Itchmo’s Interview With Nathan Winograd


Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption and passionate no-kill activist, is a busy man. When he is not touring in support of his book, he might be writing shelter manuals, giving workshops, or answering emails and phone calls from all over. Nathan was recently kind enough to give up some of his time and grant me an interview. I appreciate the time he took. His passion for no-kill is palpable.


Jennifer Moore: Was there a defining moment for you, where you decided animal welfare was where you belonged, or was it a gradual transition from law into animal rescue? In other words, did you just suddenly decide to leave law, or did it take some time for you to change careers?

Nathan Winograd: I was a first year law student living on campus and one morning I heard a woman calling to cats in that high pitched baby voice we often use when talking to animals. I looked out my window and saw all these cats coming out of the bushes, and as a cat lover, I went downstairs to find out what she was doing. She told me about the work faculty, staff, and students were doing to protect the campus cats and the history of how they fought the University’s plans to have the cats killed. Naturally, they turned to the local humane society naively thinking that saving these cats was within their humane mission, but sadly the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley sided with the University.

Their argument was that since the cats were “wild” or “unsocialized,” they were better off dead, even though they lived in a largely wooded campus, in a good climate, with plenty of shelter, and people willing to care for them. So the group turned to the Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal welfare group for support. And this organization also concluded that despite the care, the cats should be killed. For cat lovers, these views were patently inhumane and out of step with the “humane” mission of these organizations. So they banded together, began trapping, sterilizing and releasing the cats back to their habitats on campus, set up feeding stations around the University and built make-shift shelters and the Stanford Cat Network was born. From a population of 1,500 estimated by the University, there are less than 50 cats remaining and none were killed. The friendly ones were adopted into homes, and the feral ones lived out their lives. And they died old, when conventional wisdom said they should have died young and died tragically.

It was then that I learned that sheltering in the U.S. was a misnomer, that the vast majority of shelters did little more than kill animals, and did so even when the animals were not suffering. I started working with the Cat Network, then other organizations, and despite working as a prosecutor and in a corporate law firm, I never left animal work until I decided to devote all my time to it and left the law.

JM: Can you please tell us more about your background working with animals?

NW: I have been involved in animal rescue my whole life, as my mother was an avid cat rescuer. I’ve volunteered with local shelters, have fostered hundreds of kittens, served on the Board of Directors of a humane society, was Director of Operations for one of the largest and most successful shelters in the nation, was Executive Director of an open admission animal control shelter which created the nation’s first (and at the time only) No Kill community, and have consulted with dozens more, including some of the largest and best known in the nation. I currently run the national No Kill Advocacy Center, the only national organization dedicated to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters which is run by staff who have actually worked in and created No Kill communities. My book, Redemption, is widely considered the seminal work on animal sheltering in the U.S.

JM: Did you ever work in animal rights law? Do you think you would?

NW: I was an intern during law school for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and I did pro bono work for Farm Sanctuary early in my career, but I have not worked with those groups in over a decade. I consider No Kill an animal rights issue, as the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. Beside writing legislation and being involved in litigation against shelters who illegally kill animals and mistreat them, most of my work is in reforming animal shelters without resort to the legal system.

JM: Tell me what a typical day is like for you, when you are not doing work related to the book.

NW: I don’t know that I have had a typical day yet. I might answer about 100 or so e-mails from shelters, rescuers, or activists across the country who need advice or guidance. I spend a lot of time on the telephone in that capacity as well. I do a weekly national radio spot. I write a blog, I am working on a shelter operations manual, I might review legislation or pleadings from a lawsuit, I might review documents from a shelter, and I might do interviews for a shelter assessment, or be writing a report to a shelter or an article for distribution. On average of once a month, I am at a shelter somewhere in the U.S. helping them save lives or giving a seminar about how to achieve No Kill. It varies, but always involves long hours. I work seven days a week, sometimes as much as 10 hours a day.

JM: Why is there such resistance to the no kill movement?

NW: There are several possible reasons. One possibility is fear. Whenever a shelter kills a homeless animal entrusted to its care, it has profoundly failed. And animal shelters fail, as a general rule, fifty to eighty percent of the time. Put another way, animal sheltering is an industry whose leadership mostly fails. Unlike any other industry, however, these directors still retain their positions, are pillars of their communities, and are tapped as “experts” by the large national groups. That credibility, and esteem, has been seriously threatened by the No Kill movement. In other words, animal control directors—fearful of being held accountable for failure—are putting their own interests ahead of the lives of the animals.

The second possible reason is guilt. Having killed hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dogs and cats, convinced there was no other way, shelter administrators are not able to face the fact that the vast majority of the killing they do is unnecessary.

Another possibility—and perhaps the most likely—is the most disturbing of all: some shelter directors don’t care enough about the animals. Killing in the face of alternatives of which you are not aware, but should be, is unforgivable. It would be like a doctor who refuses to keep pace with the changing field of medicine, treating pneumonia with leeches instead of rest, antibiotics and fluid therapy. Killing in the face of alternatives you simply refuse to implement, or about which you remain willfully ignorant, is nothing short of obscene.

JM: What did folks like Kim Surla hope to achieve by publicly euthanizing animals? What was the point of that exercise?

NW: It was nothing less than a shameless, public relations gimmick. The idea was to stick it to the public and put it in their face to get them to keep their animals or flock to shelters to adopt, but it only ended up hurting the animals. As I argue in the book Redemption, it was also unnecessary and an ugly chapter in our movement’s history.

JM: How do organizations like PETA and other kill organizations think euthanasia helps or benefits animals?

NW: I went to a Humane Society of the United States conference a year or so ago. They held a workshop on shelter killing, where the expert giving the seminar stated that:

What we have done on ours is “humanely destroy” rather than the word “kill.” We’re not, we’re not killing them… “kill” is such a negative connotation. It’s… we’re not KILLING them. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death, we’re humanely destr — whatever. But we’re NOT KILLING.

How did we come to be a movement that embraces the Orwellian logic that killing is not killing, that killing is kindness? They can offer all kinds of excuses, justifications, arguments. None of it is true. None of it has integrity. None of it should be acceptable to animal lovers across the U.S. When you deny responsibility for the killing, when you in fact deny that you are even killing, choosing to hide behind euphemisms like “putting them to sleep” or “euthanasia,” the impetus to change your own behavior which might impact that killing disappears, and the task of killing is made easier.

