Redemption
The Book HSUS and PETA Don’t Want You to Read 

The Consumer Freedom interview with Redemption author Nathan Winograd

Nathan Winograd is a Stanford Law School
graduate and a former criminal prosecutor. He has also presided over
America’s two most successful experiments in what’s become known as
the “No-Kill” animal shelter movement. At SPCAs in San Francisco and
Tompkins County, New York, Winograd showed that No-Kill animal
sheltering -- the brand of hands-on animal care that deep-pocketed
animal “rights” groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the
United States (HSUS) ironically oppose -- can work.

In his book Redemption,
Winograd argues that the idea of pet overpopulation in America is a
myth. PETA cites this “overpopulation” as the reason it kills nearly
90 percent of the dogs and cats it takes in. And the Humane Society
of the United States (HSUS) literally wrote the book on a system of
animal sheltering that seems resigned to killing healthy pets out of
sheer laziness, instead of looking for alternatives.

After we read
Redemption, we had some tough questions for Winograd. And he
graciously agreed to answer them.

CCF: Right on the cover of your book, you
call the idea of pet overpopulation in the United States a "myth."
Are you saying that there are enough homes for every healthy,
unwanted pet? Winograd: Yes. Based on the number of existing
households with pets who have a pet die or run away, more homes
potentially become available each year for cats than the number of
cats who enter shelters, while more than twice as many homes
potentially become available each year for dogs than the number of
dogs who enter shelters.

Put another way,
every year more families are potentially looking to bring a new dog
or cat into their home than the animals that enter shelters. And the
market of homes (the number of homes which do not currently have a
dog or cat but will acquire one) is expanding rapidly. If shelters
increased their market share by just a few percentage points, we
could be a No Kill nation right now. But we are far from it.

As a movement, the humane
community has accepted the idea that the best shelters can do for
homeless animals is to adopt out some and kill the rest. To try to
avoid criticism for this, to justify a paltry number of adoptions,
these groups have perpetuated the myth that there are simply more
animals than homes, something that is patently false (even though
most people believe it).

Redemption offers a stunning indictment of the Humane Society
of the United States (HSUS). Why does such a wealthy animal rights
organization appear so disinterested in saving the lives of cats and
dogs?

HSUS is the wealthiest humane organization in the United
States. Since its founding in the mid-1950s, it has grown in scope,
size, and influence. It claims the support of some 10 million
members, while its conference which caters to shelters is currently
the largest nationwide. Given that, one would predict, expect and
hope that it would be at the forefront of the No Kill movement,
leading the way to ending the systematic killing of dogs and cats in
U.S. shelters. But instead HSUS has been one of No Kill’s fiercest
and most obstinate opponents. One of the fundamental downsides of
bureaucracies is their focus on self-preservation at the expense of
their mission. Agencies like the Humane Society of the United States
have ignored No Kill success and put the interest of animals --
indeed their very lives -- aside.

What
would HSUS stand to lose if American animal shelters all moved toward
a “No Kill” philosophy tomorrow?

Other than a few employees with a
deplorable history of supporting the unnecessary killing of dogs and
cats in shelters, and perhaps some longstanding relationships with
shelter directors mired in killing, absolutely nothing. In fact, they
would be hailed as pillars of compassion by the American public. That
is what makes their position on this issue (historical and
presently) so disturbing.

If you had HSUS's resources ($200 million in the bank
and $150 million of income this year), how much progress could you
make toward reforming our nation's animal shelters? What would you
do first? More money isn’t necessary to end the killing of savable
dogs and cats in shelters. In fact, most of the programs and
services necessary to save lives would actually cost these shelters
less than what they are currently spending to warehouse animals and
then kill them.

For
example, adoptions generate revenue, they generate good will (which
could be leveraged for future donations), and they lead to greater
word-of-mouth publicity which leads to more adoptions and more
revenue. Killing animals, by contrast, not only costs money (to end
an animal’s life and dispose of the body), but it also makes the
public less satisfied with the job a shelter is doing, especially as
the shelter blames that same public for the problem. These are the
people a shelter needs to embrace (in the form of adopters,
volunteers, and donors) if it’s going to save animals’ lives.

Volunteers and foster homes also
provide subsidized services, in which private individuals and rescue
groups care for shelter animals at no cost to taxpayers. It is a
cost-free way to save a great number of dogs and cats. But too many
shelters turn these people away at the front door -- while the
animals they are trying to help go out the back door in a body bag.

In
short, animals are not dying because of lack of money in the vast
majority of U.S. cities.

Take the municipal animal shelter in
Austin, Texas for example. In 2000, its budget was $2.9 million. Now
it’s $4.8 million. But the number of dogs and cats killed in Austin
increased during this time. PETA spends around $30 million every
year, but claims it can’t save 2,000 dogs and cats. Following the
devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Americans donated over $32 million
to the Humane Society of the United States, specifically to help the
dogs and cats trapped in New Orleans. They spent only a fraction of
that money on the problem. What did they do with the rest?

You have a pretty blunt
assessment of PETA's long-standing habit of killing animals instead
of working to place them in adoptive homes. Why should the public
believe PETA's line about saving pigs and chickens if it's not
willing to start with dogs and cats?

