Skip to main content

Nathan Winograd is an "activist" that purports to stand up for the most helpless of society.  By declaring war against animal shelters that euthanize strays, abandoned pets, feral cats he's made himself the de facto face of the "No Kill" movement.   Winograd's polemic, "Redemption, the Myth of Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America" is a strident attack on virtually every animal shelter in America, save the two or three that have adopted his shelter model.  In a nutshell, his argument is that shelters should follow a three step plan to get to zero kill:  "1)  Stop the Killing.  2)  Stop the killing.  3)  Stop the killing."  According to Winograd, any shelter that, for any reason, comes up short of his model may as well be considered an animal death camp.

The "No Kill" animal shelter movement has certainly chosen a sympathetic name for itself.  After all, who wants more kills?

Unfortunately, sometimes life is a bit more complicated than the latest catchy slogan or absurdly simple three-step plan.  For example, if zero tolerance for killing means that we must warehouse animals  in overcrowded, disease and pest-ridden cages, and there are not enough staff of volunteers to provide these animals with adequate exercise, aren't we actually torturing these animals for the sake of our own vanity?  What if this warehousing resulted in fewer animals being placed in homes because people stopped visiting the shelters, or came to believe that shelter animals were unhealthy or otherwise inferior?

The flat truth is that Winograd's "No Kill" model is limited.  It can work when shelters serving smaller towns decide to limit intake (by turning away older, unsocialized or less attractive animals).  It is simply unworkable in larger municipalities.  

Sheltering policy is difficult; it's a field in which the utopian ideal is seldom achievable.  Instead, the animal lovers that run shelters make must make difficult choices and strive for best outcomes after considering the totality of the circumstances.   The decision to euthanize is always dispiriting and sometimes heart-wrenching.  But if it is the merciful decision, it may be the correct choice.  Across America, there are thousands of shelters.  Each respective community served is unique and comes with its own strengths and weaknesses.  "No kill" is probably suitable and the ethically sound choice for some shelters, but for many more, a "no kill" policy condemns animals to a miserable existence.  In those communities, mercy must prevail.

Nathan Winograd does not agree; he doesn't see nuance.  He has run a scorched earth campaign against the thousands of animal lovers that disagree with his black and white vision of sheltering policy.  The question is "why?"

Does it have anything to do with his ties to the puppy mill industry?  To Rick Berman, the anti-everything decent public relations lawyer that is famous for his astro-turf campaigns on behalf of large moneyed interests (like puppy breeders)?  

In Missouri, in a little more than two weeks, voters will decide whether to pass Prop 85, "The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act".  The state is notorious for its "puppy mills" - essentially industrial puppy farms.  If you are familiar with the way veal or chickens are raised, you shouldn't have any trouble grasping what is going on at these puppy mills.  Breeders are confined in tiny cages, puppies are harvested and as soon as the mother goes back into heat, she's thrown to the wolves (so to speak) again.  None of these animals see the sun, chase a ball or know a human master that has any sort of emotional attachment.  The dogs are cash machines, and that's the beginning and end of it.  The puppies are shipped to pet stores all over the country; the rejects (sick puppies, or puppies with no chance of being a "show dog") are sold off to the people you see at carnivals selling animals out of their trunks.

The AKC makes out very well.  They charge a fee for every dog they certify.  More puppies, more fees.  They oppose the Missouri bill.  So does Rick Berman.  And so does Joe the Plumber.  And so do the tea partiers.

Oddly, Nathan Winograd, who has long-standing relationships with many of the puppy mill support organizations, has remained silent.  Odd for a person concerned about animal over-population and animal cruelty.

In the coming weeks and months, the new site I've launched,, will explore the answers to these questions while arguing against Winograd's ridiculously simple sheltering notions.  "No Kill" sounds wonderful, but there are good reasons many of the most respected animal welfare organizations oppose Winograd's brand of no-kill.

Originally posted to Mike Stark on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-) Unscripted, unvarnished and unedited

    by Mike Stark on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:08:15 AM PDT

  •  I'm missing something... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    What are Winograd's ties to Rick Berman and the puppy mill industry?

  •  Some of those linky thingees (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State, joyful

    to your assertions would be most helpful in evaluating something akin to canned, chopped pig meat.

    Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt

    by DaNang65 on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:41:53 AM PDT

  •  Somewhat related story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I once took Kitty, who was in badly failing health, to the animal shelter.

    Kitty had an interesting life. He disappeared one winter, and showed up again in a neighbor's tree in the spring.

    He never spoke of the experience, though we were all curious where he had been and under what conditions.

    The people at the animal shelter asked how old Kitty was. I said I don't know, seven? Kitty was eleven.

    I'm pretty sure the animal shelter people made the right decision. But I've never much liked the small bit of doubt, that I screwed up and led them in the wrong direction.

  •  YES on Proposition B!! (Its B, not 85! :-) (0+ / 0-)

    Two recent essays for you, Mike:

    No-kill Rescue Drowning in Dogs...

    Colossal failure at No-Kill Animal Shelter Leads to Overcrowding...

