What’s Your Authority? | Save90 – So that 90% of Shelter Animals May Live

What’s Your Authority?

Posted by Ryan Clinton, No Kill Advocate, Founder of FixAustin.org

Thanks to the work of compassionate, informed, and committed No Kill advocates—like you—high-kill shelters and their status-quo apologists are having to defend their regressive, old-guard, killing-machine practices now more than ever. The American people are tired of the excuses, angered by obstructionist shelter managers and pro-kill policies, and inspired by the hope that proven No Kill programs and policies have brought to communities across the country and beyond.

Sadly, however, a number of self-appointed “experts” are stepping forward to defend municipal killing factories and claim that they—not No Kill advocates—know what is best for sheltered animals. One near-comical claim from killing defenders is that their previous service on shelter-related commissions, committees, and governmental bodies makes them uniquely qualified to pontificate on what works and what doesn’t work to save lives at animal shelters. But let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Prior service on a committee that has failed to increase lifesaving at an animal shelter does not make someone an authority on animal sheltering.

So who should we be looking to for advice on increasing lifesaving at animal shelters? What does make someone a person worth listening to? My view is this: if you want to fail, follow the advice of those who have failed. But if you want to succeed in saving more lives, listen to the advice of those with a proven track record of lifesaving success.

Listen to Nathan Winograd. The former California prosecutor helped run the San Francisco SPCA (back when it was committed to lifesaving) in the 1990s, led the transformation of the Tompkins County SPCA from a high-kill shelter to the nation’s first open-admission No Kill shelter in 2002, and now heads the No Kill Advocacy Center, a national non-profit dedicated to ending the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless pets at animals shelters.

Listen to Bonney Brown. She took over the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, a shelter mired in a high-kill past, and turned it into one of the top animal shelters in the country. She doubled the shelter’s adoption rate in just three months, and now, along with Washoe County Animal Services, saves about 90% of all impounded animals.

Listen to Dr. Ellen Jefferson. She founded Emancipet, a low-cost and free spay-neuter provider in Austin, Texas, that has altered more than 100,000 animals, and over the past 2.5 years, has led the non-profit Austin Pets Alive to save almost 8,000 dogs and cats from certain death at municipal shelters in Austin and surrounding areas. Due to her leadership and renewed efforts at the City’s municipal shelter, Austin’s open-admission shelter has saved almost or over 90% of all impounded dogs and cats from December 2010 through March 2011.

Listen to Susanne Kogut. Under her leadership, the Charlottesville SPCA has become one of America’s top open-admission shelters. Listen to Mike Fry. Due to his leadership, three communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin have enjoyed No Kill success. Listen to Cheryl Schneider, who reformed the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, currently the top life-saving open-admission shelter in Texas. We’re not in uncharted territory here; there are plenty of proven, successful leaders for us to listen to.

But the next time someone not on this list tells you to just be quiet—to stop criticizing them or the high-killing animal shelter they are affiliated with—and to just trust them to take care of everything, ask them this:

What’s your authority?

If their answer includes a history of serving on committees or commissions that have failed to achieve No Kill success, or includes a leadership position in a high-kill animal shelter, or if their answer is that they are employed by a fancy-named, capital-lettered national animal-welfare organization that has never achieved No Kill success in any community, just ignore them. Their advice will not only be wrong, it will delay the implementation of proven, lifesaving programs in your community.
To be successful, follow success.