|MF: Mike Fry |
BN: Beth Nelson
NW: Nathan Winograd
MF: We’re going to be doing a lot of celebrating about some things going on in the United States to help bring more animals into homes. I’m really thrilled about it.
There’s a lot going on in the animal welfare movement. Last week, Beth and I talked about how we believe the no kill movement reached another tipping point in 2013, and the entire dialog around no kill in the animal welfare field has shifted.
I think with what we’re going to talk about for 2014, there’s a lot going on. I think it’s going to continue pushing that in further and further, faster and faster. Nathan Winograd from the No Kill Advocacy Center is joining us to have that conversation.
BN: Can I just remind people that one of the reasons that we love to have Nathan with us is that he has a lens that I would say is a little bit wider ranging and broader than that of those of us who are maybe kind of hunkered down at times getting through our day and looking more locally at our issues. He always brings us a more national and international perspective to what’s going on.
It all started with the book he published, “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America.” Mike and I have sometimes been just a little bit agog, Nathan, when we think about how we worked to bring you here to do one of your first book signing events, and a lot of people knew nothing of you. We had had you on the show. We got fired up about your work, about your writing.
You came to Minnesota, and it’s hard to believe that here we are today, and things just keep moving forward. I wanted to remind people of that way back time that’s still really relevant. I think people will see how that ties into just the conversation today as Nathan takes the microphone.
MF: We were able to actually interview Nathan on Animal Wise Radio before his book was even published. We were one of the early interviewers to help get the word out about his book and this growing movement. You’re taking that whole message to a whole new media and a whole new platform. I’d like to start there, Nathan. Tell our listeners what you’ve got going on.
NW: First of all, let me say that those were some very heady days. I remember when I first went on the tour and I was going to bring the message that in fact pet overpopulation is a myth, that the tools to end the killing were at hand, and we could be a no kill nation today. I recall being a little bit nervous as to how that message would be received by people and thankfully nobody threw tomatoes, and thankfully the message seems to have taken off from those initial days when you and Beth were willing to reach out and help me spread the message.
It’s very exciting that a few short years later we’re looking at hundreds upon hundreds of cities and towns across America that have embraced that philosophy, that have put it into place, and that have ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals. In fact, when I first tried to find a publisher for “Redemption,” as all first time authors do, I got my fair share of rejection letters, and I kept one. Most of them were the form letters that basically said, “It’s not a right fit,” or “Good luck with your project, but it’s not for us,” but I did get one very personal letter. It was from an agent that encouraged me not to write the book, not to go ahead with it, that he didn’t think anybody would be willing to spend the $15 or $20 to read about that topic.
Boy, am I glad that he was wrong. Here we are over 100,000 copies in print later, hundreds of no kill communities, and I’m very, very excited to announce that the book has been made into a documentary, and in 2014 we are going to take that documentary on the road all across the country.
MF: I am especially excited to announce that the first place people are going to be able to see the film is here. We’re going to show it in Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota. I can't wait. We’re planning quite a spectacular event around the showing of the film.
NW: I do hope people mark their calendars and save the date for that event, because my hope is that the movie version of the book, and it is called “Redemption” based on the book of the same name, will have as great or an even greater impact than the book. It’s a new medium to reach people if people are not readers or if they don’t have time to sit down and read a 250-page book, to be able to reach those people with the good news that not only is a no kill nation within our reach, but the ability to make it happen today is at hand, as hundreds and hundreds of communities have already proven.
MF: You’ve been working with the producers of the film, the production team, for quite some time. What I’m really excited about is the fact that when you produced the book, “Redemption,” there were just a handful of no kill communities in the United States. It was, in many people’s perspectives, still fairly theoretical. The documentary is in my view not really a repeat of the book. It takes the entire movement to today and has the voices of beautiful people like Bonney Brown, Mitch Schneider – the people who have done it in their community.
BN: I think that’s part of the power that this will deliver.
MF: Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons I’m really excited about the movie taking this conversation forward and bringing that message to a whole new audience. More about the film, more about the film event, and more about other activities that will be going on in 2014 to help bring the no kill movement further forward. We’ll be back with that.
