NO FIGHTING, NO BITING OVER THE MONEY
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1998:
CONCORD, Calif.––Richard Avanzino with
Duffield Family Foundation backing may now be ready to “roll,
roll, roll” the concept and tactics of achieving no-kill animal
control across the U.S., but one prerequisite he outlined at the
No-Kill Conference for doing it may be a taller order than
effectively ending pet overpopulation.
“Everybody needs to work together and accept our
core values to get funded,” Avanzino warned. “Our core values
are honesty, integrity, and mutual respect.”
In other words, Avanzino repeated several times, he
wants to end bickering and finger-pointing within communities
among organizations of differing and perhaps even conflicting
philosophies and mandates.
“We’re talking about building community rapport,”
Avanzino elaborated. “We’re trying to build trust, buy-in of
ideas, and mutual respect. We’re not going to be dictating a
predetermined approach or mold, but we want to see consensus
that killing dogs and cats must end. Getting everyone talking
and working together is critical to our longterm success. That
doesn’t mean we can’t do things in radically different ways, or
constructively express our differences, but there has to be a
place of dignity and honor. Personal attacks are out of line.”
The message is aimed, Avanzino told A N I M A L
P E O P L E, at encouraging traditional animal control shelters
to cooperate with people who have often attacked them.
“If we can’t get the governmentally funded agencies
to participate, we will be severely handicpaped,” Avanzino
said. “If we get an animal control shelter administrator who
would rather kill animals than cooperate with no-kills to save
them, my hope would be that cooperation could be obtained
from higher levels. One way or another, we have to get access
to the animals who are in shelters and dying. If we can’t place
those animals in homes, we won’t be fulfilling our mandate.”
Many No Kill Conference participants both applauded
Avanzino’s words and worried afterward that their eligibility
for funding might hinge upon either muzzling criticism of traditional
ways of handling pet overpopulation, or not responding
to public denunciations from the traditionalists.
If Avanzino was counseling silence, it seemed a
strange departure. When the San Franciscio Department of
Animal Care and Control balked at signing the Adoption Pact,
for instance, which made San Francisco a no-kill city in 1994,
Avanzino took the matter public.
Had the SF/DACC not then signed the Adoption Pact,
it might have been forced into such an agreement by ballot.
Avanzino is also remembered for responding to a
1995 speech to a statewide conference by Fund For Animals pet
overpopulation project coordinator Kim Sturla by beginning his
own remarks, as next speaker, with the declaration that everything
the audience had just heard was “Utter bull.”
Avanzino told ANIMAL PEOPLE that he intended
chiefly that critics of traditional sheters should avoid using
rhetoric that builds resistance to change.
He allowed that no-kill proponents may need to
demonstrate the efficacy of alternate approaches for some years
before winning over skeptics––although, he hoped, the availability
of Duffield Family Foundation money would help expedite
Avanzino even suggested that Duffield might fund
some no-kill organizations which are not the dominant animal
care agencies in their commnities, to enable them to build their
programs and capture community support.
But when ANIMAL PEOPLE presented two reallife
California scenarios to Avanzino as hypothetical examples,
he expressed skepticism that Duffield could have a role in
either, at the present level of non-cooperation.
IN THE DESERT
In North Palm Desert, California, Humane Society
of the Desert executive director Marilyn Baker and president
Phyllis Dewey led a summer mass resignation of no-kill shelters
from a regional coalition called the Animal Alliance.
“The dominant faction in the group represents kill
shelters,” Baker and Dewey explained. The walkout came
after most of an Animal Alliance meeting “was spent discussing
ways to economize and ‘streamline’ the killing of
Added Dewey, “It soon became clear that kill shelters
and no-kills really have nothing in common. We will work
with any other no-kill shelter toward saving pets, but we will
never be a part of expediting slaughter.”
Dewey and Baker were further critical of a plan
advanced by local animal control agencies, billed as meant “to
reunite more lost pets with their owners,” which would raise
the fines for allowing animals to run loose.
