Diane Blankenburg

Diane Blankenberg will be blogging for Bark from the No-Kill Conference 2010 in Washington D.C. Community programs/development director for the Nevada Humane Society, Blankenberg is a speaker on animal homelessness and has written columns for The Times-Picayune, Reno Gazette Journal and Pet Folio Magazine.

News: Guest Posts
Humane Network
No kill advocates launch new partnership

I’m sitting in an airport, waiting for my final flight home to Reno from our capital. Back to my life as it was last week – but not exactly. The No Kill Conference 2010 was revitalizing for me and inspirational for all, but I expected nothing less. The aftermath buzz is that this year was even more wonderful than last year.

  But the conference was about the future. Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center who presented this conference, promised us that it is a bright future if only we make the commitment. “No kill is not a series of dogmas we cling to with religious fervor, but it is a philosophy that first and foremost values life,” he reminded us in his closing comments. “In all of its manifestation, irrespective of practical considerations, it does not fear change and it does not make excuses; it champions life.”   Going forward, I return to Nevada Humane Society where we will continue to improve the save rates. (July 31 marked the end of our most productive adoption month ever – 1,006 pet adoptions.) And how fitting that we’re launching a new venture – Humane Network – where fellow believers and industry experts are partnering together to provide practical tools and services to other organization and communities that have the commitment and just need the know-how. Although, I couldn’t be prouder of what’s been accomplished in Reno, it’s not enough to have a handful of no kill communities.   Nathan assured us that the bright future included a no kill nation in our lifetime – and we all believed him. The sponsors, hosts, speakers and attendees of this conference are a microcosm of what exists across the country. I know in my heart and soul that they can’t be stopped!   Our parting thoughts were inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”   If you wake up and don’t want to smile, If it takes just a little while, Open your eyes and look at the day, You’ll see things in a different way.    Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop it’ll soon be here, It’ll be better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.   No kill nation, here we come!   Note: If organizations or communities want help in implementing a no kill mission, please contact Humane Network at humanenetworkinfo@gmail.com.


News: Guest Posts
Drawing a Line in the Sand
No Kill Conference 2010, day two

Today was the second and final day of the No Kill Conference 2010 in Washington D. C. This was not just a conference promoting ideals and strengthening passions – although it did an excellent job of this. It was about providing practical ideas and tools to create no kill shelters and communities. The ideals and passions give people the strength to make the commitment, but the ideas and tools give people the ability to create sustained change. It is this combination that has allowed for people to step up as leaders and draw the line in the sand – the line that stops the killing.

  Bonney Brown of Nevada Humane Society, Abigail Smith of SPCA of Tompkins County and Susanne Kogut of Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA are three such leaders – leaders who believe the ideals, have made the commitment and have implemented an infrastructure of programs and services to institutionalize the change. All three have led their organizations into unique membership of the 90 percent club – meaning that at least 90 percent of their animals are saved every year. In other words, all animal in these shelters are saved who are not too ill or injured, or are dogs that are too vicious, such that they have a poor prognosis of recovery or rehabilitation.   Eager minds listened to these leaders (and other experts) share their journeys and the many lessons learned along the way – information on reducing animal surrenders, designing innovative shelters, litigating no kill, raising funds, reforming animal control and effectively leading no kill organizations. They listened in reverence and admiration, absorbing everything like there was no tomorrow.   Susanne made a desperate plea in her afternoon session on effective leadership. “If you want to help the cause, please apply for a job as executive director in one of the many shelters across the country.” She realized the potential that lay waiting in that classroom – people like her who had the ideals and passion and now just needed to make the commitment. A commitment that would be supported by the groundwork laid before them.   Her audience contained the no kill leaders of the future. She challenged them through a quote by Warren Bennis: “A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless, and visionless . . . someone’s got to make a wakeup call.” Successful leaders create solutions and no excuses, lead by example, have relentless determination, and keep a positive attitude even when things get tough. She knew they could do it.   But there is a tomorrow. We, the attendees of this conference, are the future. And as Susanne said, “Until you take responsibility, you are a victim.” But the real victims are the homeless pets and they are counting on us to take responsibility and make the commitment!


