The number of cliches one uses to describe America’s pet-killing habit is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the solutions to such killing:  the more cliches one uses, the less he or she understands the subject. YesterdayThe Virginia-Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia’s daily paper, seemingly set a new world record for the number of mindless pet-killing-apologist cliches ever crammed into a single editorial space.

The editorial starts (and ends) with this profound line:  “Nobody wants to euthanize pets.”

Hard to believe that someone living in PETA’s backyard would even think to utter that claim.  PETA is a self-proclaimed animal-rights group that does not believe that being alive is an animal right.  In fact, PETA actively lobbies cities and shelters to ban the adoption of (and therefore kill) every pit bull that enters their doors, and lobbies against life-saving trap-neuter-and-release programs for community cats on the claimed ground that cats are better off dead than alive outside.  PETA seems to enjoy killing dogs and cats (and bunnies, among other pets) so much that they have described the experience of being killed as a “sweet release.”

PETA is not remotely alone in encouraging—and even seemingly enjoying—the killing of dogs and cats.  In Houston, Texas, two of the wealthiest animal shelters in the State (if not the nation)—the Houston SPCA and the Houston Humane Society—voluntarily kill most if not all dogs, including puppies, they come across that they think look like pit bulls.  In North Carolina, a police officer shot and killed a resident’s beloved dog because he did not feel like taking the time to catch her.  And in South Carolina, an animal shelter used surrendered dogs for target practice, and then buried them—sometimes alive—across the street in what officials described as an “unpermitted landfill.”   The same shelter employees were accused of beating cats over the head with a pipe.

Not all shelters are cruel places, of course; many are wonderful and safe places, led and staffed by courageous, dedicated, and committed animal lovers.  I count all of Austin, Texas’s shelters among that group.  But for the Pilot to claim that that “[n]obody wants to euthanize pets” is both silly and naive, and does nothing to advance the discussion.

In any case,” the Pilot continues, “the math is depressingly simple:  There are too many animals and too few homes.”  

On this point, the editorial board is half-right:  their math is depressing.  And by that I mean utterly inaccurate.  Indeed, to prove their “simple” point they offer no math at all; instead, just their ill-informed conclusion.

Fortunately, we do have actual math on the subject, and it proves the editorial board wrong.  According to a study conducted by the Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund, there are, in reality, far more Americans adopting pets every year than there are pets entering U.S. animal shelters.  In fact, about 3 million dogs and cats are currently being killed at U.S. shelters, but there are at least 17 million Americans adopting pets every year who are not set on the source of their next pet.  According to the study, convincing just “25% of the people in this group to adopt” from an animal shelter rather than another source would result in a No Kill Nation today.  Ironically, Maddie’s Fund advises that shelter killing is therefore solved by applying “simple math”— apparently, of the kind that eludes the Pilot.

Moving beyond their regurgitation of elementary cliches, the editorial board next picks up PETA’s false claim that “No-kill shelters can claim that distinction only because [they] . . . pick and choose which animals to take.  In order to maintain their numbers, they are often forced to reject animals that have a more difficult time finding homes.”

That too is stunningly and demonstrably incorrect.  There are now about thirty open-admission animal shelters in America who are able to claim “No Kill” status not because they turn away animals, but instead because they save at least 90% of all dogs and cats that enter their shelters—a figure that roughly represents the percentage of healthy and treatable animals entering the average open-admission shelter.  What makes the Pilot’s claim to the contrary even more surprising is that fact that a significant number of those open-admission, No Kill shelters are found in Virginia. On a day trip from Norfolk, the newspaper could have literally stopped by no less than seven open-admission No Kill shelters— those in Arlington, Charlottesville, Fluvanna County, King George County, Lynchburg, Powhatan County, and Williamsburg.

Finally, the Pilot goes where every shelter-killing apologist has gone before:  it blames the no-good-very-bad-horrible public.  On this point, the didactic board opines:  “The way to end euthanasia is . . . [t]o end the irresponsible practices and behaviors by human beings that lead inexorably to thousands of unwanted pets roaming Hampton Roads.”  The solution, it continues, is that “pet owners across Hampton Roads will have to change how they own animals.”

