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, 4k2.org, 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.