Living With the Failure of No Kill

Private thoughts on a public disgrace

What follows is a collection of notes and observations. I have purposely avoided the data dumping so prevalent in the private sector of the shelter industry. I prefer to keep the focus on animal care and permanent placement into a private adoptive home. I find the term “ Live Release “ as offensive as “No Kill” Both attempt to define in “ black and white” the gray world of animal care and custody.

As a society that likes to think of ourselves as compassionate, It's a struggle. We fight for the “ right “ to euthanasia for the terminally ill human patient, while taking that right away from unadoptable animals trapped in pain, mentally or physically. And the sad truth is, that while we have made plans and arrangements for the humans who cannot function in a civil world, we have failed to acknowledge that many animals face similar behavior issues. They can’t function in society , most often through no fault of their own, but none-the-less they cannot be permanently adopted. It is for those unfortunates that I write this piece. They are the true victims of this failed, save at any cost, attitude.

In our home, my husband is an avid collector of music, which fights for shelf space with my collection of gardening tomes. At first glance, the impression is that we need more shelving….The answer is of course, not so easy. We have learned we tend to “ store to capacity” so increasing capacity only, is merely a temporary fix. We have to practice impulse control and learn to say, the not so gentle, no to ourselves. But animals are living books, each with their own chapter and verse, a bit trickier to decide who stays and who goes. And because animals have a spirit that can suffer tremendously from our choices, we must think before acquiring them. In the real world, nobody wants your troubles, they all have plenty of their own, and therefore stewardship of a pet is not to be taken lightly. The formative” puppy” weeks really do shape the rest of the dogs life, you don’t hear so much about feral dogs, but many would match the description, as far as interacting with humans. Yet, we box them up and put them on display; hoping against all hope the someone with an apartment will find the "stock killing" dog to be “ just what they were looking for”. And, the chronic self-soothing barker will find just the right home on a 500 acre farm with a deaf couple.

Our inability to say, as a society, we have failed and exploited animals, we have not done due diligence in the care and training of our pets, and now the animals pay. It makes me squirm just writing about it. But it is true you know, we humans have made a mess of things with our meddling. We have tweaked breeds into specific molds and then expected them to survive and thrive beyond their genetic capabilities. A dog is bred for fighting then destroyed when it does what it’s bred to do. We breed working dogs, but don’t let them work, so they find their own “ job” and that is usually at odds with what the neighbors think is good.

There is one statement I can make with a degree of certainty. No animal was ever created or bred to happily spend life in a cage. So for all you “ crate folks” that believe Rover loves being in a crate for 10 hours , here is your wake up call. If your circumstances prohibit you from training, or living with the lack of training, don’t get a pet. We are not discussing the changes that can occur in the life of a pet when out of the blue the animal must be crated or re- homed. Those things do happen, this article is aimed at the people who know from the start the animal must be caged while they work. I do understand the argument for crate training as part of re-homing a shelter dog, but never as a permanent lifestyle. Dogs were not designed to live their life in a kennel; period…So we condemn puppy mills for confining a dog to kennel life and we praise “No Kill” for doing the same thing. The dog is miserable in a kennel, it does not distinguish to whom the kennel belongs. When I see rescue web sites asking for “foster’s” who have a garage, basement, an extra room where a dog can be stored, till it finds it’s “ forever home” I want to scream. What are we storing here ?, live animals folks, these are living animals with needs beyond food and water. We are taking troubled dogs and storing them into unmanageable creatures. I am seeing dogs with a level of disturbance, a place beyond healing that I have never seen in all my years of working with animals. Most of these guys aren’t coming back, it isn’t like a trip to the groomer and an obedience class will pull these poor creature back after month’s in a shelter. And, we need to quit pretending that the population that allowed the problem in the first place is going to repair it.

The whole No Kill movement seems to be prefaced on some “ parallel population” that is going to step up to the plate and care for these animals. I don’t know where they believe the “ good folk” have been while all this is going on. There is no plethora of caring individuals who are going to care for these animals, if they were real we would have seen them by now.

A very simplistic approach to a very complicated issue. In a society where 50 % of marriages end in divorce, the average length of time a person lives in a purchased home is 5 years, about 10 month’s in a rental, and keeps the car for 2 years; the outlook for our pets is pretty bleak. “ They” say .committed people can solve the problem, my view is; if people were committed, we wouldn’t have this problem. We are storing animals we can’t care for, the big fundraisers where the cat that shouldn’t have lived, ends up in paradise, it isn’t real….That is one pet, out of hundreds, that lack basic care, being exploited. Having shots and being neutered is a start, but these animals need much more than that, the broken tooth, the infected ear, the day to day care; these things are not being offered in the overcrowded conditions found in most no kill shelters.