Let me put this as nicely as I can:  if Norfolk’s shelter-killing-reduction strategy depends on the public changing its way rather than the shelter changing its way, Norfolk will still be engaging in unnecessary shelter killing 100 years from now, long after the rest of Virginia will have become the safest state in a largely No Kill America.

That’s because the blame-the-public argument does nothing.  It is an excuse.  It is not a strategy.  And it is a colossal waste of time and life.

Indeed, there isn’t a single community in the world that has ended animal-shelter killing by adopting the wait-for-the-public-to-change strategy. Charlottesville didn’t become No Kill by changing the public; rather, its SPCA hired Susanne Kogut, who changed the culture and practices of the community’s animal shelter, and it worked. Reno, Nevada, didn’t become No Kill by changing the public; rather, its humane society hired Bonney Brown, who changed the culture and practices of the community’s animal shelter, and it worked.  Ithaca, New York, didn’t become No Kill by changing the public; rather, its SPCA hired Nathan Winograd, who changed the culture and practice of the community’s shelter, and it worked.  In community after community across America, open-admission shelters have become No Kill very quickly—sometimes overnight—not by waiting for the “irresponsible public” to change, but instead by enacting proven, cost-effective, lifesaving programs and policies that have worked to end shelter killing in every community in which they have been rigorously implemented.

I don’t know what it is about editorial boards that makes them so quick to eschew proven innovation and embrace disproven conventional pet-killing “wisdom.” But they do, time and time again.  And by doing so, they not only defend but extend America’s violent period of pet killing, along with the reign of those who kill despite readily available alternatives.  Newspaper editorial boards:  you are better than that; it is time for you to change.


Note:  There is no speech more highly protected than that involving politics, publicly policy, public figures, and public entities. If the First Amendment to the United States Constitution means anything at all, it means that American citizens bear a fundamental constitutional right to speak freely, candidly, and critically of not only governmental entities, but also of highly political corporations (including non-profit ones) whose policies, preferences, positions, and conduct aid and abet unnecessary shelter killing.

29 Responses

  1. Charlotte May 21, 2012

    I will not defend the killing of animals, but I do have a math question. In a recent rescue effort, I made contact with a shelter in North Carolina that takes in 100 animals per day. Let’s do the math. That’s 36,500 animals per year. The population of that county is 66,685. Census data shows that there are approximately 29,000 households in the county. So every household in the county would have to adopt one pet per year, even if 7500 of the animals taken in by the shelter were reclaimed by their owners, in order to find homes for all of the animals taken in by the shelter. And again, bear in mind, we’re talking about one county.

    I’d also question your statistic of 3 million animals being killed in U.S. shelters every year. It is impossible to determine how many are killed, since, in many cases, shelters are not required to report this information. The ASPCA, I believe, reports 4-5 million being killed, but I have heard numbers as high as 9 million. Getting a more accurate number would require a lot of research. We would have to get in-take and adoption statistics from every shelter in the country and then do the math.

    Education is the solution. We need to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets and teach them how it can benefit them, as well as the animals, if they adopt from a shelter or rescue.

    • Ryan Clinton May 21, 2012

      What county are you referring to? I’m thinking your intake number may be a bit off. 36,500 impounds/year would be higher than the total intake in San Antonio, Texas, the 7th largest city in America, and Dallas, Texas, the 9th largest city in America.

      As for the data, I believe that Maddie’s Fund and HSUS would have access to the most accurate data on the subject, since they both collect such data. The numbers are declining a lot every year, but 9 million is way off. 4 million was a few years ago per Maddie’s Fund/HSUS research.

      Education has not ended shelter killing in any community; thus, it is not the solution. The solution is the programs and policies of the No Kill Equation, which have ended shelter killing in about 30 communities.

      • Angel Paws June 12, 2012

        Those numbers I am sure include thousands of neighborhood cats- start a Feral Freedom Program- subtract those numbers and I would be surprised if the balance was not doable adoption numbers.

