Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nathan Winograd Seminar

Just home from an all-day seminar held in downtown Houston with Nathan Winograd, the renowned and outspoken voice for “No Kill Shelters.” Eight hours later, my head is aching from the statistics, the step-by-steps, the exhortations, and the swell of strong emotions that come from hanging around the rescue-and-shelter crowd all day long.

Much of what Winograd said—and emphasized, and re-emphasized—is found his book, “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America” (2007), but the whirl of numbers and the constant references to the handful of shelter which have actually implemented the Winograd-style no-kill model makes me feel just a bit like I’m getting a hard-sell.

I know I’m supposed to feel empowered, but instead I feel a bit like I do after watching those infomercials for amazing home-gym sets or the Malibu Pilates chair—yes, it could happen, but probably not in my world.

Sure, I agree that “euthanasia” is a euphemism for killing. I avoid the term “killing” around pre-teens, but don’t hesitate to clarify it to those old enough to face the facts. I totally support Trap-Neuter-Release, although our shelter doesn’t formally offer any such program. And I whole-heartedly agree that changing the bureaucratic system requires patience, persistence and more tenacity than it takes to snatch a pig’s ear away from my miniature pinscher.

But emotions and enthusiasm aside, I wonder if the dedicated, hard-working rescue-and-shelter advocates I work with could set aside the rivalries, squabbles and back-stage tensions that hamper the effectiveness of our own volunteer programs and associated 501 c3 groups. The county’s bureaucratic machine tolerates all our efforts, but I’m not sure how seriously they would take us if we approached them with Winograd’s hard line. My feeling is that the County would just pat our collective heads and wait for us to tear ourselves apart from inter-group struggles.

Winograd mentions the problems of egos among those who control the reins of power. Of course, Winograd is no retiring wall-flower. Most rescuer-and-shelter folk (and I include myself in this group)are not immune to the crippling illness of egomania. I try to stay out of the petty dramas, but I have succumbed to temptation in the past.

I need to mull over Winograd’s message, and peruse his book again (I read it when it first came out a couple years ago). Right now, though, I need a break from saving lives. I simply need to cuddle up with my dogs (including my foster) before tomorrow’s off-site adoption event.
What’s your take on Nathan Winograd’s No-Kill Equation? Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. i was there yesterday too...& let's just say, i couldn't have put it better myself. nice to feel "not alone" today. keep on truckin' sista!

  2. For me, the question is: what reduces shelter killing? The only way to answer that question is to look at the policies and programs of communities across the country that have exceedingly low kill rates. Those are (perhaps among others) Reno, NV, San Francisco, CA, Ithaca, NY, and Charlottesville, VA. And those communities listed each have a commonality that they rigorously implemented the programs and policies of the No Kill Equation. Now, of course, it doesn't really matter who gets credit and what we call the programs. All that matters is that we implement those programs as quickly and rigorously as possible. When we do those things AND reject excuses and disproven myths for continuing to kill animals at shelters, we'll begin to see the same results as other communities. I, for one, cannot wait for Houston to adopt the policies and programs that have reduced shelter killing in other communities.

  3. Thanks for your feedback! I've added your blogs to my list. Part of my goal with my blog is to connect with other Texas dog-rescue folks so we can share our experiences.

    Fix Austin!--I agree with you. Here in Montgomery County (north of Houston & Harris County) we're working to adopt policies that will bring our shelter fully in line with the No Kill Equation. It's a long-term project, with continual, if slow, progress.

  4. Interesting comments about this topic. No Kill is a great idea, but sometimes rescues take it a bit too far ...

  5. Sorry - just realized that I can't email you; I can't find your address. I would be interested in doing a post exchange with you Calsidyrose. Could you shoot me an email about this at

    Also, FYI, I added your blog to my blogroll.

  6. Thanks for the perspective. I've heard he can be a bit of a hardcore promoter of his own ideas but I have to wonder if that's the kind of personality it takes to push through the kind of changes he's going for. You're so right about the high emotions and squabbling that run through the animal rescue crowd and perhaps it takes an even louder voice to get everyone on the same side to get the job done.

  7. Just found your blog from "DogsDeserveFreedom", and I'm enjoying it!

    While I think that Winograd is a bit of a blowhard (I swear, the man seems to be constitutionally unable to write anything less than about 5000 words) he does see the truth. While different parts of the country do have different challenges, the No-Kill (or at least a "Low Kill" version") is possible everywhere IF the human squabbles over territory can be overcome.

  8. I agree with Fred and Barb--we have to have some unity among rescues so that we can implement the right solutions. Otherwise, the non-animal-loving public tends to dismiss us as rabid!

    Thanks for all the great feedback!


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