JM: Are there any of the large animal welfare organizations who support the No Kill Equation?

NW: The Humane Society of the United States has never written a single article saying No Kill has been achieved. The American Humane Association has ignored it. The ASPCA has ignored it. Right now, except for the No Kill Advocacy Center, there is not a single national organization that focuses on companion animals that is aggressively promoting implementation of the No Kill Equation, the only proven way to end the killing of animals in shelters, It is like No Kill has not been achieved. It is like the key to ending the killing has not been discovered. The nation’s animal welfare organizations are not promoting the only effective model at ending the killing of savable animals in shelters There are some like Alley Cat Allies and Best Friends, which agree with all the programs, but only the No Kill Advocacy Center is promoting it nationally as the key to ending the systematic killing of five million dogs and cats in U.S. shelters every year.

JM: Why did you leave the shelters you worked with? Are they still successfully using the model you introduced?

NW: I left San Francisco because new shelter leadership abandoned the nuts and bolts programs which made the city the most successful in the nation. I wanted to prove No Kill was possible. And after succeeding in Tompkins County, and surpassing San Francisco as the safest community for homeless animals in the nation (and creating the nation’s first No Kill community), I wanted to help other communities replicate that success. And so I started the national No Kill Advocacy Center, a non-profit dedicated to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters. Running a shelter effectively and well is a full time responsibility. I could not do national advocacy work and run a shelter at the same time. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

In 2007, Tompkins County NY saved over 91% of all dogs, and over eight out of ten cats (87%). Tompkins has had three directors since my tenure, and many staff members I worked with including the animal control officers, dog trainers, cat team, veterinary technicians, kennel staff, and even some Board members are no longer involved. I have not been involved with the agency since August 2004. Nonetheless, Tompkins County NY has now saved 90% - 93% of dogs since 2001 despite its animal control contracts, a record of achievement unmatched anywhere, providing powerful proof of No Kill’s sustainability. While the cat save rate fell below 90% for the first time in six years, it still represents almost nine out of ten cats being saved.

JM: Are you running or working with any shelters at this time?

NW: Although I do not run shelters any more, I work closely with many of them. My latest project was in Reno, NV with the Nevada Humane Society. I spent about six months reviewing operations, writing protocols and recommendations, hiring staff, and recruiting a new director. In just one year, the kill rate for dogs and cats declined by over 50% and adoption increased by as much as 84%. They are now the safest community in the United States for homeless dogs and right up there with cats.

I am also working with the King County Council trying to bring a No Kill orientation to animal sheltering in that community. I am very busy with the No Kill Advocacy Center and a recent lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control for unlawfully killing animals, refusing to work with rescue groups, and inhumane treatment of animals in its facilities. But mostly, I’ve spent the last four months on a national Building a No Kill Community tour, giving free workshops and seminars in over twenty cities nationwide.

JM: Do you now, or do you have plans to, work with shelters in poorer and/or more rural communities?

NW: I have. I’ve traveled to rural Georgia, Mississippi, and elsewhere working with shelters to improve operations. I’ve done free training in similar places, including the Gulf States after Hurricane Katrina. I’ve also brought a free two day conference around the country to make it easy for people all over the country to attend. The next one is in Lafayette, LA in March. And I’ve made free resources available: including a model how to law, guides and factsheets (on the website), and will soon launch a series of online seminars so that anyone with access to a computer can attend.

JM: How can the average person start to implement this in his/her own community? How can he/she educate others about it and garner support?

NW: The power to change the status quo is in our hands. No Kill will be achieved when citizens demand that their shelters fully and rigorously implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, because the No Kill Equation is the only model that has achieved No Kill in the U.S. If people want to make a difference, they can do the following:

* Get informed: Read Building a No Kill Community.
* Be thorough: Follow the step-by-step guide Reforming Animal Control.
* Be successful: Use the proven model of the No Kill Equation.
* Don’t settle: Demand endorsement of the U.S. No Kill Declaration.
* Require accountability: Seek passage of the Companion Animal Protection Act.

All of these documents are available for free on the No Kill Advocacy Center’s website in the “Reforming Animal Control” section:

JM: How do you feel about breed-specific legislation? What would you say to the people responsible for enacting it to try and get them to change their thinking?

NW: Despite an explosion in the number of dogs in the U.S. and their greater integration in society, the number of fatal dog attacks has remained relatively constant for decades. You are “five times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning” and “four times more likely to be killed by a forklift, even though a very small number of people come into contact with these machines.” [Bradley, Janis, Dogs Bite (2005: James & Kenneth Publishers)] In other words, comparatively speaking, it is exceedingly rare.

Despite this, dogs remain heavily regulated: they must be licensed with local authorities, they cannot go in public places without a leash (if at all), they must be vaccinated against rabies, you can’t live with more than a small number of them, animal control officers can seize and destroy them if they determine that they are a nuisance, and the threshold of making a determination that they are dangerous and subject to extermination puts dogs at a disadvantage, even when the facts show otherwise. Together, license laws, leash laws, vaccination laws, pet limit laws, nuisance laws, health codes, property laws, and dangerous dog laws control dogs, in concert with an animal sheltering system built on overkill, that there is little justification to tighten the noose even further.

We will never eliminate risk in society. We can minimize it, but in the case of dogs, there is little more that can and should be done. And, in many ways, we need to undo some of the laws and regulations because they allow friendly dogs to be killed without making anyone safer (such as breed bans).

Banning Pit Bulls or any breed of dog is geared to overkill by definition because—media hysteria to the contrary—the vast majority of dog bites occur within the home by many breeds, with the dog biting a member of the family after some provocation, a different causal mechanism than the false image presented: an epidemic of free roaming Pit Bulls attacking unknown children or the elderly. As a result, a breed ban won’t stop the vast majority of dog bites. On top of that, roughly 20% of those bites are a result of the dog defending him or her-self from being attacked.