  2. Sharyn Fox May 21, 2012

    Mr. Clinton is right – it is time for all of us to change. Editorials that lament the impossibility of becoming no-kill verge on the edge of using half truths to state their case. There are many methods to implementing successful no -kill and of course those include spaying neutering all pets. TNR for cats is a proven, successful method of dealing with feral cats despites PETA’s view that the only good feral cat is a dead cat. The old cries of cats carrying diseases and decimating the song bird population have long been disproven. As a matter of fact, the Virginia Health Department reported only 30 cats in the entire state had rabies in 2011. It has also been proven that many more birds are lost to glass buildings, wind towers and or course pesticides than feral cats. I volunteer at a colony with cats that look and act like – CATS! They may be feral but they enjoy their life and we enjoy our time with them. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people such as myself who would volunteer at colonies to insure the cats are not suffering. Unfortunately, there will always be animals that are abused but it doesn’t make sense to me to kill the abused – why don’t we look at education to stop the abuser along with penalties? I have never understood why PETA percieves it as a good thing to kill a cat while fighting to keep us from eating meat, wearing fur or even raising chickens. Killing an entire species to make sure none of them ever suffer doesn’t seem ethical to me.

  3. John Newton May 21, 2012

    A friend of mine just forwarded Mr. Clinton’s article to me and I must say that he is spot on. After working with a large feral cat population on Front St. for close to 15 years, I have to say that PETA is anything but ethical.

    I now live in Western North Carolina and we have several no-kill shelters here. Unfortunately, they do have a hard go of it with funding. I help when and where I can. Mr. Clinton’s point that the shelters have to take the lead and help educate the people is right on target. At times it seems like an uphill battle, but it can be done and it is worth it.

    Thank you Mr. Clinton for an excellent article

  4. Joni Solis May 21, 2012

    Thank you for writing this. After I read that news paper article I thought, why can’t reporters research?

  5. Barbara Ament May 21, 2012

    I have only the town of Suffolk to give as my example but there are many active Humane Society members that work tiredlessly in trapping adult cats and getting them to PETA in Norfolk to have spayed/neutered, shots given and tested for feline leukemia….if positive, they go “night, night”! They are monitored in their cages for a period of time and then re-released to the place they were captured…..their colony. This colony has to have a volunteer feeding them and generally keeping an eye on the group. Kittens are also captured and if they are below about 8 weeks old, they are taken to the vet. for the required treatments and then socialized to become well mannered house pets. Suffolk Humane Society has now 2 venues to showcase these kittens in the Petsmarts at Harbor View and Chesapeake. There are also well advertised adoptathons at these venues to get these kittens adopted into loving homes.
    Keep in mind this all takes many hours of volunteer time and committment to these cats and kittens but for the ones that are captured and returned, it does make a difference for their health and quality of life. I ought to know, I have one of the captured kittens, now a 2 year old cat. She is a gorgeous flame point siamese mix that would have never survived in the wild. She came to me with a raging case of Giardia that needed 3 treatments and now we have to deal with a megacolon issue that she will have the rest of her life. We made a difference in her life as she has in ours. She is here because we took a chance and adopted the product of a feral union.

    • Animal Advocate October 18, 2012

      TNR, FIV, FeLV info: Dr. Julie Levy, of the University of Florida has studied Feline Leukemia and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) extensively. In this interview, she answers questions about how they are spread, the accuracy of tests, and the prognosis for cats who test positive. Learn about the science, politics, and urban legends that accompany retroviral infections of cats. How to develop responsible and cost-effective testing priorities that benefit the cats, protect pets, and control the spread of the diseases are discussed. Some of the challenges these infections raise for cat welfare organizations and TNR groups are looked at.

      FIV/FeLV testing of healthy looking cats is not necessarily part of a TNR program. These are the reasons why,

      Megacolon/feline constipation info from a vet with more than 18 years of experience as a feline veterinarian,

      Feeding a species appropriate diet can help prevent and solve problems in community (feral) cats as well as owned cats; this info can help keep owned cats healthy and in their homes. See, a non commercial info site by Dr. Lisa A. Pierson; this nutrition info is recommended by international TNR organization Neighborhood Cats and many other groups and vets,

  6. jblock May 21, 2012

    Free spay and neuter is the only answer.

