No-Kill Sheltering means taking a hard look at the organizations we trust (ASPCA, HSUS) and a good look at ourselves

Our sweet rescued pup, Mae

Our sweet companion Mae rescued July 22, 2010

In our great nation, an estimated 5 to 9 million dogs and cats are destroyed every year.  That’s 25,000 every day.  One thousand every hour.  Seventeen every minute of every hour of every day.   In the time it took you to read these five sentences, six were killed.

These estimates are from the American Humane Association.  There are no official records or statistics. Our nation’s voiceless, homeless, neglected and afraid do not exist on paper.  Seventy thousand of them are born in the US every day to the grimy streets, dirt roads, urban jungles, puppy mills, back yards and dog fighting basements.  For perspective, that’s seven puppies or kittens for every baby also born here.

Some estimates place the extermination rate as high as 17 million annually.

The problem is enormous in our country.  It also is fixable.

Our voiceless and afraid die in mass in carbon monoxide gas chambers, fighting, clawing, biting, killing and crying for the last thin thread of air.   Old dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, strong and weak, healthy, sick and lame, gentle and broken, large and small all thrown, dragged and shoved together.   Crazed mortal fear, the overwhelming stench of death, hopelessness and a frenetically racing heart are the only things they share.  That and their last breath.

If it’s not the gas it’s a needle slammed through their breast plate into their heart.  They’re fortunate if it finds its mark by the untrained hand the first time, and even luckier if they were first sedated.  If not, searing pain results from either a punctured lung or the acid-like burning in the tissues of the pentobarbital as the needle is wrenched out and they’re stabbed again.  All this happens while they wrangle and twist hopelessly trying to be free.  Heart stick. It’s the name given to this horrific, heart sickening demise.

In December 2003 in Perth Amboy, NJ a woman turned her five year old German shepherd mix into the pound because she moved to an apartment that didn’t allow dogs and didn’t bother finding her loyal companion another home.  The 45 year old animal control officer named William Paul warned the woman her dog would be euthanized on the spot because the pound was already full.  The woman chose to have her dog killed.  Mr. Paul gave the dog a lethal injection, listened for a pulse and then threw her body into the dumpster where it was later compacted with trash on a garbage truck.  The next day a worker spotted the dog nudging her head out of the garbage bag at the back of the dump truck, tortured but apparently still alive.  It was another botched execution by an untrained, careless worker.[i]

In 2008, former workers for the Philadelphia, PA SPCA (PSPCA) reported atrocities of the heart stick method and other euthanizations that were routinely caused by supervisors and untrained workers. Will Delgado was a kennel attendant in the PSPCA adoption center in Stroudsburg County for a just a few months when a manager showed him how to euthanize through a leg vein on a pit bull. The manager blundered.  He shot “blue juice” (sodium pentobarbital the euthanasia drug) in the leg of the un-sedated dog and missed the vein which sent searing pain through the dog’s leg and failed to stop the heart.  After a second un-sedated attempt didn’t kill the animal, the supervisor told Delgado to put the dog in the freezer. He said: “If he doesn’t die from the blue juice, he’ll die from the freezer,'” recounted Delgado.

Veterinarians only perform heart stick euthanasia on comatose or anesthetized animals. Yet Delgado reported that fewer than half of the animals he put down through heart stick were sedated.  Delagdo wasn’t the only one.   Former vet tech at the same shelter, Kathy Krause said she held down a sick cat during a heart stick procedure administered by her supervisor, an unlicensed vet tech. “I said ‘Look at the cat. It is suffering. Why don’t we give it a painkiller?’ He said ‘Oh, he doesn’t feel anything.’” [ii]

The problem is cruel.  And there are more humane ways to die.

There are also more humane ways to live.

In 2001 in West Gardner, MA a Rottweiler was found dead and mostly eaten among about 25 other injured and starving dogs living in deplorable conditions in the local animal control facility run by the animal control officer of three years, Arthur F. LeBlanc, III. Food dishes, floors and walls were covered in filth.  The only source of water for the animals was the drippings from a broken heater.  And all that was left of the Rottweiler was his paws, spinal column and part of his head.  The bite marks on the living, starving dogs, including at least one puppy, pointed to their horrifying impending end.[iii]

These situations are not uncommon.