    From the comments in the "Drowning in Dogs" article (I am not the author of either the article or the comment):

    "Dogs are admitted without regard to age, breed, or adoptability..."
    And there in lies the problem. Dogs aren't declared "unadoptable" for no reason. With the no kill movement, there often comes this idea it really should be "NO kill". Then the rescue ends up overwhelmed. Or they turn away the "unadoptable" ones, and keep their image "good". Rather, the focus should be on "low kill". I worked once for a rescue that took no kill to mean exactly that, and they went years and years and years before finally realizing it. I left before then, and watched as they took in unadoptable dog after unadoptable dog. Watched as dogs so unpredictable they couldn't be around other dogs or people were left to live in closets with a couple 10 minute breaks outside to potty,, this so called "life" lived for years. Watched as dogs ill with cancer lived in small rooms or closets (this was a so called "cage free" facility as well) because they were sick enough to be picked on. They spent the last weeks or months of their lives with little comfort or social contact. Often 30 dogs in a room the size of an average living room. But never would they turn away or decide to finally euthanize an "unadoptable" dog. Dogs were fed whatever was donated, often changing brands every few days, leading to stomach upset and chronic diarhea. Medicated for illness IF the rescue could afford it at the time.

    I know first-hand of a no-kill situation just like the one described above.  The "adoptables" were kept at a Bay Area storefront.  The "less-adoptable" dogs were warehoused in a rural area further north.  They were never going to be taken down to be put up for adoption; they were warehoused in pens and crates for the rest of their lives so the organization could claim they were "no-kill".

    It would be a kindness to release them with a needle than to have them live for years unloved, unwanted, and slowly going crazy in those pens and crates.

    Often, no-kill shelters pick-and-choose the dogs they will accept: taking the puppies, the well-behaved, the small/fluffy/adorable, while the dear older dogs and the pit bulls, the scared/unsocialized/aggressive-in-any-way -- basically, the dogs who would not be snapped up immediately and need some time and training -- are dropped at the municipal "kill" shelter when their people want to dump them.  The fault lies with people a) unwilling (or unable) to spay-and-neuter the animals; b) choosing a dog that is incompatible with their lifestyle; and/or c) refusing to commit to the animal for its lifetime.

    Its a wonderful concept: to live in a country where every dog had a good home where s/he was an adored member of the family. I wish that every dog could live the life I share with my two old guys: adored, cherished, with me till the end of their days. My dogs are my best friends! But there are simply too many available dogs, not enough good homes - and sadly - due to neglect, abuse, poor breeding, or other history factors - not every dog is able to adjust to being a sociable companion to their people.

    p.s. Some links on commercial breeding:

    The reality of life in a commercial breeding facility

    Puppymills Breed Misery

    A look at a "Blue Ribbon Kennel" - a kennel that "has exceeded industry standards when it comes to the care and welfare of animals."  This is a USDA-inspected kennel which "exceeded industry standards" and was awarded "Blue Ribbon" status - and see how the dogs are kept!

    Missourians, please vote YES on Proposition B!

  •  Why not strive to save more lives? (0+ / 0-)

    As a professional in the animal welfare field of more than 25 years and someone who has actually run one of those shelters that did not fully follow Mr. Winograd’s plan, I can not express how troubled and disappointed I am by this article.  As a mid-sized, open admission animal control shelter in a suburb of a large city and the singular shelter in the county it served, we achieved an 86% save rate by employing many of Mr. Winograd’s  techniques and developing others that suited our needs and those of our community.  

    It is ironic that this article should stress an over-simplification on the part of Mr. Winograd, when clearly there is over-simplification on the issues of animal sheltering as whole on the part of the author.

    To suggest that the No Kill movement can not succeed anywhere but in a small town and even then with limitations is to ignore the successes that Mr. Winograd, himself, often champions, such as that of Charlottesville, VA and Washoe County, Nevada.  

    For those shelters that do not have the staff and / or volunteers to properly care for animals and therefore, according to this article must kill them for their own sake, the answer is simple.  Hold your management and staff accountable for doing their jobs and develop volunteer and foster programs to help with everything from housing and caring for the animals to counseling potential adopters, working at offsite events, fundraising, animal enrichment, shelter maintenance and litany of other tasks and duties.  While staff and volunteer development are both championed by Mr. Winograd, these are nothing new to the field of animal welfare and even if one does not follow his edicts, these are paramount to the success of any shelter regardless what you call it.

    When a large busy city shelter in my area with a reputation for being very high kill found themselves at with the dilemma of wanting to do better, but being under-funded and seriously constrained by their union, they had to get creative.  The union agreement basically prevented them from having any volunteers as unpaid workers were not permitted to do the work of paid employees.  This meant any kind of animal care, outreach, or pretty much any of the work that happens in a shelter.  A non-profit was founded and contracted to run all sheltering operations.  The city continues to provide animal control and cruelty field services with a much greater focus on these vital functions.  The non-profit provides all sheltering and animal care with a large staff of dedicated employees and volunteers.  A new foster program was established and while there continues to be plenty of room of improvement, more and more lives are saved each day.  Like the shelter at which I worked, this one also employs many of Mr. Winograd’s ideas, philosophies and suggestions.  They are not a No Kill shelter, but are far closer to it than those shelters than refuse to try and legitimizing the latter is truly a tragedy for the millions of animals that die needlessly at their hands each year.

    Seriously, check your facts as much of this article is flatly wrong.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site