Young humane societies abroad strive to avoid old traps

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1999:

animal welfare director Jean Gilchrist greets
Americans with a blunt admission that she is
not impressed with how most U.S. humane
societies operate.
A well-meaning donor sent Gilchrist
to the Humane Society of the United States’
Animal Care Expo in February 1998.
“All morning people taught us how
to do euthanasia,” Gilchrist remembers.
“Then in the afternoon they taught us how to
get counseling and cope with grief, because
you feel so bad about killing animals. I said to
myself, ‘That’s not going to be us.’ We do
euthanize,” Gilchrist explains, leading her
guests through a bevy of tail-wagging threelegged
dogs, “because some animals come to
us too sick or too badly injured to patch up,
and some animals don’t take well to being
here, but if an animal gets along, we’re going
to give that animal a chance.”

Operating on an annual budget of
less than an HSUS vice president’s salary, the
Kenya SPCA (profile on page 19) is the only
animal shelter serving Nairobi, one of the
world’s fastest-growing cities. Kenyan per
capita income is less than one U.S. dollar per
day, and the Kenya SPCA donor base is
shrinking rather than growing––temporarily
––because most support has traditionally come
from the aging population of Kenyans of
European and Indian ancestry, while most of
the children exposed to Kenya SPCA educational
programs are still far from reaching their
prime earning and donating years.
But discouragement, frustration,
and despair don’t seem to be part of the Kenya
SPCA outlook. It is a full-service humane
society in every sense of the term.
Everyone is busy, everyone is
cheerful, and as chief cruelty inspector Javan
Agesa admits when pressed, the staff enjoys
feeling that they are outdoing wealthy counterparts––in
the U.S. and elsewhere––who find
reasons why things can’t be done instead of
finding ways to do them.
Gilchrist was not at the third
International Companion Animal Welfare
Conference, held in October in Sofia,
Bulgaria. But her determination to avoid what
she sees as the trap of continual high-volume
killing to solve animal care-and-control problems
was well-represented among the 140 delegates
from 36 nations––and not just because
the conference sponsors were the no-kill North
Shore Animal League, of Port Washington,
New York; the also no-kill National Canine
Defence League, operating 16 shelters
throughout England; and the low-kill Dogs’
Home Battersea, of London.
Internationally, the ICAWC organizers
are learning, the dynamic is different
from U.S. and British experience. Humane
societies in the underdeveloped nations are not
necessarily evolving along a familiar path.
Underfunded and eager as most are for
American and British aid, many have their
own ideas about methods and tactics.
The kill/no-kill debate, heated as it
often becomes in the U.S., is often less a
debate abroad than a moral gulf, created by
centuries of disparate experience.
Largely Buddhist and/or Hindu
nations, for instance, often have religious and
cultural traditions in which holy people save
animals; only the lowest classes kill animals
and handle animal corpses. The aftermath of
the October 29 cyclone that devastated
Bhubaneswar, India, brought the strength of
such beliefs into focus when the government
of Orissa state was obliged to truck in as many
as 400 members of “unscheduled castes” from
elsewhere to help collect and bury the remains
of more than 200,000 drowned hooved animals
and half a million poultry.
Even where lethal animal control
and meat-eating are an almost unquestioned
norm, as in Japan, the common words for
“dogcatcher” and “butcher” may be regarded
as borderline obscenities, avoided in public
speech through elaborate euphemism.
Animal control in former Communist
nations was usually done by state agencies
whose mandates also included employing
convicts and making economic use of dog and
cat remains. Population control killing is
accordingly well-accepted by civic administrators
and the more conservative elements of
society, who often still believe that animal
control centers should finance themselves by
selling dog and cat fur–– but such killing has
no link to humane work.
Throughout the underdeveloped
world, dog-and-cat control is either not formally
practiced at all, or––like rodent control––relies
on clubs and poison.
Thus both western-style dog and cat
population control killing by lethal injection
and no-kill sheltering of dogs and cats tend to
arrive abroad as alternative ideas. Neither one
is the current norm. Proponents of each strive
to make them the norm in place of unacceptable
past or present practices.