The roots of these problems are easy to see.  Fixing them can be done with our hands and our minds by simply committing our hearts to it.

Irresponsibility, the “religion” of overpopulation, and the refusal of traditional shelters and animal welfare organizations to embrace No-Kill are the taproots.  Ninety percent (90%) of the estimated 10 – 15 million companion animals that enter US shelters every year have not been neutered or spayed.  About half of these are “dropped off” by their owners and the other half – about six million – are strays “turned in” by animal control.  But there’s way more than six million homeless.  About 77.5 million dogs and 93.6 million cats in the US live in a household. [iv]  According to the HSUS, only one in five puppies and kittens stay in their original home for their lifetime the rest are abandoned to the streets or dropped off in a shelter.  Some estimates – like those from the ASPCA – place the number of stray cats at 70 million.

  • In 1980 before the Charlotte, NC spay/neuter clinic opened, 7,814 dogs were euthanized; in 1982 4,658 dogs were euthanized – a 40 percent decrease in killings, at a 39% savings for the city in just two years.
  • In 1971, the first municipal spay/neuter clinic in the US opened in Los Angeles, CA.  By 1987, euthanizations fell by 58.1%.   Despite their success, in 1992 the clinics were closed due to various factors ranging from earthquakes, fires, riots and financial issues.
  • In 1975, a subsidized spay/neuter clinic opened in Santa Barbara, CA.  In 10 years, 80% fewer animals were being killed in the city shelter.
  • In 1975, the Huron Valley, Michigan, Humane Society started subsidizing neutering.  By 1984, 50% fewer animals were entering the shelter.
  • In 1976, the San Francisco, CA SPCA began a subsidized spay/neuter program.  By 1991, the organization was no longer euthanizing dogs and cats deemed adoptable.
  • In 1989, the Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, NV began a low-cost spay/neuter program.  Performing approximately 60 sterilizations daily, the clinic is considered a model for similar ones elsewhere in the US. [v]
  • New Hampshire began a neutering program in 1994.  During the first seven years of the program 37,210 fewer cats and dogs entered the NH shelters than in the seven years prior. At an average cost of $105 to impound and shelter each animal, the savings on that alone totaled $3,907,050. And the programs spent only $1,236,817. So every dollar spent on the program its first seven years saved $3.15 in reduced impoundment costs.  And to top it all off, all funding for the program is derived from a $2 surcharge on dog licenses. About 130,000 dogs are licensed in the state each year, generating revenue of about $260,000. These funds are maintained by the State Treasurer in a separate account which is dedicated for the sole use of the program.[vi]

The task at hand is one of education, accessibility and responsibility.  People who run shelters or are guardians to animals must take responsibility for spaying or neutering.  The ASPCA provides a simple way to locate a nearby low cost spay/neuter clinic.   If our citizens will not voluntarily do it then our towns, communities and states must step up.  Every animal before being adopted from a shelter must be sterilized; and every elderly, poor or homeless person should have free access to such services for their companion animals.  The stories in Charlotte, NC and NH are just two examples of how these programs can pay for themselves in a short period of time.  The cost of preventing population growth is vastly cheaper than the cost to our pocket books and to our consciences of rounding up, sheltering and killing the unwanted.

In 1999 Business Wire reported that the cost to local governments to shelter and ultimately destroy 8 – 10 million adoptable dogs and cats was over $2 billion.  And a study conducted by the Minnesota Legislature ten years prior to that reported that for every dollar invested in municipally operated spay/neuter clinics, taxpayers would save $18.72 in future animal control costs over a ten year period.  More than twenty years later, the cost of irresponsibility must be an order of magnitude greater.  Picture this:

  • An unspayed cat, her mate, and all their offspring, producing 2 litters per year with 2.8 surviving kittens per year can total 11,606,077 cats in only 9 years.
  • An unspayed female dog, her mate and all of their puppies if none are neutered or spayed, add up to 67,000 dogs in 6 years. [vii]

Boots, rescued and fostered throgh the Animal Rescue League of Boston

A dog has a 15% – 25% chance of being claimed from a kill shelter.  A cat has virtually none.   Licensing and leash laws in our communities need to apply equally to dogs and cats, and licensing fees for unsterilized companion animals must be higher.  Higher fees for the unsterilized not only incentivize accountability for spay/neutering, they reflect the higher cost that population growth has on a community.

