Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nathan Winograd versus Bill Bruce

I have been rereading parts of Redemption - Nathan Winograd's (my hero) book about the myth of pet overpopulation, and there is a section that I'm currently reading that just about knocked my socks off.

It's in the section where he talks about the beginnings of the San Francisco SPCA's rebirth and when they started implementing changes there and how they openly defied conventional shelter practices. He said about Richard Avanzino:

Instead of citations, he was providing incentives. Instead of threats, he was giving people opportunities. The SPCA was making it easy for th public to do the right thing, and in the process he was making the shelter more proactive and accountable...And the results - lower impounds, less killing, and more adoptions - were nothing short of revolutionary."

When I read that paragraph yesterday I was walking down the street and all of the sudden I stopped reading and said out loud "OH MY GOD!" - I hope there wasn't anyone standing around me, because I probably looked like a fool. That paragraph is just so amazing! Instead of citations they gave people opportunities.

That is what really bothers me about Calgary. The Calgary dog bylaw has 3 pages of fines - if you are at a dog park and your dog is more than 100 feet away from you - you WILL be fined for that. If your dog is deemed vicious, you have to post a sign at every entrance to your home and property. If your dog hangs his head out of the window of your car - you WILL be fined for that. It all just seems TOO punitive for me. If I lived in Calgary - I don't know if I'd ever take the dogs out, because I'd be doing nothing but getting fined all the time, because it sounds like - if it's a fun thing to do - you're going to get a fine for it.

So I wonder what Nathan Winograd thinks about Bill Bruce - or "bylaw Bill" as he likes to call himself. I just wonder....

Nathan also thinks it is a very bad idea for SPCA's to hold animal control contracts. In the same chapter he says about the San Francisco SPCA:

"Until then, virtually every major city had an SPCA or humane society that contracted for animal control services, and these shelters had become dependent on the revenue streams provided by animal control contracts, although in most cases they did not provide the level of funding needed to perform the services mandated. As a result, these agencies' proviate fundraising efforts, which brought in revenue above and beyond contractual payments from cities and towns for animal control services were not being used to maximize life saving. Instead, they were being spent performing animal control enforcement. Animal lovers who donated to their local shelter were inadvertently paying officers to write citations, rather than fund expanding adoption services."

That is interesting, eh? I bet a lot of us never thought about that before. That our fundraising efforts for SPCA's might be going to fund animal control contracts that don't actually pay enough to cover the contract itself. That is an excellent point - and an excellent reason why an SPCA shouldn't be killing animals for the city - they should be sheltering and saving animals only....

Avanzino goes on to declare that the San Francisco SPCA would do just that - they wouldn't renew the SPCA's contract with the city - "his SPCA would provide oversight to make sure thatkilling was done as humanely as possible, while using it resources and advocacy efforts to recue is as much as possible" - and -

"Consequently the "animal control" functions Avanzino saw asd antithetical to the mission of an organization dedicated to advocacy on behalf of animals - impoundment of vicious animals and city ordinance enforcement (including ticketing for dog licence violations, leash laws, and "pooper scooper" laws - would go back to the city."

Nathan goes on to say that "By 1993 Avanzino's SPCA was not only saving more lives than ever before, it was gaining huge public support....thanks to San Francisco's pet-loving public, which no longer felt it was subsidizing the killing of pets if it supported the San Francisco SPCA".

Isn't that amazing? No wonder everyone who reads Nathan Winograd thinks he is just the bees knees. Everyone should go out and buy his book today. Every page is just as good as this post. I can't wait until May, 2009 when I am going to get to meet him.


  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I`m not too familiar with all the fines set out in Calgary but I think from what I have read is that they have good results....high licensing compliance,driving your pets home,only fining you if you abuse that service and the really big thing is that they have no BSL.
    So everyone is treated equally no matter what Breed or type of dog they own.
    But that may mean that everyone is being treated too harshly.
    You may be very right that it`s overly punitive(I don`t know enough about it to say yay or nay to that) but I think No BSL is a big selling point.

    This is the only thing I`ve read on his program,other than some News Articles so this is all I know about it.

    It`s difficult to see any good in any Animal Control Bylaw that starts off with BSL and that`s unfortunate and that`s why BSL needs to come off the table so everyone gets on side and does what`s best for the animals and their community.

  2. There actually are role models for No Kill Animal Control in the states, usually championed by one of my heroes.... Ed Boks, who started the first ( that i know of) No Kill AC in Maricopa County Arizona, then went on to be executive director at AC in New York and is now running the AC in LA makes for a VERY interesting read for sure!
    Here in NS, from what I can see, the problem with 'sleeping with the enemy' is threefold: 1. that the municipalities are unwilling to properly fund their AC when it is contracted out ,such as in Cape Breton where the facility might possibly meet either its AC or its Society needs but definitely not both, hence the river of blood running through there every year There is the additional problem that even if only one branch is operated like that, all the rest of the society is 'tarred with the same brush" 2. There is a reluctance (of course) in the animal loving community to support any group, AC or humane, that still kills animals, and of course 3. Even AC's that try to cooperate with the society are either so remote, such as in Kings County where the AC is so far back on the mountain most people don't even know its there, or Bridgetown, whose AC head has no computer skills to post his 'pound puppies' online for adopting.
    PS We all agree that the BS needs to be kept out of Dog Law !!!

  3. Anonymous1:10 PM

    I cant find grannys new blog, can you let her know that Metro Senior Pets have a reduced adoption fee! Until the end of november and watch ctv tonight!

  4. The situation with Brindi touches on some of his key issues, and so several days ago, I wrote to Nathan W. through his organization, which is the only way I could find to contact him.
    So far, no answer.
    Any suggestions?

  5. Bill Bruce is an excellent guy. The program in Calgary is phenomenal. They've achieved no-kill. Have great return to owner rates. Non-restrictive dog laws (no BSL, no Mandatory Spay/neuter, no pet limit laws). It's the cat's meow.

    However, Calgary does have mandatory licensing which Winograd is against. Nathan (and rightfully so) feels that laws mostly encourage animal control agencies to confiscate dogs, which leads to higher impound rates, which leads to more killing. And in most cases, Nathan is right.

    The key to Calgary's program is the way they enforce the laws they have -- through creating "teachable moments" to citizens vs treating everything like an "enforcement" opportunity -- which is too common in the mindset of most animal control agencies.

    I think both are great people, with very different philosophies. I think Calgary's program could get completely out of control if you had the wrong person enforcing the laws. Winograd's would work in most situations IMO.