Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is Pet Overpopulation a Myth?

  • Nathan Winograd is the author of "Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America" and director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School, a former criminal prosecutor and corporate attorney, and was director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA, two of the most successful shelters in the nation. Photo courtesy Nathan Winograd.

We've all read by now the various arguments about the "myth of pet overpopulation" that first surfaced in Nathan Winograd's 2007 release of Redemption. 

The Myth of Pet Overpopulation did not originate with the release of Redemption but was first circulated in a book written by Patti and Rod Strand fourteen years earlier in a book called "The Hijacking of the Humane Movement Animal Extremism.

The Hijacking of the Humane Movement Animal Extremism: (1993) Author: Patti Strand, Rod Strand

Patti Strand is a long time Board Member of the American Kennel Club who chaired the infamous "High Volume Breeders Committee" in November of 2002 as the AKC struggled with finding ways to increase litter registrations by recruiting "High Volume Breeders" to join the ranks. 

Strand is also the founder and president of the National Animal Interest Alliance a political action group that represents and protects the legal interests of a diverse "animal use" groups including commercial breeders (puppy mills), furriers, hunters animals "used" for research.  

The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) was founded in 1991.  According to their mission statement the NAIA  "supports the responsible and humane use of animals for food, clothing, medical research, companionship, assistance, recreation, entertainment and education.". 

Does the NAIA support the rescue community?  Here's a quote praising the defeat of the Puppy Mill Protection Act in 2002:

NAIA also notes that campaigns to stop pet overpopulation have been so successful they have caused a shortage of puppies and small dogs in many shelters. Rather than declare success and close their doors, some of these shelters now pay for puppies and dogs and import them from other cities, territories and countries so they will have dogs available for adoption.  NAIA believes some of the rescue groups and shelters participating in this relocation process are acting as dealers and pet stores and should be licensed accordingly.

If we are to believe according to Patti Strand pet overpopulation ceased to exist close to ten years ago.  How many of YOU have had to resort to importing puppies from overseas to keep your doors open and to continue to rake in them profits?  

How many animal advocates would rightfully be skeptical on the words of a woman who represents the AKC, founded the county's most prominent animal use group the NAIA, encourages the AKC to expand it;s reach and support irresponsible commercial breeders who support the NAIA, who supports Hunte Corporation (the world's largest puppy mill distributor and has supported the AKC's partnership agreement with Petland?  Where does credibility comes in play?

So, why does the self proclaimed guru of the No Kill Movement give creditability to Strand's unproven thesis based on a flawed Shelter Statistics Survey study conducted from 1994-1997?  

While Nathan Winograd promotes the "Myth of Pet Overpopulation" to offer false hope for shelter reformists - Patti Strand uses the "myth" to promote and protect commercial breeding. 

In what should be classified in an extremely "strange" collaboration, both distance themselves or ignore the effect mass breeding has as a contributing factor that promotes irresponsible breeding, irresponsible pet ownership and the resulting high number of dogs that ultimately end up filling our public kill shelters.

Even if, one chooses not to make the connection between puppies sold through pet stores (puppy mill products) and the problem with high kill shelters how does one support the cruelty involved in forcing breeding stock to live out their lives in cages?

While Redemption rightfully rails on shelters that kill with empty cages shouldn't we be equally outraged with dogs forced to live out their lives in a cage simply to supply puppies to areas where there are dogs being killed in our public shelters?

Nathan Winograd's and the leaders of the No Kill Movement's silence on this issue is deafening to all the dogs who suffer through this miserable puppy mill existence.  You can't rail out against the abuse that goes on in our shelters while ignoring often times worse abuse at the hands of kennels run by greedy puppy miller where the only motivation is profits.

In doing so, Winograd attempts to completely remove breeder responsibility from his No Kill Equation,  The result is Winograd shifts all the blame on our overcrowded shelter system and the besieged shelter directors stuck with doing society's dirty work of killing.

