In May 2009 we attended the 2009 No Kill Conference in Washington DC. From what we saw and learnt, we believe that the learnings from this Conference could be a defining moment for Australian Pound and Shelter animals.
We now have categorical proof that No Kill success is a reality in the US:
- It is working
- It is gaining momentum
- It has widespread support
We can see no reason why this movement cannot be appropriate for the Australian situation
Along with over a thousand delegates from all walks of animal welfare life in the US we learnt:
- That there are increasing numbers of examples of Shelters that have successfully adopted and achieved or nearly achieved No Kill status.
- That the No Kill movement believe they can achieve total No Kill in the US by 2015 if the current rate of change and adoption of No Kill philosophy continues.
- That companion animal welfare is the subject of increasing interest and involvement by lawyers – we learnt examples where animal rights and rescue groups and lawyers have successfully taken legal action against County Shelters for failing in their animal welfare duties according to current statutes. Also where Rescue people’s rights to attend Shelters have been reinstated after the Shelter banished them for making public poor practices and breaches of animal welfare law. Legal action will increase to challenge Shelters and change poor legislation. The location of the Conference at the George Washington University Law School, and hosted by the Dean of the Legal Faculty was no accident.
- That there are examples of where County animal control officers (Rangers) have taken a different approach to traditional “animal control” and using their positions to issue infringements – changes from the “fine at all costs” mentality to a more progressive “get the animal back to the owner at all costs” and “use this as an opportunity for education”. We attended a fascinating presentation by Mitch Schneider, a most enlightened Animal Control Officer - Director of Washoe County Animal Services in Nevada..
- That private Shelters (as opposed to Government or County Pounds) have shown that they have the full capacity to make the journey to No Kill – but only when entrenched negative attitudes and practices are abolished. It has never happened, we were told, without a change of leadership in the first instance - the right leadership and the right staff are key ingredients. The key message is that with the right people in place, the sky is the limit. (DRP note:This is an important message for Australian Pounds and the main charity Shelters).
- That ‘temperament testing’ when used as an excuse to “raise the bar” on behavioural traits of impounded animals so that more can be “justifiably” killed is gaining widespread disrepute. Temperament testing should be used as a vehicle to define the behavioural adjustment and training needed for an animal – not as an excuse to kill it and make the pound figures look better than they are. (DRP note: There are a number of high profile Australian Charity Shelters that will need to pay attention to this message)
- That in the US there are hundreds of SPCA’s (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and HSA’s (Humane Society Associations). None have any formal arrangement or relationship to the National SPCA and HSUS (Humane Society United States). They don’t even have to ask permission to use these names. There is clearly widespread lack of respect by grass roots Rescue and Volunteer people for the National SPCA and HSUS who we gleaned are regarded as profit motivated and politically driven business entities who are not leading the way in reducing pound killing to the degree they should. (DRP note: Sounds familiar?).
- That breed-specific legalised killing in Pounds eg for pit bulls, is a totally misleading concept that permits the additional, unfounded deaths of thousands of healthy animals. Fortunately, this practice is becoming discredited
Finally we heard fascinating accounts first-hand from a number of Shelter Directors employing successful strategies to move animals far more quickly and effectively through the shelter and into new homes – it seems to us so easy to do if the right leadership and attitudes are in place, the right staff working as a team, and the local community engaged fully.
Highlights of the 2 day session were opening presentations by Richard Avanzino – the founding father of the No Kill movement and Nathan Winograd Director of the No Kill Advocacy Centre and author of the ground breaking book “Redemption”.
The text of Nathan Winograd’s opening speech follows:
“Welcome, you are among friends here. And they are all available to you to share in this great revolution taking place all across the country. Here you will find Shelter Directors saving 9 out of 10 animals. They have heard and rejected the excuses of why every community can’t do the same. And the trail they are blazing will lead the way to our goal of ending the killing of almost 4 million cats and dogs nationally.” (Click here to read the rest of Nathan's opening speech)
(Note: Nathan Winograd (hosted by the National Desexing Network) presented sessions at The Third National Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation here in Australia on the Gold Coast on September 30 - October 2, 2009. http://www.ndn.org.au/national-summit.html
In a session by Nathan Winograd in Washington on the need to change legislation, he stressed the following:
- Why there is a strong and urgent need to change traditional ‘animal control based’ legislation – Pound reform legislation is urgently required to remove the discretion that Pound management and staff have in how they often arbitrarily deal with animals
(DRP note: for example Legislation has been recently introduced in California to force Pounds to give animals to Rescue agencies once their time at the Shelter has expired. How good is that! Compare that to legislation we have in Victoria that specifically prohibits Pounds from letting foster groups have access to animals – how sad is that.)
Nathan also stressed the need to build total community engaging programs that work – getting the full community behind the challenge and really driving rescue animal adoptions through focussed and motivated volunteer rescue and foster groups. Lots of 'how-to’s' were provided.
Finally, we left with a strong belief that the problems, issues and challenges that they face in the US have complete parallels with ours here in Australia.
We reject the argument that “it’s different in the US”. We spoke with a wide selection of people and our conclusion is that “it’s pretty much the same” as here in Australia.
There is no reason we can identify that would stop Australia following the lead that the US have taken in changing the paradigm of enforced killing in Pounds and Shelters.
(DRP note: we hope that the RSPCA and AWL in each State can show true leadership in progressing Australia’s own No Kill journey – we know that RSPCA ACT and AWL Queensland are on their way in the journey).
In forthcoming information updates, Deathrowpets will share the various lessons, examples and ideas presented at the No Kill Conference in Washington.
Finally we add the observation that there was no representative of any Australian Government body or animal welfare charity in attendance at this extremely important conference. What a shame and missed opportunity!
Actions you can take:
- We urge to look at the No Kill Advocacy website and sign up for the No Kill e-newsletter
- We urge you to share this information with as many people as possible
- We urge you to contact the leadership of your State RSPCA and State AWL and ask if and how they are adopting the well documented No Kill philosophy and strategies