On February 18, I published a post by Lori Tyler, the director of the Tompkins County SPCA just before Winograd took over.
Basically she said she took TC to the verge of No-Kill before Nathan came, so it was no big deal what he accomplished. She then stated No Kill was failing because the SPCA was asking for more money from the County. She also said that she now kills in her own nearby county shelter because she couldn’t make No-Kill work there.
”At my shelter in a neighboring county, we have been lured into "trying to keep up with the Jones'" attitude. We tried to change our euthanasia policy to be similar, but we didn't have the programs to keep the animals moving, and we ended up with a warehouse situation and we couldn't care for the number of cats in our care.
”We now have more stringent euthanasia guidelines- including euthanizing for issues such as dental disease and poor socialability. "No-Kill" is a euphemism for "limited admission". Animals aren't truly safe if they are being dumped on animal control or left in the street.”
My book Redemption has received very positive reviews in or from the Dog Writers Association of America, Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF Gate, Midwest Book Reviews, Library Journal, The Bark, Pet Connection, Air America, and more.
The only negative reviews have, not surprisingly, come from groups like PETA, which I am highly critical of in the book for their anti-No Kill policies, and from minor blogs who are run by those who are either part of kill-oriented shelters, kill-supporting national organizations, or killers of dogs and cats themselves.
There is an old saying “follow the money.” In this case, the more apt saying is “follow the sodium pentobarbital,” the drug used to kill animals in shelters. Where there is a lot of usage of this lethal poison, you can expect a negative review even, as is true in the vast majority of cases, it is clear they have not read it (they make statements about things which are not in the book!)
That is why it is not surprising that PETA did not like the book. Not only was the book highly critical of PETA’s pro-kill policy towards shelter animals, especially feral cats and Pit Bulls, but PETA killed 97% of all dogs and cats at its “shelter” last year and is the subject of a petition to the Virginia Department of Agriculture seeking to reclassify PETA as a “slaughterhouse.” PETA, in short, uses a lot of sodium pentobarbital.
But the latest salvo from the “catch and kill” crowd is the most interesting of all because it comes from a former shelter manager of the Tompkins County shelter I oversaw (she left before my arrival). In her attacks, now as the director of a neighboring kill shelter, she claims I essentially inherited the “No Kill” programs in Tompkins County. She also goes on to claim that she tried those programs at her new shelter, failed, and that this failure proves (along with recent news about animal control funding from Tompkins County) that No Kill itself is not sustainable. She never once considers the possibility that it failed in her shelter because of her own mismanagement.
In fact, I am not surprised that the effort failed in her current shelter, based on what I found at the Tompkins County shelter she left me. In a memorandum to the Board of Directors, I documented what I found on arrival to Tompkins County from this manager and others associated with her. What she left was a shelter where:
sick animals in the infirmary had no food and were found languishing over empty water bowls; animals were being labeled as "unadoptable" to tell the Board of Directors they weren't killing "adoptable" animals when that is exactly what they were doing; puppies were mislabeled and killed as “vicious;” all feral cats were killed; and, kittens were killed after foster parents fed them around the clock and then brought them back after they were old enough for adoption, because they had policies like killing cats to open up cages in anticipation of needing those cages if new cats came in. (The foster program was then abruptly terminated because of this.)
In fact, on only my second day at the shelter, I was told by staff to pick animals to kill because we were "out of room" and that is the way "we always did it." I did no such thing and found not only homes for the animals, but new staff members as well.
There was no No Kill policy in effect before I arrived. In 1999, the Board stated they wanted to go No Kill, and most of the managers were either encouraged or asked to leave or fired because of their failures to achieve it, bad press, a loss of donor support, and a subsequent volunteer revolt.
These failures included having kittens getting sick and/or dying in droves out of poor care and poor protocols, and lack of appropriate follow-up.