While this writer believes there is enough blame to go around it is also imperative that advocates, rescuers and pet owners do their OWN research on this important issue.  Once you start peeling away the layers you are left with the unsightly reality we all face - that unless we proactively campaign to reduce irresponsible pet ownership, demand tighter restrictions on irresponsible breeders and work towards building partnerships with our shelters, as opposed to this dotted line support being given irresponsible breeders - we will never reach our dream of a No Kill Nation.

Is Pet Overpopulation a Myth?

In an article called "Is pet overpopulation a myth?  Inside Nathan Winograd's "Redemption" Christie Keith wrote this in an article posted on SF Gate:

"In the still-heated debate over reducing shelters deaths in California, there is probably no more polarizing figure than Nathan Winograd, former director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA.
At first glance, Winograd has all the credentials any animal rights activist or shelter professional could ask for. He's a vegan. He left a lucrative career as a prosecuting attorney to devote himself to helping animals. Last year, his income was only $35,000. He has spearheaded the No Kill Advocacy Center, a national organization aimed at ending the killing of pets in animal shelters. While director of operations at the San Francisco SPCA, he worked with then-president Richard Avanzino to implement a wide variety of animal livesaving programs, and then went on to achieve similar success as director of a rural shelter in upstate New York.

For the sake of full disclosure, Ms Keith also writes articles for the "Pet Connection" which reports on various issues involving the American Kennel Club.  For the sake of accuracy, Nathan Winograd's tenure as "Director of Operations" at the San Francisco SPCA was limited to a period of less then two weeks.  In future articles I will explore the history, politics, facts and fiction of the No Kill successes in Tompkins, Reno, and Austin, Tx.

The first step is GET INFORMED.  Don't believe everything you read, much of what you read is nothing more than spin, especially by those with books to sell, webinars to hawk or tickets to the circus to sell.  Do your own research before opening up your check book and your hearts to but another animal welfare organization promising far more then they can deliver.

The Shelter Statistics Survey, 1994-97
This Survey, initiated in 1994, by the NCPPSP gathered the names of shelters and organizations believed to be sheltering animals. Only shelters that housed more than 100 dogs and/or cats each year were included. The final list had 5,042 names. All responses were kept confidential.  Information linking the names of shelters with their responses was not released.

A survey card was constructed requesting shelter name, address, contact person and phone number. In addition, data were requested for the number of dogs and cats entering the shelters through animal control, owner relinquishment or other methods, and for the number of dogs and cats exiting the shelters through adoption, owner reclamation, euthanasia or other methods. Kittens and puppies were counted in the cat and dog categories, respectively. The data card was sent to the initial list of shelters in February 1995 requesting data for 1994. Reminder cards were sent out later that year. Changes to the mailing list were continuously made in response to shelter comments. The study was repeated for 1995, 1996 and 1997. The collection of data by means of survey cards was halted due to the low percentage of response by animal shelters.

While others might conclude that a fifteen year old study of a small sampling of shelter numbers that was halted due to a low percentage of responses by animal shelters is something we should blindly follow.  Most shelter and rescue advocates admit that our personal observations in the trenches of our own local shelters consistently tells us an entirely different analogy of pet overpopulation.  We can not agree with any analogy that there is NOT a pet overpopulation crisis in our own communities based on on those observations.  Not only are all the public shelters constantly full but most of the rescue groups and humane no kill shelters are full as well.

I can not find any degree of truth in the denial of a pet overpopulation crisis in Florida either.  How do you explain away the fact that over 78,000 dogs and cats are killed in South Florida alone?  When you start adding the numbers of dogs and cats killed the numbers are startling.

"Drats the squirrels and nuts are taking over" was created to explore these issues and to open up an honest dialog for discussion.  There has been an effort by the "No Kill Movement" to stifle this conversation by accusing anyone who questions any of the positions taken with accusations of "not knowing the facts, not having read Redemption, being part of the problem and being advised to shut up. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the story - shutting up is not an option.

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