And although breed specific legislation proponents like to say that millions of Americans are bitten every year (a dubious proposition), what they don’t say is that, even if that were true (it is not), over 92% of dog bites result in no injuries. Let me repeat, over nine out of ten bites that do occur result in no one getting hurt. And of those which do result in injury, 7.5% are minor. In fact, they are less severe than any other class of injury. That leaves less than 1% (0.08% to be exact) of all bites ranking at moderate or above. I am not downplaying even the death or maiming of a single person. It is tragic. And as an animal control director, I had no tolerance for the adoption of aggressive dogs. But creating public policy—and shelter standards—needs careful and thoughtful deliberation, not incendiary fanaticism that reduces everything to a meaningless debate about the value of dogs vs. children.

I think the facts speak for themselves.

JM: Do you think this will ultimately catch on? Do you think there will be a change in the fundamentals of animal control/rescue/sheltering?

NW: The average American is far more progressive about dogs and cats than every animal welfare and animal rights organization in the United States, with rare exception. Collectively, we spend over 40 billion dollars on our animals, giving to animal related charities is the fastest growing segment of American philanthropy, and No Kill is on the agenda of local governments nationwide because people are demanding it. But at the end of the day, it is not about how much we spend, how many animals share our homes, or even about what we seek. In the battle over the hearts and minds of our citizenry, gaining support for No Kill among the American public is a non-sequitur, because we already have it. While animal shelters defend shelter killing of even healthy and friendly animals, most dog and cat lovers, armed with the facts, find it abhorrent.

The achievement of No Kill requires forcing shelters to reflect our values and battling their campaigns of misinformation and distortion. Most Americans love animals but unfortunately many had been led to believe that killing is a necessary evil and that there is no other way. Until recently, the large, wealthy, and entrenched animal welfare organizations have successfully dominated the national discussion on companion animals, and they have misused that power to falsely claim that animals are being killed because of the public, despite shelters trying their very best. In reality, nine out of ten dogs and cats can be saved in shelters if they innovate, modernize, and being accountable by rigorously implementing the programs and services which save lives.

But until recently, there has been little pressure to do so, as the organizations which are supposed to be holding these agencies accountable, instead are complacent about killing and, in fact, defend it even when it is not necessary. The reality is that we already know how to end the killing, we already have the hearts and minds (and homes and wallets) of the American public in order to achieve a better world for dogs and cats. To speed progress, we need to educate the public that there is a better way, so that they demand better of their local shelter and stop accepting the excuses that have been used over the years to justify the killing.

We have the power to build a new consensus, which rejects killing as a method for achieving results. And we can look forward to a time when the wholesale slaughter of animals in shelters is viewed as a cruel aberration of the past. To get to that point, we must learn from history and reject our failures. Whether we realize, appreciate, or believe it, as history marches toward greater compassion toward non-human animals, No Kill’s conquest of the status quo is inevitable.

JM: I–and I’m sure many other people–really appreciate all you and the No Kill Advocacy Center are doing.

NW: Thanks so much. I am happy to do this and really appreciate your help in spreading the word.



The No Kill Advocacy Center

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42 Responses to “Itchmo’s Interview With Nathan Winograd”

  1. Nora and Rufus says:

    All Hail Nathan Winograd. I have my copy of “Redemption” and what an inspiring book it is. I have taken rescue into my life as a searing, burning desire of committment. Thank you Nathan for your glorious strength of character and enlightening guidance through this journey in life. And all the nay sayers can go kiss a skunks butt.

  2. susan says:

    What an awesome guy !!!

    Thanks for all you’re doing Nathan.

  3. catmom5 says:

    Powerful! Nathan Winograd is truly a man of conscience. I was delighted to read of all the good things he’s doing. Not it’s our turn to get this happening in our own communities.

  4. Claudia says:

    I’ll be ordering my copy of Redemption today. All of the shelters in our city are no kill except the humane society. They get the most number of animals of all. But, even I can think of things they’re not doing that would decrease the number of animals killed. It’s largely a matter of money, they say. I say it takes money to kill. Just spend the money elsewhere to stop the killing. This has inspired me to have a discussion with the new director — after I read the book.

  5. Max says:

    Kudos for an excellent interview!

    Nathan Winograd is a true hero fighting for REAL animal rights -
    the most primary one - the right to live!

    I pray that people will read his book, and come to understand that our animals, and our citizen rights as well, are in serious jeopardy from the AR movement.

    Wake up America - take back control from Hollywood and misguided politicians - vote them out of office!

  6. Merlin Marshall says:

    Thank you for the wonderful interview! I am becoming more and more of an animal advocate every day and this article inspired me! I really want to go to the conference in May in Indiana. Now I need to talk some of the people who work at the shelter I volunteer at to go with me!

  7. Jennifer Moore says:

    Thank you for your compliments, those of you who commented on my interview. Mr. Winograd was very nice to talk to–even just by email–and he appreciates the exposure and support.

    I’m hoping this movement will gain momentum but had to keep my opinions out of the interview itself. (I had to edit some of the questions before sending them. LOL!)

    I appreciate everyone’s support as I start writing for publication again.

    Jennifer Moore

  8. Don Earl says:

    I would have liked to have seen a brief outline of his program in this piece. I suppose it’s available on his site.

    His complacency on dog bites is more than a little alarming. It’s not some anti organization producing the numbers, it’s the CDC. They get their numbers from reported cases.


    “Man and woman’s best friend bites more than 4.7 million people a year… Each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years, and the rate decreases as children age. Almost two thirds of injuries among children ages four years and younger are to the head or neck region.”

    I’m sorry, but anyone who can laugh off those kind of numbers is not a responsible person.

    With that said, his point about the big outfits getting the bulk of available funding is a good one. Small rescue groups, with higher ideals, are typically starved of funding, and in the course of competition for funding, are often the target of harrassing pseudo enforcement tactics used to shut them down.

    In the mean time, I don’t see any way wide scale no kill is possible except by matching supply to demand. You can’t keep pumping out 4-5 million more puppies and kittens a year than people are willing to adopt, without creating a surplus that is impossible to maintain on a no kill basis.