Seventy million stray cats; the number is mind boggling.  In my tiny, affluent, and well-educated community of 20,000 people our little local shelter is always full with cats.  And they’re always catching, sterilizing, vaccinating and releasing our town’s feral felines.  Fixing this problem should not rest on the shoulders of our no-kill shelter’s devoted volunteers. Accountability must reside with the cat’s guardian.

Today, the weight of millions of neglected and unwanted animals crushes a scattering of 5,000 (ASPCA estimated) underfunded or overwhelmed animal shelters and their staff.

It will continue to crush our souls until we decide to change our minds.

We must teach our children the difference between owning things and caring for lives.  It’s the fundamental, stark difference between owning a pet and being a guardian of one’s loyal, loving companion.  We cannot drop off our pet like a used sofa when we decide not to take the belonging with us on a move to a new house.  We can’t chain her to a tree and forget it like a bicycle.  We can’t dump him in a field or on a street or in a shelter because we just don’t want him anymore.  The mindset of ownership of things is the mindset that allows shelter killing to continue.  The guardianship mind is one that honors lives and fosters compassion and sanctuary for life of even the accidental and unwanted.

Bradlee rescued from a high-kill Georgia shelter with hours left to live.

Changing the way you speak with your children and in your community changes the way we think and perceive and feel.   A father teaches his son to respect his mother and to one day be a kind, gentle, compassionate husband by the words chooses.  The same rule applies to our companion animals.    We can create a compassionate culture of guardians and animal welfare stewardship by simply fostering the idea that all life is to be honored.  And once this belief is embraced, killing of the innocent, savable and adoptable will no longer be considered acceptable.

In teaching humanity to our children we will teach ourselves.  And, we will forever change our culture and our world.

The ASPCA and the Humane Society (HSUS) are in the dog house.

Saving animals is being blocked by the ASPCA and HSUS.  Even independent shelters are reluctant to disclose euthanasia figures.

Lucy found her forever family though a local no-kill shelter

Here’s what large organizations like the ASPCA and the HSUS (Humane Society of the US) , and traditional (kill) shelters do not want you to know.

The HSUS, one of the wealthiest animal related organizations in the world with a reported army of lobbyists, has blocked “no-kill” legislation and anti gas-chamber policies – like the most recent 2011 Hope’s Law in Texas. Further, it is well reported that only one half of one percent of the $100 million dollars donated annually to the HSUS actually makes it to the animals they’re supposed to save, and that they have some of the fanciest facilities, largest budgets, and fattest pensions, but no actual animal shelters. [viii]

The HSUS also has been instrumental in stalling the progress of Maddie’s Fund.  Maddie’s Fund, is a charitable foundation that encourages shelters nationwide – through grants and other means – to put their adoption and euthanasia rates online in standardized formats (based on the Asilomar Accords).  It is the mission of Maddie’s Fund (created by Peoplesoft founder David Duffield) to move us to a No-Kill nation where every healthy, treatable and manageable dog and cat is saved.

The ASPCA is in that same dog house.  The ASPCA operates only one animal shelter in NY city.  Said another way, all those local SPCAs you think you’re donating to by sending a check to the ASPCA get squat. The  State Humane Association of California, which represents more than 100 animal welfare organizations statewide, filed a formal complaint with the state Attorney General against the ASPCA over name confusion saying that people mistakenly think that the donations they give to the ASPCA will make it to their local shelters and as a result the local shelters are missing out on much needed funds.  The State Humane Association of California alleges that the ASPCA raised $116.5 million in 2009, but only a paltry one-third of one percent ($352,100) reached California last year.[ix]  The ASPCA doesn’t deny the figure, they just spin it as almost $1MM over four years – which includes what they haven’t yet given California shelters this year.  (Sounds a little like Wimpy gladly pledging payment on Tuesday for that hamburger today.)

The ASPCA also defends themselves by citing the $7 million in grant money it gave across the US and its territories last year.  But in a moment you’ll find out what city’s politicos were greased with over $5 million of it.

