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Earlier this year, Sarah Gross, the President of Rescue Chocolate, sat down with  Nathan Winograd, a prominent animal welfare advocate and pioneer of the No Kill animal shelter movement, for an interview. The following piece has been written based on the information provided in this interview, with a big thanks to Gross for her help.

As a pet guardian or general animal lover, hearing the statistics surrounding the number of animals that are euthanized in animal shelters because they were not immediately adopted is enough to make you want to run out and adopt every needy animal in sight. This may have been the exact reaction of animal rights advocate, Nathan Winograd, but rather than inundating himself with pets, he chose to find a solution that would have a longer-lasting effect in looking for solutions for high-kill shelters. His solution, the No Kill movement.

Winograd grew up surrounded by animals, cats in particular, and learned the importance of lending a hand to an animal in need from a young age. This early compassion for animals became a guiding factor behind his career path later in life. Winograd has spoken nationally and internationally on the issues surrounding animal shelters and high-kill policies. He has also written animal protection legislation, and started a number of No Kill programs across the world.

A Chance for Redemption

Winograd is also the man behind the documentary, “Redemption,” a film, based off his novel of the same title, that follows the historical development of the animal shelter system, discussing the pitfalls of shelters that blindly abide by a high-kill policy, and celebrating the success that No Kill programs have had across the United States.

What Winograd uncovers in “Redemption” is that while the idea of creating animal shelters came from an initial place of compassion, over the years bureaucracy and the stress of caring for a high number of animals has turned many shelters into places focused on the bottom line rather than the well-being of animals.

Shelter killings are the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States, but as Winograd proves, it doesn’t need to be.

A Practical Solution

No Kill Advocacy Center, the site developed to share Winograd’s dream explains, “If every animal shelter in the United States embraced the No Kill philosophy and the programs and services that make it possible, we would save nearly four million dogs and cats who are scheduled to die in shelters this year, and the year after that. It is not an impossible dream.”

And Winograd’s dream is much more than one man’s ephemeral wish, it is a logical and readily attainable goal for all shelters that follow a kill policy. Using the “No Kill Equation,” Winograd has helped hundreds of shelters reform their ways to become no-kill shelters. As the equation explains, the first step to reform is a decision. It’s as simple as that, shelters need to choose to stand up to the system in place and refuse to continue “business as usual.”

The next step is accountability, “having clear definitions, a lifesaving plan, and protocols and procedure oriented toward preserving life,” never sticking to the rigid systems in place but always being willing to find creative solutions to do whatever possible to save the lives of the animals in care.   New systems might include developing rescue partnerships, leading a comprehensive adoption program, enlisting a public relations strategy to engage community, among others that complimentarily replace the need to kill animals.

And finally, the last piece of the equation is leadership. A good leader is someone who will be able to keep all staff focused on the goal of finding happy forever homes for their charges and to keep up positivity and excitement.

These solutions are all relatively straight-forward and easy to implement, the hardest part is changing the previous mindset. For more information on how shelters can implement the No Kill Equation, click here.

The proof of these success of this mission is readily evidenced by the shelters featured in this documentary. All it takes is one person who is willing to take a stand on behalf of every single four-legged resident of their shelter and find a solution that will work. In fact, the shelters that adopted a No Kill policy actually saw a spike in adoptions because more people were willing to support an organization that was committed to the well-being of their animals.

A Dream Realized

A story meant to inspire, uplift and empower those who feel helpless within the kill shelter system, check out the video below to learn more about how Winograd helped create the first No Kill Community and how he continues to spread the No Kill revolution across the world.


Winograd’s documentary, “Redemption,” is also being shown across the country. Follow this link to find a screening in your area. For more tips on how to make the U.S. a no-kill nation, check out this article.

By spreading Winograd’s message, you can help realize his dream of a world where every animal shelter is No Kill. That’s a pretty wonderful thing to support now isn’t it?

Image source: Nhandler/Wikimedia Commons

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24 comments on “How One Man’s Dream for Shelter Animals Started a No Kill Revolution”

Click to add comment
J Jacob Carter
3 Years Ago

The reality is that "No-Kill" is expensive and unsustainable in the long term for most shelters, and it has and will continue to bankrupt shelters and continually tap the wallets of taxpayers. Delaware has seen that all too well as a result of passing "No-Kill\'s" CAPA legislation. We\'ve seen almost all our shelters facing deficits, and one of them went into bankruptcy as they tried to treat every sick or injured animal within a year of taking on a dog control contract. New Hampshire provided a model for shelters that cost efficient, sustainable, is more effective, and doesn\'t require abandoning animals on the streets as Delaware has seen what can happen with the "No-Kill" effort here. Here is a comparison of the costs between a couple of the highlighted "No-Kill" communities of Washoe County and Austin versus New Hampshire.

