Advocate calls for new model of animal sheltering
Every year, 5 million animals lose their lives at the hands of the animal sheltering establishment. Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, says there is no reason for the vast majority of those deaths.
His goal is to revolutionize the way activists and shelters treat homeless animals, from a “19th century model of animal sheltering, adopting some and killing the rest” to a completely no kill approach. Shelter management, he claims, can and should save all healthy and treatable animals that come through their doors.
Winograd speaks from experience, having guided Tompkins County, N.Y., to become the nation’s first no kill community in his role as executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Currently the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, Winograd speaks and consults nationally about the programs that can dramatically increase a community’s animal save rate “virtually overnight.”
In Reno, Nev., for example, shelters take in 15,000 cats and dogs per year. In less than one year, they doubled their adoption rate and cut kill rates in half, according to Winograd. They now save 90 percent of dogs and 80 percent of cats, he reports, reserving death only for animals that are hopelessly ill or injured, and for vicious dogs that cannot be rehabilitated.
The formula Winograd advocates includes affordable spay/neuter services, foster care for young or sick animals, comprehensive adoption programs with expanded hours and offsite venues, Trap-Neuter-Return programs for feral cats, engagement of volunteers and more.
Winograd urges shelter directors to embrace his proven “no kill equation,” saying it has worked in communities of all stripes. “So if they’re willing to do it,” he says, “the sky’s the limit. If they’re not, they must be replaced.”
It’s that kind of statement that gives some shelter directors pause.
Martha Boden, Humane Society of Indianapolis executive director, says she agrees with the innovations Winograd espouses. She notes that many of the programs he promotes, like pediatric spaying and neutering, outreach, education and foster care, are already in place in Indianapolis shelters.
According to Boden, HSI assumes all the animals it takes in, except those whose owners request euthanasia, are adoptable given enough resources. While more than 40 percent of the animals brought to the Humane Society were euthanized, nearly 60 percent of the animals eligible for adoption were placed in 2006, up from 46 percent in 2003. The increased placement rate is largely due to the kind of programs Winograd proposes, and Boden expects the trend to continue.
“That’s exciting to look at the common ground we have,” she says.
However, she has reservations about what she calls Winograd’s “black and white” approach. She favors collaboration over his tougher stance, noting that the vast majority of animal shelter workers are in the business because they care.
“I’ve not found that the animal welfare movement benefits from name calling and asking for dismissals as much as it does from respecting the efforts of the people who do the work,” she says.
“When someone espouses very black and white views it can turn someone unfamiliar with the issues away from us. It looks like blame assigning. I don’t think we need to do any more to marginalize animals.”
In Winograd’s view, however, shelters like the Humane Society often are not being held to a high enough standard.
“Everybody wants to believe that we are all on the same side, that we should all work together,” he says. “I’m willing to do that. But what if local shelters aren’t interested in implementing the programs that have a track record of success? Are we supposed to remain silent, particularly when an alternative model exists?”
Admitting that not everyone will agree with his premise, Winograd hopes that people of all persuasions will come to the talk or read his book before making a judgment.
“Killing is being done in our name,” he says. “We’re being blamed as the public. Our tax dollars and donations are paying for it. But the price is not being paid by us. It’s being paid by the animals.
“Right now, 5 million animals are killed in the United States. If every city and county in the country embraced the no kill equation, over 4.5 million would find in shelters a new beginning instead of the end of the line.”
Move to Act is a grass-roots watchdog/educational organization dedicated to improving the animal welfare system in Indianapolis.
MtA feels that misinformation, euphemisms and the misallocation of resources by shelters raise a host of ethical questions and dilemmas that prevents the public from becoming a part of the solution and allows approximately 50 dogs and cats to be killed in shelters every day in Indianapolis.
For more information, go to www.movetoact.org.
WHO: Move to Act and author Nathan Winograd
WHAT: Advocating to make Indianapolis a no-kill city
WHERE: Brickyard Crossing Resort and Inn, 4790 W. 16th St.
WHEN: Monday, Oct. 8, 6:30 p.m.
REGISTRATION: Free, and all proceeds from book sales at the event will benefit local watchdog organization Move to ACT, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part of the NUVO Social Justice Series