When a Humane Organization Sounds like a Tin Pot Dictator
The ASPCA’s attack on ‘extremists’
Mustang Sally, one of the adoptable dogs being cared for by Austin Pets Alive!
A document entitled The Tactics of the Extremist Agenda, along with advice on how to deal with public officials who may be sympathetic to these extremists, was made public yesterday – and promptly disappeared from sight.
The document began by smearing various grassroots groups as members of the “Extremist Agenda”, and accused them of setting up “proxies” in their communities to act on their behalf, “slandering” local organizations and their directors whom they deemed to be “sympathetic to the status quo,” and “installing a puppet regime.”
This paranoid view of the grassroots wasn’t coming from the government of Hosni Mubarak or Bashar al Assad in response to the Arab Spring. It was coming from the ASPCA – our nation’s richest and most powerful SPCA.
The Tactics of the Extremist Agenda and Engaging Public Officials could be found in the ASPCApro section of the organization’s website until yesterday, when they were made public by attorney Ryan Clinton, one of the pioneers of the no-kill movement in Austin, Texas. The ASPCA has not yet commented on the documents or their reason for taking them off their site.
The driving forces behind progress in Austin are two groups: Austin Pets Alive! and Clinton’s own FixAustin. As regards being “extremist,” they can only be accused of doing extremely well at saving homeless animals in their community.
Three years ago, determined to do something about the depressing kill rate at the city shelter, they launched a new initiative to make Austin a no-kill city, focusing on the homeless pets being killed at the City of Austin Town Lake Animal Center. Since then, they’ve made enormous advances – in some months reaching a save rate that’s over 90 percent.
But the ASPCA specifically names Austin as one of the cities harboring an Extremist Agenda.
Grassroots groups that spring up in the face of status-quo killing aren’t seeking fame or fortune. They’re not radicals. They’re doctors and lawyers and mothers and fathers who are heartbroken about the pointless deaths of so many homeless pets in their own neighborhoods. And they’re fed up with old-guard, do-nothing, establishment organizations that spend much of their time and their donors’ money killing more animals.
Six years ago, when Austin residents were becoming increasingly frustrated at the shocking number of deaths at the city’s Town Lake Animal Shelter, the Austin Chronicle chronicled a day in the life of the shelter:
The euthanasias begin shortly after 10 am on a Wednesday in early October; by 10:32 the shelter is down about a dozen cc’s of pentobarbital, and 20 cats are dead. They lie stretched on their sides in a neat pile – heads toward the buzzing refrigerator that holds the medicine, feet toward the freezer that holds the dead.
The following year, Clinton formed FixAustin with the goal of turning the status quo around. Last year, the City Council passed a resolution to save at least 90 percent of animals brought to the city’s shelters. And by the end of the year, with the help of new shelter leadership and Austin Pets Alive!, whose mission is to rescue from shelters any animal that is about to be killed, the Town Lake shelter had reached that goal.
The new shelter leadership, incidentally, would be what the ASPCA is insultingly referring to as a ”puppet regime.” And, overall, this highly successful, cooperative, energized campaign to save lives is what the ASPCA is calling an “Extremist Agenda” that should be replaced with its own branded programs, inexplicably named No Harm No Kill. (Are the local no-kill groups harming the animals?)
Clinton and his colleagues have done so well in their own home town that they’re taking the Austin Pets Alive! approach on the road. Two weeks ago, the Christian Science Monitor published an article, syndicated nationwide, about their success in Austin and how it can be implemented in other communities.
“Most shelters are in out-of-the-way places and do a poor job of communicating their needs. Then the shelters complain that it’s the public’s fault that they have to kill as many animals as they do,” Clinton says. “There are no excuses here.”
Because so many communities are asking Austin Pets Alive! how to make a no-kill policy work for them, the group recently formed American Pets Alive!, says Ellen Jefferson, executive director of Austin Pets Alive!.
Formerly a state assistant solicitor general, Clinton … has been named one of Texas’s best appellate attorneys under 40 years old seven times by Texas Monthly magazine.
“Everyone needs an advocate,” he says of his animal welfare work, in a modest and lawyerly way. “And this was a solvable problem.”
For its part, the ASPCA offers this advice to cities who are approached by the likes of Clinton and Austin Pets Alive!:
It is important to remember that if the Extremist Agenda establishes itself in your community, there will eventually be a call for policy changes that will implicate your local public officials. The distinction between the Extremist Agenda and No Harm No Kill is not only about caring for animals, but also about public policy that impacts how a community addresses animal welfare needs.
… It may be helpful to point out the slanderous tactics of the Extremist Agenda while maintaining a reasoned, calm and cooperative tone.
Large, well-heeled organizations like the ASPCA are staffed by good people who want to help animals. But the leadership has a tendency to become arrogant and paranoid and to see the grassroots as their enemy. The ASPCA isn’t a Middle East dictatorship, but The Tactics of the Extremist Agenda could easily have been written by one of those regimes.
What do you say? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.
Posted November 10, 2011, by Michael Mountain
Keep up the good work exposing the ASPCA and other so-called "humane" organizations! We all need to keep educating people and spreading the truth.