And Nevada Humane can only continue to remain a viable entity for another 5-6 years based on the the losses they\'ve sustained since the no-kill effort began.
Washoe/NHS - Intake 15,000.
2005 Combined Expenses - $5,347,996.
2010 Combined Expenses - $7,816,195.
Note - Nevada Humane has lost nearly $4 million since no-kill began.

Nevada Humane
$4 Million in Deficits Since No-Kill Effort Began 2006
2004 403,343.00
2005 2,168,793.00
2006 (1,000,367.00)
2007 (855,614.00)
2008 (237,365.00)
2009 (1,000,164.00)
2010 (293,971.00)
2011 (749,016.00)
2012 182,030.00

Austin Animal Services
2008-09 $ 5,397,428
2009-10 $ 6,008,659
2010-11 $ 6,883,679
2011-12 $ 7,612,186
2012-13 $ 8.2 million
2013-14 $ 8.9 million proposed ($714,000 increase)

New Hampshire\'s statewide spay neuter program cost $300-350,000 a year in comparison, and they import dogs, while Austin has closed doors when they have overcrowded.

Mister V V
3 Years Ago

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3 Years Ago

Although his intentions are good and respectable, at no point does Nathan actually offer a creative or sustainable solution to a problem that many others have realized and thought through more. While no one actually wants to kill animals who cannot be adopted, it\'s a choice between their misery in tiny cages for life where they become psychologically damaged and depressed, or putting down these animals in a relatively painless manner. Even cageless no-kill shelters lead to fighting between animals and the fast spread of disease. And these shelters don\'t take in every animal they can - they end up rejecting animals when they are filled to capacity, sending them to other shelters that must then kill animals to make space for them. Thus, they are not decreasing the number of deaths substantially, just pushing the killing off to other shelters.

If Nathan had offered a real solution to the problem rather than just appealing to our emotional attachment to cute animals, I would take him more seriously. More animals would be saved in the future if his resources were applied to encouraging a culture of sustainable adoption rather than letting a few more animals live out their lives in misery in the present.

Tania Derck
3 Years Ago

I'll second everyone here: SPAY AND NEUTER!!! A friend of mine just posted a re-post from someone she knows: 2 Golden Retriever/Lab mix pups, 12 weeks, still haven't found homes... will go the shelter in ten days time, if nobody adopts them... My question: Why haven't these people had their dog neutered??!! These are not breeders, just irresponsible dog owners... I makes my blood boil... I walk my dog every day and let him run around off leash in an enclosed dog park, which is just next to the local animal shelter. It's heart-breaking... Dogs get dropped off as if they were just "a thing"... There's a 10 week old puppy (Staffie mix): owners dumped her there because she's not pure breed! I mean... who fucking cares??!! You bought a dog from a breeder... you obviously wanted a dog, who cares whether she's pure bred or not?! I'm guessing they wanted to breed her themselves... The human race is profoundly sick, that's all I can say...

Candis Fugitt
3 Years Ago

I appreciate the spirit of this article, and fully support the intent of the no-kill movement. However, the issue of pet overpopulation is a complicated one, and this has created discord in the animal welfare/rights community. Take some time to research Mr. Winograd so as to balance his positive message with some of the less than positive stances he takes regarding other individuals and groups that are as passionate as he is about animal welfare. His attacks against PETA and HSUS, for example, show a lack of balanced perspective and an intent to spread misinformation. Let’s keep the focus on making lives better for the animals, and working together in this goal. By encouraging everyone to spay and neuter, to adopt rather than shop, to keep educating themselves with the facts, and to get involved in the political process so as get more animal-friendly legislation passed, we can make positive changes for the animals. Thank you for the chance to comment, love “One Green Planet”!

The Animal Spirits
3 Years Ago

Shared by "The Animal Spirits"

Sally Turner Hastings
3 Years Ago

It's NOT the shelters fault! It's all the idiots breeding ! Allowing their animals to get pregnant! And the breeders selling!

Sherry Wilder Bonfardeci
3 Years Ago

Thank you Nathan!

Connie Faivre
3 Years Ago

Look forward to seeing Nathan Winograd in a couple if weeks.

Qureshi Saira
3 Years Ago

Shame on us as a 'human'' society of murderers of innocent animals. Shame on us for thinking that somehow we need to eliminate their population growth because we just so shamelessly feel entitled to take lives of animals and torture them.


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