I don’t know about you, but I often skip the comments section of a post if I don’t comment myself (in which case I go back to see if anyone agrees with or has dissed me).

In the case of my recent post, Is”No Kill” a Misnomer? One Shelter Says Yes, it would be a pity if one response were missed. My pal Mary Haight of Dancing Dog Blog has had long experience in the animal welfare world. From the site’s bio: “Mary is an officer on the board of Lake Shore Animal Shelter, one of the first No-Kill shelters in the US, and also serves on the board of the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance. She has been involved in animal welfare for over 15 years.”

So her take on the issue is invaluable.


No Kill has always been an objectionable term to open admission shelters. But without that easily remembered sound bite, we would not be seeing the major shift to creating solutions to euthanasia that we are seeing today.

The simple truth is the competition for dollars drove the open admission organizations to take a look at their accepted method of operation. Boards took note of lost donors. Having been an executive on the board of a No Kill for 13 years with a hands on role in shelter operations, I can say No Kill was never a religious movement, and never meant “never kill.” It was short for “no-kill due to lack of space.” It was a slogan that shook people awake, resonated with the public – until eventually many saw that what was happening was wrong, and the general public was wrong to ignore it. So after wasted years of name calling, and fighting about it, finally solutions crept in when groups began cooperating with each other. The slogan was right for the times – change doesn’t happen without a push, or a shove, to create lasting momentum.

People who vilify others for doing the very hard work at a shelter whose mandate requires they put down animals to make room for more animals are just wrong. And the opposite is also true. “Low kill” is actually considered to be a slur of “no kill” facilities. What’s been lost is the original intent of the phrase, and the fact that it was key to getting today’s results. Where would we be now, I wonder, had we not had a slogan that captured people’s imagination?

5 thoughts on “No Kill: Some Context from a Shelter Board Exec”

  1. I’m with you. I find certain posters on Twitter objectionable, always ranting about certain organizations and how many animals are put down each year. The thing is, those organizations are out there, working hard to make a difference and they can’t work miracles. Rather than rant about what isn’t being done, roll up your sleeves and do something. Criticism is only valuable when it’s constructive and when a plan of action accompanies it. Otherwise, these ranters do nothing more than say, “Look at that. Look what’s so unbelievably wrong. SOMEBODY ought to fix it. Oh no, not us. We’re just here to crank off.”

  2. I believe I know the Twitter poster Kim is referring too and its quite annoying so I’ll agree there. I am not a huge fan of pointing the finger at people. However Mary Haight sums this up so brilliantly. I went back and read your open letter to Nathan Winograd and it sounded like a matter of taste in his delivery.

    I really dont think he vilified anyone in Redemption but stated facts. The facts are ugly. And although No kill may be an unpopular term, refer again to Mary here, in that it was neccessary to shake people up and get them going in the right direction.

    I respect that you posted the letter from the Tacoma and Pierce County Humane society. They are obviously good people who care. But if you want to get serious, 16 years in trying to do the right thing and they still euthanize cats for space. Really?

    She said alot of great programs they enacted but failed to mention increasing adoptions by extending hours, reaching out more to rescue groups, increasing fosters and volunteers and hugely important, working with the media to make it a community effort.

    Its not radical stuff here. And it didnt take the San Francisco SPCA or Tompkins county even 1 year. They did it virtually overnight. Why? It was the decision of the director to NOT kill any healthy, treatable animal. It starts there: To recognize its not an issue of space available and change practices.

    No Kill doesnt mean Never kill. Ending suffering to due to injury or medical issues and ending a danger to the community will always happen. But if a healthy treatable animal dies, its not euthanasia. Its killing so lets call it what it is.

    So with regards to Nathan Winograd, he didnt just rail against the big corporations or particularly vilify certain people. He called them out on a proven formula for success and asks why they refuse to implement it?

    If it works why not? Just ask Mitch Schneider in Washoe County Nevada how he’s turning things around. Their animal intake rate is four times the per capita intake rate of Los Angeles, five times the rate of San Francisco, seven times the rate of New York City, and over two times the national average and they have a 95% lifesaving rate.

    So it can be done, its proven..No matter how the message is delivered. Just my humble opinion.

    1. Thanks for coming here and entering the conversation, Calidiva. I didn’t read Redemption, just the posts on Nathan Winograd’s blog. And you’re absolutely right, I was only responding to the way his message was delivered, not the message itself; I never contended otherwise. As it happens, I was inspired to write my open letter on the one day he posted a blog that didn’t irritate me so much that I was turned off to what he had to say. What’s the good of a worthwhile message if people — and I can speak only for myself as one animal loving individual — don’t want to read it?

      1. You have me on that part Edie. My mom use to say “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” and a warmer tone on his blog could only help. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Edie, for bringing that comment up into a post – it was a lovely shocker! I’m pleased to share the history of this as I saw and lived it. The mere existence of “no-kill” caused many in the general public to shun and vilify local shelters they once supported when they saw the operational end of the business – the how and why adoptable animals were being killed. And Calidiva is right – I should have said “killed” rather than “solutions to euthanasia.” How anesthetizing that word “euthanasia” is, even facilitative…

    Change seems always to be rough and choppy at the start and it really was. Names have power – No kill had it in spades. Thanks again!

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