    Last year California tried to pass legislation to implement a breeding ban. The opposition was off the charts and the effort was stillborn. Maybe it was too broad and a little more flexibitity is needed to make something along those lines more acceptable, but it’s the only possible solution to the problem.

    Shelters need mandatory spay/neuter policies where no pet leaves the facility unless it has been altered. And, reasonable limits need to be put on breeders to stop the puppy mill effect.

    I’ve also seen proposals where pets are transferred to balance over supply in one place to an under supply situation in another. I think that makes sense.

    I’m in favor on no kill. I think if a person has absolutely no other choice than to surrender a pet to a shelter, they should be able to do so without fear it will be killed. IMO, that fear is the reason for the vast majority of pet abandonment cases. People would rather give a pet a chance at life on its own, than give it near certain death at a shelter. It’s the wrong thing to do, but it’s not impossible to understand why some people feel that way.

    Idealistic goals are all well and good, but if there isn’t a practical approach that is reality based, all the hot air in the world won’t change anything. Sure you can create pocket communities of no kill shelters, but unless those efforts show up as an over all reduction in kill rate on a national scale, it just means the problem is being handed to someone else.

  9. Don Earl says:

    Thanks Jennifer,

    It’s a good write up, with lots of food for thought.

  10. becky says:

    good interview! i hope we can realize no-kill shelters in my lifetime.

  11. mikken says:

    “Idealistic goals are all well and good, but if there isn’t a practical approach that is reality based, all the hot air in the world won’t change anything.”

    Don, have you read the book? Because legislating morality (spay/neuter laws) doesn’t work. Those laws allow puppy/kitten mills to keep cranking them out as fast as they can and only affects those who were able/willing to do it anyway and punishes the responsible breeders who actually care about what they’re doing. The “bad guys” happily trip along with business as usual.

    Mr. Winograd has proven that his No Kill Equation WORKS. That you can make the public your ally. That laws aren’t the answer, programs are. And that good leadership is what’s needed to get those programs off the ground and running.

    And once you have that, puppy mills go out of business. Kitten mills shut down. The animals in need get homes. All good things.

  12. anon says:

    Thank you Ms. Moore and Mr. Winograd for a most informative article. Well done. Thank you for posting this @

  13. Don Earl says:


    Here’s the basic program from his site:


    He basically advocates spay/neuter and TNR. That’s fine and I agree with both approaches.

    I’ve worked with ferals myself on a small scale, and I’d have to say it was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever tried to do. The resources available to help anyone trying to make the effort are nearly nonexistant, and the ability of a small colony of ferals to pump out kittens faster than you can catch them is like pushing sand against the tide.

    RE: “Mr. Winograd has proven that his No Kill Equation WORKS.”

    Even his own numbers don’t support the claim. 87% might be considered “low kill” by comparison to what is common, but “no kill” it ain’t. If they take in 8,000 cats, over one thousand of them are killed. Since he seems to be fond of visual images, picture a mountain of dead cats outside his shelter that weighs 5 tons. Yes, that’s better than a mountain of dead cats that weight 15 tons, but it is NOT “no kill”.

    On top of that, while I haven’t had time to dig into the numbers myself, the most common critisism I’ve seen of the no kill programs is they increase the kill rate of the surrounding community. Cutting your garbage bill by 50%, by throwing half your trash in the neighbor’s yard, doesn’t make you an environmentalist.

    It is possible to legislate the practices of publicly funded shelters on a large scale basis. It’s as simple as saying, “If you want public funding, you will not place a pet unless it has been fixed before it leaves the building.”.

    It is also possible to place a moratorium on breeding. For example, fine anyone offering puppies or kittens for sale for a certain period of time. Try it for a year and see what happens. I don’t buy the argument that something that hasn’t been tried won’t work.

    Yes, I know the breeders will squawk to the moon about anything along those lines. That doesn’t make me especially happy, as there are quite a few of them I consider to be friends, and I know many of them depend on the extra income to get by.

    The situation is virtually identical to fishing bans, except reversed. When fish populations get too low, you stop fishing long enough for them to reproduce. The commercial fishers go nuts as they depend on killing fish to make a living.

    On the pet over population problem, you have to ban reproduction long enough for the population to stabilize at a lower level. The commercial breeders will go nuts as they depend on reproducing pets to make a living.

    That’s life in the real world and no amount of wishful thinking will change it. Mr. Winograd learned everything he needed to know in college: To control the pet population, you have to control the birth rate.

  14. trucorgi says:

    Don Earl you are wrong on this.
    “It is also possible to place a moratorium on breeding. For example, fine anyone offering puppies or kittens for sale for a certain period of time. Try it for a year and see what happens. I don’t buy the argument that something that hasn’t been tried won’t work.”
    It’s been tried and it doen’t work.
    The Louisville MSN ordinance was voided today.
    Class actions are expected. All those who were cited, fined, paid license fees, had their dog impounded or altered or had any other action taken against them under the voided law are entitled to get their money back.

    “The situation is virtually identical to fishing bans, except reversed. When fish populations get too low, you stop fishing long enough for them to reproduce. The commercial fishers go nuts as they depend on killing fish to make a living.”
    Are these fish owned? No Are pets food? No
    You can and should mandate altering of unowned cats and dogs in the custody of the county/state, you can’t mandate it for priviatly owned animals.

    “The commercial breeders will go nuts as they depend on reproducing pets to make a living.”
    Commercially owned animals are exempt because they fall under the UDSA (Animal Welfare Act).

  15. bodhi says:

    i too appreciated the article and wish to see No-Kill happen in my life time. i work with animals (mine is a positive circumsatnce), and have been involved in AR for quite some time.

    I was a bit confused when Jennifer threw in PETA as an organization that supports euthanasia…….??????? not sure about that.

    look forward to hearing more success stories as time moves on.

  16. Gina Spadafori says:

    Last year, in a legally mandated report to the State of Virginia, PETA reported killing 97 percent of the animals they took in to their “shelter” in 2006:


    State of Virgina report:;year=2006

  17. Khatti says:

    PETA and euthanasia seem to go hand in hand…

    “WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — An official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), submitted nine months after a Virginia government agency’s deadline, shows that the animal rights group put to death more than 97 percent of the dogs, cats, and other pets it took in for adoption in 2006. During that year, the well-known animal rights group managed to find adoptive homes for just 12 pets. The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is calling on PETA to either end its hypocritical angel-of-death program, or stop its senseless condemnation of Americans who believe it’s perfectly ethical to use animals for food, clothing, and critical medical research.

