Friday, May 8, 2009

Notes from the No Kill Conference

So here is my first post of my notes from the No Kill Conference - it's from the Talks 1 through 4 that I went to - there were 2 concurrents going on at all times so I didn't get to go to all the talks that were going on. I wish conferences wouldn't do that - I wish that you could go to everything that was being offered so that you don't miss out on stuff - I think that really sucks when there's 2 things going on at the same time that you want to go to - and when it's a conference that you're really interested in - you know that there's going to be 2 things going on at the same time - which is always a killer. So such as it is - here's some of the notes I took for the talks I went to - hopefully you'll find some of it interesting.

Where appropriate I referenced Nathan Winograd's blog posts on his No Kill Blog that talk about the same subjects that his talks are about - because he goes into great detail in his blog posts. And of course - there's other people who went to the conference who are also blogging about it now - and it's interesting to see the different things that they picked up and what they're saying about the same talks that I went and saw. It's all very neat.

"No Kill Conference May 2nd and 3rd, 2009 – Washington DC –
No Kill Advocacy Centre"

Talk #1 – Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino

Nathan Winograd has put this talk online in a post that you can read - here -

Killing is never an act of kindness when the animal is not suffering - people in rescue become myopic when they start to believe that there are only 2 options for animals in crisis - that a quick death in a "shelter" is better than a slow death on the street.

Rescue people who see only these 2 options haven't experienced great cities like San Francisco or Tompkins who embrace the public and save every animal - and take animals to the people, have foster programs, have behaviour help lines, have tnr programs, hold for longer periods, have socialization programs, have low cost spay/neuter, free spay/neuter, money making spay/neuter - have advertising campaigns like where they start to actually PAY people to get their animals sterilized - "bucks for balls, or "greenbacks for gonads" - making it easy for the public to do the right thing.

Nathan talks about this topic in great length in his blog post "the fallacy of "fates worse than death"

What the shelters today should be doing is giving a lifesaving guarantee for every healthy animal - the no kill of the 21st century is embarking on a "great experiment in compassion".
At this point Nathan shows photos of animals with problems who were adopted under the no kill philosophy and under their photos was the tag line "adopted" - and also under their photos was what their "problem" was supposed to be - like "only has 3 legs - adopted" - "only has 1 eye, likes to poop inside - adopted".

What we need to be doing is to take away people's objections by using the no-kill model in different jurisdictions around the country - Nevada, New York, Virginia - the areas have been increasing exponentially - some are urban, rural - public, municipally run - proving that all walks of life WANT to stop killing animals.

165 million animals are being saved around North America - but those numbers are not being talked about - shelters are only temporary way stations - what is talked about are the 4 million who DO die every year - and actually 90% of those 4 million are savable - not all of those actually need adoption. Some of them are reclaimed and some are feral.

Evidence of caring is all around people - they put it off as exceptions, even though they continually see those "exceptions".

Evolution of pet ownership from the 19th century until now - from barns to the backyard to our bedrooms

Public has made the difference because the public cares - there has been a paradigm shift from the hypothetical to the real.

Richard Avanzino starts talking -

Saving all of our healthy and treatable dogs and cats by 2015 is not only possible - it's probable - we need to go from killing 4 million down to 750,000 in order to meet the needs of the public.

In 1970 we killed 24 million
In 1996 we killed 6 million - and had 130 million animals in our homes
In 2009 we killed 3.7 million - and had 170 million animals in our homes
In 2015 we will kill 700,000 - and have 190 million animals in our homes - we are going to need a LOT of dogs and cats to meet this expanding market.

That's why we are going to really need our no kill philosophy - and why we are going to get to a no kill world - we are going to need all of the dogs and cats that we can get - because there is going to be such a need for dogs and cats in our animal friendly world in 2015.

We have a higher value to the human animal bond now than ever before - we give way more now than ever before to animal related charities.

The Ad Council in the United States is donating 40 million dollars in free advertising - starting in 2009 to encourage Americans to adopt their animals from shelters - so shelters have got to start preparing themselves for the wave of people who are going to want to get their companion animals from the shelter. The wave is coming - start preparing now.

Legislating No Kill - Nathan Winograd - Talk 2

Regulate shelters through legislation - the beginning of the movement began in
New York City with Henry Bergh.

Animal Control was born to protect
people from animals. Henry Bergh said animals posed very little threat to humans
- and he advocated leaving them on the streets. His reforms reduced deaths from
5825 to 938 in one year - his mission was to protect animals from people - and
he was the person who originally formed the ASPCA.