We must live with the fact that some animals will die as a direct result of our selfish actions, I think that might be the fact that would make people willing to change. We cannot continue to pretend that somewhere, someone, is going to take that which we have tossed aside, and love it. We must make a commitment before getting the animal, or be willing to live without one, till we can; that is the only long term answer. It begins with the individual. We are hammered on every corner with “ off site “ adoptions, they do that for the same reason the candy bars are near the cash register. They count on the impulse purchase. Most impulse purchases get tossed and that includes pets. If a person really, really wants a pet; they go to where the pet lives. Again, “ puppies in a box in the back of a pick up” bad….very bad !! A group of “ volunteers” at pet stores, bad,. very bad… Adopt healthy animals from a clean facility, before they go crazy, and if every one is neutered and placed with the care it deserves , over time, balance will return.
Our shelter offers up free pets in one long overlapping promotion, they have offered FIV positive cats as the" Pet of the Week" We have a special help desk to deny animals entrance to our public shelter, and they call this humane?  These animals are being held for extended periods of time, a recent plea for fosters said" some of these dogs have been in shelter over a year, they need a break " I bet they do, or whats left of them does.  These innocent animals are hoarded and habituated into a life behind bars, and they call that No Kill, ?  I have seen advertised numbers as high as 700 for cats in our Humane Society, now they are down to about 500, the care cannot be adequate to meet the needs of a companion animal, and most of these animals will die, alone after a lifetime of confinement. /
it's a new blog and is quite a view into Mr. Winograds thought process. The way he carries on, the Nevada Humane Society is perfect, not quite. This was a good read, tedious, but good insight into the mental process of a deranged salesman.

This is a good article, is anybody listening?

Here in Indy we went no kill for about 6 month's dogs were not picked up and they adopted out fighting dogs to people with kids.We don't need surrender counseling. Like it or not, sometimes people just need a place to leave the damn dog. I don't care if they label it abandoning or dumping just take the dog and keep it from really being dumped.
All the things Tangerine mentioned in her article happened in Indianapolis Indiana under Doug Rae using the No Kill Equation. It was a bloodbath.They started adopting out pitbulls and none of the fosters knew what the hell to do with them. I'm not saying they should be killed, but they can't go just anywhere. We had a playground where we took the dogs for exercise, when Rae was here he used that for social living for any dog under 60 pounds. We had sometimes 50 unsocialized dogs in there goin at it. Any adopter for the small dogs had to wade through the entire bunch.If one dog got attention the others would resource guard the visitor. The fosters got so overloaded they would dump the dogs back at ICC so he pulled the drop box. I volunteer my grooming skills and twice a week I did nails & ears, that kept me running. I shave badly matted dogs but I never had time to clean one all the way up after Rae came in. It was a flood.
The skilled volunteers left, all they had were dog walkers and they were scarce. I pictured something like what they have out west where the dogs hang out on a couch and people moseyed by. That did not happen here. Saw there was a vet on here, good for you; the vets I meet would never consider not being the boss. I saw ears so far gone I knew they were infected and stunk, when I would ask for that dog to see the vet I got a snotty response from the vet for my referral.

I was trying to type-- Me a tryin'-- looking at all the stuff other people do I wanted to speak for the the groomers who donate hours to help. I have had dogs left tied up in front of my shop with a note saying they had been turned away from ICC and IHS quit taking strays. Not every home can foster or retrain but we do what we can to save one more. My groomers who can't donate at the shelter offer 1 free bath & brush to adopted pets. we--a--tryin'-:)

I believe there is a no kill shelter in minnesota that promotes communal living. I am not in that area to have seen it, but might be worth checking out.

Hi Sheldon,

Please try to believe me when I say there is currently no "official" shelter in the United States that has adopted (pun intended) what I call communal housing. Official, in my definition, means having a brick-and-mortar facility dedicated to sheltering companion animals.

First, let me be clear that my concept calls for housing 10-30+ dogs (even more cats) in the same room. Okay?

Secondly, there are at least a dozen shelters that have moved away from caging and gone to the current fad of apartment-style housing. While that is a definite improvement, it is still housing by ones and twos. I call this "boutique" sheltering.

Here are some examples of "boutique" shelters you can check out: Animal Ark (the Minnesota one you referred to), Washington Animal Rescue League, San Francisco SPCA (Maddies Adoption Center is the name of the apartment-style adoption area), New York City's SPCA (known as ASPCA), and a number of others.

Finally, there are two small shelters that are knocking on the door of communal housing. The first is my favorite, a tiny little shelter in upstate New York which nobody knows about! It's name is Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley (ASSV). The other is Lake Shore Animal Shelter (LSAS) in Chicago. These progressive people don't have the facility to do this yet, so they have contracted with a local doggy day care facility to house their dogs in a social environment .

Here are links to short videos of those two shelters. Please check them out:

1) ASSV =
2) LSAS =

This really is not a new concept. For many years boarding kennels and day care centers have been doing this "communal housing." They don't have to follow the stifling shelter industry constraints so they long ago moved on from prison cages.

I sure hope that helps, Sheldon.

