Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blaming No Kill for Killing: the Desperate Last Stand of Austin's Status Quo


It looks like the old-guard animal-welfare status quo in Austin is finally rearing its head to unleash one final and very desperate fight against the grassroots movement of hope, change, love, and life for the animals at Austin's Town Lake Animal Center. We hoped this wouldn't happen, but honestly predicted that it would because this is exactly what happened in other communities that have achieved No Kill success: the status quo lashes out against the effort intended to change it.

First, the ASPCA "Mission Orange" program has hired a pro-killing, anti-No-Kill activist to "assess" Town Lake Animal Center right as the City embarks on its historic plan to end the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless pets in Austin. The activist in question is a notorious opponent of uncontroversial No Kill reforms (like increased adoptions and foster programs) who has gone on record arguing that (1) shelters should only use half of their cage spaces; and (2) shelters shouldn't have robust foster programs to save puppies, kittens, and medically treatable animals. Her advice has been followed--- then abandoned--- by at least one shelter in another state after following it led to a significant increase in shelter killing--- no surprise when you only use half of your adoption spaces and you indiscriminately kill to make those spaces available. We hope we're wrong, but we have every reason to believe that the Mission Orange "assessment" team will reach the same conclusions in Austin as they have reached in other cities: that we should kill more animals--- and use less of the shelter--- in order to somehow "save" animals. It doesn't make sense now, and it won't when they release their assessment either.

And now, incendiary and false anti-No Kill propaganda from the Austin Humane Society fills our inboxes. Et tu, Brute? As hard is this is to say, the Austin Humane Society will not receive another dime of support from me. Anyone pay attention to Fox News on occasion? One of the things Fox News likes to do is ask emotionally charged, incendiary questions to imply veracity to an argument that facts do not actually support. Now we see the Austin Humane Society doing the same thing, asking in their July 2010 newsletter: "Is No-Kill Killing Kittens?"

Well why don't we just answer the question for them: No, it isn't. Here are the facts:

1. AHS's newsletter states that since the Austin City Council unanimously approved the No Kill plan and banned the shelter from killing healthy, adoptable animals when there are available cages to house them, "adoption numbers are not increasing." That is false. Since the No Kill plan passed, adoptions of all animals at the shelter have increased 30% this year over last year. Adoptions of cats and kittens have increased 48% this year over last year. And transfers to rescue groups have increased 59%. Far more animals are leaving the shelter alive since the Austin City Council acted.
2. AHS's newsletter says that the city has allocated "no additional resources to accomplish [the No Kill] goal." That too is false. The City's new budget allocates an additional $800,000 to the shelter.
3. AHS's newsletter claims that "the misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" is causing "more kittens than ever [to be] surrendered to the shelter." False again. First, while it is true that cat intake is up after the No Kill vote this year over last year, it is also true that cat intake was up before the No Kill vote. It is impossible for something that was happening before and is happening after an event (in this case, the No Kill vote) to be caused by that event. Second, dog intake is actually down this year over last year. If the No Kill vote was actually causing pet owners to surrender their animals, then why on earth would dog intake actually be down this year over last year? Is AHS suggesting that cat people watch the news but dog people don't? And third, as a requirement of the No Kill plan, Town Lake Animal Center is now informing all persons wishing to surrender an animal that the shelter is not a No Kill facility. If the "misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" actually caused someone to take a kitten to TLAC, then they would turn around and leave--- with the kitten--- once the "misconception" was cured by the shelter staff.
4. AHS's newsletter claims that "[d]espite the hard work of TLAC staff, foster volunteers . . . are not increasing." While we have seen no published report on the number of TLAC fosters this year as compared to last year, we do know of at least one documented instance of a foster volunteering to foster a TLAC dog--- but being turned away by TLAC employees--- because the dog wasn't "young enough" to be fostered. That's right, TLAC has decided that if an animal isn't young, it's better off dead than in a foster home.

I am, personally, incredibly disappointed in the Austin Humane Society. They have harmed the Austin No Kill movement before. They have claimed that No Kill advocates were actually barriers to success in Austin. They have supported a (now-replaced) shelter director responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 lost and homeless pets. They heavily supported closing Austin's downtown shelter and moving it to an industrial area on the outskirts of town. But falsely blaming the Austin City Council's unanimous No Kill plan, which is demonstrably saving animals, for "killing kittens" is the last straw for me.

As a humane movement, we simply cannot support groups--- regardless of their name and history in Austin--- who wage incendiary and false attacks against No Kill reforms and policies in an attempt to take power away from a movement dedicated to saving lives. Let us not forget--- the Austin Humane Society carried the "No Kill" mantle in Austin in 1994 and, even with a multi-million-dollar grant from Maddie's Fund--- utterly failed to reach its promised goal. AHS was incapable of leading Austin to No Kill in 1994, and they evidently have not changed. Not a penny more from me. Not a penny. [Note: I'm sure AHS is shaking in its shoes not to receive my paltry annual donation...]

What can you do? E-mail the Austin Humane Society and tell them to stop blocking No Kill reforms in Austin. Either get on the No Kill bus, or go away. Here is their e-mail address: info@austinhumanesociety.org

Ryan Clinton

[Added note: It is absolutely true that AHS does great work both in its adoptions and in its wonderful TNR program. This blog is in no way intended to communicate anything but the greatest respect for those programs (and probably others we don't know about). But when the powerful falsely attack the No Kill movement, as AHS did in its newsletter, their attacks deserve to be met with equivalent force. Of course we are stronger if we are all together, but that does not mean that we cannot or should not disagree. Only by questioning the status quo could we ever hope to change it.]