Thursday, October 11, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about the title of Nathan Winograd's book, Redemption.

I had the opportunity to go to Barnes & Noble the other evening and listen to Winograd. While he was there to talk about his book, what he was really talking about was a movement. A movement to save animals from error.

And what's the error being referenced here?

It's the error of our society having failed the animals.

And how has our society failed the animals? Through our animal shelters. The term "shelter" -- as a verb -- means to protect or shield from something harmful. But do our animal shelters do that? Or do they -- for the most part -- trade one form of harm for another?

It's the latter. And the statistics support this argument. Animal shelters kill most of the animals they bring in.

Winograd argues that the word "kill" is the appropriate word here -- not "euthanize." He points to the dictionary: To euthanize is "to kill someone suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma."

Speaking carefully, then, only 7% of the animals killed by shelters are being euthanized. The other 93% are simply being killed.

You may be wondering why the shelters are being singled out. Isn't there an overpopulation of unwanted animals? Do the shelters have any other choice?

Winograd argues no and yes, respectively.

More specifically, he argues that it is a myth that there is an overpopulation of unwanted animals. Shelters are bought into this myth and are resting on this myth and are failing the animals -- and failing the taxpayers and donors funding this irresponsibility.

Winograd points to a growing number of communities across the country whose actions to change the way their shelter systems operate are producing staggering results. In these communities, greater than 90% of the animals that come into the shelter doors are adopted out. And consistently so, time after time. And, for clarity, these shelters are completely "open admission" -- meaning, they do not limit the number of animals allowed in.

Winograd was asked how the communities successful at doing this got to be successful. He explained that the change came about as the movers and shakers involved with animal welfare and the shelters -- that is, the people who have the power or fund the power -- demonstrated both a passion for saving animals and a desire to run a business successfully.

These leaders also held themselves accountable to the number of animals adopted out.

Winograd provided an operational example of the impact. As shelters in the community embrace new programs and services and become more accountable, they take their animals to off-site venues across the city where they compete more effectively with commercial sources of animals from breeders. They are able to offer their spay/neutered animals at a lower cost to prospective owners than what pet stores charge for unaltered animals from breeders. They include lots of coupons for services (such as vet discounts and grooming discounts and maybe even a free latte from the nearby coffee house that supports the overall movement!). The demand for animals from breeders decreases, and eventually -- out of necessity -- the pet stores opt to reach out to the shelters and ask to work with them instead of with the breeders.

Communities who have turned the corner are demonstrating that there is NOT a pet overpopulation problem requiring their animals to be killed.

Winograd calls this movement "No Kill." And he mentioned that the movement is catching on like wildfire.

Perhaps St. Louis should be next, I think.

I need to go read Winograd's book now.

And seek redemption.

1 comment:

scoodog said...

I highly recommend reading the following posting on Nathan Winograd's blog -- Redemption for Los Angeles?. He documents the comments that he shared at a Los Angeles book signing. The comments were very similar to the ones he offered at the St. Louis book signing.