Before I get to the heart of this post, I want to clarify one thing straight away. I am 100% in favor of the No Kill Movement and support it with every fibre of my being. In saying that I am speaking ONLY for myself. I do not speak for every animal rescuer when I say it and I do not speak for the other writers on this site.
From the moment I began reading Redemption by Nathan Winograd months ago, I knew that the No Kill eleven steps to saving as many shelter animals as possible was a far cry better than the current plan which appears to be to kill as many shelter animals as possible. When I finished both Redemption and Irreconcilable Differences, I was sold completely on the No Kill Movement and now I even send a regular monthly donation to No Kill Nation to show my support. I just wanted to be very clear about that before I tell you the story of This Dog, which shows a gaping hole in the No Kill Movement’s plan.
The Story of This Dog
This is the story of This Dog, a 1-year-old gorgeous American Staffordshire Terrier that found himself homeless and desperate at a animal control facility in the general area of New York state. Here is what the write up on Petfinder might have been about This Dog:
“This Dog’s adoption will be limited to Rescue Organizations only. This Dog is about a year old and seems to be house trained. He’ll need to go home with someone who has experience with this breed of dog. He’s very playful but is a bit too rough for a home with children under 10 years old. This Dog tends to be dominant with other dogs and a home with small breed dogs would not be a good idea. This Dog has been neutered. To adopt our dogs you must come to the facility with your entire family, including dogs, to meet with our staff and the dog you are interested in.”
An animal rescuer took a great interest in This Dog when he had only 4 days left to live. The effort this rescuer made to find someone to take him and give him a second chance is nothing short of heroic but is very typical of what rescuers do by the thousands every single day of the year. Because of This Dog’s growing aggression issues, probably as a result of being trapped in a kennel day in and day out with little or no interaction with either other dogs or humans, This Dog was going to need specialized training in order to dial back his behavior issues and bring him back to an adoptable state.
The rescuer contacted a friend of mine (who relayed this story to me) and asked for his help. The rescuer stated “…this dog has 4 days to find a rescue that can work with him. He’s developed some behavioral issues, so he’s no longer up for adoption. He can only go to a rescue that can handle rehabbing him. He’s started to guard his kennel and he’s focusing intensely on other dogs. I’m contacting rescues to see if anyone would consider accepting him, but his chances don’t look good. Please spread the word.”
My friend, who is accomplished in dealing with aggressive dogs, referred the rescuer to several nationally known rescues who might be able to help. Included in these recommendations were the infamous John Garcia at Best Friends and Matt DeAngelis or Kerry Clair of Pets Alive, both vocal supporters of the No Kill Movement.
It is important to note here that 2 points of the 11 step No Kill plan include phrases such as “behaviorial rehabilitation programs”. I will be detailing the 11 step plan in my next blog but for now, one step is a requirement for medical and behaviorial rehabbing and another step under the Pet Retention plan also includes behaviorial rehabilitation programs. If No Kill is going to be successful, it absolutely must include comprehensive programs for rehabbing dogs who have developed aggressive behavior signs. Often dogs are brought into the facility without any signs of behavior problems whatsoever but the longer they are incarcerated in this facility, the higher the risk is that the dog will become more aggressive as his/her stress levels increase.
This is a vital issue as a majority of “kill” animal control facilities use dog aggression or “temperament” as an excuse to kill a dog. Any small indication of aggression at all, including snapping at a catch-pole, can get a dog tagged as aggressive which will surely sign his/her death warrant. As these facilities are not required to include “for temperament” killings in their annual numbers of animals killed, it’s a very convenient way to make space without looking bad.
Now back to my story.
One might assume that both Best Friends and Pets Alive, who publicly pride themselves on their ability to save otherwise unadoptable animals, would have bent over backward to help the rescuer find a place for This Dog who had only 4 days to live due to signs of aggression. A perfectly healthy adoptable animal was in jeopardy of losing his life as a result of being locked away for too long in a noisy frightening kennel. A perfect candidate for the No Kill Movement to rush in and save the day..and the dog. But one would be assuming incorrectly.
To everyone’s great surprise, this is the response our rescuer received from Best Friends. (Remember, these are the folks who were held up as great heroes for saving Michael Vick’s dogs and who brought in a ton of money in donations after taking those “trained to be aggressive” dogs and rehabbing them.)
“Thank you for writing to Best Friends about This Dog in your shelter. As you may be aware, most sanctuaries and rescues, Best Friends included, cannot accept dogs with a history of any sort of aggression because of the risk they present to volunteers, visitors and staff.”
HUH? Did anyone tell Michael Vick’s dogs that they are not supposed to be there?
And this from Pets Alive, the sanctuary held up as heroes for attempting to save Oreo:
“I don’t know if anyone can take this guy”
And from Spirit Animal Sanctuary, known nationally as a sanctuary for aggressive dogs:
“I don’t know how much we can help, being that we care for many unadoptable animals here at Spirit Animal…to protect the animals that have been entrusted into our care, we unfortunately have to ask for the donation upfront”
That donation by the way is $3,942!! Show me a rescue that has that kind of money to spend?
No matter which No Kill advocate the rescuer turned to for help to save This Dog, not one single one of them was willing and/or able to help. And so…This Dog was killed after his 4 days was up. RIP Little Man. I, for one, will never forget you.
Recently, I have witnessed representatives of the No Kill Movement uttering outrageous claims of success to the media at every opportunity. As if by saying a thing is true makes it so. Statements that would have you believe that the No Kill Movement is within a hairs breath of being completely accepted by animal control facilities across the nation. This is simply not true.
This Dog’s story is not an isolated case. It happens by the hundreds per day in the New York City animal control system alone and by the thousands every day across the nation. When the call goes out to the No Kill Movement to step up, no one is answering the phone.
The No Kill Movement has no plan for rehabilitating aggressive dogs and they have no resources to implement a plan even if they had one. Until they do have a plan, the No Kill Movement will continue to fail every dog like This Dog who is unfortunately labelled aggressive and trapped in the animal control system with no way out.
(Writer’s Note: Although this is a true story, names have been omitted due to the rescuer’s fear of being ostracized or criticized by the No Kill community for divulging this gap in the No Kill Movement’s plan. That fear alone reveals an alarming similarity to the current system rescuers work under now with the kill shelter regime.)