News: Guest Posts
We Are the Future
No Kill Conference 2010, day one

Tired from a late night plane arrival and early morning wakeup call, I stumbled to the keynote address by No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd, kicking off the first day of the No Kill Conference 2010. Excitement was in the air—from the reunion of like-minded colleagues to awestruck newborns meeting the “rock stars” of the animal welfare world for the first time.

  In spite of running on fumes and having attended many of these types of conferences over the last eight years, I was still moved by the emotion and stirred to action—feeling a new sense of inspiration that our goal was more possible than ever before.   Nathan’s message is always clear and to the point—stop the needless killing of homeless pets. But this time, there was a new twist that added an extra spark of hope. He eloquently pointed out that cultural change traditionally comes about in our nation through legislative change. “We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Nathan said. “Our system of government was designed not only to solidify the ideal of the American Revolution, but to change with the changing times.”   But it is also traditionally fueled by passion and commitment to overcome social resistance. We are a people that love dogs and cats as is evidenced by how much money, time and love we invest in them. So it only makes sense that if we give these same people a chance to support laws that save these very animals, they will come out in droves. Social resistance is not a factor.   So this is why it’s so important that this conference is held in Washington D.C., in a law school (George Washington University Law School), and in a conference that combines animal sheltering and law. Today’s conference topics ranged from legislating no kill to shelter enrichment for dogs and cats to turbo-charging pet adoptions to using technology to save lives.   I found the last topic particularly interesting. Just as our national traditions bring the legal field to bear on this cause, modern society brings technology in the form of social media. “Social media works because users want to create social value through the use of media by elevating the consciousness of society,” said Mike Frey, executive director of Animal Ark, a no kill shelter in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is a crime to not use this phenomenon and tool for the sake of the homeless animals.   How ironic that a century-old legal system and the current social media explosion can come together to change the future for our deserving homeless pets.   So I joined forces with several hundred other attendees in applauding Nathan’s mantra—“We are the future. No more excuses, no more compromises and no more killing.”


News: Guest Posts
Pondering Two Words
On the eve of the No Kill Conference 2010

I’m on my way to Washington DC, from Reno, Nevada, to attend the No Kill Conference 2010 and represent Nevada Humane Society, one of the largest no kill shelters in the country. I have been pondering two words – No Kill – and how much they have changed my life in the last seven years since I left corporate America.

I was like many middle-aged people who realized they want to do something different and more meaningful. I packed up my life in San Diego and moved to the tiny town of Kanab, Utah – in the middle of nowhere. I would work for Best Friends Animal Society for the next two and half years and this is where I first heard those two words. And it’s where I learned what they meant. I was devastated to know that millions of pets were needlessly dying every year in shelters across the country. (It is estimated that four million more cats and dogs will die this year.) And I was thrilled to be part of a movement that was dedicated to making sure this would cease to be.

So this conference is all about how to stop the unnecessary killing. It’s about creating programs with this one mission in mind. It’s about bringing like-minded people together so that the combined force is greater than any one individual. It’s about valuing life and making decisions based on saving lives, not killing.

This year’s conference sold out even earlier than in 2009, the inaugural year. This is a major testament of the passion for this cause and the dire need to learn how to put that passion into action. Representatives from 39 states and four countries will attend. The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the Animal Law program at George Washington University Law School, Maddie’s Fund, and Friends of Animals to bring together the nation’s most successful shelter directors and the nation’s top animal lawyers. Their mission? Help others create their own No Kill community.

The conference participants will learn from animal control/shelter directors who are now saving over 90 percent of all animals in their communities. They will learn from animal law experts who have successfully challenged the legal system to help animals. And they will learn from activists who are fighting to overcome traditional, entrenched shelters.

In the last decade, several progressive shelters have implemented lifesaving programs and services that have dramatically reduced the death rate in their communities. I am proud to say I have been a part of the rebirth of Nevada Humane Society and I join my colleagues in traveling to D.C. so that we can participate in a give-and-take – sharing our lessons learned and absorbing ways to become more effective.

In the end, the power to change is in our hands – a power that is mightier by working together.