Vii issue 1 2009 Journal for Critical Animal Studies



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Redemption makes the following rebuttal:
...No Kill is the opposite of hoarding, filth, and the lack of veterinary care....To imply that No Kill by definition means filth and hoarding, therefore, is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who are failing at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker (Winograd 56).
Personal experiences from Winograd's shelter experience are omitted for brevity as well as to outline the lack of a plain English introductory rebuttal to immediately follow Pacelle's intuitive conclusion. Rebuttals and solutions are offered for this claim, but the reader must skip a few chapters until finding this section titled “The Myth of Pet Overpopulation.” These solutions begin with questioning the claims of overcrowding and its subsequent symptoms and offering simple methods of community outreach and legislation regarding the availability of shelters to the public as a means of adopting out more animals (56, 157-159). Redemption also provides anecdotes of shelters with sometimes dozens of empty cages who nonetheless are caught euthanizing healthy adoptable animals. From stories like these, Winograd strengthens the case for defeatist logic being the motivating factor to lifesaving apathy. Overall, the claim that more quality homes exist for animals than the animals that enter shelters is the most succinct and efficient argument made by Redemption (161).
Since the publication of Redemption, Pacelle may have been pressured to change the wording of HSUS's stance on No Kill. Currently, Pacelle's blog describes “no kill”4 as a goal but not possible in the transition phase. However, the transition phase for Winograd has repeatedly shown itself to be a phasing out of policies and procedures which otherwise drive the supposed need for euthanasia. Winograd states disagreement with the assumption of PETA and HSUS that the circumstance of sheltering and adopting all incoming animals necessarily leads to unclean and crowded shelters (Pacelle 1)(Wingrad 54). The general argument in Redemption states adoptions, funding, and volunteers but not euthanasia to be the logical response to excesses of incoming animals.
The claims for the necessity for euthanasia are too numerous to mention for the purposes of this review but the most prominent claims are that of overpopulation and crowding. Redemption describes pet overpopulation as accepted by the public and shelter employees alike. Winograd's clearest objection is the existence of empty cages in shelters who supposedly kill for space. The reasoning for euthanasia in this case must be defeated by the very fact space exists. As detailed early on, animals to be euthanized are not automatically selected as an excess when cages have been filled. Rather, as euthanasia has already been accepted as necessary in a kill shelter, animals are “merchandized,” where animals deemed “more adoptable” are displayed to the public while animals tested to be “unadoptable” are never given the opportunity to be adopted, destined instead for death (21-22). The clearest example of this fallacy is Winograd's account of animals who would appear difficult to adopt although not in any condition where euthanasia would be a more humane alternative:
The [Thomkins County] shelter had the same [No Kill] success with Oliver, a cat with a broken jaw and one eye. It had the same success with a cat who had neurological problems and could not use stairs. It had the same success with a blind dog. It had the same success with a three-legged dog. It had the same success with a cat who defecated with no control (131).
The format of Redemption begins with an introduction or, more appropriately, a reminder of the special treatment we give to our animal companions and gradually becomes a “bible” for No Kill as evidenced by its preamble and blueprint for the No Kill movement in the appendices. As such, conditions and steps should be clearly detailed and stated specifically. Though most of the outline is in concordance with the preceding chapters, several inconsistencies remain between the appendices and the text as to what the initial “steps” to starting up a No Kill shelter are:
The first step in No Kill is taking responsibility (103)
The first part of the model involves responsibly reducing impounds so that more resources can be used to provide care for individual animals (197)
...we did it with a simple yet highly effective three-step process: 1) Stop the killing; 2) Stop the killing; 3) Stop the killing (97)
The guidelines of the blueprint are likely very useful for individuals in charge of reforming shelters, though little is mentioned about how reform can proceed at an individual (rather than a shelter employee or group) level. While Redemption effectively challenges the misnomers of pet population, disease spreading, aggression, and feral animals, readers who are not involved in the administration of shelters will not get much specific advice other than “organizing the community” for encouraging their local shelter to achieve No Kill status. Redemption criticizes the legislation which penalizes feeding feral cats showing pet legislation is not always on the side of lifesaving. This could have been an opportunity to mention outlets for independent work such as the availability of traps individuals can use in their own neighborhood. By providing simple methods of trapping, neutering, and returning feral cats, perhaps individuals could educate their communities to the simplicity of lifesaving.
Amongst a wealth of anecdotal evidence from Winograd's experience in shelters, a critical examination of what we call “overpopulation” was missing from the important “The Myth of Pet Overpopulation” chapter. While Winograd defends No Kill because plenty of homes exist for animals needing adoption, deconstructing what is a loose definition of the word would yield human paradigms and conditions of inconvenience rather than conditions of adoption availability. Asking the question, “What determines a species or community is 'overpopulated'?” would demand accepted biological definitions considering predator/prey relationships, environmental conditions and, most importantly, availability of resources.
Redemption is likely to be a playbook for the No Kill movement if one argues it is not already. Virtually any scenario in which a shelter would excuse euthanasia for controlling the pet population is examined critically with powerful solutions. However, the reality of establishing No Kill status requires attention to detail and individual shelters. Appropriately, most of the scenarios mentioned are that of generic shelter situations so Winograd's creation of the No Kill Advocacy Center5 is an appropriate move for addressing these unique needs. Redemption could be made a stronger resource for the No Kill movement by appealing to individuals whose access to the administration of shelters is limited but whose involvement is relevant in his/her potential to organize the community to reform the staff and focus of the local shelter.




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