    Not counting animals PETA held only temporarily in its spay-neuter program, the organization took in 3,061 “companion animals” in 2006, of which it killed 2,981. According to Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the average euthanasia rate for humane societies in the state was just 34.7 percent in 2006. PETA killed 97.4 percent of the animals it took in. The organization filed its 2006 report this month, nine months after the VDACS deadline of March 31, 2007.

    In courtroom testimony last year, a PETA manager acknowledged that her organization maintains a large walk-in freezer for storing dead animals, and that PETA contracts with a Virginia cremation service to dispose of the bodies. In that trial, two PETA employees were convicted of dumping dead animals in a rural North Carolina trash dumpster.

    For more information about PETA’s massive euthanasia program, visit

  18. Stace says:

    Don you are also wrong about Winograd’s No-kill effecting other shelters. The no-kill shelters he works with are open door shelters. They don’t turn away people only to have the animals killed somewhere else. They are animal control shelters that take in strays as well as owner relinquishments. In fact, his no-kill shelters should reduce the number of animals in near-by shelters because I would imagine anyone wanting to relinquish their pet would want to do so at a no-kill.

    And true ~90% is not truly no kill but if you were to read the book you would understand that the 10% that is killed is mostly due to the animals being in extremely poor health or truly aggressive animals.

  19. Don Earl says:

    RE: “It’s been tried and it doen’t work. The Louisville MSN ordinance was voided today.”

    I can’t possibly imagine what the article you posted would have to do with this discussion.

    If you want no kill, you have to accomplish zero pet population growth. If you want to breed pets to your heart’s content, some of them are going to have to die. There are no other choices. Pick one or the other. You can’t have both.

  20. Gina Spadafori says:

    “There are no other choices. Pick one or the other. You can’t have both.”

    It’s not a black-and-white issue. Here’s why forced spay-neuter of all pets (not of pets leaving shelters) doesn’t work:

    – Forced spay-neuter does NOT offer targeted solutions to what is in fact a shortage of pets people do want, and a surplus of animals they don’t. (Feral cats, large breeds and mixes of dogs with unfairly bad reputations, primarilly pit bulls). This imbalance is so real that urban non-profit shelters have set up programs to “cherry-pick” adoptable pets (primarily small dogs and puppies) from rural municipal shelters, while continuing to euthanize the unwanted pets in their own communities.

    – Forced spay-neuter laws generally exempt commercial breeders (a/k/a “puppy mills” and WILL NOT affect clueless, careless and greedy under-the-radar quick-buck breeders who sell for through flyers, the Internet or at swap meets or even in supermarket parking lots. These people don’t properly care for or license their pets now, and won’t pay attention to forced spay-neuter laws

    – Forced spay-neuter WILL affect responsible reputable breeders of healthy, well-socialized pets and working dogs. These breeders are NOT the ones putting pets in the shelters. Reputable breeders take responsibility for their animals for life, and will always take them back if need be.

    In the end, forced spay-neuter does not change the behavior of the people who are putting pets in the shelters, or the behavior of the original source of those pets.

    I’m all for solutions to reducing the number of unwanted pets. We are not, however, in favor of legislation that targets the people who didn’t put those animals in the shelters: reputable breeders.

    You are not ever going to stop USDA large-scale breeders (puppy mills). Their lobby powers are too great. You’re never going to force change of the casual breeder — although you might encourage change with incentive for spay-neuter.

    Take a real look at the development of no-kill communities (not no-kill shelters), such as the ones Maddies Fund has been developing. With pay to spay programs for over-represented pets like pit bulls and cats, active TNR and shelters that work HARD to place pets not empty cages, you can significantly drop shelter deaths.

    And Don, “no kill” is 90 percent of pets leaving the shelter alive. There will always be a number of animals who cannot go into a home — the incurably ill, the dangerously aggressive.

    My suggestion: Before you pontificate on what you “think” no kill is, you find out what it really is. Read “Redemption.”

  21. margaret says:

    This is the best article that I’ve read in a very long time. I just wanted to thank Nathan for all he is doing.

  22. Don Earl says:


    Pick up the pets classified section of your local paper. What you will see on any given day is the vast majority of pets being offered for sale, are being offered by breeders. Breeders are the largest single source of pet over population. While some of them may be “responsible” at the individual level, collectively, they are anything but.

    If you look more closely at my previous comments, I do not endorse mandatory, universal spay/neuter. I do endorse mandatory spay/neuter at the public shelter level - as in a pet does not leave a public shelter unless it has been altered.

    I also endorse the concept that periodic moratoriums be placed on breeders as needed. That doesn’t mean they have to have their pets altered, and it could easily allow exemptions for rare breeds. It does mean when there is a pet population explosion, and the kill rates go off the charts, you can tell them to stop pumping out puppies and kittens until the levels drop to a sustainable level.

    As for your theory people don’t want mixed breed pets, you are so far off the mark as to be absurd. The vast majority of pets owned are exactly that. What people don’t want is pets that breeders have spent generations in preserving horrible genetic defects that will affect it for its entire life. When the defects show up, the pets get dumped in the nearest shelter when the owners can’t afford to pick up the tab on the breeder’s mistakes. Worse yet, the health of the general pet population is adversely affected when these geneticly defective pure bred pets are left unaltered and allowed to breed with healthy pets.

    If you can’t put a leash on breeders, no kill is a pipe dream. What you end up with is the kind of half measures we already know don’t work.

  23. Gina Spadafori says:

    I DID NOT say that people don’t want mixed breeds. People love pets of all kinds, and no one knows that more than I do. (Not only do I write about pets, but my own pet family is a little of everything, purebreds and mixes alike!)

    I SAID that someone who wants a small dog (whether a toy poodle or a tiny malti-poo) isn’t going to accept (or be able to handle) a large dog, whether purebred or mixed. Large young dogs are the primary canine residents of urban shelters.