    • Ryan Clinton May 21, 2012

      Not remotely true, and it does nothing for the animals already at or entering shelters. We must comprehensively implement programs that both decrease shelter intake over time (like low-cost and free spay/neuter) and increase live outcomes (like marketing, off-site adoptions, better customer service, etc.). We must implement the proven programs and policies of the No Kill Equation.

  7. beni May 21, 2012

    In a nutshell? Excellent article. Thank you for nailing the situation so accurately!

  8. Shawne Owen May 21, 2012

    Great job, Ryan. It would also seem logical to control intake by working on the areas that provide the greatest number of pets entering shelters, predominately strays and owner surrenders. TNR (TrapNeuterReturn) is not supported by many pounds even though it would be at no cost to the pound, is supported by private funding and grants, and would reduce the intake population thus reduce the euthanasia rate. TNR is recognized by the Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA, and supported with grants by large corporations including Petsmart and Petco. Counseling owners that want to surrender their pets can also reduce a pound’s intake.

  9. Melissa Henry May 21, 2012

    Joni, I felt the SAME way. Well put, Ryan. Thank you very much!

  10. Gene Daniel May 21, 2012

    Love it when people see a new airplane and immediately say its an Alien UFO ! The editorial simply used local data to introduce a local issue to readers who unlike you, could probably care less about the whole thing and would only have a knee jerk reaction if their locality were to impose a new regulation, tax or fee. The editorial did not take a definitive stance for nor against no kill. They simply said that was a solution sought by many but whatever your morale convictions this is a complex issue that will involve complex solutions along with more $, volunteers, community education, ………..

    • Rob Leinberger May 21, 2012

      I’m in agreement with Gene on this one. Whether you are for or against “no-kill” is a personal choice. The PilotOnline Opinion and Mr. Clinton’s opinion are simply that–opinion. We can take this “math” and use it how we see fit to prove or disprove a point. I have 20 years as an animal control officer to have seen reality. With that, while I respect his opinion, I’m not in agreement with Mr. Clinton’s statement pertaining to blaming the public, “That’s because the blame-the-public argument does nothing. It is an excuse. It is not a strategy. And it is a colossal waste of time and life.” A significant cause of pet overpopulation is a direct result of the public and the inability of many to care for pets in a responsible way. Were it not for the public, I’d certainly not have a job in the animal control profession. My concern is that if the “public” becomes conditioned to “no-kill” solving their problems, will the public simply become dependent on this philosophy? Again, I agree with Gene. This is a complex issue that has multiple solutions….enforcement of animal laws, public education, TNR, mandatory spay/neuter, volunteer programs, financial aspects, sufficient housing of animals, etc. I think it’s important to have a smart and reasonable debate on this issue with the ability to understand we’re not always going to be in agreement.

      • John Conwell May 22, 2012

        Mr. Leinberger,

        Just one question… how many MANDATORY Aniaml Laws/Ordinances does your community have? How many of them are enforced 100%? How many are enforced on a case by case basis… How many are you RESOURCED to enforce?

        The city of El Paso, TX has mandatory ordinances such as registrations, microchipping, litter permits, etc… just one example, registrations… there are 80,000 out of and estimated 390,000 pets in El Paso. (And that’s a low ball figure! I saw a dog at Animal Services today that had Ciudad Juarez, Mexico registration!) Roughly 20% of the animals are registered at $10 annually. How many do you think have a $140 – 300 spay or neuter?

        If you say mandatory in regards to animals, you might as well say don’t worry about it… because 38 employees in a city of 800,000 and 390,000 pets can’t enforce them! And until it was brought to the attention of the City Council, Mayor and City Manager, no one knew nor did they care because the Animal Services didn’t tell them. But imagine how their eyes lit up when someone did the math for them and pointed out that they were failing to collect $2M annually that could FUND these programs! Doh!