Both the ASPCA and PETA are a bunch of crap. I used to support both but then I found out somethings under the surface that I was none to happy about. Like the fact that the ASPCA in NYC turns animals over to the ACC's if they cant adopt them out. Many of the pets on the euth list have been ASPCA animals. Pets that were rescued from a house fire by the ASPCA were turned over to either Manhattan or Brooklyn ACC. As for PETA the "Angel of Death" that runs that place is PRO-BSL and ANTI-TNR! She doesnt believe that cats should be house pets, and when she worked at a shelter she would go in early just to kill. Most of the pets that are picked up by the mobile PETA van for people that cant travel to surrender their pets...most of the pets are dead as soon as they walk in PETAS door if they arent dead by the time they reach the end of the drive way. those are nothing but mobile killing vans. Most of the employees just dont get caught dumping bodies in area dumpsters. Not saying they all do but both of these organizations are supposed to be all about animal welfare and NO-KILL and they are the exact opposite. Why would any animal rights org. be PRO-BSL and ANTI-TNR??? As for the animals that are pulled from abuse situations etc. by PETA most dont find new homes and are dead within 24 hours of being rescued. IF they want to call these groups that are actually doing some good and making progress with animal rights and protection,, Activists, well then I will be more than happy to support them because my support will not be with PETA or the ASPCA ever again.
The ASPCA SHOULD feel threatened AND ashamed, so should HSUS and PETA and anyone else who EXPLOIT animals to obtain $$$$ that does NOT help the animals. I totally applaud Austin Alive! & other rescues, shelters to are in the TRENCHES with the animals & the people. No Kill Nation is VERY within our reach!!! Thanks, Michael/Zoe, for putting this out there!! BEST!! ~Toni
The ASPCA is simply threatened by people who have the desire, determination and dedication to do what they have failed to do and thought impossible. It is far easier to allege that those who are proving them wrong, like Austin Pets Alive!, are actually creating a harm. But the truth is that their allegations of warehousing and hording are pure fantasy. The true cruelty is that an organization that professes to be against cruelty to animals would label those who are proving that all pets deserve a chance are extremist.
I worked for an animal welfare agency that shall remain nameless. At one point, the new president announced a "town hall meeting" in response to unrest and dissent among volunteers. When people asked questions she did not like, she made it known to staff that she would entertain only pre-screened questions at the next "town hall meeting"! I can appreciate that some people in the no-kill movement (as in any movement) can get over the top with aggressive language. The reaction, though, was also over the top. A nonprofit organization ought not to behave like it's the intelligence arm of a nation at war.
I am guilty of being one of those over the top Extremists, however this really is a matter of life and death to me. Once being nice does not work ... well, the gloves are OFF.
TamaraBarnes Oh, I agree with you! My point was only that the true extremists and crazies that exist in any movement (Some people just like "trouble.") are not an excuse for treating anybody who disagrees with these organizations like dangerous terrorists.
At all times, I personally try collaboration first. However, that seldom works. What is unfortunate is that it takes outting the killing in the most public and unpleasant way, which also involves vilifying those ordering the killing. In my opinion, they are the victims/villians of the old kill shelter model, on some level, at first, I have compassion for them. But that quickly goes away as they dig in their heels and continue in their old ways. Their response to questions from advocates is to ignore them or to tell advocates to go f**k themselves.
I am extremely offended by the extreme extremist postion that the extremely rich ASPCA has taken on No Kill Advocates.
Hamilton County/ Cincinnati SPCA is open admission but has a kill rate greater than 50%. It is just sad. Someone found a stray at a Bengals game. They turned the dog into the SPCA in hopes the owner would come forward, they also told the SPCA they wanted to adopt the dog if no one claimed the dog. The SPCA informed them the dog was gone then hinted it went to a rescue. After much digging by local residents it was found the dog was killed. This is why the laws need to change. The person who turned in this sweet dog is sickened by the fact that this dog was killed.
I am the President of No Kill Houston, one the cities specifically mentioned in the ASPCA's document "The Tactics of an Extremist Agenda". Even though I knew that the ASPCA has fought No Kill efforts and No Kill legislation in the past few years, I still found this document both shocking and repulsive. It reads like a "how to" manual for kill shelters to continue their killing while fighting off we pesky “extremists” who just want the killing and inhumane treatment to stop. It is incredible that a multi-million dollars "humane" organization would spend so much time and effort creating a document detailing how to fight No Kill advocates. I believe if they were truly a humane organization, they would be our ally in the fight to stop shelter killing. Clearly, they are not.
Mr. Mountain, thank you for publishing your article and helping to make more people aware of the true feelings of some of the leaders of this organization. The public deserves to know the truth.
pupez7, there are now 27 Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities in North America (http://bit.ly/qO0pe4). They all accomplished their extremely high save rates by following the successful No Kill model of sheltering. Some of these communities have even passed No Kill legislation, based on the same No Kill model of sheltering, thereby assuring their continued success. Each of the communities are now saving 90% or more of all animals entering their doors, instead of killing the majority as so many thousands of "shelters" across the US do. I would call these communities, and their No Kill advocates, extremely successful (pun intended),
These groups are not extremist but people, like myself who are sick of the killing of healthy animals or animals that just happen to be a misunderstood breed. It is my hope and working effort to make Cincinnati/Hamilton County Ohio and the tristate (Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio) area NO KILL!!
pupez7 Maybe you didn't read the article before you commented? Ryan Clinton, Fix Austin and Austin Pets Alive HAVE done something. They have led the City of Austin towards becoming the largest major metropolitan No Kill community in the United States.
Some organizations do use the questionable techniques described in this document – for better or for worse still remains to be seen. Why not own up to the “extremist” label? And when (if) those organizations actually start to take positive action and DO something like shutting down puppy mills, etc., as the ASPCA has consistently done, they might actually earn more respect, too.
pupez7 Uh, huh? Extremists have created almost 30 No Kill communities in North America. Not only has the ASPCA never created a single one, they have fought some of the people who HAVE tooth and nail to prevent it from happening. I respect the heck out of those crazy extremists.
pupez7 Really? How about the ASPCA stop lobbying against legislation to ban gas chambers? The ASPCA, HSUS and PETA are all about the money and being the "experts". In every social movement, those that want change are labeled as "extremists", rocking the boat. I say thank DOG for extremists. I'm damn proud to be a No Kill Extremist. No Kill is the Way.