Opening Minds, Saving Lives: The No Kill Equation

WinogradI’ve noticed something about cancer. We never stop exploring how to cure it or applauding our progress as survival rates increase.

The death of 5 million companion animals this year is a cancer. Someone stepped forward with a curative formula already applied in a variety of cities and environments, but until this year I never heard his name.

When Stanford-educated former attorney Nathan Winograd’s book “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America” appeared multiple times on the Pet Connection blog, I felt the excitement only hope can bring. Hope is not acceptance or a soundtrack of blame for an irresponsible public, but a new plan of attack.

Winograd’s presentation last Saturday in Chicago cemented this hope and made it tangible. My pre-seminar thinking saw “no kill” as a label for a type of shelter and its advocates existing as protective bubble inside a high-kill environment. WRONG. The No Kill Equation (NKE) involves multiple entities and strategies operating throughout a community which shifts from discussing kill rates to celebrating “live release rates” of 90 percent and higher.

True euthanasia ends suffering, and the true No Kill Revolution involves “returning ‘euthanasia’ to its dictionary definition for animals hopelessly ill, injured or irremediably suffering,” plus a small number of “irrevocably vicious” dogs. (The book provides a detailed look at temperament testing, including the hallmarks of unfair or otherwise ineffective methods. If someone banged on your cage, what would you do?)

As one of many forced to choose death for a suffering friend thanks to food poisoned in the name of profit this spring, I agree certain circumstances require a kill shot.

When adopting two cats in the past four months after visiting several Petfinder participants online and in person, I noticed a wide and inconsistent range of screening statements. How often in our attempts to get an animal the best home, are we denying them a great home? Are we really saying death is better than a first-time pet owner without a vet reference? Better than someone outside the city limits because we insist on home visits? Death is not better than a little uncertainty. As Winograd notes, human life is also uncertain.

A winning opportunity for companion animals, shelter and animal control as well as taxpayers, NKE has no use for outdated, automatic, ageist or otherwise prejudiced labels like “unadoptable” or using “space” as an excuse to kill. As the book notes, “Adoptions bring in revenue. Killing costs money.” Winograd’s presentation included a blind kitty whose ad created adoptions for her and her four blind brothers and sisters the same afternoon it appeared in the newspaper. He wrote response to the ad also “raised enough money to pay for all their veterinary care.”

Before I unintentionally dilute Winograd’s message with my own work-in-progress understanding, please realize to reject his message based on my own musings or anyone’s second-hand delivery would be a tragic mistake. You don’t judge a meal after tasting only one or two ingredients and you can find the NKE recipe presented in more depth in Winograd’s free presentation, his book or his blog. Even when a congested two-hour journey to Chicago turned into almost four hours thanks to construction and a Cubs game, the seminar was worth the drive.

My favorite features of the book and/or seminar:

  • Take a humane history lesson, from the first SPCA in the 1800s to the current approach (Legislation, Education, Sterilization or LES) first endorsed in 1974.
  • Get the other side of the story. Until this week, I too easily accepted false arguments about the No Kill Movement and anecdotes (outlined in the book) where the name was applied to perhaps deflect local criticism without correct application or results. I can call myself a duck, even legally change my name to “Duck.” I am not a duck, so please don’t judge all ducks based on my behavior.
  • Forget stress reduction techniques for those handling kill shots. NKE brings relief to shelter and animal control workers by dramatically reducing the burden of animal deaths.
  • While acknowledging the value of education, NKE strategies work even when, inevitably, the public does not behave as trained.
  • “Humane” laws (severely limiting pets, prohibiting feeding stray cats, etc.) can punish both responsible pet lovers and the animals such laws were designed to protect. Death isn’t exactly a reward, is it? On a personal note, I just noticed the last statement of this Web page for a local humane society I continue to ask for help to legalize adoption of more than two cats per dwelling.
  • My favorite seminar quote: “People select animals from shelters only 15% of the time. If we raise our market share by just a few percentage points, we can be a no-kill nation.”

A seminar attendee told me her story about market share challenges. Rejected by phone by her town’s shelter (where she later volunteered) for being a renter (though she had her landlord’s approval) with an unfenced yard, she drove to another shelter roughly 100 miles away to adopt her dog (special needs because of multiple severe health issues but still thriving with her several years later). How many people would have made the shorter drive to a pet store instead?

Our shelter system saves some animals, but can we call 5 million deaths success? Acceptable? Are animal lovers ready for a new message? History teaches us the best ideas are often first ignored. We cannot afford to ignore this one.