Oreo, the inspiration for Oreo's Law

In addition to misleading fund raising tactics, the ASPCA has been at the center of controversy surrounding their opposition to animal welfare legislation and No-Kill policies too.  Like HSUS, they were instrumental in blocking Texas’s recent Hope’s Law.  Another recent and heated debate has been around Oreo’s Law in NY – which they and the Maddie’s Fund-funded Mayor’s Alliance were successful in shooting down.  Oreo’s Law is named after the dog, Oreo, that the ASPCA NY shelter (the only one they operate) euthanized despite numerous offers by rescue groups to save her.

To get to the heart of the matter on opposition by the ASPCA and the Mayor’s Alliance to such legislation, you need to follow the money, the self-preservation and the pride.  Oreo’s Law, if passed, would have forever memorialized the ASPCA’s guilt (and that of its head, Ed Sayers) over Oreo’s death and stripped the ASPCA of power.  So the ASPCA needed the Mayor’s Alliance to help block the law.  The Mayor’s Alliance wields a tremendous amount of power too, with tens of millions of dollars flowing through the hands of its chief, Jane Hoffman. Her group has received over $5.25 million from ASPCA and Sayers (there’s that hunk of that $7 million we promised you), and over $13 million to date from Maddie’s Fund.  As the Maddie’s Fund money dries up, the Mayor’s Alliance and Hoffman’s role in it – as the boss who gets to decide what animal welfare organizations can rescue death row animals from city shelters – can’t survive without additional ASPCA grants. In addition, if Oreo’s Law (or some semblance of it) passed then legitimate non-profit grassroots animal rescues would have both a legal right to operate without her certification, and a claim to power in the humane movement that has long been consolidated in the hands of the power mongers like the ASPCA, Mayor’s Alliance, HSUS, and Sayers, Hoffman and Wayne Pacelle (CEO of HSUS). [x]

Click the above graphic to watch the ABC special report

Now you may think at least Maddie’s Fund is involved and the city shelter has some cash to help the animals.  Think again.  A November 2010 ABC Eyewitness Investigation uncovered gross neglect causing sickness and more euthanasia at city’s animal control.  And the reason for the neglect:  $1.5 million dollars in budget cuts over the last two years.   The deafening silence of Maddie’s Fund on the atrocity and the fleecing of their millions of dollars in aid by the Mayor’s Alliance is shameful.

This story and others like it permeate the animal welfare movement.  To become educated on it, I highly suggest you read the writings of reputable and entrenched animal welfare activists like Nathan J. Winograd, a former director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA.

Not only do the big guns struggle with embracing the no-kill movement, the independent, traditional shelters do too.  A story reported in 2009 in Tampa Bay, Florida reveals that of the 11,381 dogs and cats taken in the previous year by the local SPCA, they adopted out 47% (5,304) and destroyed 40% (4,500) many of whom were adoptable, although the Tampa SPCA shelter originally reported that its annual live release rate was 99.98%.  One of the drivers of this high rate is their practice of killing treatable animals (like those with kennel cough, eye infections or mange) and those that aren’t house-broken.  They also routinely destroy all kittens based solely on their age (but don’t have to count them as deaths under  the Asilomar Accords if they’re younger than 8 weeks).  And, what about the other 13% (1,577 animals) unaccounted for?  Apparently they are administratively missing – a common occurrence – and the fate of another 370 animals in December 2008 and January 2009 alone at this shelter.[xi]

So why the secrecy?  Money.  “There’s been a lot of fear that if the public understands what the performance is at their local facilities, they’ll be angry, or critical donations will drop off,” said Rich Avanzino (now Maddie’s Fund president), who ran San Francisco’s SPCA for 23 years, bringing its euthanasia rates down to the lowest of any city in the nation. [xii]

Traditional, local shelters march to two competing drummers.  They have the task of raising money – a lot of which comes from individual and corporate donations.  Donors naturally do not want to see high kill rates.  Yet these same shelters go after large government contracts from state and local municipalities to operate the community animal shelters.  They are contractually obligated to take in all animals – whether owner-surrenders or animal officer round-ups.  The number of animals they get is large and many of them need medical attention or rehabilitation before becoming adoptable.  Because animals do not become healthy overnight, and can actually become sick in the shelter, and the cost to heal them can be high, the shelters adopt a fatalist attitude.  They use the “religion” of overpopulation – blaming the situation on careless guardians as they proceed to destroy the animals.  The first step in implementing no-kill in these shelters is for leadership to make the simply elegant choice that they are not going to kill.

