By Sharon Seltzer on Care2.com
To summarize, the No Kill Advocacy Center dispels the myth that pet overpopulation is the cause for the euthanasia of 4.4 million animals in shelters annually. They claim 17 million Americans add a new pet to their family every year, but 80 percent do not adopt from a shelter.
An estimated 6 - 8 million homeless animals, primarily cats and dogs, enter
animal shelters across the U.S. every year. Approximately 4.4 million of these
innocent creatures are euthanized. But the rate of euthanasia is not the same in
every community. While one city saves the lives of 90 percent of its homeless
cats and dogs another town euthanizes 60 percent of their abandoned pets. Have
you ever wondered why some communities are more successful than others? The No
Kill Advocacy Center says they have the formula to save every healthy and
treatable pet languishing in every animal shelter in the country and they want
to share it with you.
I’ve always had a gut feeling that putting a stop to the euthanasia of
homeless animals was possible. And after interviewing Nathan Winograd, director
and founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center, I am certain the goal is achievable.
In the first part of this story, I hope to share the basic concept of the No
Kill program and the simple changes shelters and rescue groups can make to drop
their euthanasia rate. In the second part of the story I will discuss the
infrastructure changes that must be made for communities to bring their adoption
rates to 90 percent or more. Cities such as Reno Nevada, Richmond Virginia, San
Francisco California and Charlottesville Virginia have already achieved this
goal and Kansas City is well on its way.
Winograd is a graduate of Stanford Law School and the author of two books on
the animal shelter system: Redemption and Irreconcilable Differences. He left
law to write animal protection legislation and in 2001 he became the Executive
Director of the Tompkins County SPCA. When he left that job in 2004, Ithaca “was
the safest community in the nation to be a homeless dog or cat.” In 2004 he
started the No Kill Advocacy Center, dedicated to the concept of a No Kill
nation for healthy and treatable pets.
Winograd wasted no time getting to the point of the No Kill movement. His
first sentence was to dispel the myth that pet overpopulation is responsible for
the killing of 4.4 million cats and dogs. He said instead it’s a combination of
municipal animal shelters that do not have a primary goal of re-homing pets and
a lack of marketing skills. Winograd said, “Shelters must get their share of
people looking to adopt a pet.”
Winograd: “It’s kind of a numbers game and most animal shelters and rescue
groups are not getting their ‘market share’ of the large number of people
looking for a new pet. There are 17 million people that add a new pet, or
replace a deceased pet each year. There are 8 million animals that enter the
shelter system. This should translate into a home for every healthy animal. But
80 percent of the people do not get their cat or dog from a shelter or rescue
Winograd: “Shelters must focus on marketing and adoption. If they increased
their adoption rates by only 3 percent, all of the savable, healthy and
treatable pets would find a new home. This is why HSUS and Maddie’s Fund have
started the Shelter Pet Project. They understand how important it is to increase
awareness and get homeless pets adopted.”
How does a shelter begin to attract more potential adopters?
Winograd: “They need to be more customer-friendly. They have to make it easier
for people to adopt new pets and reclaim lost pets. The shelter in Reno used to
close its doors at 4:30p.m. Then they did a study and found that most people
worked until 5:00p.m. Now they stay open until 5:30p.m. and their adoption and
reclaim of lost pets skyrocketed to 93 percent.”
Reuniting lost pets is a big part of the No Kill movement, isn’t it?
Winograd: “When Reno decided to stay open for an extra hour a day, they found
that many of the animals believed to be strays were actually lost. They
currently reunite 60 percent of the pets in the shelter with their owners.”
Winograd: “Lost cats are an even bigger problem. Missing Pet Partnership.org
says that it takes two-weeks for most lost cats to get caught and sent to a
shelter. They hide until they are practically starving and when they are finally
caught by Animal Control; most owners have stopped looking for their pet. And to
make matters worse, many frightened pet cats act like wild feral cats and are
euthanized before they ever get near the adoption area.”
What other concrete things can shelters do to increase adoptions?
