|MF: Mike Fry |
BN: Beth Nelson
NW: Nathan Winograd
BN: We’re welcoming Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center to join us today. We’re celebrating some people who have been doing some amazing work in the no kill movement, in changing how animal welfare is done in our nation’s shelters. Nathan, we’re so glad to have you with us today.
NW: Thank you for having me, and thank you for doing the show.
BN: You’ll have to remind listeners who maybe aren’t so familiar with this award and why the No Kill Advocacy Center decided to create this award – just tell us a little bit about it.
NW: Every year the No Kill Advocacy Center gives an award to the people we consider some of the top no kill advocates in the nation. The award is given to those who are not just working but succeeding in their efforts to end the killing of animals in U.S. shelters.
It’s named for Henry Bergh, who was the 19th Century animal advocate who actually launched the humane movement in North America. He didn’t just give the first speech on animal protection, but he incorporated the first SPCA, he succeeded in passing the first anti-cruelty law, and every night he would patrol the streets of his native New York City in order to protect animals, and he did it despite public clamor to the contrary.
They called him “the great meddler.” He would always do what he thought was right to help animals, even against the tide of public opinion. Every year the award is named in honor of those who I think epitomize the unwavering commitment of Bergh to save lives, even in the face of criticism and opposition.
MF: I’m excited to learn who all the winners are this year. Do you want to start there?
NW: Can I say before we announce the winners of the award, I just want people to know that the awards given to these individuals take nothing away from the amazing work of all those people who are working to make a lifesaving difference in their communities and saving lives through rescues, through protests, or through advocacy. I think they deserve a round of applause, too. In the coming years no doubt we’ll honor many of them as well.
The reason these six were picked this year was because they really pushed the envelope. It actually feels both fitting and proper that we celebrate their achievements in keeping with the theme of this year’s No Kill Conference, which was “Reaching Higher.” I think when people hear the stories of these six individuals, they will see that they went above and beyond even the status quo of today’s no kill movements.
With that introduction, let’s start with the first winner, who is Denise Jones of Shelby County Animal Control. Denise not only helped create the first no kill community in Kentucky, but this year when officials announced they would start killing again after four years as a no kill shelter, she stepped in to save the animals. She then decided she wasn’t going to waste time in the future responding to crises – she would actually prevent them by becoming the shelter’s animal control (although I like to call them animal protection officers) and then again didn’t waste any time doing so.
As part of her training for the position, she was sent to a state-sponsored “euthanasia training class” and there were a handful of kittens that were scheduled to be killed as part of that training, and she convinced the instructor to let her have them, and she brought them back to Shelby County for rehabilitation and adoption.
MF: That I just find amazing. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when she made that declaration in the middle of that class that, “You’re not going to kill these kittens – I’m taking them.” I would have loved to have been there. I really look forward to talking to her. She’ll be on the show a little bit later.
NW: The second winner is Carl Bailey of Seagoville Animal Services. If people are regular listeners, they’ll remember Carl’s story. He was the police officer who took over as head of Seagoville Animal Services in Texas. His first minute on the job, he abolished the gas chamber. His second minute on the job, he ended the killing. At the end of his first year last year, fewer animals lost their lives all year than used to be killed in one week.
Most people would rest on their laurels of 97% or 98% save rates, but this year, Carl wasn’t satisfied with that. Seagoville is on its way to an even better save rate in 2012, and more than that, Sergeant Bailey is now on the road to help other communities do the same.
MF: He’s just an amazing guy, too.
NW: The third recipient is Holly Henderson of the Chippewa County Animal Shelter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Two years ago, she had a 93% save rate – last year they had a 95% save rate, and they’re striving to do even better in 2012.
What I think is so special about Holly is that she has completely redefined the idea of transparency and collaboration in her shelter, because she not only embraces the community as most no kill shelter directors do, but she gives those community members unprecedented access to the shelter in order to help her save lives by giving her key volunteers keys to the shelter so that they can come and go as they please to help the animals. Of course, only someone with nothing to hide would be willing to go that far.
BN: We look forward to meeting her on the air today. It’s a pretty amazing story.
NW: Yes. Of course, then there is our very own Mike Fry, who is not only working to create no kill in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and of course runs a shelter with one of the highest save rates in the nation, but I think Mike, what makes you especially deserving of this award is that while many of us are working to create a No Kill Nation, you actually succeeded in creating one, albeit for one day, but for those 9,000 animals that you helped saved by asking shelters across the country to join you in creating a No Kill Nation for Just One Day, it has meant all the difference in the world.
MF: I am humbled.
BN: He kind of hates that he’s being honored on this show today, but I told him he has to just deal with it.
NW: It’s well deserved. Of course, the last two winners are both connected with Pets Alive in New York. First, I want to talk about John Sibley, a gentleman who not only campaigned extensively for rescue rights legislation in New York, but he was one of the key players that worked to defeat that disastrous quick kill bill that the ASPCA sponsored in New York, which would have literally set the clock back about 40 years for animal protection in New York State.