Also worth noting is that animals are still sold by shelters for laboratory research. Neither Maddie’s Fund nor the Asilomar Accords provide for the tracking of lives lost to research labs.  (They could simply be called “administratively missing”.)  Seventeen states have banned this practice (along with several European countries) but two states (Minnesota and Oklahoma) actually require shelters to sell unclaimed animals to any laboratory that requests them.  (The claim period is typically five days.) The other 30 states silently permit it to occur.  This is a deplorable practice that should be banned in our country and until then, tracked and reported by shelters. (See Note at the end for a list of states with bans.)

Traditional (kill) shelters need to collaborate with no-kill rescue groups and look beyond their own ego.  Today many of them shut out rescue groups to hide their guilt over the poor living conditions and disregard the animals get.  The result of their ownership (not guardianship) mind:  more and more adoptable animals die.  Embracing guardianship means having shelters that welcome visitors with convenient adoption hours and positive experiences.  They need to have “mobile” adoption services where animals are taken to places where people can meet and greet them.  They need to embrace foster programs and the help of willing volunteers.   They need community outreach which helps people fix unwanted behaviors in their companion animals that could result in owner surrenders.  They need to reduce intakes (as noted above) through no / low cost spay and neutering services.  They need to provide prompt medical care to their animals.  But bottom line:  they need to adopt, live and breath the fundamental belief that killing is not an option.  And once they do so, they can clearly see the mathematical truth.  That no-kill is achievable by simply growing the number of households adopting pets from shelters by just 3% – 5%.

So where did the 9 million number come from at the opening of this article?

Our beloved Zeus (aka "Whoops")

The answer is:  a few places.

The numbers of cats and dogs entering shelters and being killed there are tough to determine.  The ASPCA has issued widely moving targets between 2003 and 2007.  In 2003 they estimated shelter admissions to range from 8-12 million and euthanasia to range from 5-9 million (a killing of 42% to 100% of the animals received.)  Just four years later they dramatically (and curiously) reduced intake reports to 5-7 million (a reduction of approximately 40%) and adjusted corresponding euthanasia estimates to 42% to 80% of those numbers.

What makes this reduction in intakes especially curious is that the animal population at large has not reduced according to ASCPA reports.  So why would the intakes have decreased if the population (70 million stray cats, for example) has not?  They’re also not reporting an increase in adoption rates over that same period; it has remained steady at 25%.  A higher adoption rate could at least explain the percentage reduction in deaths.

One place the 9 million came from is the high end estimate given by the ASPCA in 2003 – a time period just before the pressure for euthanasia reporting gained momentum with Maddie’s Fund and the Asilomar Accords.  (The first voluntary annual reports of euthanasia from shelters began to trickle in for years 2004 – 2007).

In 2007 the ASPCA changed its euthanasia estimate to 3-4MM. This change may have been based on their zeal with one Michigan study that determined state euthanasia rates as a percentage of dogs and cats in Michigan households and then extrapolated that percentage to the entire country.  This approach is flawed. Numerous variables (acknowledged by the study) make such extrapolation a wide-swinging reach. But more importantly the premise of the approach is that euthanasia and household animal populations are proportional: as the number of households with dogs and cats increase (due to rising adoption rates) so would the number of euthanizations.  Yet logic tells us that the more we adopt homeless animals the fewer will be destroyed.  And in fact, using today’s statistics of the number of dogs and cats in households with the data and premise from the 2007 Michigan study, the euthanasia estimate would be 5-7 million.

There are other dated but more reliable statistics to use.

Six studies quoted in the same Michigan study noted above place the range of euthanized companion animals at 7 – 17 million.

The American Humane Association (AHA) is one of the founding members of the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.  It is the Council’s mission to gather and analyze reliable data on dogs and cats in the US.  The available statistics date back to 1997 and came from 1,000 shelters which responded to the Council’s survey.  At the time, the AHA believed there to be roughly 3,500 shelters.

The ASPCA estimates the number of shelters today to be about 5,000.  ( lists over 13,000.)  Using the conservative figures we can reasonably draw some present day estimates based on the 1997 survey of 1,000 shelters.  (Essentially by multiplying the data from the 1,000 shelters by 3.5 or 5).