The kill/no-kill debate hit the floor in
Sofia, by design. Recognizing the stakes and
the tension at the second International
Companion Animal Welfare Conference in
Bratislava a year ago, conference organizers

Roger Weeks of North Shore, Clarissa Baldwin of NCDL, and
Duncan Green of Dogs’ Home Battersea planned the two-day
1999 event to climax at a symposium on kill-versus-no-kill.
If they stacked the deck in either direction, it was
toward western convention. Moderating was World Society for
the Protection of Animals director of companion animal welfare
Joy Leney. Leney and WSPA take a conventional western
approach to population control killing. Although WSPA has
sponsored neutering clinics conducted in the Caribbean and
Thailand by retired American SPCA veterinarian Lloyd Tait,
who was also on the panel, the WSPA emphasis tends to
emphasize killing by more efficient and less painful means.
Defining the NCDL as “one of the fortunate few” in a
nation with little dog and cat overpopulation, NCDL marketing
director Adrian Burder pointed out that of the 11,616 dogs the
NCDL received in 1998, just 1.5% required humane euthanasia,
which NCDL administers only for chronic and incurable
conditions. Burder acknowledged that NCDL practices selective
admission, and that open-admission and animal control
shelters in underdeveloped nations may receive a far higher percentage
of animals in severe distress. Yet the necessity of euthanizing
some, Burder argued, should not dissuade rescuers
from attempting to save the majority.
Countering Burder came German veterinarian
Monika Koller, currently working with dog population projects
in Bucharest and Brasov, Romania.
“In the past,” according to her conference biography,
“Koller organized neutering projects in Yugoslavia, Spain, and
Italy, as well as Germany.”
But Koller didn’t talk much about neutering. Instead
she argued that killing unwanted and/or homeless animals––
even if young and healthy––is the only way to save most from
Tait eased the mood by remarking that, “Euthanasia
is like religion: some say yes, we believe in it; some say no,
we do not believe in it; some say yes, we believe in it, but
with qualifications or reservations.”
Tait then described his current focus on neutering as
atonement for having killed tens of thousands of animals at the
ASPCA before founding the ASPCA’s Brooklyn shelter clinic
in 1982 and beginning to knock the numbers down by fixing
animals instead of killing them. It was a gentle talk, but with
an edge, understanding yet angry at the continuing hesitance of
much of the humane establishment to embrace high-volume
low-cost or free neutering in place of killing.
Buddhist monk Wu Hung, founder of the Environment
& Animal Society of Taiwan, explained some of the
paradoxes of the kill/no-kill issue in Taiwan and perhaps other
largely Buddhist nations.
“People sometimes consider killing ‘humane’ if they
themselves do not have to see the animals dying,” Wu Hung
said. “Therefore it is humane for the people.” Wu Hung also
described the view that as one member of a Taichung city government
panel put it, “it was best to round up and kill all stray
dogs, letting them go into another reincarnation and then educating
society to have no pets,” rather than try to teach people
to neuter and vaccinate.
Wu Hung first addressed the Taiwanese animal care
and control dilemma in 1994 as secretary general of the Life
Conservationist Association, a Buddhist activist society. His
photos and a speaking tour brought horrendous conditions at
approximately 70 overcrowded Taiwanese dog pounds to global
attention. At the worst of the pounds, dogs were not killed, as
that would have contradicted Buddhist teachings, but neither
were they fed, to save money. The poundkeepers, according
to Wu Hung and others, believed that allowing dogs to starve
to death got rid of them without making the keepers responsible
for having killed them.
Initially Wu Hung and LCA did not promote population
control killing. They moved to this position in 1997, after
Leney became involved and brought experts from the U.S.,
Britain, and France to teach euthanasia.
“In Taiwan,” Wu Hung concluded, “we feel that it
will be at least 20 or 30 years before we can deal with the stray
dog problem without population control killing, because of the
lack of space for stray dogs as well as because of the prevailing
ideas of capitalism and materialism.”

Leney returned to the podium with 10 slides of
alleged atrocities and misuses of resources at no-kill shelters
she had visited. Depicted were a bleak home for 500 severely
disabled dogs, somewhere in England; an Eastern European
facility at which one dog endured a broken back and another
was killed in territorial fighting; a dog who got around with
wheels to support his hindquarters; a dog with severe mange; a
dog who had been hit by a car; starved dogs cannibalizing each
other; a starved former fighting dog; a blind puppy; and a cat
with upper respiratory syndrome.
Leney argued, with little contradiction from the delegates,
that most of these animals should be euthanized to end
their suffering. But ANIMAL PEOPLE pointed out in later
discussion that most of Leney’s slides showed clear mismanagement,
of sorts which occur in poorly run shelters regardless
of philosophy, and that we have on file many photos of similar
conditions at conventional shelters. Especially comparable are
photos taken by Jeff Dorson and Dana Dell of the New Orleansbased
League In Support of Animals since 1988 at various substandard
pounds in Louisiana. Some were later closed by public
outrage, and some of the managers were prosecuted.
Blue Cross of India at Chennai secretary S. Chinny
Krishna explained that his organization from inception has
rejected population control killing in favor of the Animal Birth
Control program it has developed and promoted since 1964.
Population control killing by poisoning and electrocution
has been practiced for at least 120 years by municipal governments
in Chennai and elsewhere in India, Krishna said, and
the Blue Cross of India realized very early that these methods
would continue to be practiced, as the cheapest available, until
and unless it could be shown that killing stray animals was not
necessary. Achieving that took decades of struggle, but at last,
in 1997, the same year that LCA endorsed population control
killing in Taiwan, the Animal Welfare Board of India adopted
the ABC approach as Indian national policy. No-kill animal
control across India by 2005 is now an official goal.

