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No Kill Nation


“The path to no-kill is the same everywhere,” he says. “It is the programs and services born out of the vision Rich Avanzino had in San Francisco. That model has achieved no-kill in Tompkins County, in Charlottesville, in Reno, and in all parts of the country. If every community comprehensively implemented all those programs and services, we would be a no-kill nation today.”

We’re not a no-kill nation today, but there has been a shift in the conventional wisdom on the subject that’s impossible to ignore. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal welfare organization, the Humane Society of the United States, is adamant that the country will soon end the killing of healthy and treatable dogs and cats. In fact, he says, not only has his organization gotten on board the no-kill train, it brought friends.

“There’s been a real sea change in attitude,” he says. “It used to be very polarized, but in addition to HSUS embracing the goal of no-kill with great enthusiasm, so has the National Federation of Humane Societies, which has established a no-kill goal in their ‘2020 Vision’ program, even though they’re made up of shelters and animal control agencies that are considered more traditional. So I think that the divide is really illusory. It doesn’t exist.” During a recent San Francisco town hall meeting, Pacelle told the audience he expects the United States to reach a no-kill goal by 2015.

Kate Hurley has said, “Saving all the healthy and treatable animals in this country is absolutely inevitable,” and Pacelle, Avanzino, Winograd, Brown and Castle agree. It’s a group of people not always, or even often, in accord, and this marks a singular “kumbaya” moment for the animal welfare movement.

It’s one Avanzino welcomes. “We should all be trying to work together,” he says. “We should overcome our past differences and talk about what we can do together, not spend our resources on needless fighting. We’re here to start a new path, to accomplish what has never been achieved before.”



Christie Keith has covered canine health and welfare issues since 1991, is the lead science reporter for Pet Connection and writes the "Your Whole Pet" column.

Illustration by Eric Hanson