To say that Tompkins is not sustainable is also ludicrous. They have saved over 90% of all impounded dogs for roughly seven years. This is raw data, not filtered through this former shelter manager’s self-serving definitions of “adoptable” vs. "unadoptable.” Except for 2007 when the save rate for cats was 88% (which is largely best in the country last year), they've saved over 90% of the cats for as long. That is powerful proof of sustainability.
Ignoring this, they claim No Kill is not sustainable because new leadership at the Tompkins County SPCA has told municipalities that they need a contract increase for animal control to keep pace with increasing costs and to come up to industry standards, so that they no longer have to subsidize it. What Tompkins is arguing for this year is for municipalities to pay $4 per capita for animal control funding instead of the $1.75 they have been paying for years.
By contrast, the Humane Society of the United States recommends $5 to $7 per capita. Even though they are offering No Kill animal control, TC SPCA leadership is still asking for below the HSUS recommendation for a kill shelter, and receives far less than most shelters do across the country for animal control services.
If this was any other shelter, PETA, HSUS, and all the other voices of defeatism who keep chanting the "we must kill, blame someone else" mantra would support it. But because it is a symbol for No Kill, it is attacked as “unsustainable.” In fact, if this was any other shelter, they would be supporting the budget increase, not rooting for it to fail as they tragically and obscenely do.
Why the double standard? Why do groups like HSUS and PETA argue that shelters must be paid $5-$7 per capita for animal control, but Tompkins County should not get it, and because they seek it, they must be failing because of No Kill? Even the former shelter manager’s shelter likely gets more per capita for animal control funding, and she kills with it. And therein lies the rub. Follow the sodium pentobarbital.
Leadership at kill shelters and their national allies like HSUS and PETA must find a scapegoat for their own failures. Because Tompkins' success put pressure on surrounding communities to do better, one way to ease that pressure is to smear the success.
Another way is to try to assassinate my character because I am a strong voice for No Kill. In both these cases, it's a cheap shot. But it is no longer surprising to me.
And at the end of the day, how can I be held responsible for what happens at an agency that I left four years ago with a budget surplus, programs that saved over 90% of the animals, and infrastructure which was the envy of the nation?
Since my departure now nearly four years ago, they have gone through three Executive Directors and a complete turnover in staff and as many Board members. Really, it's stretching reality and causation to the breaking point to hold me responsible for what occurs there. And given that they are still saving nine out of ten dogs and cats at $1.75 per capita for animal control—and have been doing it for the better part of a decade—there is no blame to be had: they should be lauded instead.
In fact, in 2007, Tompkins County was the safest community in the U.S. for cats and the second safest community in the U.S. for dogs (91% compared to 92% for Washoe County, NV.)
Winograd has a point here. We cannot hold him responsible for what happens years after he leaves. We cannot evenconclude that his gains are not sustainable, although Nathan has ignored the Winograd phenomenon---when he is there, they will come, meaning donors and volunteers.
The other complaint made against Nathan's no kill style is that it has only worked at three smaller shelters, (and San Francisco, although Carl Friedman says Nathan had nothing to do with success there) operations where the director can have immediate and direct control of most operations.
In Reno, the humane side run by Bonnie has a public counterpart that kills most of the cats. We are talking about two organizations and a partnership. To make this work requires good management skills and vision by both partners.
There are lots of unanswered questions with regard to no kill. Boks has addressed none of them, but has recently made some mild headway after two years. Nathan has three proven successes, but only in small shelters. Tara Derby has not yet countered Nathan's criticism or addressed the problems unique to Philly. Carl Friedman says look at what SF has accomplished and maintained, yet Nathan says SF is losing its way.
We really need a conference where these issues get explored, or at least a "trialogue" with these various parties through some venue. I wish these no kill guys were open to dialogue instead of monologue. Ed's crashing a Winograd no kill event hardly constitutes an attempt at dialogue.
By the way, Lori Tyler has her own website:
Her resume certainly seems lightweight. Email her and ask her for more of her side of the story.