following article, written by Patti Strand, was reproduced
Redefining pet overpopulation:
The no-kill movement and the new jet-setters
---By Patti L. Strand
Fewer and fewer dogs are entering shelters every year, and shelter deaths are down and continuing to fall. This steady decline in intakes and deaths pays tribute to the tireless efforts of shelter employees and rescue volunteers who have worked, prayed, and bullied their way to a future when the demand for pets would equal or exceed the supply and they would no longer be forced to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals.
Today, nationwide, studies show that the future is now. Since peaking about 30 years ago, shelter intakes and euthanasias for dogs have decreased by 70-90 percent or more in most US cities, particularly those on the east and west coasts. However, sometimes, even a change for the better requires tough adjustments. The plunge in numbers of surplus animals and the subsequent drop in shelter deaths in many parts of the country is forcing both the animal protection movement and society to take a fresh look at the role of private and public shelters.
However, the response of some shelters is not what one would expect. Faced with fewer and fewer small dogs and puppies to offer the public, a handful of shelters and organizations have responded with attacks on or distortions of so-called "no-kill" policies that have helped bring about the decline in euthansias. Others are importing puppies and small dogs across state lines and from foreign countries to maintain a hold on the so-called "overpopulation" issue and do an end run around responsible breeders. NAIA took a look at the long road to success, the controversy surrounding the no-kill solution, and the new commerce in dogs and cats from other states and countries in the ongoing campaign to vilify responsible breeders and further reduce the number of healthy purebred dogs.
"Back then, we were in the business of cleaning kennels and killing dogs," Bishop said. "That's what we did all day, every day. We cleaned until one o'clock and then we killed until closing. There was no time to do anything else."
Her experience was typical of the period. In raw numbers, the two shelters located in Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon, area) received more than 34,000 live dogs in 1974 and killed 20,000 of them. At this pace, there was no time left over for long-term planning or innovating, no light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, it's hard to imagine such bleak circumstances now. Today, 26 years later, Sharyn Middleton, shelter operating supervisor for Multnomah County Animal Control said, " I haven't put an adoptable dog to sleep in months and with all the volunteers and rescue people who work with us now, I may never have to again. People are spaying and neutering; they want to be responsible pet owners. It took a long time but they're starting to get it."
plan to reduce shelter deaths
His most controversial and notable contribution to the animal protection movement is the coining of the idea and term "no-kill shelter" to designate shelters that no longer euthanize adoptable animals. No-kill shelters had been around for a long time but his concept differed substantially from the old save-them-all-no-matter-what model. Avanzino moved the SF SPCA to a no-kill position in 1989 and introduced the concept nationally through an Adoption Pact he initiated with the city animal control agency in 1994. In the pact, the city's animal control agency agreed to offer any adoptable dog or cat that it could not place through its own adoption program to the SPCA instead of euthanizing it. In return the SPCA promised to take any adoptable dog or cat that the agency offered and find it a suitable home.
Using the pact as the centerpiece of a brilliant marketing campaign, Avanzino promoted the San Francisco SPCA's no-kill status and simultaneously launched the term and the movement. The old guard viewed his idea as blasphemy and attacked him immediately by alleging that he was misleading the public about a plan they believed had no real chance of success.
By far the biggest criticism against the no-kill shelter movement is that the term is misleading on its face because it encourages the public to believe that the goal is to kill no shelter animals. Animal professionals know that for humane reasons alone, there will always be a need to euthanize some animals. The less affluent members of society often bring their sick, old and injured pets to shelters for euthanasia. It would be irresponsible for shelters to deny a humane death to any suffering animal. In addition, for reasons of public health and safety some animals should not be returned to the community.
Sadly, just as the critics warned, a few shelters have begun turning away all but the best candidates for adoption in order to achieve the no-kill image; just as predicted, they refer the poorer risks to other shelters or to rescue groups. Unfortunately, there are always a few bad apples to prove such fears justified. Operating a shelter this way does a lot to improve that shelter's bottom line and euthanasia statistics, but it shows little compassion and even less integrity.
according to Avanzino
Whether or not Avanzino's vision ultimately prevails, to his enormous credit he has already succeeded in reframing one of the most negative animal welfare issues of this century by focusing attention on finding solutions rather than problems. The term that no-kill replaces in the animal protection lexicon is "pet overpopulation," a term that has been detrimental to progress from the beginning because it defines the entire surplus animal problem in terms of breeding. It makes villains out of all breeders; no matter how responsible, no matter how great the demand for their carefully bred and reared puppies or kittens; and no matter how much they contribute to the welfare of animals. Pet overpopulation defined the problem simply as oversupply. It overlooked the demand side of the equation entirely; i.e. that people actually want well-bred, well-socialized puppies and kittens. It also made no distinctions among suppliers and thereby devalued the importance of responsible breeding, training and pet placement practices that are so critically important to successful pet ownership.
