No Kill May Fail in Tompkins County

Nathan Winograd launched his career by taking Tompkins County to No-Kill.

One critic said she brought Tompkins County almost to no-kill before Nathan came.

Then there was the very recent article that No-Kill may fail in Tompkins County due to lack of funding from a very stingy County that ought to be ashamed of itself. If No-Kill is a failure there, it is largely the County and other contractor's fault.

Yet the question whether No-Kill is sustainable or not remains unanswered. Nathan rarely addresses the subject of sustainablity after No-Kill is achieved.

Things are fine at no-kill shelters as long as Nathan is there because of his No-Kill guru status. However, the successes do not appear to sustain after he leaves for more than a year or so. The number of agencies he has consulted with is small and we do not know whether his blueprints will work in a broader range of municipal and private shelters, and if they do not attain or sustain, why?

Donors fade into the background after the electricity of attaining No-Kill passes. Employees and volunteers burn out. Lack of Nathan's continued inspiration and presence seems to be a large part of the failures.

When No-Kill begins to fail, Nathan has historically disavowed himself from the failure by blaming the shelter for not following his recommendations, as he did with Philadelphia and Rancho Cucaminga.

Charlottesville N.C., which he was touting last year as a great success has refused to send me more detailed statistics than those posted on their website, leading me to speculate they are not doing as well this year.

This raises the question not whether No-Kill is possible, but is it sustainable without Nathan's constant presence and his guru status ability to attract volunteers and funding?

He has distanced himself from his pride and joy of 2006, Philadelphia. Will he distance himself from Charlottesville if they fall below a 90% save rate?

Nathan has yet to address issues of implementation given budget limitations, unions and civil service, and susatinability after he leaves.

Nathan is absolutely brilliant at analyzing shelter operations and how to attain optimal functioning within the constraints of budget and personnel.

Ed Boks has never seen the inside of his shelters unless Villaraigosa or the press was there. He has left it to his employees to attain No-Kill for each shelter without providing direction or plan.

Perhaps he could just refer emplpoyees to Nathan's very long and very thorough analysis and recommendations for Philadelphia to give them an idea of what has to be done and how to do it.

Nathan is unsurpassed at bringing in money and volunteers because of his no-kill guru status. But how to sustain?

Article #1:

Changes in SPCA funding may end no-kill policy

By Samantha Allen Staff Writer October 25th, 2007

Low funding for the Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for its animal control services could force the county to hire a municipal shelter that will not practice the association’s “no-kill” policy.

Abigail Smith, executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA, said the county pays $1.76 per capita per year for its services under its contract — less than half of the national average of $4.00 to $6.00. Smith said the SPCA is demanding the board increase its payment for its services from $21,700 a year to $41,400 a year.

“Five years ago, the SPCA had funds in its reserves, and, considering the humane treatment of all animals in its mission, we covered the gap,” Smith said, “But I discovered that luxury doesn’t exist. The reserves are gone.”

Since 1987, the SPCA has provided animal control services for the 10 municipalities within Tompkins County under its no-kill policy, which has served as a model for other anti-euthanization SPCAs like those in San Francisco and Philadelphia, Smith said.

If funding demands are not met, Smith said, the SPCA’s contract will be dropped and it will no longer provide animal control services to Tompkins County.

Ithaca College sophomore Callie Tresser, a cat socializer at the SPCA, said dropping the contracts would be a mistake. As it stands now, Tresser says there aren’t enough funds to provide food and resources to all the cats with which she works.
“The fact that [the board isn’t] giving more money [to the cause] is awful and it’s not right,” Tresser said.

Smith said the SPCA’s national mission is the prevention of cruelty to animals. The organization’s objectives include ending overpopulation and providing humane education for the public. Smith said even if the contracts with the county are dropped, the SPCA, which currently takes in about 752 cats and 400 to 500 dogs each year, will continue to serve these primary functions.

Smith said if the municipalities, including Ithaca, Lansing and Dryden, do not comply with the SPCA’s proposed budget, a new vendor will have to provide the animal control function for Tompkins County. This could mean euthanizing the animals after a standard holding period of five to 30 days. There are few alternatives for the county that will provide animal control services under a no-kill policy, Smith said.

“If the county decides to drop the contracts, they would be eliminating that no-kill policy [that protects these strays],” Smith said. “I can’t imagine [the community wanting that].”

Cathy Valentino, town supervisor of Ithaca, said she thinks if the board decides not to continue the contract with the SPCA, other vendors would work similarly to the SPCA model.

“I think some of the [animal control vendors] that I know are very conscientious about working very hard … for the pets,” Valentino said.

Ithaca College senior Elise Huston, who interned at the SPCA last summer, said she is concerned opening a contract with a new shelter would infringe upon animal rights.

“This could have an … effect on the [entire] community,” Huston said. “I hope that [students] would come forward and speak up for the animals.”

Valentino, who currently works on a subcommittee of the Tompkins County Council of Governments, which represents the municipalities, dedicated to resolving the issue, said the SPCA’s funding increase would lead to a 2.5 percent rise in city property taxes, which she said might be too high for taxpayers.

William Burbank, a town board member, said the board could cover the costs easily with its fund balance, which is set aside for emergencies like these. He said it would not dramatically alter taxes.

“The [2.5 percent figure] doesn’t make sense,” Burbank said. “If we had to raise taxes, it would be a 1.9 percent increase in property tax … [but] we could raise it from other sources.”

The board’s budget has to be finalized by Nov. 20. Valentino said the committee has proposed a six-month extension to the SPCA but the organization has not complied. Burbank is “confident” that the budget will be configured appropriately before the deadline.

