Comment from a Winograd Critic

For almost 2 years I've been having a "fight" with a Winograd critic. Neither of us really heard each other. She uses his Rancho consult as one example of his failure to be "great" leader of No-Kill.

Recently Charlottesville has fallen out of the No-Kill category and Philly's efforts were roundly criticized by Nathan when one Tara Derby was his pride and joy, getting his shelter director of the year award.

Of course, it appears shelters all over the country are failing even compared with previous years--or so I am told by some; I have not seen statistics to prove it other than at LAAS.

If the failures are truly beyond the shelter's coping ability, then is is difficult to say Rancho's current failure, or Charlottesville's, is do to Winograd's failed consults.

If anyone has actual statistics to offer re impounds, cat and dog, Southern California and beyond, please send them to me.

Here is the post:

Thank you for opening discussion and not degrading this time. Rancho was overcrowded, disease ridden, and turning away owner surrenders within the first three months of implementing Winograd's program. They have poured money into the shelter to do everything he recommended to no avail.

Numbers can be manipulated just by telling the ACO's to not pick up animals and turning away owners. How do we know owners were turned away - they were going to the other shelters in San Bernardino trying to surrender. One interesting note is that the county shelter had an increase in adoptions because people were so put off at the Rancho shelter.

I saw first hand, cats and dogs in the hallways in crates and carriers, beside each other, almost no room to walk. The staff could not keep up with medicating and new animals just re-infected anyway. Rancho citizens went to public forum before the City Council to describe how they had seen horrible fights and even death in the dog kennels from overcrowding.

Yes, the City Clerk knows me quite well from my public records request. Now things are so bad that they are starting to ignore requests not only from myself but others as well.

Rancho claims to have over 400 volunteers but these "volunteers" have to have their parents with them while at the shelter. I have witnessed first hand the rudeness of the present staff because they are so frustrated at the whole thing. And Rancho even stopped canvassing for dog licenses for a great while they were so committed to this program.

I witnessed the lines awaiting the opening of the shelter in the mornings of owners surrendering their pets when the shelter declared no kill. Never saw this before. As far as I know Rancho has done everything recommended by Winograd, I know his report almost by heart.He did have input on the new director.

I don't "hate" Winograd, I hate the ignorance of his program and his statements. Actually I feel sorry for him in many ways but I hate the damage he is doing with his ignorance and inexperience.

I, too, want to believe. I will not do so at the expense of the animals in the shelters however. A truly great leader would have gone into Philly to see where his program went wrong and offer to solve the problem. I can't respect someone who only sits and condemns.

Does he only care to get his money or does he truly care about helping the animals? He's done nothing to convince me he cares for anything other than his own greed by failing to look at the reasons for the failures. It is so easy to say that "they were not committed enough".

I didn't misunderstand his statement on overpopulation and neither did the breeding industry. Have you looked at their web site lately? Breeders are recommending his book for use to fight laws against breeding. It was used to defeat the one thing that will stop the influx into the shelters, AB1634. If you want to insist I misunderstood, then all those others misunderstood too and it resulted in stopping the one thing that can make a difference.

Right now I am more concerned about how we will fare with this lousy economy. Realtors are reporting dead and dying animals they are finding in foreclosed homes. Horses are being abandoned in the desert in record numbers. Livestock keeping in our shelters is more of a drain on the shelters than dogs and cats.

The shelters cannot turn away these people who are losing their homes or their animals will be dumped. Most people try to place their pets with rescues prior to taking them to the shelter, the shelter is the last resort.

We are looking at one of the hardest times ever as far as animals go. Budgets will be cut, more animals will be dumped and surrendered, and shelters will be hurting more than ever. Adoptions will decrease because of the uncertainly of having a home to take them to.

Now with the loss of donated food from Petco, many rescues will not be able to pull from the shelters any more. Many rescues will fail as well without that donation. Caregivers will drop like flies and feral cat colonies will be abandoned. Almost every rescue I know gets food from Petco to some extent. And in hard economic times, their donations will fall compounding the problem.


Anonymous said...

