Thursday, October 04, 2007

How much animal euthanization is unnecessary?

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control and the Arizona Humane Society regularly euthanize animals, not just because they are terminally ill, critically injured beyond the possibility of saving, or displaying uncorrectable aggressive behavior, but to make space for more owner turn-ins. (Another group which regularly engages in euthanasia of healthy animals is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a group which is very good at getting free publicity, raising funds, and polarizing opinions, but not particularly good at directly improving the welfare of actual animals. On occasion they indirectly improve the welfare of animals when they successfully stop cases of severe abuse.)

Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle reports on the content of Nathan Winograd's Redemption: The Myth of Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, a book which claims that there isn't a dog and cat overpopulation problem or lack of demand for them as pets, but that most animal control and animal shelter operations are simply not taking the most effective steps to care for their animals. Winograd's book and his organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center, argues that by using effective volunteer animal fostering programs and behavior rehabilitation programs, and partnering with local animal rescue groups, there should be no need to euthanize any healthy, adoptable animals. He's not just talking about it, he's successfully done it as director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and for a rural animal shelter in upstate New York.

The No Kill Advocacy Center promotes the "No Kill Equation," a set of ten programs that it identifies as mandatory for any animal control or shelter operation to reduce euthanasia to a minimum:

I. Feral Cat TNR Program

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter

III. Rescue Groups

IV. Foster Care

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs

VI. Pet Retention

VII. Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement

IX. Volunteers

X. A Compassionate Director

I recommend reading the SF Chronicle's coverage of Winograd's book. If you're a supporter of your local animal shelters and animal control operations and they engage in euthanasia to make space for new animals, they deserve to be asked pointed questions about what they're doing along the lines of Winograd's recommendations.

RESCUE, an organization that we volunteer for, is an organization committed to reducing euthanasia of dogs and cats by taking animals from the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control euthanasia lists and keeping them in foster homes or boarding until they can be adopted out to someone who's a good match for the pet based on the pet's behavior and adopter's lifestyle.

(Hat tip to Jack Kolb on the SKEPTIC list for posting the article about Winograd's book. Thanks, Jack.)


Jeff Hebert said...

My wife's very active in dog rescue around Austin, TX and attended his workshop. He's a great speaker, and what he has to say makes a lot of sense. As usual, it's hard to work around entrenched bureaucracies, especially in an area as traditionally neglected as animal control.

The good news is that the message is getting out, and it's reaching a lot of volunteer rescuers, who are directly making a difference. My wife's rescue group has placed a couple of hundred dogs over the last two years or so, and they've never had trouble placing them. They're making great use of Craig's List, as well, taking advantage of technology to help place dogs with good owners who might otherwise never set foot in a shelter.

I hope more people come to understand that No Kill is not a bleeding-heart liberal slogan, but a sensible and rational approach to solving the needs of both the animal and civic communities. Thanks for bringing attention to this, Jim.

Lippard said...

Thanks for the comment, Jeff. Glad to see you here. I'll have to watch for Winograd to appear here. Phoenix has a large number of rescue groups in operation, but there's still a very large amount of euthanasia.

What rescue group does your wife work with?

Jeff Hebert said...

Thanks Jim, I always enjoy your take on things. I think I found you through Ed Brayton's blog.

Winograd's well worth seeing according to my wife. What I find most interesting is his approach to getting governments and volunteer groups to work together, he's got some great insights.

My wife's group is a relatively small one called Austin Dog Rescue ( They pull mostly mixed breeds from local shelters, clean them up, spay or neuter them, give them some basic training, and then try to find a good home for them.

She's also been active in trying to get local governments (county level) to understand how to run shelters in a more progressive way. Can you believe the shelter in Pflugerville (a little satellite suburb next to Dell Computers) was still gassing its dogs as little as a year ago? You had to have an appointment, a police escort and "a good reason" for even being allowed into the holding area for dogs. It was like something out of a bad WWII prison camp movie.