1997 Survey statistics:

Of the 1,000 shelters that replied to the National Council’s 1997 survey, 4.3 million animals were handled.

Roughly 64% of the total 4.3 million that entered the shelters were euthanized – approximately 2.7 million in just these 1,000 shelters.  (Fifty-six percent of those euthanized were dogs and 71% were cats.) [xiii]

Using these two statistics we can estimate that the number of dogs and cats entering shelters today is between 15.1 – 21.5 million and the number of animals destroyed figures between 9.5 million and 13.5 million.

A word from the heart…  

Gracie and Lula with their Mama

I was inspired to write this piece after meeting Quentin and then reading his story in the span of one night.   Quentin, named after San Quentin, is the dog who in St. Louis Missouri on August 5, 2003 survived the gas chamber.  The chamber door was opened to extract the dead after the usual 15 minutes of carbon monoxide gassing, and Quentin emerged sitting upright on top of seven dead dogs.  The shelter called Randy Grim, founder of the no-kill Stray Rescue organization.  And overnight, Quentin became the miracle dog who – through Randy – now speaks for dogs on death row and ensures that his seven cell mates and the countless, nameless others did not die in vain.

I urge you to pick up the book.  It is a fast, enlightening read that will make you cry and laugh and most importantly, open your eyes much wider.  I have incorporated a tidbit or two of Quentin’s story, Miracle Dog, here in hopes that my critical review will urge you to read his story and to act. And I have written this piece alongside my little stray rescue, Mae, who reminds me every day of the simple choice we have in this life: to live fully or to let die.  I can no longer let die.

About the Author

Amy Renz-Havens is the President and Founder of Goodness Gracious, LLC.  Based in Massachusetts, Goodness Gracious makes 100% human grade healthy dog treats and gives 51% of its profits to local shelters and rescues in communities where its treats are sold.  Goodness Gracious products are available in upscale pet supply stores and grocers in 20 states and online at

[i],,, Randy Grim, Miracle Dog, How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row, Alpine Publicatons.  Loveland CO.  2005.

[ii] Beth Brelje, Former employees report heart stick horrors. Pocono Record.  December 21, 2008.

[iii] The Worcester Telegram, Feb 6, 2001. The Boston Herald February 7 and 13, 2001. The Associated Press Feb, 12, 2001. Randy Grim, Miracle Dog, How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row, Alpine Publicatons.  Loveland CO.  2005.

[iv]Humane Society of the United States, US Pet Ownership Statistics, Dec 30, 2010. Sourced from

[v] Elizabeth Forel, “Spay/Neuter Fact Sheet.” March 1999. Shelter Reform Action Committee.  Randy Grim, Miracle Dog, How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row, Alpine Publicatons.  Loveland CO.  2005.

[vi] Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, “No More Homeless Pets:  New Hampshire Program Summary.”

[vii] Elizabeth Forel, “Spay/Neuter Fact Sheet.” March 1999. Shelter Reform Action Committee.

[viii] The Humane Watch Team.  Unpacking the HSUS Gravy Train (2010 Edition). October 20, 2010. and

[ix] The Humane Watch Team, California SPCAs Snarl at Name Confusion, May 5, 2011. .  Nancy Kerns, Animals in the House: Animal Welfare Groups Fighting Each Other? May 11, 2011.

[x] Nathan J. Winograd, Power to the People. February 13, 2010.

[xi] Kris Hundley, Is SPCA Tampa Bay a no-kill shelter? Not really. St. Petersburg Times. August 14, 2009.

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] American Human Association.  “Animal Shelter Euthanasia”

The states that have banned pound seizures of shelter animals for laboratory research are: Washington, D.C., California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia

About Amy Renz

Amy is the CEO and Pack Leader of Goodness Gracious, LLC ( and we save lives. We make healthy 100% human-grade, USDA certified, USA sourced dog and cat treats, and give 51% of our profits to local animal shelters, rescues and spay/neuter programs in communities where our treats are sold. Our products include single-ingredient jerky and gluten free biscuits that pets love, and parents love to give. Amy is a Marathoner, a slalom skier, but first a parent to her pack of three beautiful canines. Find us on Facebook at Twitter @Goodnssgracious
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7 Responses to No-Kill Sheltering means taking a hard look at the organizations we trust (ASPCA, HSUS) and a good look at ourselves

  1. Viva says:

    I was not aware of the issues with the ASPCA..I guess I was naive. I believe in no-kill animal shelters. I do not know how to remove them from my group section. This was an informatvie article

  2. Thank you for writing this, it has been eye opening even for someone that knows the harsh reality of shelter euph rates.