    Responsible, reputable breeders are NOT those you see in the classifieds, in print or online. Those are careless, clueless back-yard breeders and puppy mills. “Classified ad breeders” are no-questions-asked, no screening to make sure people know what they’re taking on with a certain kind of pet, no lifetime guarantee of advice, support and return … the kind of thing you get from a reputable breeder always. The kind of thing that keeps pets out of shelters.

    Puppy mills have always been exempt from forced spay-neuter bills, and the “classified ad” breeders will ignore these laws as they ignore licensing, limit and nuisance laws now.

    You missed my point that just as the problem isn’t simple, the solution cannot work if it’s simply a law to “stop the breeding.” It needs to be tailored to target the reason pets end up in the shelter and the kind of breeders who put them there. And it need to get people to the shelters to adopt those animals, which they will, if a community goes “no kill.”

    The animal-rights extremists believe “a breeder is a breeder is a breeder.” After 20 years of writing about animal issues, as well as running a breed rescue, supporting rescue and shelter efforts AND competing with my dogs in AKC competitions, I know there’s a difference, and I want solutions that target those differences to solve problems, not create sound bites.

    Actually, I think our points of view are not far apart. We’re both for workable solutions that reduce the number of pets born and killed. And I bet you really do not mind that good working dogs — such as those used in law enforcement, or herding dogs, etc., — can continue to be bred.

    Nathan Winograd’s “Redemption” is the most jaw-dropping book I’ve read in 20 years of reading everything about pets. It challenged everything I “knew” about shelters, about “bad” pet-owners and about what can work to help animals.

    Mind blowing read, for me.

  24. Naama says:

    Breeders are NOT the problem….irresponsible owners are. Yes…there are some breeders that are probably not ethical….there are some politicians that are not ethical also….same in any profession. The shelters end up with dogs from people who have basically given up….they do not adequately train or spend the time socializing the dog, then wonder why the dog as an adult has huge behavior problems. The dog becomes more a nuisance, and then is dumped when the opportunity arises, like “oh gee we are moving, sorry, dog has got to go.”

    As to the issue about bites, I do not believe he is trying to minimize the issue, but rather put it in perspective. The vast majority of bites ARE minor. In several studies anywhere between 10-15% of the dogs in the population bite, and we certainly do not see that many in terms of what is reported to animal control or other authorities. Children likely victims? I would state that they are the more likely to be reported. A parent is more likely to take a child to emergency and the bite report, even if it is a scratch, bruise or very minor than they would bother to report a similar injury to themselves. So what is being reported as “bite statistics” is somewhat biased to say the least.

    Currently, particularly in California, shelter and rescue groups do s/n a dog when placing. And from a couple studies we know that probably 80% of the dogs in California are already s/n. So the target is that 20%?? Does that really make sense? Is it really necessary?

    A lot more can be done just by simply enforcing leash laws, which is something so simple, but for whatever reason no one wants to do. We can support animal control, so there is adequate funding for programs to teach dog owners about behavior, outreach for dog care, including s/n. And we can push for having training and educational development for the animal control officers themselves so they can better do their job.

    Lots can be done….but we do not need any more useless and senseless laws that will absolutely solve nothing.


  25. Anonymous says:

    ON DOG BITES: Then there are those that say breeders aren’t the problem; irresponsible owners are. I have to agree that owners are ½ the equation and that the irresponsible owners are the ones most likely involved where there are dog-bite incidents. Ever live next to an irresponsible pit-bull owner? The book you’d write would be titled Deliverance, not Redemption. I am 100% completely without reservation or hesitation in agreement with breed-specific legislation.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Gina S: Care to give us your definition of “The animal-rights extremists”?
    Are you saying “they believe ‘a breeder is a breeder is a breeder’” or are you really saying they are lunatics because they inconveniently don’t agree with you, and are stupid to boot?
    Unfortunately breeders and vets have one thing in common: they both make money off of pets and the more pets there are, the more money they make.

  27. Jacqueline says:

    Pit Bulls have a fear factor associated with them these days, just as Dobermans did 10 years ago. Take a look at these videos of the ACTUAL MICHAEL VICK dogs today and you may begin to look at things in a new light.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Jacqueline: Ever live next to an irresponsible multiple pit-bull owner?
    Try it sometime. You may begin to look at things in a new light too.

  29. Gina Spadafori says:

    Ah, Brave Anonymous again.

    Funny thing about your assertion: I know a lot of reputable, responsible breeders, and I don’t know ANY reputable breeders who make money. NONE. That’s because responsible breeding means top-quality husbandy, top veterinary care, expensive genetic testing and lots and lots of money spent to prove your dogs at shows, agility trials, herding events, schutzhund competitions, etc., etc. None of that even begins to account for the time involved, by the way. That’s why it’s called “hobby breeding,” because you don’t make money. It’s a labor of love. Many of these same responsible breeders volunteer in breed rescue as well, cleaning up the mess of the puppy-millers and back-yard breeders.

    As for veterinarians … wow, they must be stupid to go into veterinary medicine if they want to get rich. They compete for relatively few spots in veterinary schools, study medicine for eight to 10 years and end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt when they get out. If they can find a job, it’s for a salary that barely covers those debt payments and basic living expenses.

    If someone wants to MAKE MONEY, they’re better off investing their college years and tuition in an MBA, computer sciences, something, anything else.

    So maybe it’s that people go to veterinary school because they love animals? Hmmmm … whaddaya think?

    Brave Anonymous, don’t bother answering. I know who you are, and I’m sorry that you still haven’t been able to deal with your loss and your anger. Again, perhaps therapy would be more useful than lashing out.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Gina S: All I asked was:
    Care to give us your definition of “The animal-rights extremists”?
    Are you saying “they believe ‘a breeder is a breeder is a breeder’” or are you really saying they are lunatics because they inconveniently don’t agree with you, and are stupid to boot?
    Unfortunately breeders and vets have one thing in common: they both make money off of pets and the more pets there are, the more money they make.

    No need to defend vets - they have lobbyists for that. There’s where you can make some money.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I really think this is going a bit far. Obviously Gina is entitled to post her name if she wishes, but she is not entitled to threaten other posters who chose not to, for whatever reason.