I appreciate the explanation of boutique shelters and I was incorrectly thinking of them as communal. You are picturing a dog park type of setting, but in dog parks they are not there 24x7 and don't get territorial. On the urban dog sitters we had one where we live and they screen for temperment so I think comparing dogs who's family care enough to pay for daycare with animals who have not been socialized is apples and oranges. I did notice in the New York video the German Shepherd mix clung to the wall, it was, a low ranking member who was very cautious of it's steps.
I have 7 neutered dogs, all large and strong breeds, but no pitbulls. We live on 1 fenced acre and the house has two doggie doors to avoid that type of conflict. We still get some serious dust ups at times. A coyote in season will go by the property, or any strong stimuli can be treacherous. I followed the Gabbs dogs closely and live in the area where they were triaged. Those dogs did some very serious damage to each other. I agree with most of what you propose, but don't think immediate communal living is viable with abandoned dogs. good luck and God Bless you for the work you are doing.

Um, Sheldon, what I am proposing is not at all like a dog park. Not at all.

Before I explain about the dog park thing, as humbly and politely as I can say this, please see that just because someone owns a bunch of cars in their life does not make them a race car driver. It takes a whole lot of hard work, good coaching and years of practice to learn to drive at 212 mph 10" from another car's bumper in heavy rush-hour-like traffic, all trying to get to the same spot before the other guys.

Do you get my metaphor for dog rehabilitation?

Now, I get the feeling you didn't really read my concept of rehabilitation and communal housing. One will not work without the other. There is much missing from my model. It would require you to go to my website and study to see how this works in a daily operation.

You are showing me that you are looking at the world through one set of lenses. You need to take off that set and try looking at this new model as it is presented, not as you relate it to your own set of experiences.

What was not detailed was that communal housing in a closed room requires it to be a "quiet" room. No excitement, no distractions, no kids running around, no food , no loud voices. Get the idea? Every day I used to bring in my severely dangerous dogs (mandated into isolated rehab by court order) after exercise. They'd eat politely together and then it was quiet time. I have done this successfully with 8 of my own rehab dogs and I did it with 55 in my father's sanctuary.

Those "quiet rooms" must be complemented with play areas and exercise areas. Dogs require extensive walking - not sniffs or wanders. They're called walks for a reason.

When done properly by rehab masters it is a thing of beauty to watch formerly dangerous dogs lying next to each other in calm, balanced peace.

Want to see it in action? I just met this guy on the internet today. Love his work! Check out this Youtube video. This is a guy who can "safely compete in the Daytona 500 of dog rehab." His work is no walk in the local dog park!

Youtube video =

Sheldon, I forgot one thing.

You wrote, "they screen for temperment so I think comparing dogs who's family care enough to pay for daycare with animals who have not been socialized is apples and oranges."

First, some of those dogs in that video of Urban Outsitters are shelter dogs from Lake Shore Animal Shelter. You did read that part, right? Apples and apples.

Second, please see that the dogs in communal housing are balanced, socialized animals. This is oranges and oranges.

I don't know where you got the idea that unbalanced, unsocialized dogs would be included in that social living arrangement. If that's what my extensive detailed writing conveyed to you, then I need to change my wording!

I thought I had been very clear in what I wrote that unbalanced, reactive dogs (and cats, btw) need to go directly into rehab. They have no business being placed in communal housing. No "dust ups" ever. Not ever. That's a sign of poor rehab skills. A good rehabber is always present and can always see a "dust up" before it explodes. Maybe you and I can, offline, compare notes on how we approach rehab, okay?

During the rehab process these reactive animals need to also be brought back to the Adoption Center to begin their socialization. No rehab is ever complete without that vital phase.

Can you see the flaw in your ending statement, "I don't think immediate communal living is viable with abandoned dogs?" It isn't the abandoned part that is key, it is the dog's emotional balance. Many 'abandoned" (aka shelter) dogs are quite easily housed with one another and get along great.

Hope this clears things up. I like apples and oranges, too, but you're right, they don't go together well.

Well now boys, Cesar has dust ups and I think he's a fair rehabber. I tried to comment on your blog but couldn't get signed in. I agree with your statement that abandoned is not the issue balance is the issue, however, we haven't addressed getting people off the couch.
When a person comes into a shelter with a reactive dog where in this plan does the dog go in the interim ? Do we have rehabbers on premise at the point of intake ? That is one area I have not seen answered in the "cageless" proposals. I agree with your assessments of Austin, so do the people of Austin. King County was destroyed by Winograd he tore down a barely functioning bridge without a way to build a new one. He devided the council and turned rescues against rehabbers and volunteers against employees many of whom had worked well together for 20 years. Most of us who care enough to hang out in these forums are not newbies. Mr. King is to modest, he rehabs the the worst of the worst, compound dogs brought back from military duty overseas. Most civilians do not understand the duties of a compound dog which is trained to work without a handler, and must decide without human aid what to kill when it enters the perimeter. A properly trained compound dog would not hesitate to kill a child who crossed the line he protects, in many countries, children are used to deliver death. This same dog may be taught to ignore wolves if they are in an area high in wild canines. The dog is trained for a specific site after being kindergarten trained for general purposes. Putting together 7 dogs with PTSD and trained to kill will result in a dust up as he aptly stated. Prior to Mr. Kings willingness to provide for these animals they had to be destroyed. Unlike your typical military dog, these fellows are trained to work alone and it can take years to get them to just tolerate one another. Each of you are helping in a different way.