Fining owners for reclaiming lost pets “has been the
system used in the U.S. for more than 100 years,” they fumed,
“and is repeatedly proven ineffective. The cost of reclaiming
pets from pounds keeps many owners away. What will work,”
Dewey and Baker said, “is helping a pet owner keep a dog
from jumping a fence, and teaching cat owners why cats
should be indoor-only pets. Free neutering will stop overpopulation
within five years,” they continued. “But no one really
suggests free altering, since that might disturb veterinarians.”
Putting their money where their beliefs are, the
Humane Society of the Desert is outfitting an old house trailer
as a clinic which will “offer altering at the lowest possible
costs––or totally free for those who can’t afford any fee.”
Baker, in her previous career as a San Franciscobased
TV reporter, produced a series of mid-1970s investigative
reports on high-volume dog and cat killing that caused the
SF/SPCA to clean house and––in 1976––bring in Avanzino to
do things differently.
Separating the Humane Society of the Desert from
any association with animal control killing while stepping up
low-cost neutering is, moreover, exactly what Avanzino eventually
did at the San Francisco SPCA.
Avanzino allows that the Humane Society of the
Desert’s actions may be necessary.
But, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE, Duffield will try
to avoid becoming aligned with any faction during such a split.
Instead, Duffield will wait for new alliances to form.
AMONG THE TREES
A second example of the kind of conflict Avanzino
hopes to avoid erupted in Roseville, California, in May 1998
when longtime benefactor Angela Scontrino withdrew a
bequest to the Placer County SPCA which she said would have
amunted to “millions of dollars.”
Scontrino and her late husband Joseph had already
given the PC/SPCA about $250,000 over the past 10 years––
more than six times the shelter’s annual operating budget.
Scontrino accused PC/SPCA executive director
Veronica Blake of running “a slaughterhouse.”
In fact, Blake in 1997 either rehomed or placed
through adoption 60% of the 4,900 animals who came to the
PC/SPCA. Most of the complaints Scontrino cited, received
from former staff and volunteers, apparently involved incidents
occurring before a recent shelter expanion, largely funded by
the Scontrinos, which permitted a sharp reduction in killing.
But observers and involved parties remain divided
over a basic contradiction of mission, common to many
humane societies which hold animal control contracts.
On the one hand, the PC/SPCA is supposed to save
animals’ lives––the function considered most important by
donors and volunteers. On the other, it is contractually obligated
to accept all animals brought by county animal control officers,
and to keep them through a mandatory holding period.
Even after the expansion, the animal control contract
obliges Blake and staff to kill many owner-surrendered animals,
no matter how adoptable, in order to open cages for animal
control pickups. That outrages volunteers who sometimes
discover animals they have been grooming and training in
expectation that they would be adopted have been killed
instead, and demoralizes staffers, too, who according to some
county residents tend to accuse anyone who brings in a found
animal of abandoning a personal pet.
The problem may be exascerbated by a bill signed by
California governor Pete Wilson’s signature just as ANIMAL
P E O P L E went to press, which would extend the mandatory
animal control pickup holding period from the present three
days to six days. The bill would oblige shelters to keep each
animal twice as long, in hopes of improving their chances of
rehoming or adoption, but would also thereby fill twice the
cage space with incoming animals, limiting the capacity of
shelters to keep others beyond the mandatory holding period.
Several solutions to the ongoing conflict might be
available. The PC/SPCA and other humane societies with animal
control contacts could emulate the SF/SPCA by ceding animal
control to government. Alternatively, shelters might
expand adoption and fostering in cooperation with independent
rescuers––and escalate low-cost neutering outreach, to cut the
volume of surplus animals.
Duffield might favor any of these approaches,
Avanzino said, as ANIMAL PEOPLE presented them to him
hypothetically, not specifically linked to Placer County.
If any approach appeared doomed to self-destruction
by public rifts among agencies, however, Avanzino added that
Duffield would prefer to invest in similar projects elsewhere.