No Two Ways about No Kill

Last week controversy broke out in Louisville, Kentucky, when the city’s mayor announced that he was appointing HSUS staffer Justin Scally to run the municipal animal services. A local veterinarian blasted the hiring, saying: “If I was hiring for that position, I would not [have hired Scally]. He would need more experience than what he's got.” He added, “And, again, the connection to the Humane Society [of the United States], probably not a good idea.”

And no-kill advocates were up in arms, as the mayor passed over one of their own with many years of shelter experience, including 7 years working for Louisville’s animal shelter, and who has served on the state’s Animal Control Advisory Board. (The city also rejected an earlier plan submitted by No-Kill Louisville to run the animal services.)

In response, HSUS’s damage-control machine has been in full “spin” mode. HSUS issued a press statement defending Scally and attacking us. Scally also “cut off” a reporter’s question about whether he shares HSUS’s values.

But most intriguing was HSUS’s insistence that it’s a supporter of the no-kill philosophy. On Friday, HSUS’s homepage had a prominent link to a 2007 blog post from CEO Wayne Pacelle in which he says that no-kill is an “essential” goal.

HSUS’s record, though, indicates that it can be doing a lot more to reach this goal.

The invaluable YesBiscuit! blog tracked 44 dogs (deemed the “Alabama 44”) seized in an HSUS raid in December. Generally, HSUS will help seize animals in a rescue and then drop them off with various shelter partners who will then take long-term care of the animals. (Shelters receiving animals from HSUS may bear the brunt of the cost for their care.)

By January 20, YesBiscuit! determined that 6 of the original 44 dogs were dead, and by March that number rose to 10 dead with another 3 presumed dead.

And after Michael Vick’s dogs were seized in 2007, HSUS recommended that authorities “put down” the animals. (Many of the dogs have since been rehabilitated.) Nathan Winograd, a no-kill activist, has more about HSUS and the no-kill issue here and here.

If HSUS is so committed to the ideal of no-kill, as it claims, then it should put its money where its mouth is. HSUS could start its own pet shelter (it doesn’t run a single shelter currently) and run it as no-kill. And whether it builds a shelter or not, HSUS could also openly pledge to give its shelter partners full compensation for caring for animals that HSUS helps seize.

What’s HSUS waiting for? It had $205 million in assets as of December 31. Is it so hard to cut back on the millions spent on lobbying, lawyers, and pension plans to make positive moves for pets? A lot of people hope that HSUS does a better job, but it’ll take more than lip service from its CEO.