Silence = Death - Their Deafening Silence, Part 2
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
In the first in this series, we described how, while silence in the face of injustice is a universal theme, large, national animal organizations that profess to speak for animals and the animal sheltering industry, like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS), and Maddie's Fund (MF) (collectively herein after referred to as the "alphabet soup" organizations) continually say nothing when animal shelters needlessly kill animals, lie to their members and donors about the killing and more. We argued that their silence about these pervasive, constant and chronic issues in animal shelters ultimately make them party to them, because as organizations that profess to be the voices of the sheltering industry, and for the animals in animal shelters, they have an obligation to speak out that they are ignoring. They continue to be silent as millions of animals are needlessly killed by the industry they claim to represent. Yet, there is another kind of silence they exhibit that is almost as damaging and that is almost more insidious: They ignore successful No Kill efforts and initiatives that contradict a false narrative they put forward about how No Kill is achieved.
There are two key components to their false No Kill narrative that perpetuate killing. The first is that animal advocates who chastise shelter killing are being "divisive" and are part of the problem. The second is that it takes years to achieve No Kill, and they often recommend shelters put together 5-year, 8-year, or 10-year plans to reach the No Kill goal, even though such plans almost always fail. So, when an open-admission, municipally run animal shelter achieves No Kill almost overnight, (and specifically because advocates in that community complained loudly and continually about the killing in the shelter), these organizations that profess to speak for the sheltering industry don't talk about it.
One of the most recent cases that highlight this point is Lake County, Florida where a county-run, open-admission animal control shelter is currently celebrating its one year anniversary of achieving No Kill. They finished their first year after making that commitment with a 92% Live Release Rate (LRR). They didn't achieve that after a 5-year plan, or 8-year plan, or 10-year plan. It also did not happen because animal lovers stopped criticizing the shelter. In fact, the opposite of both of those things were true in Lake County.
Here is what did happen there: animal advocates launched a years-long effort (5-years, if we are counting correctly) to call attention to the killing that was happening at the shelter. Once their complaints got loud enough, the killing at the shelter got on the radar of the Lake County Board. Once the Lake County Board of Commissioners decided to take on reforming the shelter, because of the complaining, the transition happened almost overnight. Complaints about the killing in the shelter were not divisive. It was the killing of healthy and treatable animals in the shelter that was divisive. Once the killing stopped, the advocates who were the loudest voices of descent became the shelter's most vocal supporters.
What happened in Lake County was arguably the most dramatic shelter transition to No Kill animal sheltering has been to-date, because of its size and other factors. The County did not spend a ton of money doing it. You would think, therefore, that the organizations that profess to be the experts in the field of animal sheltering would have been talking about it all year long. However, they haven't been. They have met the remarkable accomplishment Lake County with a total, deafening silence, with one minor exception.
A blogger who frequently promotes the "alphabet soup" rhetoric about No Kill recently shared a news article about Lake County's transition on her Facebook page. Along with the post, she added the following comment:
"Lake County, Florida, has been No Kill for a year now. This is a noteworthy accomplishment because central Florida is a tough location. The shelter has a lot of animals in foster, and in order to maintain their No Kill status they may need to increase the number of animals getting out of the area. I hope they are able to arrange transports as needed."
She does not seem to understand that a large and robust foster program is a key part of the No Kill Equation. That is not something to be critical of. It should be celebrated. She also does not understand that transporting animals out of the area is not needed, or any kind of solution. In fact, shelters and rescues in Lake County are currently importing a significant number of animals INTO Lake County every month. In her haste to try to rain on the Lake County parade (by imply that No Kill is not sustainable there or that it is not working) she got both of those things wrong.
Apart from that one misinformed comment, we have found no mention of Lake County's success from the alphabet soup organizations. They have also been strangely silent about Muncie, Indiana, where the save rate continues to climb, and where they recently passed a law requiring the shelter to maintain a better than 90% save rate.
Their silence about these important successes is as damaging as is their silence about the killing. There are currently grassroots advocates working hard in communities all over the USA trying to convince their city and county officials that killing in their animal shelters is unnecessary and can and should stop today. With their vast resources, these wealthy organizations could help these advocates by amplifying their voices. Instead, their silence is deafening and their silence equals death for millions of animals.