A small correction here, Ed. I seem to be a critic of Winograd when actually I am a critic of "no kill" as presented by the likes of Winograd and Boks. Both fail to take reality into consideration when they develop programs. This comes from a lack of experience in animal control. Realities like the current economy and its effects on animal control. AC everywhere are having budget cuts and this will translate into vacant positions not being filled, no shelter improvements, etc. I feel they set animal control up for failure because these are not considered. Look at Philly for example. They had and still have a very inadequate facility. Then add overcrowding on top of that inadequate facility from the program. Changes have to be taken slowly and you have to make sure all things are in place prior to declaring "no kill". I prefer to use the term "humane" rather than the term "no kill" because I see it as a marketing term only for the closed door shelters. What would "humane" mean? It means that every reasonable effort is made to save animals with reasonable being the key word. You can have a commitment from the city but the players (elected officials) come and go and not all of them are animal lovers. The newly elected ones aren't educated or don't care and thus start making problems, campaign to cut the AC budget, etc. There are variables to be considered and thus far, no kill has not done this. A good and well thought out program would be able to overcome and prevail even during these times.

I have seen AC's run by poor management, yes indeed, but by far, the problems are much broader than that and lie beyond the shelter. I have seen sympathetic elected officials being turned off by activists who left a bad taste with their condemnations and accusations. These are the ones we need to nurture, not jump on. I use Rancho because it went down much faster than anyone anticipated. We knew about Rancho because it is publically owned, not a non profit that can hide behind their 501c3 status and not subject to public record requests. I predicted Rancho to fall within a year but it fell almost as soon as it opened it doors. Rancho had a volunteer who had been there forever and there five days a week for 8 hours a day. She was recognized by the City Council and by the Red Cross as the ultimate volunteer. Six months and she left. I had lunch with her afterwards and she described the horrors that the public will never know about unless she choses to go public. This experience hurt her so badly that she refuses to volunteer again at a shelter. She handled the rescues and was very good at what she did. She said that the rescues stopped coming when the program was adopted. They didn't feel the animals needed rescuing because they would not be killed. I looked on the website this week and they only show 3 cats in foster care but over 300 in the shelter. Their foster homes are now saturated. Rancho has had to go to an extreme and had a newspaper article in the Daily Bulletin that referred to the influx of owner surrenders increasing. They just flat stated that they are not no kill in order to stop this. You have a background in psychology just like myself so you can understand that the term no kill takes away the guilt of surrendering the animals. Rancho failed long before the economy took a dump and failed with money being thrown at them to implement every word of their no kill program.

There are areas of this country where things are different. The northeastern states don't have the overpopulation problems that others have, the weather takes care of the strays there. There are areas of the country where TNR can work although I don't believe in "outside" cats for any reason. But they can live outside more safely than say in LA. These areas can stand a chance of obtaining no kill.

Do you know that there are still some areas where the animal is taken to the landfill and shot? I offered to buy the euthanasia medicine for one shelter in Kentucky in order to stop them from this horrible act. We have so much more that needs to be done before we can start yelling no kill to our shelters. I don't see any heros going into these places.

I want the suffering and killing to stop ASAP but we have to go about it in a methodical and patience way. Yes, I am aware that animals will die during this period. But it will prevent even more dying unnecessarily in the future if we can implement changes now in a responsible manner. I have forced myself to accept this loss of life in order to make the future better. I do not believe that we can save them all right now and trying to do so results in overcrowding, disease, and death by kennel mates. I do believe there is a desperate problem with overpopulation and it will only go away if people are forced to alter their animals. I believe that laws and an emphasis on enforcement can make it better. The argument that it will cause more people to surrender their pets is one I don't accept. If people are so quick to surrender with all the available help for spay/neuter, then you can imagine what their idea of pet ownership is, a chain in the backyard or a free roaming cat that fends for itself. I want animals to have a quality of life because that is what they deserve. They already have little to no value in our society and we have to re-establish their value in order to pursue the necessary social change. Yet the no kill shelters are contributing to the decrease in value by offering two for one sales and free. Make shelter animals a "good deal" to people and they will come only results in more animals being dumped in the backyards or abandoned. You know what they say about how we think so little of free things. But if we have to pay we take care of it.

There are alternatives. There are things that can work. But these are rejected because the killing for space has to continue until these things can have the time to have an effect. Animals may have to die in the shelters but they won't have to languish there only to die of disease, fights, or broken spirits.

Anonymous said...

