjoy” killing animals.  Yes, there might be one or two nuts, but to think that a specific portion of the employees enjoy this is a sick statement that cuts to the core of human decency.  In fact many of the employees whose job it is to put down the animals often suffer from it emotionally.

The filmmaker pointed out that there is a fourth type of person who works in the pounds — a person who is there to make a difference — and in a kill pound, that type is often fired or otherwise banished from being able to make a difference (or they end up quitting because they realize that they can’t stand the killing, and they see that they are not able to make a difference).  It has been the experience of many a rescuer that some of the “shelter” employees also talk people out of adopting animals, knowing that the poor animals are about to be killed.****

*** Again I think these statements are not based in any reality.  I have never heard of an employee being fired because they “tried to make a difference.”  What we are dealing with here is a contention of people that find it their job to vilify the current shelter system and slam it publicly.  Little do these people know that the more they vilify, the more they are responsible for higher kill rates and lower visitor numbers entering into the shelters.  Rescuing animals is a team effort.  I know in the shelters that I’ve worked with that employees are routinely rewarded for higher performance in adopting out animals.  As for employees talking people out of adopting animals knowing that the animals are about to be killed  – sounds like another conspiracy theory.

It has often been noted that the rescue community can be very contentious — it would be wonderful if they could unite with each other (and with the “shelters”) to work with Nathan Winograd and his model of the “no-kill equation.”

*** I’m starting to  believe you may be a huge fan of Nathan and if so, wonderful.  However no-kill is measured in numerous degrees.  In my onion no-kill is counted as any animal that a conscientious pet owner would not put down themselves should also not be killed by the shelter system.  It is not arrived at by slanting the numbers as to the placement of adoptable animals.  All adoptable animals are obviously adoptable.  However, please remember that many of those preaching no-kill are busy criticizing without offering hands on solutions.  The day when rescue organizations, shelters and civilians work hand in hand, we will have true no-kill.

People who want to make a difference should roll up their sleeves and get to work, not criticize what’s wrong without offering the hands-on help that will make it right.  My criticisms have always been followed through with dedication to making it work and showing how others can do the same; whether these were promotional adoption programs, proper temperament testing, retraining of animals with difficult behavioral issues, marketing of animals that are at high risk of being killed and several more.  I’d like to see all shelters arrive at no-kill in my lifetime.  It will only happen if we work together.