A recent campaign to reduce and eventually end euthanasia in the US is already seeing the fruit of their labor. They have reached out to a total of 2,500 shelters known to euthanize animals. Even one of the nation’s largest shelters, the City of Los Angeles West LA shelter, has taken the pledge to not kill on Mondays.
Alex Aliksanyan, founder of Animals Vote, gave a very insightful interview about the “No Kill Mondays” campaign and about the broader No Kill Coalition, which includes Animals Vote, an organization pushing to see legislative change as a solution to ending euthanasia, and DogsInDanger, a national website that allows shelters to feature a dog for several days before being euthanized, giving the animal an additional chance for adoption.
What is the no-kill movement exactly, for those who may not know?
“The no-kill movement is relatively new…The ASPCA was the lead killer of dogs and cats in NY for 105 years…so to change something that is 105 years old, something so socially accepted, doesn’t happen quickly.
So this is fairly new…In the past, it was acceptable to take dogs out on a boat and throw them overboard to drown and hit them over the head so they couldn’t swim. Until the 1930s in NY they would do that until people said, ‘this is barbaric,’ and they found more humane ways to kill them.
The no-kill movement is saying that this wasn’t valid then and now euthanasia is not acceptable in our modern world. There are people who are dogmatic and say, ‘well we have always done it.’ Our movement is saying that this is morally unconscionable. It’s an uphill struggle, mostly because society just says they don’t want any more complications and this is the easy way out. You never see the dogs or hear about it so it doesn’t affect your life.”
I know that certain organizations like the ASPCA are working hard to change the reputation that you mentioned and are trying to do a lot of good. What do you think about this?
“Part of the problem is that they have substantial income and the more money you have, the harder it is to keep it pure…People say ‘money is the root of all evil’ and there is something to that…
These guys have a lot of money so what happens is the money comes in and you don’t become a better organization…You become a monolithic organization concerned about keeping the money coming in instead of the root cause of why you exist in the first place…I’m not saying they are bad guys or good guys they are just human. We are little and I hope we don’t get enough money to get to that point…They do a lot of good but they have lost their focus…”
Would you still be against euthanasia even in cases of severe suffering from medical problems or major behavior issues?
“No, but only if a certification of a veterinarian states that their life would be better served euthanized than being alive and, in the case of dangerous dogs, only certification of licensed animal behaviorists.”
So, the coalition consists of a few sites or organizations working together?
“Yes, it was started by 2 partner organizations: DogsInDanger and a 501(c)4 called Animals Vote. The two then created the No-Kill coalition, which led to the start of ‘No Kill Mondays.’
DogsInDanger is a site in which kill shelters can list a dog that is about to be killed in order to give the dog an extra chance to be saved. People anywhere can look on the site and search for dogs in their area.
Animals Vote is the branch that focuses on the legislative efforts of the movement. It includes organizations mainly and no individuals other than politicians and celebrities.”
How long have you guys been doing this?
“No kill Mondays is only a few months old but DogsInDanger started in 2007 and Animals Vote began in 2012.”
What are the three laws?
“There are huge camps out there and many ideas of what the solution is to overpopulation and euthanasia…There is the spay/neuter camp, the Nathan Winograd camp…When we really looked at the big picture from an abstract basis… And we just didn’t think any of the solutions were complete. There are huge holes in each one. So, we analyzed this and came up with our own, summarized in the 3 laws. Our statement in making ‘laws’ is that there is no solution to the animal issue in America or elsewhere without laws being changed. When you look at human behavior, it always changes as a result of laws.
So, first of all, if a kill shelter puts their shelter up on DogsInDanger, 85% of the time that dog is saved. That formula has been proven right …done it for 7 years. As such we have proven that it works. So, one of the laws is that it should be mandatory that every shelter should put dogs up on some national website for three days before killing a dog. And how much does this cost? It costs 0…It doesn’t matter if it’s our site or another. We would even give our website up or call it something else, we don’t care.
The second law is regarding puppy mills. Our solution has been embraced, like in California…Basically, shut down puppy mills, shut down retail sale of puppies and dogs. LA did this and if the largest city could do it, anyone can. You have to address the supply side of the equation.
The third is to regulate backyard breeders and internet sales of dogs. Anyone breeding would need to get a license and pay a fee for the license. There would also be a reward for neighbors to turn someone in that is breeding illegally.
These three very specific laws could lead to a ‘no-kill America’ and really eliminate the pet overpopulation issue.”
So you don’t focus on spay/neuter as a part of the solution at all?
“We do believe that low cost and no cost spay/neuter is important, but legally mandating spay/neuter as a solution is ridiculous…Are you going to have people looking at the underbellies of dogs on the streets? I don’t really see how spay/neuter can be enforced…It’s a conceptual solution but not a real world solution…The ones we have written are totally enforceable.”
Is No Kill Mondays working?
“Well, you can see how messed up our culture is because we have had 587 say ‘no, we want to continue to kill’. We didn’t even say not to double kill on Tuesday…We just said let’s make Monday a day of peace. How sick is that?
42 did take the pledge to do this every Monday, which is still significant…
Our second step will be really dramatic. We just introduced a state referendum in Colorado to make all killing of dogs or cats illegal…We are trying to make Colorado the first state to be truly no-kill…Our lawyers are in a conference this morning going through the provisions of the referendum…There are a lot of steps to get it onto the ballot but if so the voters will have a chance to decide.”
How are you reaching out to the shelters?
“First with emails and then volunteer groups called them up…So each one that refused told us to our face. Both the people that took the pledge and those that didn’t are right there on our site. We asked people who visit our site to write those that didn’t and urge them to join and to thank those that did.
Have any changed their minds as a result of your efforts?
“Yes, we had one just the other day…A very big high-kill NY state shelter said no but just now said yes.”
What are the excuses that most give for not taking the pledge?
“The biggest is that ‘we try every day to save every single animal’s life so we don’t see any need to join such a program.’ They are immersed in the philosophy that they are doing the right thing…
One thing we do know, we came up with a number…8.5%…The chance of a dog being saved goes up by about 8.5% each additional day that they are given to live before being killed.”
Do these shelters also put dogs up on DogsInDanger?
“This is very difficult because they are exposing themselves by putting dogs up…And they take abuse from those who send nasty emails after seeing a dog there…So, it’s bad PR for them and it’svery hard to get shelters to do it…The only reason some people from a kill shelter do it is because it works and these people want to get their dog saved. It matters more to them to save the dog then saving face.”
Do you have any other plans for moving ahead?
“The Colorado initiative will probably be the major focus of 2014…That will be our major task to make sure that it happens and we get on the ballot. If it passes in Colorado, you can bet there will be five more states soon after…We want to be right there pushing other referendums. Then, once we have 10 or 15, we can push for a federal law.”