      • Chris, AW Committee Member May 29, 2012

        The National Animal Control Association (NACA) believes the times are a-changin’.

        “What we’re saying is the old standard isn’t good enough any more. You need to be able to be flexible with your community animal management strategies for both cats and dogs. And if you continue to follow the old philosophy, eventually everybody else is going to pass you by. Progressive communities are seeing that being flexible in their strategy allows for economic savings. The cost for picking up and simply euthanizing and disposing animals is horrendous, in both the philosophical and the economic sense.”
        ~ NACA president Mark Kumpf

        PDF article
        (Link from

        Successful strategies that result in a no-kill community are NOT a matter of opinion, they are a matter of fact. Municipalities have an obligation to demonstrate that pets are not disposable. City residents and taxpayers have the right to know there are more than three dozen no-kill communities with open-admission shelters; the philosophy and requirements of the real no-kill movement, spelled out by the No Kill Advocacy Center, are in line with maintaining public safety and fiscal responsibility, not just saving lives. Rescue groups need to have the legal protection to pull animals from pounds while still maintaining their right to free speech instead of being bullied and abused by municipal employees and having on-hold animals arbitrarily killed.

        Current legislation has proven to be ineffective. Ineffective, arbitrary laws need to be removed and replaced with positive incentives, policies, programs and services the public supports. If it’s explained to animal control and shelter staff and they’re not on board, those employees need to be replaced.

  11. John Conwell May 22, 2012

    I have tried education alone but we’re still trying to get the dogs to not eat the books, much less read them… But seriously… No Kill is not adoptions, it is not spay and neuter… it is 11 steps that have to be implemented to together… Together, but not necessarily at the same time… Although some steps may have a greater impact no one step is more important than the other!

    Most communities need to be able to assess their problems, develop strategies, seek funding and Whoops, SQUIRREL! El Paso conducted study after study after survey for 12 years and yet continued to DO nothing… A recent posting said the US spent billions of dollars and 12 years to develop a pen that could write in zero gravity and upside down and on many different surfaces and withstand 300 degree Celsius temperatures. And the Russian Space Program used pencils… there is a time and place and yes, sometimes even a need for invention but when a proven program is laid at your doorstep and the only real requirement is to care then why not use pencils…

    Having said that. Using old school practices, playing the blame game, passing mandatory ordinances and concentrating on adopt, adopt, adopt is only saving a fraction of the animals… It’s time to break out of the cookie cutter animal rescue world, quit worrying about upsetting donors and start facing reality… either you’re going to be No Kill or you’re going to kill… meanwhile, move on over to the side and blame the public, blame the system, nit-pick and dissect Ryan’s words and watch as more and more communities become No Kill…

    • Rob Leinberger May 22, 2012

      I can only assume you have never been an animal control officer. I suppose if you’re going to say “Mandatory does not work” I think I’m allowed to retort with “No-Kill” doesn’t work either. I say that when I read things like the attached article link from Fort Worth, especially when it even lists Austin, TX as having a problem:
      And if I don’t “blame the public” then who else am I going to issue the summons to?

      • John Conwell May 23, 2012

        Oh, ok, you’re not one of us so you don’t know what you are talking about… In fact I am a Texas Certified ACO and I work closely with the Animal Services. But hey, since we’re making assumptions, how’s this… I’m assuming you’ve never performed oral sex on another man but you know how it’s supposed to be done and what it’s supposed to feel like…

        Blaming and fault finding is too easy and every prokill advocate is digging up the fact that Austin is overwhelmed but not providing the background or especially the history… the rash of natural disasters notwithstanding do you know where the Austin Animal Shelter is located in relation to the city or that the location was protested because it was remote and out of the way. Here in El Paso our shelter is out of the way and lacks signage yet our offsite adoptions are not even close to the numbers adopted there. Imagine if El Paso (or Austin) had a shelter that was convenient!

