Dear Nathan Winograd,
I’ve been reading about the No-Kill Movement, which is working to transform shelters from the pet world equivalent of roach motels — dogs and cats go in but don’t come out — to places that actually save animals. It’s an extremely important cause and, as the Director of the No-Kill Advocacy Center as well as an author and passionate speaker on the topic, you are crucial to the effort. I started visiting your website, NathanWinograd.com, so I could learn more about what you do. I was disappointed to find several things on the site that, to me, undercut your message.
I am a relative newcomer to the community of pet bloggers and animal advocates, and feel a bit hesitant about jumping into the public discussion. But precisely because I am not an insider, I may be the ideal person to express my reactions to the aspects of your approach that put me off.
Just to clarify: I have never been to any of your talks and conferences, which I gather are extremely effective. The following suggestions relate only to your blog.
— Nix the negativity. I know where you’re coming from; my default modes tend to be irritation and righteous indignation. But constantly dissing major rescue organizations — even when they deserve it, as I agree that PETA and HSUS do — doesn’t help your cause. The ASPCA and, especially, Best Friends do far more good than harm on balance, and criticizing them only reflects badly on you. Yes, you’re disappointed and angry. Tell your friends in the shelter movement. That stuff is way too insider-y for people who don’t have time or interest in learning about infighting.
–– Watch your language. You know the power that language has. Do you really want to refer to “regime change” — in the fifth paragraph of your otherwise excellent latest post (more on which in a minute) — when talking about the importance of getting new management at shelters? The United States did a great deal of damage under the aegis of regime change, including killing thousands of civilians in Iraq. Why would you want to associate the No Kill Movement with those images?
— Be a little more humble. Your blog probably is the “most influential blog on the No Kill Movement,” as you put it in your newsletter. But you don’t need to say it; it’s annoying. Give your audience a little credit. We’ll figure it out, just as we figured out PETA and HSUS suck without being hit over the head by your diatribes about them.
— Don’t be afraid to be warm and fuzzy. The occasional glimpses we get of your love of animals — including your “About” picture and the recent post on your blog that your family adopted a kitten– show us why you care so much about your cause. And that’s a good thing. Do that more often, for your own sake as well as for that of your cause. It’s exhausting being Mr. Angry Guy all the time.
— Let us know what we can do to help. The reason I felt emboldened to write this letter was your latest post about how to become a shelter director. It was powerful and inspirational and made me want to take action far more than any of your I-hate-Wayne-Pacelle posts ever did. Please try to stay positive. You have so much to offer.