  3. Rena says:

    Nathan Winograd has been my hero for a few years now. Have you read the book “Redemption”? It is possible to for the nation to go no-kill. What’s important is to make sure that more people know about it to help the change come. Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I plan on sharing it with everyone I can!

  4. Karen says:

    I believe in supporting the local grass routes efforts of saving dogs. I will not give one dime to the big groups, because it goes to salary not the animals. I am constantly on facebook re-posting dogs that need to get to safety. I run a small little online dog toy store and I try to give back to the local rescues. In fact you can find on my website currently the campaign that I have been running to raise money for dogs in danger which is a national website where shelters can put in the dogs they have this is one of the last lines of defense for these dogs to get found and get to safety.

    Until we put the mills out of business and regulate the breeding practices how many litters a year and how long a female can be bred, not much is going to change.

  5. Pingback: Confessions of a Chronic Leash-Law Breaker | Dirty Popcorn

  6. AmyRenz says:

    Author’s Note: I recently received a critique on this blog post in a LinkedIn Forum (called Dog’s Deserve Better). The critique called my blog post “poorly annotated” “probably misleading” and harsh of animal control officers. Because that Linked-In forum only allows very brief comments, I have put my reply here.

    “Poorly researched and annotated,” you say?

    My tukos. There are 13 footnote annotations referencing 23 sources. Then there are 27 links in the article referencing those and still more sources. If you would like a reference for something in the article, just simply be specific in your request and I will answer it.

    The rest of your criticism I will happily encourage in a spirited debate.

    I’ve looked for sources outside of the ASPCA for current kill rates. The ASPCA doesn’t annotate theirs and neither does anyone else. In fact I couldn’t find a single current annotated estimate. And I’m not about to take the ASPCA on its word – for reasons the article should clearly delineate. For every lower estimate there is a higher one. The most outrageous one I recently heard was 2.4 Billion (with a B) in the US alone. That one came from the Animal Protection VP of the American Humane Association (the oldest animal welfare organization in the country). Now 2.4 billion is more than 1/3 of the world population and twice the population of China. That’s just crazy and not worth considering, but here’s the annotation for it: (read it here: or listen to it here:

    Nathan Winograd is a good source for information. He was the Director of Operations for the San Francisco SPCA under Rich Avanzino’s 23-year watch and integral in achieving No-Kill in that massive urban shelter. He also turned Tompkins County in rural upstate NY into No-Kill – proving that No-Kill is achievable regardless of landscape, population density, or the price of bananas. The only prerequisite is leadership that commits to No-Kill. Winograd puts the number somewhere around 5 million. And my article includes that number on the low end range. I’ve asked Mr. Winograd for his source for that number, but have not received his reply.

    There are motivations for low and high estimates on both sides of the No-Kill movement. Advocates of No-Kill want a number they can swallow because it doesn’t make the problem look insurmountable and deter potential converts to the mission. A 5 million figure means that we can save every adoptable animal with just a 3% increase in the 170 million American households with a dog or cat. Today, only about 25% of families are getting their companions via shelter adoptions. So moving that number seems really achievable. All these statistics, figures and estimates can be found by reading Mr. Winograd’s blog ( or either of his two books, Redemption and Irreconcilable Differences. ( They are enlightening and I suggest adding them to your reading list.

    Any organization that chases donations may be motivated for a lower estimate too because no one wants to donate to a group that kills.

    On the other side of the debate are many who think No-Kill is impossible, and who actually may be threatened by it. You read about this in the article. The bigger they make the problem appear and the more they can blame it on irresponsible pet owners causing over-population the less accountable they can be for the killing. Truth is, I agree with Mr. Winograd. I’ve come to think of over-population as senselessness. How can there be such a surplus when pet stores and puppy mills make money trading in lives?