Winograd: “They can do two specific things: bring adoptable animals closer to
where people shop and live and simplify the adoption process. Most shelters are
on the outskirts of town. It’s hard for people to get to them. People are more
apt to adopt if the pets are in retail areas that are easy to find and pleasant
to be around. That’s why stores like Petsmart and Petco are great. They let
shelters adopt from their stores.”
“The next part is something rescue groups could change. They need to rethink
their adoption policies. Some groups make it so tough to adopt that they scare
In Part I of this story I shared excerpts from an interview with Nathan
Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center about his equation to end the
senseless killing of an estimated 4.4 million cats and dogs in our country’s
animal shelters every year. The interview included some simple changes shelters
and rescue groups could make to increase adoptions and drop euthanasia rates.
Part II of this story will discuss the “mandatory programs” a community must
implement to raise adoption rates to 90 percent and higher.
One of the main principles of the No Kill equation is that animal shelters
reject “kill-oriented” ways of doing business and implement innovative programs.
Too many shelters refuse to try new ideas. They don’t see themselves as a
service to re-home pets. They get accustomed to the idea that euthanasia is part
of their job and lose sight that every life is precious. Animal shelters are
needed to lead the way to get a community excited and energized.
The No Kill website states, “The decision to end an animal’s life is an
extremely serious one, and should always be treated as such. No matter how many
animals a shelter kills, each and every animal is an individual, and each
deserves individual consideration.”
Currently there are No Kill communities in California, Utah, Virginia,
Nevada, Kentucky and Indiana. Each has achieved a 90 percent or higher rate of
adopting homeless pets and reuniting lost animals with their owners. These are
the two key principles of the No Kill equation.
Here are the mandatory programs and services prescribed by the No Kill
Feral Cat TNR Program
A comprehensive trap-neuter-release program is needed to stop feral cat colonies from multiplying.
High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Clinics
Sterilizing pets is crucial to the program. Spay/neuter clinics must be located in areas that are easy for the public to reach.
Animal rescue groups are needed to take hard to adopt pets from municipal shelters in order to free up space for incoming cats and dogs.
Volunteer foster families are critical to the success of a No Kill city. They rehabilitate pets that are sick, injured, have behavioral challenges or are too young to be in a shelter.
Comprehensive Adoption Program
Animal shelters must meet the needs of the community so the highest number of pets gets placed into new homes. This may mean being open more hours, having offsite adoption centers, offering incentives, making adoption policies more flexible and improving overall marketing of homeless pets.
Shelters must take an active role in keeping animals with their human families. They need to be a resource center that can solve behavior problems, give advice and do whatever it takes to keep companion animals in their homes.
Medical and Behavior Programs
Animal shelters need to implement policies for vaccinating, handling, cleaning, socializing and sterilizing pets. They must also provide for the veterinary care of sick and injured animals.
Public Relations/Community Involvement
This boils down to educating the public through ongoing marketing that there are lots of pets to adopt. Community involvement encourages partnership with local agencies that can assist a shelter meet their goals.
Volunteers are needed in every department of an animal shelter. Their expertise can make the difference between the success and failure of a program.
One of the most overlooked areas for reducing euthanasia rates is reuniting lost animals with their families. Shelters that actively work to return pets have seen the most dramatic change to their lifesaving numbers.
A Compassionate Director
To complete the No Kill equation a humane shelter director is needed. That person must be willing to lead a community and implement new policies and programs in order to save lives.
If your community would like to adopt the No Kill equation, the organization
offers seminars to show you how to get started. Currently seminars are planned
for: Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Washington. Click here for
To summarize, the No Kill Advocacy Center dispels the myth that pet
overpopulation is the cause for the euthanasia of 4.4 million animals in
shelters annually. They claim 17 million Americans add a new pet to their family
every year, but 80 percent do not adopt from a shelter. If shelters put more
effort into marketing the cats and dogs in their care, they could get a larger
portion of the public to adopt from them, instead of buying animals from places
like retail pet shops. This would dramatically drop the number of animals
As a result it would also decrease the demand for puppies and kittens that
are purchased from pet shops and ultimately lower the number of animals born in
large-scale breeding facilities such as puppy mills.
If you live in a community like mine, the No Kill concept may seem like a fairytale. But there are cities that have achieved this goal and I hope you will be inspired to start the program in your area, as well.