He believed the "the
ASPCA is a tool to save lives" - he was really worried though what would happen
to the organization after he died - and after he did die - the organization took
the contract to impound dogs - and many ASPCA's around the country took the same

They had a 3 point plan for animal sheltering of why they believed
the ASPCA's should take over pound contracts -
1. Humane Education - keeping
animals in the home;
2. Adoption - adopting out homeless animals;
"Humane death" - giving animals a humane death rather than letting them suffer a
fate worse than death out on the street or otherwise

This has been the
mainstay of shelters ever since - and was started in the 19th century - so the
shelters of today - in the 21st century - are still following the model started
in the 19th century.

Trying to find answers to the animal problem up
until now have included legislation that includes licensing laws, laws that find
ways to confine dogs with leash laws, pet limit laws, mandatory spay and neuter
laws, and dangerous dog/breed specific legislation laws.

With bad legislation shelters divert more money with could be spent on truly lifesaving programs instead of enforcement of bad laws.

Mandating spay and neuter has never worked, but at the same time - most no kill communities have never worked until a low cost spay and neuter program was put into place.

It was only this year that the ASPCA has finally started to "get it" - the 19th
century model has never worked for them - and it doesn't work now.

We need a recipe for no kill success - which includes -
- A no kill director
- believing in the community
- changing how shelters operate

- they are part of a team
- you want people who like people and people who love animals working in your shelter - who will support the new direction - when your shelter becomes no kill - 1/3 of the staff will quit, 1/3 will support the new direction and 1/3 will be fired in order to move forwards. It's better to fire a staff member or volunteer than to kill an animal.

On the plus side - reward the hard workers - and show them that advancement is possible for them.

Even if the shelter is following through with their no kill equation – we still need to move forward with legislation. – the No kill philosophy needs to be institutionalized – and it needs legal protection.

The old traditional sheltering model is very institutionalized and needs
to be torn down.

Nathan talks about entrenching the no kill philosophy with legislation in his post - "there ought to be a law"

Why do we need enlightened no kill legislation? We have learned from the past – we have learned when mandatory spay neuter laws have passed that animals get seized and shelter killing increased - any animals that are not altered come into shelters and they are automatically killed – that laws can be badly written – lessons of the last 10 years have been learned and we need to close the loopholes. A model law has been written – and it’s the Companion Animal Protection Act

Talk 3 – Teaching Compassion =
Talking about your foster program & Special Promotions

If there’s an empty kennel at your shelter – there’s an animal dying somewhere
else at another shelter

There are all kinds of adoption specials you can
run –
- fat cat adoption
- happy “mew” year
- 2 for 1
- Black
cat special
- Kitten shower – have a “baby” shower for kittens
- Open up
a retail space for adoptions

You need to change outdated policies and
beliefs about your foster programs – and you need to develop a customer service
program for your foster program – you need most of all to do the following –
- Recruit – teach, train, and empathize – and
- Find, organize – support
– train/teach – empathize – and recruit
- You need to develop flyers,
newsletters to stay in contact, media, emails, use existing word of mouth from
fosters – and constantly recruit

Who are the good fosters?
- animal
career personnel
- single women, families, young families,
- all income
- when people bring in strays – try to recruit them as foster parents
for those kittens
- make buttons that say “ask me how to be a foster parent”
- make your foster parent application available online – your applications
will go up exponentially
- have a foster mentor program – and allow your
experienced senior fosters to step up – they will give great advice

TNR – Urban and Rural Felines

Who are concerned about rural and urban felines? Cat people, birders, hunters
and outdoorsmen
We need to bring those groups together and create the most
humane outcome – we need to meet on common ground and never argue – TNR IS the
solution – and we don’t need to tell other people involved in the feral cat
situation what their reality is – and that what they are experiencing is not

Other options than TNR is more expensive – trapping a cat, taking
it to a shelter so that they can hold it for awhile in a cage, feeding it, and
then ultimately killing it is way more expensive than TNR.

We in the TNR
community need to sell the benefits of TNR – not argue, because it is the best

Louis Pasteur developed the 70% solution. He said that if 70%
of any population was vaccinated against a disease – that would stop the spread
of the disease in that population. And that statistic holds true for anything –
and it holds true for TNR as well – if you can trap, neuter and release 70% of a
feral cat population you can prevent of the propagation once you get to that

If you only reach 30% though – you may actually INCREASE the
population – especially if you took out the dominant male – because then all the
other males would have free rein over the females – so sometimes things become a
tricky situation.