    I offered the sources and the logic for the upper end of the estimate I used (9 million). Anyone is welcome to disagree with it. It’s based on extrapolation of older statistics which I described in the article. I used the number because (1.) it was the only figure I could find that was actually based on annotated findings and statistical data and (2.) I think the lower figures may exclude whole populations of animals that are killed at shelters (or otherwise disposed of) but unrecorded. Read a few of Mr. Winograd’s blog posts and you’ll see what I mean. Stories of full-term mothers being spayed, her viable babies taken out of the womb and injected with Fatal Plus (sodium pentobarbital). Those babies are not included in shelter statistics. Or how about ALL the kittens and puppies under 8 weeks of age that are either born into or taken in by a shelter? Their lives and deaths don’t count because some senseless people agreed to it. It’s call the Asilomar accords which also is annotated in the article I wrote.

    Frankly whether the number is 5 million or 9 million (a 3% or a 5+% needed increase in 170 million households) or something higher or lower makes little difference to me. I still can’t sleep at night. I still weep for the hundreds of sad, scared faces that come across my Facebook page everyday. And I still celebrate those stories of a life chosen by a happy home, a kind caretaker, a generous spirit, although they don’t come to me as often.

    As for animal control officers, those who commit themselves to No-Kill are heroes in my book. So perhaps I should have said that louder and more clearly. Point taken. I know Betsy, the animal control officer in my town’s No-Kill shelter. She and the wonderful volunteers there have glorious hearts. The actions of the two animal control officers I mentioned in my article (in NJ and NY) were abominable. They deserved the convictions they got. And I absolutely did NOT correlate their actions to any other officers in whole or in part.

    This quote has been misattributed and varied over the years but I like it still the same. It hung on the wall of my 9th grade social studies classroom: “All that it takes for evil to prevail is for enough good men [and women] to do nothing.” That pretty much sums up how I regard people in this arena – myself included. We can either live fully or let die. And I, for one, can no longer let die.

  7. Wow! Lengthy and head-spinning, but the width and breadth of your coverage is phenomenal. Wow!

    Now I encourage you, Amy, to look beyond the confines of today’s failed prison-like shelter model – upon which the No-Kill Equation is based. Shelter Revolution ( promotes the answer to all that you detailed through three primary campaigns all working in unison:

    1) No-Kill Equation (NKE =
    2) Adoption Center model (
    3) Found Animals (

    To explain briefly, the NKE focuses on community outreach. Get the word out and get the animals out! Shelter Revolution’s Adoption Center model builds on top of the NKE by redesigning the facility into an attractive place where people can come and “touch and feel” social animals in a group setting. It also provides a solution to the issue of animals not ready for adoption, those with challenging behavior issues. The final concept of the Adoption Center model is to train people (not dogs!) in how to be a good guardian. This will greatly reduce typical problems that develop and cause surrenders and abandonments.

    Found Animals – of special note is Dr. Michelson’s incredible efforts in Los Angeles to develop an effective method for easy non-surgical sterilization of our companion animals. This would solve a major source of homeless dogs and cats virtually overnight (it won’t solve the disgraceful problem of commercial breeders, backyard breeders or class b dealers). His foundation is offering $50 MILLION (!) in grants for researchers. There’s even a $25 million prize for the successful researcher. (

    This three-fold approach is the future of animal welfare. The future does not lie with “sheltering.” It’s focus is historical and negative: it arose from killing centers (aka ‘pounds’) and is based on imprisonment and destruction of life. It is time to move ahead. You highlighted the difference clearly when you wrote about the difference between pet owners and guardians. The future lies with guardians.

    Last night Shelter Revolution just released a brief video on Youtube which clearly shows this future path. With your permission here’s the link =

    A final note of optimism, Amy: our country is awakening and changing quickly due to the internet. Shelters and pounds can no longer hide from our concerns. Their growing resistance, as you wrote about, are nothing but their death throes as they finally give way to a new future. Animal lovers will prevail. Antiquated government officials and hard-line “pets-are-only-property” people will lose the current battle raging on the internet and now taking hold in courts. We will win! As a reminder, not long ago women, African Americans, native Americans and children were all considered property. Amy, there is a better future for our family companions and it’s now on the horizon.

    Keep up your writing – wow!

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