Your candor is appreciated, I for one have always felt the animals were the first priority of this blog. However, I do think the Winograd plan is mortally flawed.
By working mainly with nonprofits he is able to keep the statistics under the radar. It is the innocent animals that pay for his error. The feline population is most at risk, they stack better. You can squeeze more cats to the square foot than dogs and they are easier to hide in foster's or "colonies". They break my heart.
When we tell society that they can bring their problems to us, they will do that. So sending the message that dropping your pet off to a shelter is always going to have a " happy ending " increases guilt free dumping. Somebody will want the barking, biting, non housebroken dog. Somewhere there is a home for the fiv positive kitty that can prevent transmission to other cats, and pay the huge vet costs. I personally believe if we didn't encourage dumping with false promises, more people would work to keep the pet in the home.
Maybe if we told people that their pet would be lucky to get out of its cage (they are cage's you know) for 15 minutes a day, and the other 23 hours and 45 minutes would be spent alone, untouched , for a year or so. Maybe people would rethink the whole No Kill concept.
On the truth, I don't believe most people would wish that on anything that lived and breathed and felt. Animals live in the moment, let us respect their moment. On most days, 23 hours and 45 minutes, alone, forever to them. Humanity is a triage, we are more concerned with who will live decently than who will scrape by suffering. Somehow in our emotional sickness we have pushed our wishes onto the animals who have been way ahead of for centuries.

Anonymous said...

Remarkable post and commentary.

Any chance I might be able to contact the last two commentators?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot here to comment on, but I'll try to keep it short.

While I would tend to agree that the pressure Winograd puts on shelter workers is a little extreme, I have to say that the message needs to be heard and loudly and clearly.

As a person who lives in the midwest, where we have major problems with feral cats and an overabundance of dogs, I feel like I see some of the worst of the worst here.

Most shelters (not the rescues, most of the rescues do a pretty decent job) don't do a good job here. They're open 10-5 M-F, and maybe a couple of hours on weekends. They never do off-site adoptions. Then when someone goes through the work of getting to the shelter to get a pet, they are greeted with beyond horrible conditions and sick animals.
Meanwhile, rescues are denying many of their potential adopters for crazy reasons. No fence. No dog (which rules out all apartment/loft dwellers). Your house sitter let the dog out while you were on vacation? No dog. Etc. So these people turn to breeders because that's their only option.

Meanwhile animals pile up at the shelters in large part because we've made it too difficult to adopt - -it's certainly easier to stop by the local PetSmart and buy a pet.

So we've created demand for animals from breeders. But now, we want to ban the breeding instead of taking away the demand. As a general rule in this country, if there is a demand for something that people will pay money for, then people will find a way to get that to them and profit from it (legal or illegal). So if we "ban" breeding, then we'll lose most control over the conditions the animals are being bred in. That would be a horrible thing. It would be FAR more effective to end the demand by making it easier and preferable for people to adopt. This message is at the core of Winograd's philosophy. I hardly find that immoral.

"Hopeful" talk about animals spending long amounts of time in the shelters. That's NOT his philosophy. His philosophy is based on building a huge foster care network in the short term in order to avoid warehousing. Often times pet limit laws (also silly) make many of the most caring animals caretakers inellibible for being fosters. That's too bad. But the idea is not to keep the animals in cages 23.75 hours a day. No one thinks that is a good idea.

I'm not a fan of the mandatory spay/neuter laws. We passed one just on 'pit bulls' last year in KC. What Winograd (apparently innaccurately) described as going on in LA is really happening in KC. Pit Bull euthanasia is up 80% since they passed the ordinance. People are giving up their dogs, and then we go back by their yards two months later to see another unaltered dog in their yard. It's not working...and there is no signs of success. I can only imagine how long this cycle will go on of killing the dogs and them replacing them. Meanwhile, I only invision MSN of all dogs to make the scale of the problem that much larger. I've never seen a case study that makes it appear as if it works. MSN will not solve the problem of dogs and cats coming into the shelters because they forclosed on their house. MSN will not solve the owners that bought a Rottweiler puppy and then didn't want it when it got "too big". MSN will not solve the demand for bred dogs if adopting is impossible or "too difficult".

The "no-kill" philosophy may not be perfect. Sure there may be city government issues that make it more difficult in some areas. But the status quo is right now a complete disaster, and anything that starts a movement toward less kiling quickly instead of the "it will eventually get better" mindset is great in my book.

Anonymous said...

