Just Stop Killing: One Shelter Director’s Solution

Dog finds loving homeI [have] read [Nathan Windograd’s book,] Redemption. 

I spent almost a year as the director of the local so called "humane" society in Wooster, Ohio.  I came into a high kill shelter and in one month stopped all the killing of dogs and ran a no kill for space county shelter (taking all the stray dogs)  with a daily average of 38 dogs in the kennel.  (The kennel is designed to hold 50+ dogs.) 

It was much easier than I ever would have thought.

There is only one "product" in a shelter and they were killing it.  What kind of business dumps their product into a plastic bag??  I decided that I was not killing any dog that didn’t have behavior problems that were unsafe to the public.  That meant that only a very, very small percentage of dogs were not placed.  Even the sickest, inoperable dogs were placed in loving homes to live out their lives. 

The more I saved the more people reached out to help.  Rescues made huge efforts to help. Transports were set to run to areas in the country where there were less dogs to adopt.  I placed a sight hound with a blind man in Minneapolis, a Husky with an amateur dog sled team in Vermont.  People put these dogs in their cars and drove them across the country to loving, forever homes.  This was the same energy and dedication I saw when I was in New Orleans working with the Katrina dogs.  If you do the right thing, good things will follow.

 I had been asked to come into the shelter to save it from financial ruin.  I own my own business, and they wanted someone to approach it from a business standpoint.   It was interim – they said three months.  It was 10 months.  It was easy to see that no business would survive in an environment of killing.  The first time I was in the vet room when they were euthanizing, I slid a beautiful 4year old, neutered yellow lab into a plastic bag.  I remember removing his green collar and knew that I could NEVER be responsible for nor participate in anything like that again and it ended right then and there.

I painted the shelter bright colors. We used trompe d’oeil throughout the shelter and hung massive ferns down the isles in the kennels.  When you came into the shelter it looked good, it smelled good and it gave the message that this was a place of hope not death.  I had people drive hundreds of miles to adopt a lab mix, come from DC to adopt a Siamese cat, etc. 

Yet, the Board was dismayed.  When I would proudly announce that only 4 dogs had lost their lives in the shelter in the month of January it was obvious that it made no difference to them if I said 4 or 40 or 400.  They fought me every step of the way.  [The Board] did not want me to say that we were a no kill for space country shelter.  They even went so far as to say that I was somehow altering the records.  By the way, I didn’t even keep them.  They were kept by the manager of the shelter which was part of the old regime and was to become the future director.  The day I walked out the door, they slid right back into their own ways.  I left with 9 dogs scheduled for a transport set for CT.  They never even put the dogs on the transport, and all but 2 dogs were killed instead of finding their way to safety. 

 I have spent several years totally perplexed as to why or how this could happen.  Why wouldn’t everyone want a shelter that didn’t kill??  Why wouldn’t all these "animal lovers" want to be part of this?  This was not a competition. This didn’t make me better or them worse. This was a win/win situation for everyone – especially the dogs.  I remember a board member standing in the shelter 2 months after I started and I asked her for some assistance in a Holiday event.  She smugly told me that she had not volunteered because I had not asked and she didn’t want to "step on my toes".  I remember telling her that she couldn’t possibly step on my toes because I was crawling around on my knees. 

Reading Redemption has brought me an understanding of the situation, the magnitude of situation and the conviction to move forward.  Wayne County, Ohio has so many animal lovers, spay/neuter organizations, a medical assistance organization and rescues.  We need to pool our energy, our resources and our brain power and find a way to start our own no kill facility.  I believe I see my husband with his head under the pillow……………..

 I’ve ordered 11 books and have passed them out to a lot of people.  I would like to hold a press conference and donate 4 to the Wayne County Humane Society board… 

Although short lived, when I first went into the shelter I took the lives of animals that I was there to protect.  As an avid animal lover I will have to live with that action.  …It took me one time to stop – I don’t care if you’ve done it thousands of time – you can stop.  You can stop by just stopping.  If you refuse to kill them and you can’t have them piled to the ceiling, then you have no option but to find ways to get them out.  We never give ourselves enough credit for the power each of us has within.  Sometimes we are the most shocked of all when we accomplish such a major task.  

 Shelter workers will never know what power they have to save if they continue to kill.

This book is a must read for EVERY single dog and cat lover and anyone who supports their local shelter.  We can and must change the way we approach our unwanted pet population in this world. 

This book can change the mind set in the US; that we have no option but to kill millions of healthy animals a year.  We have long attached the blame for our actions onto the "irresponsible public." 

It is time that we who take the lives of animals and the millions of supports of these so called "humane" societies, shelters, etc., take full responsibility for our actions — stop the killing and work for change.  There is no difference between the person that sticks the needle into the animal and the person who gives the money to buy the drug that goes into the needle, that goes into and kills the animal.  People need to realize that when you donate to your local humane society or shelter that you are helping to kill more animals than you are saving (unless you are the fortunate few that has a no kill for space shelter). 

This book is a blue print for change and an inspiration for a new future for millions of animals in this country.  READ IT AND GO TO WORK. STOP GIVING MONEY TO KILL AND START FINDING WAYS TO SAVE.  There are millions of pet owners and lovers in this country. We can do this!!!  Read the book and take action.

Martha Leary
Star-Mar Rescue http://www.star-mar.petfinder.com/
Wooster, Oh.


One thought on “Just Stop Killing: One Shelter Director’s Solution”

  1. This was a great story, very eye opening, I don’t understand why the shelter went back to it’s old ways and why the board worked against you for the killing, makes no sense to me and is beyond my comprehension. There are enough animal lovers out there and if they were all educated and motivated enough on this issue to fight it and pull together, change can happen. Why don’t they know that? This is outragious, so many innocent healthy animals die for no reason when there are alternatives. Truly inspirational. Everyone should have to read this book, if only we can change minds and ways of thinking, reprogram for a better, more compassionate, humane society. Thank you for sharing this story, you have touched my heart, soul, and mind.


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