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The No-Kill Controversy: Manifest and Latent Sources of Tension by Arnold Arluke

The No-Kill Controversy: Manifest and Latent Sources of Tension by Arnold Arluke



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Published by DogsBite.org
Learn how the "No-Kill" animal movement (AKA Nathan Winograd) sadly evolved into a fanatical movement with slogans that reference the Nazi Holocaust, genocide, murder, execution and more. It's no surprise that "No-Kill" and pit bull advocates have joined up, as pit bulls have an obscenely high euthanasia rate. The two groups also OPPOSE the source of the animal over-population problem: regulating breeding and spay/neuter laws.
Learn how the "No-Kill" animal movement (AKA Nathan Winograd) sadly evolved into a fanatical movement with slogans that reference the Nazi Holocaust, genocide, murder, execution and more. It's no surprise that "No-Kill" and pit bull advocates have joined up, as pit bulls have an obscenely high euthanasia rate. The two groups also OPPOSE the source of the animal over-population problem: regulating breeding and spay/neuter laws.

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Published by: DogsBite.org on Mar 08, 2009
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raditionally, most animal shel-ter workers have denied that thekilling,or euthanasia, of animalsin their facilities was cruel, even wheneuthanized animals were adoptable,young, attractive, and healthy.
Work-ers have sustained a core professionalidentity of being humane, good-heart-ed animal people” who want the verybest for their charges, despite—oreven because of—their euthanasia ofanimals. Killing has been taken forgranted, regarded as a “necessaryevilhaving no alternative in theireyes.One reason shelter workers havebeen able to maintain this self imageis that, until the last decade, little ifany organized criticism has been lev-eled at them. When criticismoccurred, it tended to be case-specif-ic, focusing on which animals wereeuthanized, how it was done, andwhether the shelter shared this infor-mation with the public. Although afew shelters offered an alternative tothe standard paradigm by restrictingadmission of unadoptable animalsand billing themselves as no-kill”shelters, they did not represent a seri-ous threat to the continuation ofopen-admission” policies towardeuthanasia.
However, criticism of euthanasiahas mounted steadily in frequencyand fervor from within certain seg-ments of the sheltering community.In 1994 the Duffield Family Founda-tion created the Maddie’s Fund,which sought to revolutionize the sta-tus and well-being of companion ani-mals by championing the no-killmovement. No longer possible toignore or discount as an outrageousidea, this movement has spurreddebate at the national level about theproper role of euthanasia in shelterpractice. The resulting challengeshave strained the ability of conven-tional shelters and humane organiza-tions to protect workers psychologi-cally from the charge that euthanasiais a form of cruelty. Instead of pre-venting cruelty, which their missionmaintains, these organizations noware seen as causing it. In response, theno-kill movement has been attackedby those who defend the practice ofeuthanasia and open admission.Although some argue that everyonein the debate shares a passionate con-cern for the welfare of animals, a riftover this issue divides the sheltercommunity. Ultimately, the bestinterests of animals may not be bestaddressed in a climate of controversyand criticism. To understand and per-haps reduce this controversy, the ten-sions fueling the no-kill conflict needto be identified and the breadth ofthe gulf separating its two campsassessed.
I investigated the shelter communi-ty’s response to the no-kill movementin two communities that have takendifferent approaches to the issue.Though located on opposite coasts ofthe country, these metropolitan areasare similar in size and wealth. Themakeup and nature of their humaneorganizations, however, are quite dis-similar. One community is home tomany independent organizations thatindividually have received praise orcriticism over the years; until recent-ly they have been a widespread groupof equals sharing a common mediamarket. Even animal control pro-grams have been large, countywide,and sometimes-progressive players intheir own right. In the other commu-nity, two key players are so large thatthey have dwarfed the role and signif-icance of others; the two players havebeen conservative, lagging somewhatbehind the nationwide trends in shel-tering. These two communities havedealt very differently with the petoverpopulation issue. In one case theSPCA (society for the prevention ofcruelty to animals) has embraced theno-kill concept, while in the other ithas not. There are differences in therelationships between the SPCAs andneighboring humane organizations,as well; in the former community