    Brave Anonymous, don’t bother answering. I know who you are,

    Does itchmo tolerate threats to posters? Or can Miss Spadafori
    do her posting elsewhere?

  32. Anonymous says:

    Britain has gone even further:
    BBC: “Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 four types of dog are banned: the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro . ”
    see reader comments

  33. Don Earl says:

    RE: “The animal-rights extremists believe “a breeder is a breeder is a breeder.””

    I’m not an animal rights extremist, but I do believe that if pet over population is a problem, and it is, then breeders - all breeders - need to pick up their share of the load.

    Growing up as a kid, before these issues were common place, I know from experience a litter of kittens is great fun. Today my cats are spayed or neutered. In other words, I’m willing to do without whatever fun I might get out of a litter of kittens, because I’m not willing to contribute to a problem that is already out of hand.

    Maybe I could get away with having a litter of kittens just once in awhile, then take great care in seeing they are placed in loving homes, and promise to take them back if it doesn’t work out. Would that make me “responsible”? I don’t think so, and it’s something I gave some thought to before I had my cats altered. You know, maybe one litter would be okay before I have them fixed - or something along those lines.

    My view is if the problem is anyone’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility. And, at the same time, I recognize there is a niche market for pure bred pets that isn’t easily filled from shelter inventory. If the average pet owner is willing to pick up their share of the load by not breeding their pets at all, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say breeders should accept their share of the load by conforming to temporary breeding bans when it may be appropriate to do so. For example, y’all keep the boys and girls apart for the next 6 months until things settle down.

    A breeder may not be a breeder, may not be a breeder, but a kitten is a kitten is a kitten. It won’t hurt anyone that absolutely insists on having a particular kind of kitten to go on a waiting list for 6 months, and a lot of those who believe they have to have a certain kind of kitten may find one from a shelter is just as wonderful. Among other things, when supply is on the demand side, there’s a lot better chance of placing pets in homes where they will receive the best care, rather than sending them out the door with anyone having a body temperature of 98.6 just to get rid of them.

  34. Gina Spadafori says:

    Don’t be sillly, Brave Anonymous. I’ve never threatened anyone in my life, and I’m certainly not threatening you.

    What I AM saying is that it’s easy to trash people’s opinions, motives and reputations when you haven’t the guts to sign your own name. Which you do, and which you don’t.

    But this isn’t about you: It’s about finding a workable solution to help keep pets out of shelters and get those pets who are in shelters into homes.

    So with that, I hope to steer the discussion back to the topic of Nathan Winograd, “Redemption” and alternatives to killing for pet population control.

    Jennifer, great interview. Thanks!

  35. Jacqueline says:

    I admire the heck out of Nathan. That man is leadership not excuses.

    There is a nook in between shelters and breeders - they are the breed rescues. If you are looking for a specific type or breed of dog but don’t want to fuel the pet stores or sadly if you have to give up a pet but are worried about the 50%-80% kill rate at most shelters contact one of these small but growing groups in your area on

    One of my rescues was a Boxer /Pit mix. Sweetest dog I ever met. I just do not believe all of them are ticking time bombs anymore than all German Shepherds are. Yet sadly Bull terrier mixes are the majority of the dogs killed at the local animal shelter here. If a breed ban would help I would support it - but I think it would just make this new “outlaw” dog more desirable to bad owners. Europe is so much further along than America is with animal rights issues.

  36. Matt says:

    NO KILL works. Mr. Winograd has proven this.

    If you dont kill any healthy animals, you obviously are NOT KILLING ANY HEALTHY ANIMALS. Simple common sense. By it’s very definition, NO-KILL is effective in stopping the mass extermination of cats and dogs in “shelters”. You dont have to work for NASA to understand that.

    Any so called “shelter” that doesnt become no-kill, cannot call themselves a “shelter”. The term “concentration camp” is more fitting.

    To anyone who supports the murdering of healthy animals in “shelters”, I have this question for you: Would it be ok if someone killed YOU?

    Thank you. I didnt think that it would be. Point proven.

    Stop the killing. Evolve.

  37. Matt says:

    The euthanasia method has led to MORE homeless animals than ever before…….euthanasia (murder without the guilt) does not and will never solve the root of the problem: Cats (and Dogs) need to be spayed/neutered…..this is the only way of solving this problem in a humane way. There is no other way to solve the problem in a humane way. Killing healthy living beings is not humane. Let me say it again in capital letters: KILLING HEALTHY LIVING BEINGS IS NOT HUMANE! When done to humans, it is, in fact, called “murder”.

    Is murdering a healthy human animal a “humane” act of kindness, if you made sure that they didn’t suffer too much? Only a psychopath would think so: “It’s ok that I killed my girlfriend, your honor. After all, I slipped a painless poison pill into her drink….she didnt suffer….thus it was ok that I ended her life. Besides, we live in a horrible neighborhood…my girlfriend was probably going to end up shot to death or raped, so i saved her pain and suffering.”
    Such thinking is insane, yet such thinking is exactly what we apply in the case of animals being murdered, and because of our human animal egotism, selfishness and arrogance, we allow to be done to other animals, what we would be outraged at, if it were done to US or to someone WE loved.

    If it walks like it, talks like it and kills like it, call it what it is:

    But even the strongest shadows of darkness are eventually pierced by bright rays of light, their dark void succumbing to the light of the truth, as the truth illuminates the reality beneath them.

    The forecast calls for sunshine in our future. Rays of light, known as LOVE, COMPASSION, CARING and KINDNESS are scaring the truth out of even the most darkest of shadows.

    The light of the truth (enlightenment) has begun to shine. It shines with groups such as BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY, who are slowly but surely accomplishing their goal of one day making this a world where there are “No More Homeless Pets”.
    The light shines upon NEIGHBORHOOD CATS, and ALLEY CAT ALLIES, who are the foremost experts on the TNR solution, which will one day pierce the cold, dark, deadly heart of the euthanasia solution, rendering it forever impotent. How ironic, that euthanasia itself, will one day be euthanized.
    The light shines upon those who have created NO-KILL SHELTERS, because they will never accept murder without guilt (euthanasia) as an option, when dealing with their fellow souls.
    Why? Because the truly enlightened among us have seen the light of the truth: There IS guilt in killing healthy living souls, no matter how much we may try to convince ourselves otherwise.
    The guilt is there. How can it NOT be?
    It is the very unnatural act of ending a life, that forever echoes throughout our souls, because our soul was created by the very same hands that created the souls of the Animals that we wrongly murder, trying to hide our guilt with illusionary terms like “euthanize” and “humane”, rather than factual terms like “kill” or “murder”.

