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5-Year No Kill Plans Cost Lives

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

There is a common misconception about No Kill that is being spread by some of the larger animal welfare organizations: "It takes YEARS to get to No Kill in a community."

Fortunately, time and again, we have seen that it does not take years to get to No Kill. Instead of taking years, it happens as if by magic seemingly overnight.

Tompkins County, NY was a perfect example. As the Tompkins story goes, Nathan Winograd walked through the door of the Tompkins County SPCA on June 11, 2001 as the new Executive Director and the killing stopped immediately. That made Tompkins County the first No Kill community in the USA. And that is why Just One Day, a national day of No Kill celebration across the USA, is held every year on June 11.

The rapid change to No Kill in Tompkins is not unique. When new leadership was hired to run the shelter in Seagoville, Texas, the killing the shelter had been doing routinely came to an abrupt end. Very recently, on January 15, 2017, the Lake County Sheriff's Office handed the keys and control of their animal shelter to the County Board of Commissioners and a nearly all new team entered in the doors. Consultant, Mike Fry of No Kill Learning, who was hired to help the Board of County Commissioners prepare to take over the shelter and its transition to No Kill practices, just announced that the shelter had effectively achieved No Kill when the keys were handed over, or shortly thereafter. From January 15 through the end of February the shelter saved 97% of the dogs they handled. The shelter's save rate was 90.8% or 92% overall.

With all of these overnight success stories, a person has to wonder about the standard messaging coming out of many of the national animal welfare organizations. They basically say that getting to No Kill takes years. Then, they build 5-year plans to get to No Kill. When the deadline passes and No Kill has still not been achieved, they simply change the projected No Kill date to another time 5 years into the future. Los Angeles is a perfect example. They first promised to be No Kill in five years, with the help of one of the big, national orgs. They made that promise in 2003. Now, after the projected success date was changed several times, we are still waiting for a No Kill LA in 2017.

If you simply change the dates from the LA path to No Kill then that same story applies to many communities, like Maricopa County, Arizona, New York City and several others. They promise No Kill in 5 years, then fail, then say they will get there in 5 more years, without really committing to the things that get other communities to No Kill overnight.

The irony is that there technically is a part of getting to No Kill that, sadly, often does take years: Getting shelter leadership to commit to No Kill. That usually requires a significant effort to educate people in the community about the need for shelter reforms. It also requires advocates to become highly vocal in order to get No Kill on the radar of mayors, city council members, county commissioners and even governors, senators and representatives. That is because if the shelter is not currently No Kill, or actively involved in a rapid transition to it (5-year plans don't count), then the leadership there is actively resistant to it and needs to be replaced. That could involve replacing shelter staff as well as the board members or other officials that oversee the shelter. Getting that done often involves a public struggle on the part of concerned citizen-advocates. That was certainly the case in all of the successful communities mentioned above.

As documented in the film Redemption, the struggle to reform the shelter in Tompkins County began years earlier, with volunteers at the shelter rising up to demand change. They complained to staff. They complained to the Board. Then, when they got no results there, they took their message public by writing letters to the editor in their local paper. THAT, and the public outcry that resulted, caused the board of the SPCA to reconsider their position. As a result they hired Nathan Winograd to run it. He was able to walk through the door June 11, 2001 because of the hard work of vocal animal advocates who demanded to have their voices heard, and whose work actually did take years. Their work, however, was not the kind of stuff you find in any 5-year plan anywhere. And, in fact, the primary purpose of a 5-year plan to No Kill is to quiet the advocates who are demanding change.

In every way, these 5-year plans pushed by some of the so-called "experts" stalls the transition to No Kill and costs countless animals their lives.

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