The No-KillControversy:Manifest and LatentSources of Tension
 Arnold Arluke
68The State of the Animals II: 200
these relationships are uneasy, whilein the latter they are cordial.In each community I conductedparticipant observation at the SPCAshelter, the city animal control office,and nearby (i.e., within sixty miles)smaller shelters that either competedwith or complemented the work ofthe SPCAs. “Sanctuaries” and rescuegroups also were studied. Gatekeep-ers in these settings introduced me torespondents as a sociologist interest-ed in understanding how peoplethought and felt about the no-killissue. I was allowed to observe almostevery facet of shelter and sanctuaryoperation, including, but not limitedto, kennel cleaning, intake, adoptionwork, behavior training, and euthana-sia. Ultimately I carried out morethan 200 hours of observation and 75interviews that elicited the intervie-wees’ perspective on the no-kill issueand the animal overpopulation prob-lem. In addition I attended the na-tional meetings of the major no-killand open-admission organizations,examined press accounts and shelterpublications relating to no-kill, andcombed several Internet news groupsthat discussed shelter issues.Details about each camp’s perspec-tive were subject to respondents’ bias-es, distortions, and memory limita-tions. Information obtained wastreated as an accurate reflection ofwhat people thought and felt,whether or not it was objectively true,since the perception of truth motivat-ed and justified people’s behavior.From these data I constructed, ratherthan assessed, the perspectives ofboth camps toward the no-kill issue.Although this approach follows thatof sociologists and social historians,who argue that collective behavior isbest understood by examining partic-ipants’ own understandings in rela-tion to their social context, it mayfrustrate those who think I should bemore critical. However a criticalapproach would be neither faithful tomy ethnographic method nor helpfulin creating dialogue and commonground.I also tried to sample a wide varietyof shelter organizations by size, orien-tation, location, and financial health,but it was impossible, and perhapsunnecessary, to study every nuanceand variation. The wide diversitymakes it very difficult to characterizethe perspectives of these camps.Indeed, at one level, the only thingthat makes each camp identifiable asa group is the fact that one supportsthe role of and need for euthanasia,while the other does not. Even here,though, the why, the how, and the cir-cumstances of euthanasia vary con-siderably. For example, the players,policies, and realities of animal shel-tering in any one community vary interms of numbers, composition,strength, and orientation of shelterorganizations. Arguments and per-ceptions of individuals on both sidesare informed by and respond to therealities of their own communities. Insome cases, these local realities leadmembers of the same camp, whowork in different contexts, to makevery different comments about theopposition. Knowing this may helpreaders understand contradictorystatements made by respondents onthe same side of this controversy.
Manifest andLatent Tensions
Groups experience tension in twoways. At a manifest or surface level,group members are aware of andspeak about superficial differences inattitudes or behaviors thought tocause various problems. These sur-face tensions are acknowledged pub-licly at group meetings, written aboutin professional and popular publica-tions, and debated and mulled over bythose who experience them. Sincethese manifest tensions are thoughtto be the root cause of problems,solutions are aimed at altering, neu-tralizing, or eliminating them.While important to understand andmanage, these manifest tensions aresymptomatic of deeper, rarely verbal-ized tensions. These latent tensionsare sensed by group members butrarely articulated in a conscious ordeliberate manner. The tensions lurkbeneath the surface of everyday com-munication, perhaps appearing ininnuendos that stop short of sayingwhat actually is on the minds and inthe hearts of speakers. For those hop-ing to reconcile tense intergroup rela-tions, it is crucial to identify and cor-rect sources of latent tension.Attempts to reduce conflict oftenstop short, staying at the manifestlevel of perceived differences or prob-lems and offering solutions that can-not significantly reduce group ten-sion because issues, images, andimplications below the surface re-main untouched.Certainly, the American humanecommunity is no exception to thispattern. Discussions about no-killhave been more cathartic than ana-lytic, allowing people to vent theirconfusion or anger and identify alliesand enemies. These discussions havestayed at the manifest level of inter-group tension, involving issues ofdirty work and dishonesty.
