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A No Kill USA by 2025 - Not Unless Best Friends and Others Change

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

July 13, 2017, hundreds of starry-eyed animal rescuers, would-be rescuers, and donors filled a conference room at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey to hear Best Friends Animal Society announce their intention to make the USA No Kill by 2025. The conference was presented by Maddie's Fund. We wish we could be excited. But, we can't. We have been down this road with Best Friends and Maddie's Fund too many times before.

Maddie's Fund's largest and most public failures have included Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix area) where millions of dollars were squandered and a string of ongoing promises of a No Kill community there were broken year after year, beginning as early as 2001. Now the commitment appears to be fully abandoned. The story is nearly the same in New York City, where the price tag for promised-but-never-delivered No Kill was about $14 million, and where the ultimate goal for achieving No Kill keeps getting extended in 5 to 7 year intervals. The only difference there is that New York keeps pretending they will get there soon, even as they continue refusing to commit to the real work needed to achieve it.

The track record for Best Friends has been similar, most notably in Los Angeles where they have been kicking the can down the No Kill road for what seems like forever. They last promised a No Kill LA by 2017. And, here we are in 2017. And, it still isn't.

Best Friends and Maddie's Fund have done more than fail to deliver No Kill time and time again. They have also repeatedly thrown No Kill advocates who have actually achieved No Kill under the bus while also working to raise money off those same advocates' successes. There is no better example of that than in Austin, Texas, a community where both organizations have worked diligently to rewrite the history of No Kill success. Ironically, if either organization had had their way, No Kill would not have happened in Austin.

During an Animal Wise Radio interview, Nathan Winograd explained it like this:

"They are only telling part of the story, in order to create a narrative that is devoid of historical reality. I mean, Austin Pets Alive and the leadership of Austin Pets Alive would tell you 'well, we didn't have to fight [ourselves]. But, the larger story is that we didn't have to fight because there was someone else already doing that and creating the environment where the City finally reached out or accepted our olive branch and move in to help the City save lives.'"

Part of the fighting Winograd spoke of was getting rid the former director of Austin Animal Control, who was supported by Best Friend's "partner" the ASPCA. Those fighting for No Kill were quickly branded as "divisive" by both of these organizations.

Maddie's Fund's participation was more dysfunctional. With only one week's notice, Maddie's Fund withdrew support and funding for the kick-off No Kill workshop in Austin. They said it was because of divisiveness within the group. With no money and little time before the event, the organizers were talking about canceling, until other advocates raised the money needed. Quietly, the Maddie's Fund logo was removed from the event web site and program literature, and the event went on as planned and it was a huge success, without support from Maddie's Fund and, in a way, in spite of them. With new leadership at Austin Animal Control and with the community on board, the City announced it had achieved No Kill status two months later.

Immediately after that, both Best Friends and Maddie's Fund began doing everything they could to attach their brands to the Austin success story, even though they were not part of it and actually hindered success. That makes it particularly ironic that at its recent conference in New Jersey Best Friends put a star on a map over Austin, Texas under the headline "We're Making History" and highlighting 350 No Kill cities in the USA. It is worth noting that, according to our count, Best Friends hasn't been responsible for achieving No Kill in any of the highlighted Cities, with the possible exception of a tiny little town in Utah where they have their sanctuary. There is a reason Austin City Council named a day of the year after Nathan Winograd and not Best Friends. And there is a reason Best Friends does not ever want to talk about that. In short, while we would love to be excited about the possibility of a No Kill USA by 2025, and while we would also love to be able to go back to our normal lives, families and work and let them handle it, we know we can't. We have been down this road with them too many times before.

Can we get to a No Kill nation? Absolutely. But it won't be done by wealthy elites at Best Friends and Maddie's Fund. It will be done by those they call "divisive" who are volunteer private citizens vocally demanding reforms at their shelters in their own communities. And, No Kill Movement will be here to have their backs and amplify their voices.

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