Valentino, who has received letters from community members in support of the SPCA, said the board wants to stick with the SPCA’s services, but it is the board’s responsibility to research other options.

“[We want to try to stay with the SPCA] because of the quality they give us and the reputation they have throughout the nation,” Valentino said regarding the esteemed no-kill policy. “They are an important part of the fabric of our community.”

Though Smith said she is optimistic the issue will be resolved by the start of the new year, she said she is still trying to make community members aware of the animal rights at risk if the SPCA animal control contract is dropped.

“I want [the community members] to know that [the SPCA] did everything we could to try and maintain these contracts and to continue to provide these services,” she said. “I want everyone in the community to have the opportunity to tell their town governments what they want and how they feel.”

Article #2:

No Kill Doesn't work in Tompkins Co. NY

by Lori TylerMonday Feb 18th, 2008 4:25 PM

As a previous shelter manager of a shelter Nathan Winograd "saved" and a board member of an SPCA in a neighboring community, I absolutely believe that the "No Kill" movement has failed us in Tompkins Co.- once touted as the "safest place in the US for animals"

I was the manager at the Ithaca SPCA two years before Nathan was hired. Under my management, the euthanasia rate for all animals (not just those deemed adoptable) decreased by about 50%. We were developing programs to achieve "no-kill" before he came along. In fact, the board resolved to stop euthanizing BEFORE Nathan was even working at the shelter.

What he did do was raise money and he built a new shelter (which we had already been planning and had already bought the property for). However, this shelter is not sustainable for the shelter. They cannot afford the operate it- its too big.

Now that Nathan has gone away, the donors have dwindled and they are in a danger of losing their animal control contracts as they have had to ask for large increases in money from the towns and city.

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.

I personally want to be part of an organization that accepts all homeless animals in the community and tried to help them- even if that means some will be euthanized. There are worse things in this world than euthanasia- I have seen them. I choose to euthanize over leaving an animal to suffer in a cage, starve on the street, or suffer from a treatable- yet un-affordable to care for disease.

You can limit the number of animals being euthanised in your shelter by creating programs to increase adoptions and reduce the number of animals coming in. It is not, IMO, a front-loaded proclamation- it the the result of sustainable programs within the shelter and in the community.

Once the population is stable and the community sees your results- the money will come to help you help more animals be adoptable. We are far from this in Chemung Co. It is far easier to get a cat from your neighbor than the shelter and far easier to just leave your cat to breed recklessly than get her spayed. This is where we need to work- not making sweeping proclamations about not killing animals.


Anonymous said...

Is nathan a total fraud? How can he sell a book when he is failing in the real world? He can't blame every shelter he ever consulted with.

Anonymous said...

I think he overestimates people's commitment, long-term.

I think he underestimates people's resignation to the killing of animals. You show people one dog, like Zephyr, or a bunch of small cute dogs rescued from a puppy mill or a hoarder and they can get momentarily outraged. But you tell them 70,000 unwanted animals were killed in Los Angeles last year and all they'll say is, "That's sad." If they really want to be thought deep, they'll say, "That's sad, but inevitable." And then they'll say some vague something about how irresponsible other people are.

I don't think Winograd is a fraud. But it's possible the No Kill Equation he posits requires a level of caring and commitment that's unsustainable in the long run, given that most people, when push comes to shove, see most animals, often even their own, as disposable.

Anonymous said...

When Richard Avinzano or other humane society executive directors get together with their boards of directors, do you think they talk about no-kill, or how many animals are adopted vs euthanized for medical or behavioral reasons?
They don't. They talk about money. Richard Avanzino is a fundraiser and he and all directors of humane societies are rewarded with money when they raise more money.
It's all about money, not dogs and cats or no-kill.
Nathan takes the money until that source dries up and then he moves on to the next source of funding.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone bothered to look at one of Winograd's consultations? He does no demographics, does no research on the area served as far as rescue groups and availability of resources. He just says if you do this, well fine, except most areas don't have a North Shore League to take a third of the animals. It is easy to say let the rescues help out but what if they are few and far between. Besides the rescues are overwhelmed themselves and when they take a pet from an owner, they do try and usually get a donation, which doesn't happen with the shelter animals. He has a nice little template that he "borrowed" from HSUS and just adds a lot of his words to it. No research, no demographics, no nothing is what you get with his audit. Look at one sometimes, you'll see the same thing.

Anonymous said...

No Kill sure is not working in Reno Nevada. we had all these dogs for over a year, we got a new dog manager, he reevaluated them all and put many down for aggression. No numbers have bee released. The Exe Dir says a
"few" what is a few ? and how long were these aggressive dogs up for adoption offered to an unsuspecting public ? Read the whining by the last dog manager, he blames the public for bringing more dogs to the shelter , duh, that is what happens at a shelter. If you want to call yourself a no kill shelter you better have a plan, and the No kill solutions is a joke.

Ed Muzika said...

To the previous comment.

This kind of comment helps nothing. There is no information just opinion stated as fact.

"No Kill sure is not working in Reno Nevada."

Why do you say that? What are the facts on which you state your opinion so confidently. Share your facts as well as your unsupported opinion.

"o numbers have bee released."

That is not true; I have posted their stats twice in the last two months. They do not support your claim. What are your facts to the contrary?

Also, are you taking about the County shelter or the Nevada Humane shelter?

"f you want to call yourself a no kill shelter you better have a plan, and the No kill solutions is a joke."

What do you mean a joke? Do you have a copy of the plan? It is 220pages long. What part is a joke?

These kind sof comments are useless. They don't even name names, for example, of the ex director or the dog manager, or when these words were said.

This is pure opinion with zero verified facts.