MF: We’ve got Nathan Winograd from the No Kill Advocacy Center on the line. He’s an author. He’s a speaker. He’s a public figure. Many people consider him the founder of the no kill movement. There’s been no kill shelters in the United States since before Nathan came along, but he really put it in writing. He developed a road map for not just creating no kill shelters, but making no kill communities.
BN: He did it in Tompkins County.
MF: Now that is happening all over the world, really. In the United States there’s hundreds of no kill communities.
He announced in the first segment that we’re going to be having a special event here in Minnesota that I’m really excited about. It’s technically a two-day event. On June 6th, people will have the opportunity to have a private screening of the film. It’s going to be a big gala event with a huge after-party, live music, champagne, red carpet, limousines, the whole thing. It’s going to be just an absolute great time.
NW: One thing I’m not going to forgive you for is that means I can't wear my signature black polo and khaki pants. I have to get dressed up, and I haven’t done that in years!
MF: It will be fun to see you in a tux, Nathan. I can't wait!
NW: You will see something you will never see again in your life – Nathan Winograd in a tie.
MF: There’s an after-party with the music. People who are in the film will be there. People who helped make the film will be there, we’re hoping. The next day, the thing I’m really excited about is there will be a daylong workshop for people who want to come and learn more about no kill. They can see the movie, get to know the people, talk to people who’ve done it in a social setting, and then roll up their sleeves the next day and get the real boots on the ground experience from people who have done it in their own community. June 6th and 7th – save the dates. There will be more information coming out about that as we get closer to those dates.
Nathan, there’s a lot more going on other than just that.
BN: I just want to toss this out there, too. Nathan, I know that a while ago the first trailers came out to let the public know that this movie was in the works, and you were starting to put together the filming and everything. I just want to hear from you how does it feel to be at this point where you’re at the culmination and that there is an imminent release ahead?
NW: Beth, it is so exciting. One of the things that’s scary is to take something that you love and that you put so much of yourself into, this book, “Redemption,” and see what it has done in terms of helping change the face of animal sheltering, and then to be approached about turning it into a movie. There’s something very frightening about that, because you want to make sure that it is true to your vision and to the message that you hope it gives out.
I have to tell you, I’ve seen a full cut of the movie, and I think it is a beautiful rendition of the message that the book tried to convey, and as you said before the break, it goes so much further than “Redemption” because you’ll see the voices, you’ll see the people, you’ll see the animals, you’ll see the stories of the kind of world we now live in for hundreds of communities, and the kind of world we can live in for all animals in every community across the U.S. I’m hoping that people will be as pleased with it as I am, and I could not be happier.
MF: The thing is, you can really see the emotions in the faces, even in the trailer. When you talk to some of the volunteers who were in Tompkins County, the first no kill community in the United States, that place was clearly by their own words a “hellhole” and it went from this dark, dreary, depressing place to overnight … one volunteer in the trailer describes it as, “All of a sudden, it was like the sun came out.” You can tell he’s just having this intensely emotional experience like he’s on the verge of a full-on catharsis, and he’s so happy about it. When you see that emotion come through, you can't get that really in a book.
NW: You’re right, Mike. There are some parts of the documentary that are heart wrenching, and they are shown in a very thoughtful way so as not to shock, but you just can't get around some of the experiences that some of those volunteers in communities across the country have had.
In one case, we tell the story in Tompkins County of a volunteer who wanted to help the shelter and offered by fostering a litter of kitties and getting an assurance that when she brought the kittens back if they got a space crunch they would call her, and she would come and get the kittens so that nothing would happen to them. They didn’t call. These were baby kittens that she took care of 24 hours a day around the clock getting them old enough for adoption, and this was about how the shelter betrayed her and those animals were killed. Then, to add insult to injury, when she protested and was very upset, they ended up banning her from the shelter.
She was one of the people that refused to back down and worked so diligently to make Tompkins County a no kill community. Tragically, her story is similar to stories in making this film that we heard from people around the country. At the end of the day, ultimately it’s a story of great hope, and it’s a story of great success, and of course, as the name implies, it’s the story of great redemption.
MF: That’s a lot. After the event here in Minnesota and the workshop here, you’re actually going to be taking it on tour. Can you talk about the No Kill Is Love Tour that is going to follow that event?