Brent, have you never heard "take your time", "slow down" and other such sayings? And it is because rushing things usually results in accidents, errors, and so forth. Although it looks good on paper, there is little reality attached to Winograd's program. How can the dogs and cats have human contact when there isn't enough staff or volunteers to provide it? Ban breeding, who said that? I want to continue to see the purebreds, just want the breeders to accept their role in all of this and be more responsible. Does it make sense to you that a breeder would create more competition for themselves by selling unaltered dogs and thus, the backyard breeder. How many times have I heard that an owner wants to "recoup" what they paid for the dog. The problem is that breeding is not regulated, they are under the radar. Think of all the money that could be had for our shelters if breeders had to pay their taxes on their product. When AB1634, mandatory spay/neuter in CA at state level, was on the floor and it was mentioned that any sale after the second puppy requires a sales tax, the lobbying group for the breeders said "Duh, we thought that had gone away". Duh, indeed, just shows they aren't following the law and ripping off other taxpayers by not contributing their fair share. Fortunately the agency that does collect the taxes recognized what was happening and is now calling for enforcement.

Shelters and rescues will tell you that volunteers are rarely to be depended upon. And it is the volunteers that are needed to provide the human contact of daily walks, etc for the animals in the shelter. Rancho Cucamonga, one of Winograd's failures, claims 400 volunteers. Only problem they require their parents to be with them when they work. Rancho is lucky if 2-3 volunteers show up a day and they have 400 or so animals. Figure 117 dogs and only 2-3 people to provide. It pretty well works out like the poster said.

And yes, the rescues should be making it difficult. You even gave the reason why:

"People are giving up their dogs, and then we go back by their yards two months later to see another unaltered dog in their yard. It's not working...and there is no signs of success."

Screening people and their homes is an attempt to stop this sort of action. Would it be a smart thing to do to adopt a bull mastiff to someone living in a studio apartment? I think not. Making it more tough to get a pet only lends itself to a better quality of life.

Reality is woefully lacking in Winograd's perfect world. We don't live in his world, we live in this one and his program is not made for it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brent,
There is no supervison for breeders now. I read your post several times and I understand you live with way to many animals in your section of the world; and you think this can be treated by NOT spaying and nuetering ? That must be a typo. Uncontrolled breeding leads to overpopulation, failure to set limits invites hoarders. you must be a plant, they never offer a solution. Nobody that I know in the midwest ( Indiana ) who lives with the consequences of unaltered animals would agree with you.

Anonymous said...


Slow down? Take your time? Of course I've heard of those phrases. And for each year that we wait, thousands of animals die. If we can make changes now that will save lives, why would we not make those changes?

As for the adoption practices. I've heard the same thing from a lot of rescues. "We screen hard so we make sure the animals don't come back." First off, I'll say, you just never know. I've adopted to families that I never felt good about that have made for great long-term families, and I've adopted to "can't miss" families that ended up moving or losing a job and we saw the dog return. So let's say with harsh screening we adopt out 10 dogs, and only 1 comes back. That would be considered pretty good. However, if we lessened the criteria, and adopted out 20 dogs, and 5 came back, that is still 6 more dogs that have homes than under the previous system. PLUS, the homes that were turned away, likely will end up getting a dog from somewhere. So they end up buying a dog from a breeder.

I work some with a pit bull rescue. We have the argument all the time because we have a lot of people from low income areas that contact us looking for the dogs. Most of them end up getting screened out. However, we always have the discussion. Would I be better off adopting this altered, temp tested dog to this family, or would I rather them go buy an altered dog from an back yard breeder? It's not an easy question. I am of the opinion that I'd rather take some calculated risks with some dogs (and do the appropriate followups) than not -- when I know that the end result of not adopting this dog is a) death in the shelter for a different animal and b) adding demand for the bred dogs.

Your Bull Mastiff is an excellent example. A good number of people keep their dogs kenneled during the day anyway. If you have an owner who lives in a studio, but loves to take his dog for a walk 3-4 times a day and exercises his dog, what difference does it make if the dog sleeps all day on the couch of a studio apartment or in a 5 bedroom home?

Arbitrary rules about who is not a good adopter is leading to a good many dogs getting killed in our shelters. Pardon me if I think this isn't ok.

Anonymous said...


I'm a complete fan of low-cost voluntary spay/neuter programs. I think spay/neuter can be extremely helpful. Mandatory programs do have a track record of doing a couple of things:

1) Decreasing licensing rates -- which allows fewer dogs to make it home when they make it in the shelter

2) Giving animal control officials the authority to confiscate a dog from a property for not being altered and taking it to the shelter (which means near certain death).