        But, for the sake of argument, let’s say No Kill doesn’t work and mandatory laws and ordinances do… and we have what, a hundred or more years to back that up? I can show you 36 communities where No Kill has worked, even though they may have had hiccups here and there… Show me ONE community where mandatory spay and neuter has succeeded in reducing the killing of shelter animals… But I bet you can show me numerous communities where mandatory spay and neuter didn’t work because of the public…

        And finally, 90% of El Pasoans DON’T know the city’s animal ordinances… not because they don’t care and not because of the ACO’s/Animal Services but because of the city… but ignorance of the law is no excuse so they get summons written…

  12. John Conwell May 23, 2012

    Mr. Leinberger, while I have never been an ACO I am Certified by the state of Texas as an ACO… but based on assumptions there are many things I have never been but I can perform successfully… for instance I have never been a baker but I can bake a cake… I have never been a teacher but I can teach (I have been certified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools who accredit US Army training) so for arguments sake let’s just say that I can speak from experience…

    The article you reference does NOT discuss the efforts to have the Austin Animal Shelter location be in a more accessible location… and that despite the location they have been very successful at offsite locations but the fact is most saves take place at the shelter, whether it is onsite adoptions or pulling by rescues. It also doesn’t discuss the increase of intake due to recent weather events. The only thing that may have contributed negatively to the No Kill effort in Austin is the same issue we have here in El Paso… a desire to help out other communities (San Antonio in Austin’s case) that can sometimes contribute to the lack of space.

    El Paso Animal Services shelter can routinely house about 300 animals but because of the change in mindset of trying to become No Kill and the intake of animals from surrounding communities, including Fort Bliss and El Paso County they are regularly housing 400 animals with an intake of about 90 per day. With limited rescues and no kill shelters we cartainly aren’t close to being a No Kill community but that doesn’t mean that we will alllow a few hiccups along the way to prevent us from trying!

    As for blaming the public… I put that in the same catagory in my post above with ACO’s and Shelters… you want someone to blame? Blame the legislatures that pass MANDATORY laws and Ordinances without providing thepublic with the knowledge or the ACO’s with the resources… blame the rescues who sit idly by without speaking up… Does writing a summons help? In many ways it contributes to the killing because a pet owner will surrender the animal because they can’t come up with the money to pay the fine, which many judiciary officals accept as resolution.

    MANDATORY Laws and Ordinances provide lawmakers with the ability to tell themselves they are doing something without getting their hands dirty, and then to show their constitutents they are there to help by providing them relief when they get those summons…

    I can show 36 communities where No Kill has succeeded… yet you advocate for MANDATORY programs that have had what, a hundred, hundred and twenty years to work… Can you provide an example of a community where MANDATORY has eliminated, heck, even reduced killing of animals? Just one…

  13. Paul MIller May 23, 2012

    there is no national data bank for all animal shelters, rescues, etc in the US that collects animal info each year… some states do – most do not…. PetPoint data includes about 1/5? of all US animal facilities.
    No kill seems to have shifted the focus of responsibility from the owner to the shelter…. so over the years no kill has gone from – we kill no animals – to its OK to kill 10% of your healthy/adoptable animals.. while creating catagories acceptable to the public for euthanasia…. untreatable, behavioral issues, etc..
    Speaking from almost 40 yrs of shelter experience, 2 things stand out in my mind… one of the things that has not changed is the lack of knowledge about dog behavior by the average owner…. and secondly shelters have done a terrible job in marketing and identifing cats……
    is it really true that in the history of animal welfare no animal issues has ever bee “solved” ? some have gone away due to inventions; ie: the working horse replaced by the auto/truck….
    What if for one year all organizations – both local and national – decided to concentrate the majority of their program resources on the altering of felines in the US….and the next year we picked another issue… you think we may be able to make a huge impact and maybe even save some lives?

  14. Rob Leinberger May 23, 2012

    Mr. Conwell,…So for arguments sake, I can speak from on-the-job experience and training as well. But I’m a bit confused. Being certified by the State of Texas as an ACO, my assumption is that summons issuance would be a duty of an ACO. And yet you have quite the negative response for this aspect of a common ACO duty. As for the article, all I did was read it and share a different perspective. Maybe that area has good months and maybe it has bad ones. I truly don’t know. I don’t live there. But I appreciate you providing some background details that apparently were not included in the article. And yet the challenges still exist. And I think I’ll choose MANDATORY rabies vaccinations as a successful law. It makes no difference to me what you believe or what you think of my beliefs. If you’re working hard and are dedicated to a better community for animals and people, then I commend you for that. I would only hope that you’d extend the same courtesy to me.