Five years or less

“A sea change in Indian attitudes has occurred,”
Krishna finished. “I feel that with the progress that has been
made and is underway now, we can look forward to the day
when no animals will be killed for population control within
less than five years.”
Oleg Kolesnick of the Ukrainian animal rescue group
KROT Ltd. responded that in the Ukraine there are already 10
million stray dogs, among a human population of 54 million,
and that the resources for an ABC program in his view won’t
begin to become available until the numbers of dogs are
brought down to a more manageable level.
ANIMAL PEOPLE, speaking from the floor,
pointed out the ecological reality that successful species tend to
breed up to the carrying capacity of their habitat, and that highvolume
killing, whether of dogs or deer, usually just tends to
accelerate reproduction. No advance in the efficiency of killing
lowered the number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters,
ANIMAL PEOPLE explained––but beginning five years after
the advent of the first low-cost neutering program in the U.S.,
the number of animals killed in the New York City shelters leveled
off at 250,000 in 1962, following 67 years of annual
increases, and then fell steadily to the 40,000-45,000 range by
1995, where it remains.
Of the symposium speakers, Tait and Krishna drew
the warmest receptions. Also well-received were practical
how-to handouts on feral animal control via neutering, distributed
by Dorothea Friz of the Lega Pro Animale, in Castel
Volturno, Italy; Anne Haughie of the Feline Advisory Bureau,
in Wiltshire, England; and Celia Hammond of the Hammond
Animal Trust, which operates two low-cost neutering clinics in
Many of the ICAWC participants from the underdeveloped
world represented organizations that as yet have no
shelter, or have only rudimentary facilities. They are not yet in
any position to take on animal control contracts––but they can
do neutering, education, and advocacy, changing the existing
paradigm before they buy into it.
Modern neutering methods did not exist yet during
the first century of the U.S. and British humane movement.
After 1873, when the Women’s Humane Society of
Philadephia became the first U.S. humane society to take an
animal control contract, intending to introduce gentler methods
of killing, animal control and humane work evolved together.
No one imagined that they could come into fundamental conflict
until 1984, when then-San Francisco SPCA president
Richard Avanzino shocked the nation by dropping animal control
as antithetical to the purpose of saving animals’ lives.

Changing roles
Traditionally positioning themselves uncritically
toward agencies which do population control killing, North
Shore and NCDL have challenged the status quo less overtly
than the SF/SPCA, attempting to introduce alternatives without
posing a threat. Neither ever pretended to be able to handle the
whole volume of homeless animals entering New York Cityarea
or British shelters. Each has operated essentially as an
auxiliary to conventional animal control. North Shore and
NCDL take from conventional shelters and place in homes a
combined total of about 45,000 dogs and cats per year, who
would otherwise be killed. Simultaneously, North Shore has
since 1990 granted upward of $30 million to neutering programs,
building neutering clinics, and sponsoring the
Spay/USA low-cost neutering referral service.
The auxiliary role is not available to most humane
societies in the underdeveloped world, regardless of whether
they choose a conventional or no-kill orientation, and would
not be even if they had comparable resources. Having no
humane establishment to work with or against, they must either
blaze their own trail to no-kill, like S. Chinny Krishna and the
Blue Cross of India, or seek to build a conventional humane
establishment, like Wu Hung and Oleg Kolesnick.
Material help from the developed world is ever welcome,
and often verges on absolute necessity, since nations
which can barely feed and shelter their human populations have
little capacity to assist animals. Yet as Gilchrist points out,
uncritically adopting U.S. and British tactics is fraught with
ways to repeat old mistakes.
Perhaps the most out-of-place speaker in Sofia, by
his own admission, was Kent Robertson, appearing on short
notice to teach shelter management, substituting for another
scheduled speaker who couldn’t attend. A frequent guest
instructor on shelter management at U.S. conferences,
Robertson was executive director of the Humane Society of
Missouri from 1992 until a week before the conference, and
had just become assistant executive director of the somewhat
larger SPCA of Texas.
“I know that I don’t know a lot of the things that people
working in extremely disadvantaged circumstances need to
learn,” Robertson told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “What I can
teach them is what I do know, which is how to run a big shelter
in a U.S. city. I think the role for those of us with big groups in
the wealthy nations needs to become a matter of identifying the
people who are doing effective humane work in the poor
nations, giving them the resources to do more, and giving
them the opportunity to teach what they have learned. We can
help a lot by recognizing our own limitations.”

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