14 Responses to “Opening Minds, Saving Lives: The No Kill Equation”

  1. Lynne says:

    Great article. Nathan’s book was reviewed in the July/August issue of ForeWord Magazine, so the word is leaking out into the mainstream.

    Only one note: if you are going to link to his book, could you provide a link to something other than Amazon? We should be boycotting them until they stop selling dog and cockfighting videos and magazines.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Lynne, we changed the link to Winograd’s book to a Barnes and Noble link. Thanks.

  2. shibadiva says:

    A comprehensive review. Thank you for helping to get the word out.

  3. nora and Rufus says:

    I purschased Nathan’s book 3 weeks ago and I consider him our HERO. I will send for Christmas to all my animal loving friends and family across the nation this book. I assist with rescue here in Iowa and my best friend does rescue and foster in Austin, Tx. between us, we will help Nathan spread the word. All hail Nathan Winograd.

  4. catmom5 says:

    Great article! I am so glad that Nathan Winograd is beginning to be heard. I think I will have to consider purchasing some copies for our local humane society and animal control directors. How do we get the national media to get involved? Nathan Winograd is a true hero and deserves the press more than the Michael Vicks and Britney Spears of this world!

  5. Pet Connection Blog » Pet placements: Judge not, lest ye be judged says:

    […] morning I was really happy to see Candace Shilling write on Itchmo about going to Nathan Winograd’s “Redemption” presentation in Chicago. (On his blog you’ll find the calendar of all the cities he’ll be visiting.) […]

  6. mr_ed says:

    > The death of 5 million companion animals this year is a cancer.

    No it’s not.

    You’re not PETA. You don’t have to make shocking and off-base comparisons to make your point. I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and would rather make the case on its merits than use language that diverts people from the goal and gives them a reason to tune out the real message.

  7. Paul says:

    I can definitely attest to the difficulty of adoption. We were looking for a German Shepherd about 4 years ago at the local shelters. The city shelter had no GSDs because the local rescue groups get preferential choice and take all the purebreeds and mainly-purebreeds. The rescue groups wouldn’t even respond to us. We did find one GSD at the local Humane Society (Austin, Texas). We had to answer their questionaire. When we truthfully admitted that we’d actually put the dog in the back yard for the day when we were both at work, we were rather rudely dismissed as unacceptable.

    We went online, found a good breeder (in West Virginia!), and ended up paying over $1000 to get the dog we wanted. Our dog loves the back yard, but she also spends a lot of time inside when we’re home. And I think we have given her an excellent home. I’m sure others could take care of her better in some way, but I like to think we’re WAY above the average pet owner.

    What’s better for the dog: Being stuck in a shelter, maybe eventually to the death chamber, or being in a good but not perfect home?

  8. PBurns says:

    Excellent post!

    Anyone who wants to read a long summary of the book, I put one up at >> http://terriermandotcom.blogsp.....ution.html


  9. Lynn says:

    Itchmo, in case you didn’t know……Barnes and Noble is selling some dogfighting books. Not as many as Amazon….but…..

  10. Jenny Bark says:

    Catmon5, what a great idea you had. I’m going to order some copies too. First one goes to AC (our dog catcher), next i’m going to give some to local & county gov., then 1 person in different groups. One person who really reads the book will tell their friends. I did this with Purpose Driven, I bet I bought 200 books.

    Our state is trying to be a no kill state, but some of the bourghs,townships & cities, imo arn’t trying too hard. I am going to go to sleep with beautiful thoughts & plans to dream on so I can get started on tomorrow. I love it when I have a plan to work on. THANKS a bunch & hugs to you & yours.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Paul, I understand your frustration from being rejected by the GS Rescue because I am sure you feel it is somewhat cruel to leave your dog in a crate all day while you are at your job. I also feel the same way and as long as your fence and yard is secure and away from intruders, this is probably the nicest life for a working persons doggie. The best you can do is while filling out the adoption form, agree with the Rescue that you are going to crate the dog for the 12 hours or so that you are away from the home during working hours ( poor doggies) and purchase a crate so you do have one in case you need it and then live your life as you would with the doggie in the yard enjoying the life you have chosen for your rescued GS!!!!! As long as your dog is loved and protected and aclimated to your home before being left in a secure place during the day like this, you are being a responsible and caring pet parent.

  12. EmilyS says:

    can someone tell me what “dogfighting” books Amazon is selling?

  13. The Nathan Winograd Interview says:

    […] Winograd, author of Redemption and passionate no-kill activist, is a busy man. When he is not touring in support of his book, he […]

  14. Jennifer Moore says:

    Candace, great review. I found it quite by accident last week, and have linked to it from my interview.

    Jennifer Moore

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