    So, I ask you, all Animal lovers out there……. please, please spread the word:

    Killing healthy Animals will no longer be tolerated!!!

    NO-KILL Shelters are the only TRUE shelter, or place of refuge, for Animals.

    The TNR Program is the ONLY program that effectively and humanely will solve the homeless Companion Animal problem.






    Animals, like the human animal, are living, breathing, feeling, loving, soul-filled children of God.
    We are all in this together.

    We all get tired, we all get wet in the rain.
    We all experience loneliness, we all experience pain.
    We all thirst for water, and we all thirst for love.
    We are all Children of God, Who’s Angels watch over us from high up above.
    We all breathe, we all play, we all feel.
    We all get hungry and we all appreciate a satisfying meal.
    We are all born, and we all deserve to live life.
    Nobody should be left behind, or be subjected to a dissecter’s deadly knife.
    We all die, and we are all born into everlasting love and life in Heaven…. in paradise.
    Where, as one spiritual family, we all share love, and we all get treated nice.
    In Heaven, we all gather together, one species, one race, one religion, and all of us have lots of fun.
    In Heaven, we all realize, that we all are really ONE.

    We are all one.
    One life.
    One Soul.
    One Spiritual Family.

  38. Anonymous II says:

    Don Earl,

    I appreciated your comments here since they were polite and unbiased as far as having no vested interest in this issue money wise. I don’t think that you ‘pontificated’ at all.

    Now as far as what is called ‘hobby breeders’ being upset by some of these laws, I wonder have they ever lobbied for an exemption based on their tax records getting written into these laws? That should be easy to prove hobby status that way.
    (And, Anonymous, I don’t see anything here that warranted the response you got to your comments. Sorry to see that. I hope Nathan Winograd is nicer than that himself and secure enough in his beliefs to communicate in a more positive way. Bullying makes me leery of people.)
    Yeah, I am anonymous because that Gina is one mean mama! Saw the reign of terror on her own blog. I do think that Itchmo should have stepped in on this one.

  39. Don Earl says:

    RE: “Now as far as what is called ‘hobby breeders’ being upset by some of these laws”

    From accounts I’ve seen, the serious breeders will sometimes spend several years studying genetic charts and bloodlines before arranging a mating to breed pure bred pets.

    By all rights, they should be the strongest supporters of legislation restricting the wholesale breeding of so called pure breeds. Unfortunately, there’s almost a knee jerk reaction against anything along those lines, even though a truly “responsible” breeder would be virtually unaffected by such legislation.

    The puppy mill type operations and those who buy a boy and a girl to pop out an occasional litter for extra income, would obviously balk at any restrictions, but those are probably the biggest contributors to the problem in the first place.

    Winograd’s approach makes sense in places, but doesn’t in others. First of all, dangerous breed issues, without arguing the merits pro or con, are irrelevant to no kill and over population. He’s shooting himself in the foot on a side issue, with a position that basically amounts to endorsing dog bites.

    The biggest flaw is his belief no kill, or more accurately low kill, can be accomplished without supporting legislation. The problem is endemic. It can’t be changed by randomly creating little pockets of favorable sentiment on a hit or miss basis. Model legislation on a state wide basis, someplace where sentiment is on his side, would be his smallest possible target. If he could demonstrate success at that level, with practical solutions, viable enforcement, and economically feasible programs and benefits, other states would quickly follow suit.

    IMO, California would be about as good a place to take a shot at it as any. The proposal the California legislature was considering last year, while arguably flawed, created a lot of awareness of the issues involved. Among other things, it’s an initiative state, so it is something within reach of a grassroots effort. Draft your proposal, collect your signatures, and if you’ve done it right, the people will decide in your favor.

    Simply stated, the goal has to be zero pet population growth, at a level equal to demand for pets. While Winograd doesn’t quite put it that way, he appears to be aware of the fact you can’t place more pets than there are homes to place them in.

    A big part of that is putting restrictions on the commercial production of pets - at all levels of the pet production industry.

  40. Stefani says:

    Re: Gina

    “As for veterinarians … wow, they must be stupid to go into veterinary medicine if they want to get rich. They compete for relatively few spots in veterinary schools, study medicine for eight to 10 years and end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt when they get out. If they can find a job, it’s for a salary that barely covers those debt payments and basic living expenses.”

    Just to debunk the commonly held myth that vets are impoverished — please see:

    According to this, the national average income for practice owners is over $124k. That’s not on a par with physician salaries, but only about 25k behind human General Practitioners.

    Although “staff” vets only average about 75K, many vets own their practices.

    Also, these are NATIONAL averages — not averages for wealthier urban areas.

    Vets who own their own businesses in wealthier urban areas, like the one I live in, can easily clear well over 200k a year.

    I’m not saying 75k, or even 125k, is “RICH” but it AIN’T POVERTY.

  41. Don Earl says:

    RE: “I’m not saying 75k, or even 125k, is “RICH” but it AIN’T POVERTY.”

    Actually, fewer than 5% of working Americans make $125K per year. Assuming a 40 year professional career, a vet would make about $5 million in his lifetime. Maybe they don’t get rich quick, but they do get rich.

    They do have to work to earn their keep, which seems to be the major complaint among vets. Gosh, ain’t it awful. The poor dears.

  42. Barbara Saunders says:

    I also disagree with statement that you have to have “zero population growth” to achieve no-kill. Whatever your numbers are (let me allow for some skepticism about Winograd’s specific numbers), some number of people are always going to want pets. I have a 14 year old dog and a 4 year old cat. I do not expect to have them 20 years from now (maybe the kitty, if we’re lucky!) That’s two slots for animals probably not currently born.

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