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Posted by tinako on February 9, 2010

I read Redemption, The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America by Nathan J. Winograd, 2007.  Knowing nothing of this subject, I was curious and picked it up.  I will attempt a summary of the argument, but please don’t discount his reasoning based on my poor recap.

Winograd, fresh from a successful no-kill shelter in San Francisco, took over an awful shelter in upstate NY and made it the nation’s first open-admission no-kill shelter, which means they took in any animals in the county, refusing none, and only killed those who were suffering and untreatable, or vicious dogs.  This category amounts to around 5-10% of admissions, and does not include animals who were old, blind, deaf, incontinent, missing limbs, or having behavior problems, for whom homes were found.  They did all this by reaching out to the public in many ways, instead of blaming them.  When they asked people for help, they got it.

Around 4 million companion animals are killed in U.S. shelters annually, mostly healthy and adoptable, and it is the leading cause of death.  Most shelters kill around 80% of admitted animals, and they blame the irresponsible public for these deaths.  Winograd disagrees and places the blame completely on the shoulders of shelter directors, who despite having known for a decade that the killing is unnecessary, continue to choose to do so for various unacceptable reasons.   He also blames the HSUS and PETA for villifying the no-kill paradigm.

Winograd says that legislation aimed at the public is not effective at lowering shelter death rates.  Death rates increase where legislation such as cat licensing laws take effect.  Effective legislation is aimed at improving shelters, such as NY’s law requiring animals be neutered before adoption, and CA’s law prohibiting shelters from killing animals that rescue orgs want to take (they need a law for that?  Unbelievably, it was opposed by shelters!).

He has a chapter on feral cats where he attacks several myths about them, such as the assertion that “one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.”  A vet in conjunction with a math department say it is probably 200 at best.  I couldn’t find the 420,000 on, but it’s all over the web attributed to them.   Also mentioned is the myth that cats decimate songbird populations – the author traced this back to its source and discovered it was based on an unscientific guess, and that actual studies show it is not a problem.  HSUS was vehemently opposed to TNR (trap-neuter-release) at the time of writing, but now supports it.  I thought it was interesting that many people (myself included) assumed it was sad for feral cats to be homeless, but he points out that they are adapted to it, are generally healthy, live long lives, and are no more to be pitied than raccoons.

What Winograd asks of us, is to look into our local shelters and stand up for the animals if shelter directors are making excuses.  He says the No Kill Revolution will come when  the public sees that No Kill can work and demands to know why it’s not happening in their community.  The book gives a lot of information on wading through the euphemisms and statistic-futzing, such as labeling all their animals unadoptable for petty reasons such as shyness or colds, or failing the useless temperment test.

This book gave me a lot to think about.


One Response to “Redemption”

  1. A chum has made a blog that is working to inform individuals about animal cruelty, specially toward dogs and puppies. He and some other allies are putting a good deal of work into it. We get a lot of inspiration from sites like yours. It’s very sad how some people mistreat animals.

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