Drawing a Line in the Sand

No Kill Conference 2010, day two
By Diane Blankenburg, August 2010, Updated February 2015

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!


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.