For TNR – mobile is the way to go – you need to get a bus – what you could call a “NEUTER COMMUTER” – the speaker Mike Fry and his crew have got a spay down to five minutes. He said there’s no point in doing leukemia testing – and no external sutures are needed anymore. Their website is at

Harnessing Community Compassion

A vibrant volunteer program creates workers and ambassadors for your
organization – you need great recruitment and training materials though that
clearly defines policies and job descriptions to define expectations – and you
also need a good orientation program - that is really important – along with a
detailed training program along with a mentor program.

Having time to
thank your volunteers through get togethers is also really important too.

Talk 4 – Rehabbing and Adopting Special Dogs – Temperament Tests

Behavioural development starts in prenatal development – every puppy inside a puppy mill bitch is stressed. Studies show that bitches that are petted have better puppies – bitches need to be handled.

From birth to 14 days – touch and olfactory senses are coming alive – short periods of handling are very important – acceleration of their nervous system and motor development is happening.

2 weeks to 12 weeks – rapid development – play biting starts – also emergence of social behaviour – we need to start engaging our puppies at this time – there is a high fear period up to 8 weeks and we have to be really careful with this time.

8 weeks to 16 months – dogs come into shelters at this time – when play biting starts and they didn’t learn proper social etiquette.

The speakers suggestions about play biting was that you should holler and yelp like a puppy when the play biting is too strong – and they should learn the association that the good thing goes away when they bite too hard.

Without bit inhibition, socialization, and habituation – you’re going to end up with a damaging bite.

Dogs communicate 3 ways –
- olfactory - smelling
- depositing of scents - peeing everywhere
- distinctive body odours – smelling dogs butts

Dog appeasing pheromones work really well – DAP – calms dogs down

Auditory communication – high bark = happy, low bark = aggression

Visual or postural communication – you really need to become adept at this type of communication

Distance reducing behaviours – submission, threat reducing, appeasement
- decrease threat, stop – eye shift – looks away
- ears neutral or back – cropped ears take away a dogs normal ability to signal and has psychological effects – dogs interpret it as aggressive
- tail – where it’s placed and how fast it’s going makes a difference

- Smiling may have a genetic component
- Active submissive play response
- Licking
- Yawning is a high stress response to get them out of the situation
- Paw up is also a submissive gesture

Distance increasing behaviours
- eye contact is direct
- open mouth, lips pulled back vertical and horizontal
- pilo-erection – over the shoulders and down the back
- body pinning – putting their muzzle over the other dogs muzzle

Play behaviour
- bow down, tail wagging
- can also be a conflict behaviour

Fear behaviour flight/flight – some obstacles to signal reading
- docked tails, dark eyes, really hairy dogs, hanging muzzles, hairy eyes, cropped eyes, geriatric dogs, dogs in pain

How do we assess dogs?
- temperament tests
- should not be used for life or death
- behaviour assessment – what it should be called
- if you take a picture you can only take it from the front – you don’t see the side or back
- you need to test all dogs, not just problem dogs
- not everyone wants a perfect dog at many facilities
- failure = unadoptable = death
- breed bias will affect the way some people do tests – they love pit bulls and hate german shepherds
- puppies, behaviourally challenged, old and sick dogs have special needs
- harsh and aversive methods should never be used

Cesar Millans methods should never be used because they cause a shift in the relationship

Negative means you’re taking something away that the dog likes

Positive punishment – giving the dog something that is unpleasant – hitting the dog – never use

Constructive aggressive therapy – negative reinforcement – construct a new behaviour


  1. great post! Long read but well worth it!

  2. >Cesar Millans methods should never be used because they cause a shift in the relationship

    What? But he seems to have so many dogs that can get along with each other and people. Many of the dogs he helps are now seemly happier dogs and the people are happier with them.

    I want to know more about why not use Cesar Millans methods, as they seem to produce dogs that can live with people better and live with other dogs better.

  3. Hello there Tangi Adopt a Rescue - I will gladly right a post saying some more about why the speaker Linda Wolf said that Cesar Millan's methods shouldn't be used - I'll write it tomorrow night - so stay tuned! I have a friend who's actually writing a whole book about the topic!


  4. Anonymous8:13 PM

    so is there a no-kill future in Nova Scotia?? What does the SPCA say?