NW: I’m happy to. One of the things that obviously I want to do is show the film in as many communities as possible. One of the things that I did after the no kill conference in Washington, D.C., last year is plot those communities around the country that have save rates in the 90th percentile, 94%, 95%, 97%, and in some cases 99%. What you see are these clusters. One community in a given geographic region will achieve 95+% save rates, and it will have this domino effect as it puts pressure on surrounding communities.
There are parts of the country that don’t have those communities. What I wanted to do is to reach to those communities that still need to hear the message and perhaps areas where people aren’t necessarily getting on a plane and flying to the Twin Cities or Washington, D.C. to the conference, and bring the message to them.
I will be concentrating on places that have not had the kind of success that we’re seeing in other places in the country, and hope to visit about 20 cities in a very short window, in about a four-month period, bringing not just the documentary, but the good news that no kill is a humane, sustainable, cost effective alternative to killing, and of course the good news is that no kill is love.
MF: I can't wait for all of that. In the middle of all of that, we also have Just One Day, which is June 11th. Talk about that a little bit.
NW: Of course, one of the things that the documentary tries to do is to show people and particularly people in positions of power over shelter animals that if they explore and experiment with alternatives to killing that have already proven so successful, in those communities that have implemented them, they too can end the killing of healthy and treatable animals by finding them loving homes instead of killing them.
Just One Day asks them on June 11th, on the 13th anniversary of the achievement of no kill in Tompkins County, to embrace that model for one day and experiment and explore those alternatives and to see the kind of great success that they can achieve when they do that.
Of course, this is the third year that the No Kill Advocacy Center, Animal Ark, and Animal Wise Radio are partnering with thousands of rescue groups and shelters in the country to do that. The first year, two years ago, we saved about 9,000 lives. Last year we saved about 12,000 lives, and of course every year we hope to do better and better and better. When we do that, we erase not just one day’s worth of killing, but we potentially can erase more than that. As these shelters learn what’s possible, it makes it easier to save lives on June 12th, 13th, and 14th.
One of the things I put on my Facebook page today was a 30-second video of Bloom County Animal Control in Kentucky that was taken at the end of the day last year on June 11th. What you see is row after row after row of empty kennels. They literally emptied the kennels the good way. One of the things you see is one dog that was still at the shelter at the end of the day, and everybody’s heart breaks when you see that one dog, but I remind people that when they open their doors on June 12th, guess who was the first dog to be adopted?
NW: Fewer competition, and finds a loving new home rather quickly. Saving lives on June 11th makes it that much easier to save them on June 12th.
MF: What I’m so excited about, Nathan, is that some of the shelters actually who historically who have been very traditional high-kill shelters who’ve started participating in the Just One Day events have made changes to the way they operate year-round, and are so excited about the event that January 1st this year I started getting poked and contacted by some of these folks asking, “When are you going to announce 2014?” They’re already making their plans. I think it’s a fun and exciting way for shelters to get engaged in their community.
I’ll just say this – even though we’re hosting the event, I’m learning all kinds of things from the other people who are hosting it. We’ve been no kill forever. We’ve had a formal no kill community around Animal Ark for several years, but we continue getting better. This year, in the last several months by implementing some of the things we’ve been learning through the Just One Day event, we’ve nearly doubled our adoption rate in just recent months. I’m convinced we can all continue getting better and better.
BN: It’s our job to get better and better and better.
MF: Exactly. That means for Animal Ark, we’re not only saving more animals, all of the animals in our community that are not terminal, but we’re pulling more and more from our surrounding communities. I think we can all do that.
NW: It’s really exciting when something that you spearhead or create or an idea that you put out there becomes bigger than you and what you had envisioned, and people make it their own and make it their own in very positive ways, giving truth to the spirit in which you implemented it. It’s obviously tragic when they do that and they use it for other reasons, but to see all these shelters and groups around the country embrace Just One Day and make it their own and take it to new and exciting areas is really exciting to watch.
There were some communities that didn’t want to wait until June 11th, so they’re holding their own Just One Day events even sooner, and some shelters as we know from last year that had Just One Week and even one shelter that did Just One Month. Of course, we love to see those shelters that embrace it and continue with the no kill philosophy indefinitely, which is of course ultimately the goal.
MF: Thanks, Nathan, so much for all of your work. If people want more information about him, they can find him at www.nathanwinograd.com or www.nokilladvocacycenter.org.
BN: Or follow him on Facebook.