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  • Mike Fry

No Kill Deniers and the Damage Done

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

A dog in a shelter
Shelter animals remain at risk because No Kill deniers deliberately spread false information in order to prevent shelter reforms

Those who follow the Climate Change Movement were unsurprised recently when the New York Times published an op-ed that outed the Koch brothers for funding the machine that has been cranking out Climate-Change denial propaganda for many years. Their goal is simple: try to sow doubt about the reality of the climate crisis in order to keep their carbon-spewing businesses as profitable as possible. Prioritizing their personal profit over people, ecosystems or even the health of the entire planet they have funded an expensive campaign to keep as many people as possible in denial for as long as possible. The lengths they have gone to in order to avoid revolutionizing their businesses and to keep the money flowing are mind-boggling, including fabricating pretend science in order to make it appear there is no scientific consensus that the planet is warming and that human behavior is responsible for it.

The animal sheltering world has their own versions of these climate deniers. And, while the organizations that support them may not be as rich as the Koch brothers, they tend to come from some of the wealthiest corners of the animal sheltering world that have the most to lose if the status quo changes.

I recently hosted a panel discussion in which Socially Conscious Sheltering was discussed

(Note: the video of the discussion is embedded below). We were discussing Socially Conscious Sheltering because a group of animal shelters including, Denver Dumb Friends League and Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, had proposed it as the alternative to No Kill. It should be pointed out that Socially Conscious Sheltering (SCS) is really just a feel-good label with no substance. Unlike No Kill, it represents no formal policy position or measurable performance outcomes. It is a way for shelters who kill large numbers of animals to continue doing so under a nice-sounding brand.

The panel was discussing SCS because these very wealthy proponents of it were attacking a small shelter with shoestring funding that has been saving nearly 100% of the animals it takes in, even though it serves as the open-admission animal control shelter for its community. During an epiphany in the conversation we realized that 3 of the CEOs attacking the No Kill shelter collectively earned more in their personal salaries than the entire budget of the No Kill shelter they were attacking.

The shelters involved in that particular discussion were wealthy in part because they kill local animals that need extra care and then import more desirable animals from out-of-state that require less care so they can adopt them for more profit, and then afford to pay their CEOs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

I was thinking of that dynamic again more recently when someone asked for my thought on an article in Dame Magazine titled, The Paradox of No Kill Animal Welfare Policies. Authored by Carol Mithers the piece focused largely on animal sheltering in and around Southern California, where a concerted effort has been underway to promote SCS and deny the success of No Kill.

It is too bad Mithers missed the real story that was right under her nose, a story that could have been insightful and help move the animal sheltering field forward. Instead, she mostly recited debunked talking points of the No Kill deniers. For example, in one place she chastised No Kill for not having a universally accepted definition, which is ironic because in another place she actually said that No Kill is a brilliant term because its meaning is "immediately graspable."

Mithers is right about the second part. Yes. No Kill is immediately graspable. That is one of the reasons it resonates so well with the public who do not want animal shelter dollars being spent on killing and disposing of animals that can be saved. Furthermore as No Kill advocates have been saying for decades now, No Kill is not killing healthy animals or animals with treatable medical or behavioral issues. The term and the policy are in complete alignment with what the public "immediately grasps" when the term is used.

The only people who seem to be confused about No Kill, or who think it does not have an accepted definition are those who have a financial interest in not understanding, like, for example, the LA County animal shelters, whose shelter statistics I recently added to the RescueSuite Software Live Release Calculator. Overall, LA County's 7 shelters earned a grade of F. Individually, they each got an F grade, with the exception of their Agoura Animal Care Center, which earned a grade of C+. It is worth pointing out, however, that the Agoura shelter handled only about 260 of the nearly 12,000 animals seen by this failing sheltering system during the reporting period.

This is particularly relevant to Mithers' article because they are one of the organizations in Southern California vocally promoting the "no accountability" SCS model of sheltering. Those shelters promoting SCS are much like the Koch brothers. They tend (nearly always, in fact) to be the poorest performing shelters while also being the most flush with cash.

THAT would have been a great story to tell. Too bad Mithers missed it and, instead decided to give ink to those claiming no one understands what No Kill actually is. Not only did Mithers give a lot of ink to those who oppose No Kill, she didn't include any experienced No Kill experts who could have set the record straight. She simply regurgitated the rhetoric of the No Kill deniers that have horrific body counts attached to their names.

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