Manifest Tensions
 Dirty Work 
Some jobs important to the everydayoperation of society are avoided bypeople who choose not to engage indisrespected occupations. This dirtywork is seen as distasteful or discred-iting because it casts a moral pallover those who do it (Hughes 1964).Most people turn a blind eye to thiswork, preferring that others do it butviewing those who do so as modernuntouchables—members of a castethought to be symbolically contami-nated and best avoided or pitiedbecause they are associated withunpopular, unpleasant, or uncleantasks.Many of the open-admissionists Iinterviewed felt that no-kill sheltersdelegated euthanasia to them. Theybelieved that they were judged to bemorally tainted because they killedanimals. They sensed they wereuncomfortably tolerated, at best, forcarrying out such an unpleasant task,and challenged, at worst, for continu-ing to do it. As one respondent said,
Why am I now an enemy? It usedto be the humane societies versusthe pounds, who were the baddies.Now we are the baddies.” Anotherrespondent concurred, saying, “It’sno fun being the villains with theblack hats.” As the baddies,” open-admission workers thought thatno-kill advocates cast them as wrong-doers who were “looked down upon”(Milani 1997), “discredited” (Bogue1998b) or “guilty...because theyare murderers” (Caras 1997a)...sadists, or monsters(Caras1997b). Moreover some respondentsfelt that, with the growing popularityof the no-kill concept, the public had joined this critical bandwagon to cas-tigate them as bad people for eutha-nizing animals. The result was thatopen admissionists, rather than thepublic, were blamed.The casting of open admissionistsas baddiesstemmed from the lan-guage used by no-kill advocates. Manyopen-admissionists argued that theterm
was itself an “attack” onthem, implying a put-down” of openadmissionists as killers (Bogue1998a). “When they say, ‘no-kill,’what they really mean is, ‘you-kill,’”claimed one critic (Miller n.d.).Indeed, there was concern that theterminology itself positioned openadmissionsts as pro-kill” (Paris1997), since the term
impliesits opposite. “Open admission shel-ters are not ‘kill’ shelters any morethan ‘pro-choicers’ are ‘pro-abor-tion,’explained one open-admissionadvocate. Not surprisingly, someopen-admissionists have called forabolishing the no-killlabel and sub-stituting the term
limited admission
.Even more provocative was lan-guage that accused open-admissionshelters of killing animals in waysreminiscent of Nazi cruelties tohumans. One charge labeled theopen-admission approach the “finalsolution,” a term referring to theHolocaust. Another charge was evenmore specific: referring to euthana-sia by open-admissionists, a no-killconference panelist described it asthe holocaust of family members[i.e., shelter animals] being put todeath.” And a number of shelterdirectors have been called “butcher,”Hitler,and “concentration-camprunner” (Foster 2000; Gilyard 2001,6–7). Short of specific references tothe Nazi Holocaust, some no-killadvocates suggested genocide-likeactions by open-admissionistsbecause they were conducting “massslaughter of animalsor “legitimizedmass slaughter.”Slightly less provocative werecharges of criminal-like action towardanimals. “To me it’s
if a dogwith poor manners or who is a littlebit standoff-ish should be euthanizedfor behavior reasons,” noted one no-kill advocate. Sometimes the “crimi-nal” metaphor was created throughthe use of such penal language asexecute.” For example, one no-killtrainer was trying to modify thebehavior of a very aggressive dog whobit two staff members, required muz-zling for walks, and was kept in theshelter for sixteen months. She saidthat the dog would have been “exe-cuted” had the dogbeen in an open-admission facility. This terminologysuggests that, if open-admissionworkers euthanized this difficult-to-adopt, potentially dangerous dog,their act would be morally equivalentto putting a criminal to death. Whileopen-admission shelters spoke ofeuthanasia roomsand euthanasiatechnicians,” no-kill staff claimedthat their shelters did not have “
chambersand maintainedthat they did not “kill” as did theiropen-admission peers.At the core of this provocativeimagery was the idea that openadmissionists were killers, an ideathat reinforced the no-kill distinctionbetween killing and euthanizing.Open admissionists patently rejectedthis distinction, claiming that theyonly euthanized. Of course, whenworking with peers, open-admissionworkers did speak of killing. Shelterworkers sometimes used the term
when speaking with colleagues butwere careful to say euthanizewhenspeaking to the public. Use of thislanguage was not an implicit accep-tance of the no-kill distinction, butrather a combination of black humorand informal understanding that theywere using
as a linguistic short-hand to describe their acts. Othershelter workers deliberately used theterm
, at least before the rise of theno-kill movement, as an interestingway to demonstrate their continuinglack of acceptance of euthanasia as asolution. For them it served as areminder that this was somethingthey did not like to do and wanted toeliminate the need for. Thus, whilesome objected to the use of this termbecause they were concerned about itmaking them look or feel callous, oth-ers supported its use, saying that ithelped remind them that they weretaking lives—a symbolic way of keep-ing fresh the commitment to attackthe source of the problem.Open admissionists resented theperception of them as killers becausethey felt it was unfair or hypocritical.In their opinion, by being forced toeuthanize many animals, they weremade to shoulder all the moral, emo-tional, and aesthetic heartaches thatwent with the job. One editorialargued that the harm of no-kill is thatIt punishes shelters that aredoing their very best but arestuck with the dirty work. It isdemoralizing and dishearteningfor humane workers who would doalmost anything to stop thatheartbreaking selection process.Humane workers who are braveenough to accept that dirty workdeserve better than that. (Caras1997c, 17)Instead open admissionists calledfor what one interviewee described as...sharing the burden. As long asthere is euthanasia to be done, theresentment on the part of us is thatwe shouldn’t be doing it all. Any shel-ter in the same town should be shar-ing the burden. That’s like saying weare all working on the same issue. Weare all going to take the good stuffand the bad stuff.”However, no-kill proponents arguedthat if anyone was to blame it shouldbe open admissionists. In their opin-ion blaming no-killers for delegatingdirty work sidetracked shelter work-
The No-Kill Controversy: Manifest And Latent Sources of Tension 69 

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