This, to me, is the great betrayal in PETA’s
position. If groups like PETA openly champion the killing of dogs and
cats in shelters, if they do not take the position that killing dogs
and cats is inherently unethical and should be condemned, how do
they expect to convince the public that pigs, chickens, and other
animals -- with whom Americans do not have a close relationship --
should have more protections?

If the animal rights community, which claims to be the
standard bearer for what our relationship with animals should be,
approves of the idea of killing millions of animals in shelters,
doesn’t that undermine their ultimate goals? The old adage “With
friends like these, who needs enemies?” could not be more true.

What's beneath the
surface of PETA's apparent hypocrisy here? Why do you think the group
doesn't endorse a “No Kill” philosophy, or at least stop tasking its
employees with killing pets?

I can only think of one possibility.
PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, previously worked at the Washington
Humane Society in Washington, DC, a shelter that has historically
been the subject of public criticism for high rates of shelter
killing. In fact, at a time when Stanford University was having
great success with its program to save homeless cats on its campus,
the Washington Humane Society opposed my effort to create a similar
program on the Georgetown University campus. In the end, Georgetown
sided with the Washington Humane Society, which embraced a campaign
of extermination.

Few
animal activists who follow PETA’s lead on the companion animal issue
are probably aware that its founder’s former job was to kill homeless
dogs and cats in a shelter that had a poor record for saving lives.
Isn't it a bit hypocritical for groups like PETA and HSUS to be
front-and-center in the Michael Vick story? Nobody with half a brain
supports dog fighting, but isn't killing dogs out of sheer
convenience just as nasty?

The thought of what those poor dogs went through is
personally very painful to me. If the public pressure created by
these groups led to Vick’s suspension from the NFL, a positive thing
has been accomplished. If it leads to greater penalties for people
who do this, again that is positive. And as a former Deputy District
Attorney who prosecuted animal cruelty cases, I believe that if
Michael Vick is found guilty, he should be punished severely.

But while PETA applauds the
prosecution of Michael Vick, it fought similar efforts by a
prosecutor in North Carolina who went after PETA employees for
needlessly killing animals and dumping their bodies in supermarket
trash bins.

And
while PETA condemns Michael Vick for killing Pit Bull-type dogs, PETA
itself is on record saying that each and every Pit Bull entering a
U.S. animal shelter should be killed as a matter of policy --
including healthy and friendly dogs. By its actions, words, and
deeds, PETA is condemning hundreds of thousands of dogs annually to
death.

HSUS is
no better. HSUS once called the mass extermination of alley cats the
only “practical and humane” solution. Why is the needless killing of
millions of cats “humane,” especially in the face of non-lethal
lifesaving alternatives?

In your book, you mention briefly the
connection between shelter adoption rates and retail pet sales. Can
you flesh this out a bit? Does this indicate that there are plenty
of homes for adoptable animals?

When San Francisco became the first city in
the U.S. to save all healthy, homeless dogs and cats, and was
effectively talking to the public about pet adoption, there was not a
single pet store left in the city selling dogs and cats. It didn’t
start out that way, but that was the result. Why? Because they
couldn’t compete with the SPCA.

Americans want to do the right thing, and
they saw shelter adoption as a way to save lives and bring the joys
of animal companionship into their homes. By contrast, when you look
at cities with high levels of shelter killing, you also tend to see
large numbers of pet stores.

This tells me that the animals in these
communities aren’t dying because “there are too many dogs and cats,
and not enough homes” -- as the shelter directors want you to
believe. If that were the case, you wouldn’t see so many pet
retailers. They exist because there’s a market demand for dogs and
cats. And because the shelters are doing a lousy job at adopting to
the community.

You
make a pretty convincing case that whatever pet "overpopulation"
exists in the U.S. is the fault of poorly run shelters, not the
public that typically gets blamed for creating the problem. But
surely there's something the public can do to help reverse the
current situation. What's your bottom-line advice for John Q.
Consumer?

We need to
reclaim these institutions. The agencies that the public expects to
protect homeless pets are instead killing more than five million of
them every year. Lifesaving alternatives have existed for decades.
But too many of these agencies remain mired in the “kill” philosophy
of the past, unwilling to explore and adopt methods that save lives.
This is a breach of their public trust.

We need to reform animal shelters
through lobbying, by making demands at the local government level,
and by withholding contributions until they change. We need to hit
them right back for advocating killing by using a tactic they
understand: the boycott.

Do not donate to HSUS or any other shelter or agency which
refuses to embrace a No Kill philosophy. Let them know that when they
decide to do right by the animals, you will be ready to open your
checkbook.

In the end, there may be an overpopulation problem in the
United States, but it is not the one we traditionally define. What we
are actually suffering from -- what is actually killing a high number
of animals -- is an overpopulation of lazy and complacent shelter
directors. A culture of lifesaving is not possible without wholesale
regime change in shelters, and in national animal protection groups.
So the most important single act -- and the crucial first step -- is
to fire the current leadership of shelters across the country. That
is what the public should demand.

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation
and the No Kill Revolution in America is available online from
Amazon.com and other retailers. Every copy sold is guaranteed to
raise the blood pressure of the wrong-headed activists who run PETA
and HSUS.

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