Maddie's Fund, however, focuses on supply and demand. On the supply side it promotes aggressive spay and neuter programs. On the demand side it recommends marketing shelter animals, keeping longer shelter hours, working with everyone who wants to help, and most importantly, it focuses efforts on a positive and attainable goal - saving adoptable and then treatable shelter animals. With that, Maddie's Fund and Avanzino have overcome decades of negativism and provided shelter workers and activists alike with their first real chance to succeed.
Virtually all successful marketing campaigns rely on abbreviated tag lines to convey complex ideas in simple terms. None are wholly satisfactory because they are all subject to misunderstanding and misuse. "No-kill" offers particularly fertile ground for being misused, but that does not mean that the concept as put forth by Maddie's Fund is flawed, only that people are misusing it.
Multnomah County is not alone. Many communities are reaching similar states of equilibrium in the supply and demand for dogs. In a few areas, the demand for dogs today actually outstrips the local supply while other areas continue to fight sizeable surpluses.
Unfortunately, neither the rate of decline nor the status of shelter populations is consistent from one city to another or from one region to another. Generally speaking, shelters on both coasts appear to be ahead of many central and southern states. The lack of uniformity from shelter to shelter and region to region among shelters spawns interesting and sometimes harmful practices.
criteria for adoption
Most shelters now have clear criteria for euthanasia, based on illness or terminal infirmity, viciousness, and owner requests. However, as the total euthanasia rates continue to decline, and people receive only a hazy notion of what "no-kill" means, shelters are getting pressure from the public and from their memberships to abandon responsible adoption placement practices and go no-kill. Pressure groups may not understand the progressive nature of no-kill and instead push shelters to stop euthanizing even non-rehabilitatable animals or to use limited resources to convert treatable animals to adoptable animals before they have reached a population level where that kind of effort makes sense. There is a growing tendency for private shelters that operate from a mission and depend on contributions, and for public shelters because of political pressure, to feel pushed into making poor decisions in accepting and placing animals.
As a result, a few shelters now place dogs with serious health and temperament problems instead of humanely euthanizing them as they once responsibly did. A number of breed rescuers tell us that their local shelters now offer them dogs for placement that should not be adopted. NAIA's experience in fielding calls from people with pet-related problems bears this out. Historically, the majority of calls came from people complaining about dogs they had purchased from irresponsible breeders, commonly called backyard breeders or puppy farms. They wanted information about how to stop puppy mills or how to file consumer complaints. Currently, NAIA also gets calls for help from people who have adopted bad tempered or chronically ill shelter dogs, a phenomenon that almost never occurred as recently as four years ago. Kind-hearted adopters now call NAIA members seeking advice on whether or not they should have their dog put to sleep; go to another dog behaviorist or trainer; risk lawsuit; continue paying veterinary bills that exceed the family's budget, etc.
Breeders and pet stores would be flogged in the press and crucified on tabloid TV shows for placing animals such as these in private homes. Placing problem dogs in private homes is irresponsible, no matter who does it.
Shelters would be smart to educate their communities about adoptable, treatable and non-rehabilitatable shelter animals and to build consensus for what they believe to be responsible adoption criteria. As both euthanasia rates and adoptable animals decline and no-kill pressure builds, it becomes more important than ever before to have reasonable guidelines in place.
vacant kennel panic
How do shelters ethically deal with the elimination of overpopulation as an issue? Wanting to put oneself out of business by solving the problem is not the same as wanting to close the shelter and leave animal protection work. But without the issue of overpopulation, how does a large metropolitan shelter fund the rest of its operation?
Humane societies faced with fewer dogs and under no mandate to accept all the animals that are brought to them can elect to keep a number of treatable dogs at their shelters for however long it takes to rehabilitate and place them. They can also raise or lower adoption criteria as physical space or operational needs dictate. Working in this way may be in line with the mission and membership's wishes as long as the public continues to contribute.
Animal control agencies operating on tax dollars and accountable to tax-paying citizens rather than to members, however, cannot keep animals indefinitely. Because public shelters must accept all the animals brought to them, using up finite taxpayer resources for weeks or months on one animal inevitably raises questions about fiscal responsibility. Most agencies would be censured if their tax-paying constituents discovered their dollars were being spent to keep kennels occupied.
to the rescue
This solution spawns several questions:
1. Since the issue of overpopulation has been the number one shelter fundraiser for so many years, can a shelter disclose that it's importing dogs without losing support?
2. Will citizens in one locale knowingly subsidize shelter operations in another area or locales outside their state?
3. Another problem is that while dogs are rapidly declining in some areas, cats - especially free breeding, feral cats - are still a problem in many areas. Are resources better spent on dog shuffling, on treating and training dogs that could become adoptable, or attempting to solve a local cat problem?
Typically the importation of dogs occurs across state lines. When states are adjacent or located in the same region and the animals come from shelters in need, or the numbers involved are small, the public seems willing to go along with the relocation if made aware of it. By contrast, when Northwesterners learned that 300 such dogs had been flown into their region from Hawaii, attitudes shifted dramatically, as importing large numbers of dogs could easily force any region into a mode of euthanizing local adoptable dogs again.