What I think makes John really deserving of this award was one of the themes at the No Kill Conference. We talked about saving the other 5%, the ones we don’t consider healthy or treatable. John, in conjunction with Pets Alive, runs a hospice-based foster care program. This is a guy that brings dogs with leukemia into his home; animals that don’t have much time left on this earth, but he loves them up for the four, five, or six months they have left. These are dogs that get more love in that period than unfortunately many dogs get in their entire lives. I think John showing us what we can do for the other 5% makes him a worthy recipient for the award.
The final recipient is Kerry Clair, who runs Pets Alive. We’ll talk a little bit about her in a minute, but what I just want to say about Kerry is that most shelter directors say that I go too far when I talk about what we can do and be as shelter directors and shelters. Kerry was one of the few, if not the only shelter director, that told me I didn’t go far enough, and has proved it by pushing the envelope even beyond my own comfort level of just a couple of years ago.
MF: There’s a little program note you might not know. We’re skipping a break here, and we’re just going to go right into the rest of the show, just to make sure we’ve got plenty of time. Unfortunately, Kerry Clair is traveling and unable to join us for the show. We would like to just take some time until the next break to talk about her achievements.
I would like to tell a little bit of a personal story about Kerry Clair. I consider myself quite good with dealing with dangerous dogs. We’ve had some at Animal Ark that we’ve been working to network with other agencies. I will say that in our efforts to place dangerous dogs at other places, I’ve had an opportunity to interact with Kerry about their dangerous dog program, and I will say this – I think they are, hands down, pushing the envelope to the extremes in providing good, quality life for animals that probably can't live anywhere else as we know it right now.
NW: Again, long-term listeners of your show will remember Kerry Clair. She was the head of Pets Alive of New York, and she was the one whose organization approached the ASPCA about taking Oreo, the abused miracle dog pit bull that was thrown from the Brooklyn rooftop a couple of years ago – actually, back in 2009 – that the ASPCA determined it was going to kill. She really lobbied to have the ASPCA allow her to take Oreo into their program. Of course, the ASPCA said, “No,” but since that time her organization has really done wonders not just with giving these dogs that are deemed dangerous or aggressive that would be killed even by most no kill shelters, the life that they deserve for life in their sanctuary/shelter, but they’ve also succeeded in a really innovative way in placing some of these animals in homes and rehabilitating their aggression.
At the No Kill Conference she told an amazing story about a dog that had a history of biting seven people, and the adoption process took over a year of acclimating this gentleman to this dog, but at the end of the day, the dog was turned around. The gentleman found a friend for life, and both are actually thriving in his home, the dog poses no risk to anybody, and wasn’t killed in the name of public safety.
Those kinds of actions are obviously still in their infancy in terms of widespread implementation, but it really is the mavericks like Kerry Clair saying 95% is a great target and it would be wonderful for the dogs and cats across the nation, but she wants to experiment and push the envelope forward in a very responsible way that gives animals every opportunity for the life that is their birthright.
MF: It seems to me a logical approach to take, because it wasn’t that long ago, for example, that shelters universally almost would say, if a dog gets Parvo, you can't treat it in the shelter; it’s too contagious and usually fatal. Now shelters are proving that you can have a 95% survival rate with Parvo without putting any other animals at risk. We’ve figured that out. I think it’s our job.
BN: If you never ask yourself the question, “Why?” or “Why not?” you’ll never move forward.
MF: Right. I think it’s just amazing to watch. The other thing that I think is more amazing about Kerry is that she took over a facility that was having trouble when she did. She not only is pushing the envelope, she cleaned up what was a bit of a mess at that place at the time, and I think that that gives her even more reason to be recognized in what she’s doing there.
NW: Not only that, but she also took over a second shelter in New York State that was also having a problem and opened a facility in Puerto Rico to save the lives of dogs and bringing them back to the United States in many cases for adoption.
She’s not only pushing the envelope in terms of how we define and how we respond to aggression in dogs, but she’s saving thousands of other animals every year in the process while doing that.
On top of that, she, along with John Sibley are really at the forefront of fighting to give rescue groups rights in New York State based on the Oreo killing to redefine the relationship between shelters and rescue groups in New York State. While those of us were fighting the ASPCA quick kill bill publicly and online, she actually met with the sponsor of that bill, went through the bill line by line showing her what was in the bill and the impact it would have on her operations and on the lives of animals in shelters, and convinced the sponsor to actually withdraw the bill. For those and many more reasons, I think Kerry Clair is a worth recipient of this honor.
MF: We join you in celebrating Kerry Clair and the wonderful work at Pets Alive.
BN: Yes we do.
MF: We have to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to be joined by John Sibley, another one of the Henry Bergh Leadership Awards. He’s a blogger. He’s actively involved, boots on the ground, saving lives in New York. He’s a big thinker and a passionate guy. I can't wait to talk to him.