Redemption: Shelter Plan B

Nathan Winograd with cat Shelter Plan BMy impression after reading about Nathan Winograd is that it’s animal shelters that need redemption. He is Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in the US and is giving a lecture and workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Apr. 14th [2012] . I don’t get star-struck that often, but this sounds like one very impressive man.

In 1993-94, he turned the San Francisco SPCA from a kill processing plant to a shelter where animals got homes. Killing healthy animals “declined 100 percent” and for sick or injured animals “it declined by about 50 percent” (Redemption). He did the same at the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York.

Are these places with less of an ‘animal problem’? Not likely. If you can do that in San Francisco, heart of ‘disposable land’, or upstate NY amid wilderness that people would see as perfect for dumping Fluffy, you can do it anywhere! Here is how Mr. Winograd looks at shelter management, from a 2007 article by Christie Keith.

Shelter Management

“If … motherless kittens are killed because the shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive foster care program, that’s not pet overpopulation. That’s the lack of a foster care program.

Amazon link for Redemption
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“If adoptions are low because people are getting those dogs and cats from other places because the shelter isn’t doing outside adoptions (adoptions done off the shelter premises), that’s a failure to do outside adoptions, not pet overpopulation.

“…If animals are killed because working with rescue groups is discouraged, again, that’s not pet overpopulation. If dogs are going cage-crazy because volunteers and staff aren’t allowed to socialize them, and then those dogs are killed because they’re quote-unquote “cage crazy,” because the shelter doesn’t have a behavior rehabilitation program in place, once again, that’s not pet overpopulation; that’s the lack of programs and services that save lives.”

Animal Shelter Plan B

Commonsense, when you approach it from the shelter side of the equation. “If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission… And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter’s director.”

Lab looking out from shelter pen, Wikimedia Commons, NhandlerHe describes his second day at the Tompkins Co. SPCA. “’My staff informed me that our dog kennels were full and since a litter of six puppies had come in, I needed to decide who was going to be killed in order to make space. I asked for ‘Plan B’; there was none. I asked for suggestions; there were none.’

“He spoke directly to his staff, saying, ‘Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says, ‘I can’t do it,’ I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?’”  Wow.

Nathan Winograd’s publications:

Welcome Home: An animal rights perspective on living with dogs & cats

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

Irreconcilable Differences: The battle for the heart and soul of America’s animal shelters

All American Vegan: Veganism for the Rest of Us

Friendly Fire

Reforming Animal Control/Building a No Kill Community Resource CD.

1 day body count of dog and cat corpses in 50 gal drums at pound
1 day body count at pound – click image to go to Imagine blog

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 5, 2012. See comments below.

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9 thoughts on “Redemption: Shelter Plan B”

  1. The independent blog tracking places that have reached a 90 percent or better live release rate for at least a year, “No-Kill News” ( changed its name to “No-Kill Communities” but kept the same website.

    A few months ago that site became defunct. The new blog by the same author is called “Out The Front Door”,

    “… And when you can have a real conversation— based on actual facts— to determine what is best for animals, the animals win.”

    1. Hi Chris, I thought your valuable discussion and links on “no-kill” shelters should be more prominent than just here so I turned your complete comment into a post. Hope that’s ok and many thanks.

  2. Article by well-known Canadian professor, Dr. Stanley Coren.

    April 15, 2012.

    “…I recently wrote an article (The Politics of Pet Dogs and Kennel Crates) which was inspired by half page newspaper advertisements being run by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). These ads advocated banning the use of kennel crates for dogs. When I could find no scientific evidence suggesting that the use of kennel crates was harmful, I turned to PETA’s website, and much to my surprise I found that they offered no evidence of harm. In addition what I found to be most distressing is that the organization seems to have an agenda oriented against the keeping of animals as pets at all.”

    See: When the Ethical Treatment of Animals Goes Wrong,

    This is relavent because of PETA’s opposition to no kill communities using their made up excuses (okay, outright lies and nefarious, unethical behaviour that landed them in court. See

    This is important to know for those who like pets. They should know who and what they are supporting with their donations, opinions, and reputations. Those who believe in rescuing and adopting animals need to know and share this, and encourage people to support their local rescue groups.

  3. The new category is a great idea. These programs and services are successfully being used elsewhere, going on twenty years now since they were first introduced. I believe all municipalities should support such efforts to demonstrate that pets are not disposable, and to show that animals should be treated with compassion and understanding.

    From what I have seen, there are several communities that want to put the Calgary funding model, including their Responsible Pet Ownership by-law in place, together with Winograd’s No Kill Equation. Neither one is a plug-and-play model, so they must be customized for every community.

    Thank you for passing along info about the April 14 event. I hope it gets a lot of media coverage and starts some good discussions!

  4. The last paragraph of your blog post is one of my favourites!

    When you take a virtual tour of a typical shelter, it’s amazing to see how similar the problems are all over!
    Tour, see

    There are now more than 30 communities listed which have open-admission no-kill shelters with a live release rate of 90% or more. The independent No-Kill Communities blog, by Susan, is tracking them and others who are determined to stop killing for population control or to make space. The blog includes info on Calgary and other Canadian and international communities.

    (“30 Open-Admission No-Kill Shelters” as of March 27,

    About the blog, defining open-admission…

    Did you know… in “January 2010, …the Nova Scotia SPCA adopted the principles of the No-Kill Equation as set forth by Nathan Winograd. In 2010, the live release rate in Nova Scotia went from 65% to 83%. The SPCA branches use varying techniques to work toward the no-kill goal. The Cape Breton branch transfers many dogs to Halifax, the province’s capital city, where there is more demand. The Yarmouth branch emphasizes pet retention efforts and an appointment system for surrenders. Colchester emphasizes adoption.

    The province of Nova Scotia has almost one million people, so if Nova Scotia is able to achieve no-kill, it would be comparable to the achievement of no-kill in the Austin, Texas metro area.”

    (Article includes links to more info,

    The No Kill Equation basic info,

    Imagine if the Ontario SPCA decided to do the same as Nova Scotia!

    1. Hi Chris, yes, his words quoted in the last paragraph are great, and are common sense. It’s really about how you look at your job if you’re working in an animal “shelter”. In a new page on TNR on the main STDOA site we also added his sentence about feral cats in shelters – if they’re being killed because they’re feral, it’s because the shelter doesn’t have a TNR programme. Another “duh!” moment. As well-run true shelters have shown, the money saved on “euthanizing” animals can fund a lot of better alternatives.

      I’ve kept these and the other links you sent to put in a special page on this or the STDOA site about shelter operation. Labelled as such, they’ll be more accessible than being here in comments. Thanks, valuable resources.

      I hope you can get to Toronto for the lecture and workshop. I can’t go unfortunately, but I’ve sent your request on to everyone I could think of. That’s very interesting about the Nova Scotia SPCA. If they can do it, the OSPCA should be able to as well.

  5. The April 14 event in Toronto includes an optional workshop that looks very interesting. Hopefully it will have info specific to getting things accomplished here in Ontario.

    I don’t have use of a vehicle that day, so I’m trying to scrounge up a ride there for Saturday if you know anyone who is going and wouldn’t mind an extra passenger who can help pay for gas and parking.
    (I can get a ride home Sunday from my brother if they’re staying in TO for the weekend.)

    If anyone knows someone in the St. Thomas or London area who might be going, can I ask for you to please forward this? Thank You,

    Chris Harris,

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