Assurances that these imports do not displace local dogs are counter-intuitive. It is unreasonable to believe that they don't. Yet some animal rights groups and shelters have begun importing animals from as far away as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Taiwan, Okinawa, and other distant locations.
People are generally dumbstruck when they first hear of these practices. If they know shelter workers who are still putting adoptable animals to sleep, they become outraged. However, the practice of importing strays from other countries is quietly becoming commonplace. According to the March 2000 issue of The Animal Policy Report  from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Animals and Public Policy, "In the Northeastern US, animal shelters are finding unique ways to address a problem they thought they would never see - a shortage of mixed breed, adoptable puppies and small adult dogs!…The creative solution to this dilemma was to begin an airlift of puppies and small dogs from areas where surpluses still existed - some small adult dogs from as far away as Puerto Rico. . .Over 6000 dogs have been flown in, without major problems."
But the Tufts report unfortunately turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg. With only limited investigation NAIA uncovered the following indications of the degree of stray animal importation that is occurring.
The Taipei Abandoned Animal Rescue Foundation web site  says, "Thanks to the help of more people, places and groups than I ever even had known existed, I am thrilled to say that EVERY SINGLE DOG IN OUR SHELTER MADE THE TRIP TO THE USA!!!!" The regularly updated TAARF site, shows that shelters and rescue groups from Maine to Washington, California and Colorado have already received the last round of dogs mentioned on the site. TAARF advises, "We do overseas/long distance adoptions to good homes or rescue organizations through our 'Wings for Pets' program…"
Will they send more dogs to the US? The likelihood appears to be high, as their web page claims that there are more than two million stray dogs in Taiwan.
The arrangements for transportation into the US is another area of quiet innovation. For overseas imports, the US shelter transferring organization commonly runs ads in local papers asking people who will be flying to one of these countries to consider bringing back a rescue dog as extra baggage. The animal rights group or shelter  may take the animals directly into their shelter or they may keep a list of potential adopters and simply act as an agent in putting the shipper and receiver together.
Another method for bringing strays into the US for adoption is to get Americans that are vacationing in Mexico to bring them back to particular shelters that have "no small dogs to adopt." People from the Northwest vacationing in Mexico this year have reported being asked to bring back dogs. The one who tipped us off had worked with purebred rescue groups and knew that the last thing we needed in the Northwest was imported homeless dogs. She was asked prior to check-out from her hotel to carry one or two dogs into the Northwest. The hotel had dog crates and offered to take care of the health certificate arrangements. Our contact said she knew better but the family staying in the next room brought back two dogs, no doubt believing they were performing a noble service.
If the shelter or one of the shelter's volunteers plans to temporarily house the dog or cat, then one of them will generally meet the plane and bring the dog to the shelter. Humane society booster groups such as Angel Escort  provide assistance to humane societies that are shipping dogs to the US mainland.
And finally, if you're wondering whether dogs are the only species being saved via airlift to the US, please consider visiting the web site for Okinawan Feline Rescue at: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Ridge/9580/okikids.html
When participating shelters are asked why they would import dogs into areas that are just now turning the tide on a problem they've fought for decades, their first reply is that overpopulation is still a big problem. Next, they uniformly assert that they need small mixed breed dogs to increase adopter traffic. Simultaneously, they maintain that the small dogs do not displace any of their other dogs. In effect, they're claiming that the foreign strays serve as loss leaders for their less desirable but still adoptable longer-term residents. This is not a compelling or convincing argument given the myriad responsible actions that could be taken locally to stir up interest in their current inventory. Moreover, it is disturbing to hear shelters justify importing strays because of the demand for small mixed breeds. When did it become the responsibility of humane societies and animal rights groups to fill consumer demands? If this continues, local humane societies may soon become the biggest pet stores in town.
The Humane Society of Snohomish County , a Seattle-area importer of dogs from Taiwan, puts the madness into perspective, "By saving Taiwan dogs, we do not feel this takes away from saving a dog at our own shelters. The majority of dogs from Taiwan are small and our own shelters do not have many small dogs. At this time we have over 38 people on our waiting list for small dogs. We feel it is better to bring small dogs in from another part of the world than to have these people going to a breeder. Many people, sadly, still do after they have been on our waiting list for an extended period."
HSSC justifies its next shipment of Taiwan dogs because they have a waiting list. Is this a shelter operation or a pet store? Or is this effort related to the documented intent of animal rights interests to systematically displace breeders from the marketplace? The tenth plank of the animal rights agenda is to eliminate the purposeful breeding of companion animals. Please see: http://www.naiaonline.org/aragenda.html
heavens there are no stray animals on the moon
There's no doubt that animal rescue and adoption are becoming big business. Four major web sites are now competing for the rescue/adoption "business" and grassroots rescue groups have begun professional canvassing to line up adoption candidates for their inventory of rescue dogs, present and future. For some of them, the importation of stray animals from foreign lands seems to fill the bill.
line in the sand
1. Please see: http://www.maddies.org/nokill/sfspca6d.html