  15. Ali Hector May 26, 2012

    Fantastic article Ryan. In tandem would like to add the more euphemisms (“put to sleep” “euthanize” “ultimate gift” “final kindness”)you hear one utter in regard to shelter killings the more cognitive dissonance they have in relationship to the subject. Dismantling the myths is a good start to break down their layers of entrenchment and denialism.

  16. Verjean June 19, 2012

    Well, NO-kill is alive and well in many communities. It is very close to a reality in mine, with save rates in the eighty percentile year-round. It is a large municipal open-admission shelter. I guess those that believe No-Kill is an “opinion”, should take the time to perhaps speak with those shelters that DO qualify and strive for No-Kill success, instead of just poo-pooing it based on “their opinion”. No-Kill is NOT ZERO KILL. No-Kill does not mean that euthanasia does not occur at the shelter. It simply means that NO “adoptable” animal is killed. The benchmark generally used, is a 90 percent “save” rate. The two main pieces of the equation that I see generally as being the MOST important, are the shelter manager and the paradigm/philosophy that drives that particular shelter, and the shelter’s wise acceptance of volunteers. ALL eleven steps are very important, but they are DRIVEN, I believe, by these two very important components. Unsuccessful shelters generally have management which either believes that killing is necessary, or has become apathetic to it. And shelters that are welcoming of volunteers, and invite them actively to share their talents, to foster, to take on tasks AT the shelter, are generally those with very high save rates. Those that make volunteers fill out multiple page, onerous applications, that have narrow job opportunities, that require non-disclosure agreements, again…usually have the highest kill rates…because there ARE NO volunteers, and what few may be there are made to feel they are unimportant, or that if they attempt to improve conditions, they will be let go. In many shelters, volunteers are made to feel like criminals before they ever are allowed to “volunteer”. Our shelter requires a driver’s license and background check, and what you wish to do, and when you will be there. You can volunteer one hour a month, or damn near full-time. When we lost a full time position this past year, volunteers stepped up to fill the duties within the shelter. Our volunteers do everything from meet and greet in the lobby, to washing towels and bedding, to walking/socializing the animals, to paperwork, to helping families choose the right pet, and advising them how to settle the pet in their home, to in-home fostering. If you have a talent, and you are willing to share it, and you are dependable and show up when you say you will…you are most welcome. And you don’t necessarily have to work WITH the animals, as there is much paperwork and non-animal related work to do. Schools and organizations often do fund-raising or donate materials to the shelter. Volunteers will bring great energy but they must be made to feel important and to feel welcome. Management and volunteers…both critical to a successful shelter. And perhaps that’s another perspective…instead of No-Kill…how about SUCCESSFUL shelter. ONE THAT ACTUALLY “SHELTERS”!!! Instead of KILLS!!!!

  17. Verjean June 19, 2012

    Euthanasia…”beautiful death”. There is absolutely NOTHING beautiful about killing a healthy, or adoptable animal. That is NOT euthanasia…that is killing, pure and simple. There is nothing “merciful” about taking life. I have to agree with Ali that continuing to use such euphemisms as “putting to sleep”, final “kindness”, ultimate “gift”…do nothing but make “nice” of KILLING. There is no sleep, no kindness, no gift…involved in killing an animal. Guaranteed, if the animal had a choice, it would choose life.

  18. Animal Advocate October 18, 2012

    Skeptics, please see “Why shelter killing has nothing to do with ‘pet over-population’”,
    a terrific new article by Christie Keith, Oct. 1, 2012,

    “Dear No-Kill opponents and skeptics: Please look up the word “tautology” before you trot out the “since we are killing millions of pets in shelters, it proves the existence of pet over-population” argument.”

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