Note: The muzzle on the puppy in the above photo was added digitally. We would never do that to a puppy.
As No Kill efforts around the USA continue gaining momentum, the old, regressive establishment is sinking lower in their efforts to muzzle No Kill advocates. In some cases their actions are simply disturbing and arguably Un-American. In other cases, they are violations of federal law.
Before we get into the details we will say that it is clear that some people are so afraid of No Kill they find the mere use of the term frightening. To a degree, this is understandable. Animal shelters have - for decades - been getting away with putting out glossy, animal-friendly marketing materials, while raking in millions of dollars in donations and quietly killing and disposing of animals en mass, sometimes even the majority of the animals they supposedly "care for."
In the context of that disturbing history, the No Kill Movement has brought much to the table. Most importantly, it has definitively proven that the killing of healthy or treatable animals in animal shelters is optional. The response to this news from animal organizations has followed two basic paths. The path less traveled, so to speak, has been a celebration of the news that there is an alternative to killing. Shelters who followed that path quickly began implementing the No Kill programs that eliminate the need for shelters to kill. While this has been the path less traveled, it has still resulted in a rapid increase in the number of entire communities where all of the shelters are now saving at least 90% of the animals they see. Naturally, that is great news for homeless pets in those communities, because they are now guaranteed to receive the care and comfort they deserve if they end up in a shelter.
Unfortunately, there is a path more commonly followed by shelters: to just keep doing what they were doing; to avoid change; and, in some cases, to shoot the messenger. Some of these agencies are so afraid of change that they have labeled the mere use of the term "No Kill" to be offensive or divisive. Some take it a step beyond that and use abusive or coercive means to stop people from even uttering the words "No Kill."
One of the key founding ideas of the United States was freedom of speech, which was included in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and which remains a core principle today. In that light, it would seem Un-American and coercive if an animal sheltering group forbid its members from uttering the words "No Kill," right?
Try telling that to Metro Denver Animal Welfare Alliance (MDAWA), whose website clearly displays the words:
"No kill," an emotion-laden term for which there is no universally-accepted definition, is never used by MDAWA members.
Before getting into the other problems with this policy it has to be pointed out that there is a universal definition of No Kill. It simply means not ending the life of pets that are healthy or that have treatable or manageable medical or behavioral issues. No Kill supports the humane euthanasia of terminal and suffering animals, or seriously dangerous dogs that cannot be placed in society. The definition is pretty straight-forward, practical and easy to understand. The problem with MDAWA's position is more problematic than that, however, because they are overtly dictating to their members what language they may or may not use. At best this could be described as Un-American because it flies in the face of people's First Amendment right to free speech. However, when municipal government agencies are involved in these activities their behavior is a violation of Federal law, because it is illegal for a government agency to do anything to infringe the Constitutional rights of citizens. It may also be a violation of law for any private organization that receives funding from a government agency.
Constitutional law makes it more than problematic for municipalities, like the Cities of Denver and Aurora or Adams County, who are members of MDAWA and who are, therefore, promoting this violation of the First Amendment. That also applies to any other member of MDAWA who receives any funds from a government agency. All of them could be vulnerable to lawsuits in federal court for violations of Constitutional law.
Some animal organizations take the notion of censorship even farther. Consider the Lake County, Florida Sheriff's Office (LCFSO): They have recently been accused of banning people from their Facebook page, and deleting their comments, for asking some simple questions about a recent report, published by LCFSO about the animal outcomes at the animal shelter LCFSO runs.
In short, the numbers published by LCFSO do not add up. Not at all. They report tremendous save rates. But, if you do the actual math using the base numbers in the report they provided, you end up with a pathetic Live Release Rate (LRR) of only 60%. Apparently, however, if you even so much as ask them on Facebook to explain why their own math does not add up, your comment is deleted and you are blocked from posting any more comments. How can you see that as anything other than the Sheriff's office punishing people for exercising their First Amendment rights, and doing so only for the purpose of covering their own hind ends?
As bad as all that is, the efforts to muzzle No Kill advocates gets even worse and extends all the way to withholding funds needed for animals if an animal shelter so much as utters the words "No Kill."
We recently learned that the Humane Society of Fremont County (HSFC) was approved to receive a grant from the Animal Assistance Foundation, whose website includes language disparaging anyone who uses the term "No Kill." Reportedly, when the electronic grant approval came from AAF, it included a checkbox HSFC needed to mark, indicating they would not use the term "No Kill." Reportedly, HSFC refused to be manipulated in that way, did not accept the terms of the grant, and, therefore, did not get the money. Below is an image from that portion of the AAF Grant Acceptance letter:
Shame on AAF. Are they that afraid of open, honest discussion? Really? They have to dictate which words people are allowed to use? Are, they that willing to withhold money from animals in need in order to suppress open discussion? How can anyone see that as anything other than abusive?
Humane Society of Fremont County, it is worth pointing out, is an "open admission" animal shelter that provides impound services for their community and which maintains one of the highest, verified save rates of any open admission shelter in the nation: 97%. If any shelter deserves funding for their efforts to help animals, they do.
In the end, what everyone working to muzzle No Kill advocates should know is this: their efforts to suppress our voices will never succeed. The harder they try, the more overt their abusive behavior becomes.
If you agree, consider making a donation to Humane Society of Fremont County to help make up for the grant they lost simply because they refused to be bullied.