In KC, we instituted a law mandating the spay/neuter of all 'pit bulls' in our community in 2006. In 2005, our shelter euthanized 4,026 dogs (981 pit bulls). In 2006 (the ordinance passed in August), they killed 4,531 dogs, 1,353 pit bulls) -- with the biggest increases coming at the back half of the year. In 2007, 4,601 dogs were killed in the shelter, 1,722 of them pit bulls. And yes, it's because impounds went up 10% each year.

Yet there is no evidence that mandatory spay/neuter is necessary to reduce shelter killing. Check out Calgary's stats and those from Berkeley (neither of them are Winograd influenced, neither has mandatory spay/neuter).

You want to decrease the number of animals killed?

1) Get rid of the demand for bred dogs (if they quit selling, people won't breed them) by adopting to more people.

2) Increase the licensing and chipping rates in your community so more animals that make it into the shelter find their way back home

3) Encourage as many people as possible to spay/neuter their dogs.

4) Don't take an animal out of a home and into the shelter unless the animal is being truly abused.

5) Adopt, adopt, adopt.

Oh, and one other thing about the pet limits. I asked Bill Bruce in Calgary about their pet limit laws. He said that from his experinece that they were absolutely unnecessary. He thought that many people could keep a dozen animals without problem. Others couldn't keep 1. He felt like if the animals were well-cared for not causing a problem, people were fine owning the animals. If they were noisy or smelly, nuissance ordinances would take care of them. If they were being kept by a hoarder who wasn't properly caring for the animal (which are a rarity), then they could get the owner with cruelt and neglect. He basially thought that the only thing pet limits did was keep rescue people from being able to foster dogs.

And I'm most certainly not a plant. I've never bred a dog in my entire life. All of my pets are altered. I am living illegally in my city and over the pet limit (with my 3 dogs and 2 cats who are all wonderfully loved and cared for). I occassionally foster which then puts me further over the pet limit. I'm all about finding laws and solutions to the problem and doing so as quickly as possible.

There is no silver bullet

There is no one solution

It takes multiple steps and laws that don't prohibit pet ownership and take dogs out of otherwise good homes.

There are many cases out there that have worked. Winograd is the most vocal about his successes, but others have succeeded and follow relatively close to the same model.

There's no reason to try to reinvent the wheel if it's already out there.

Anonymous said...

Brent, this problem has developed over a long, long period of time and it will not be solved in a short period of time. And saving lives just for them to languish in shelter kennels is not the answer. Lessening requirements for adoptions will only lead to more animals on chains and more free roaming cats. I guess you are one of those who chose quantity of life rather than quality of life. I believe they deserve more than that and that is what I stand for. Many so called rescues will not take an animal back after adoption and since they are not required to report anything, we really don't know the return rate, do we? And the "no kill" shelters cover it up by booking the returned animals as new impounds. They do that for a reason, so you can't find out how unsuccessful their programs are.

And you referred to Whine-ograd's successes, I didn't know he had any. Can you pass along where this is happening?

Anonymous said...

I see free-roaming cats in my neighborhood all the time. I personally have indoor cats, and prefer it that way, but that cat sure seems to be really good and work really hard at staying alive. I guess when "death" is the alternative, I think "life" is pretty quality for a free-roaming cat.

If they were taking so many return animals in, and not finding homes for them, you would know pretty quickly that their programs weren't working.

Instead of declining the potential adoptor, why not take the opportunity to educate the owner on how you prefer them maintain a dog. I've had a lot of success with it...from adoptors that were declined by other places.

Here is a link to the numbers from Charlottesville. They are perfect numbers, but better than about 90% of the shelters in the US...

Getting from high-kill to "no-kill" may take some time, but almost every shelter I've worked with could more than halve the number of animals euthanized within a year with a few simple changes in programs -- and yet they don't, because they decide that no-kill is "impossible" or "takes time". And most of them are simple changes...

Anonymous said...

Hey lady, and I assume you are a "lady," who is it you don't "denigrate?"
You denigrate Winograd, you find fault with Philly, Rancho, Nevada, and all non-profits because they do not have to respond to requests for infornation, you assume all non-profits are liars about their statistics because they depend on donations. You mock anyone, like Muzika that does not share your view, and call him narrow minded and blinded because he does not share your view.
I'll bet you do that with everyone who does not share your "special" divine, know-it-all knowledge. You sound like a vicious old lady bitter with the world, fighting to make yourself heard at the expense of anyone who is not a believer in you.