Statements otherwise echo decades of warnings from ANIMALS 24-7
DETROIT, Michigan––Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, who in 2011 founded Detroit Dog Rescue, billed as “Detroit’s first no-kill shelter,” rattled the overlapping “no kill” and “rescue” worlds on March 12, 2022 by posting to Facebook a critique of the prevailing “no kill” and “rescue” philosophy strikingly similar in most key points to Why we cannot adopt our way out of shelter killing, originally posted by ANIMALS 24-7 on March 14, 2014, updated and reposted several times since.
Opened Millman-Rinaldi, “The ‘Urgent Rescue 911’ mentality is hurting the pet population, because rescue is about people too.”
Offered Millman-Rinaldi by way of illustration, “I’ll never forget the moment I was standing in the medical bay of Detroit Animal Care & Control. Two emaciated dogs with pale gums and sunken eyes came into the room. They had been through hell recently and then abandoned in a garage. The tech immediately scanned them for a microchip; they were going to find who did this!
“Getting a dog ‘out the door’ is not a solution”
“What did the chip reader say?
“In a sad and sobering moment the tech realized the microchip was registered to their own facility.”
The dogs had been rehomed at what Millman-Rinaldi called “a rushed adoption event that prompted the public to come get a dog” who would otherwise be euthanized.
“The dogs were adopted out to an unfit owner,” Millman-Rinaldi charged, “void of a home check, and discarded, starved and abandoned in a garage a short time after.
“Getting a dog just ‘out the door,’ just ‘transferred to another shelter’ to hide behavior problems, or just “desperately adopted’ isn’t a solution,” Millman-Rinaldi told her readers.
Fixation on “90% save rate” is 90% of the problem
“No-kill means we rescue at least 90% of the animals we intake,” Millman-Rinaldi said, citing a statistically illiterate and ethically bankrupt definition propounded for more than 20 years by Maddie’s Fund, the Best Friends Animal Society and No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd.
The original definition of “no kill,” stated on the cover of the No Kill Directory, published annually by the late Lynda Foro from 1994 to 2002, and on the registration brochure for the No Kill Conferences that Foro presented annually from 1995 to 2002, was that “Implicit to the no-kill philosophy is the reality of exceptional situations in which euthanasia is the most humane alternative available.
“Those exceptional situations include irrecoverable illness or injury, dangerous behavior, and/or the need to decapitate an animal who has bitten someone, in order to perform rabies testing. They do not include ‘unadoptable, too young, or too old,’ or lack of space.”
“What if ‘no kill’ meant we rescued ethically?”
All that, however, was long before Millman-Rinaldi’s time, before lunatics ran most of the asylums for lost, abandoned, and owner-surrendered dogs and cats, after taking over through discovering that stripping the term “no kill” of any semblance of ethical nuance could raise more funds from gullible donors than asking them to exercise even a minimal modicum of judgment.
Asked Millman-Rinaldi, “What if [no kill] meant we rescued ethically? We didn’t euthanize for space, but we also didn’t pass dogs to the public who were dangerous or unmanageable.
“What if we focused on sustainable solutions instead of a number?”
“Why pit bulls will break your heart” redux
Observed Millman-Rinaldi, “A lot of dogs can survive in a super-managed controlled environment like a shelter with a behavior program, but that’s not thriving, and once they experience the ‘real world’ they are flooded, fearful and failing. That’s not fair and that’s not ‘no-kill.’
“That’s passing a problem off to a person and then asking them to euthanize that dog and break their heart.”
(See Why pit bulls will break your heart, by Beth Clifton, originally posted by ANIMALS 24-7 on September 9, 2014.)
“Lying to the public is not ‘no-kill'”
Concluded Millman-Rinaldi, “I’m extremely worried about the public’s expectation of ‘no-kill’ and what is realistic. Just transferring or manipulating dogs out of the building is not ‘no-kill.’ Lying to the public is not ‘no-kill.’
“Eventually, people will stop trusting rescuers and shelters altogether,” Millman-Rinaldi warned. “To me, no-kill means compassion and ethics. It means children aren’t killed, communities aren’t in danger, and adopters aren’t victimized.”
This was not the first time Millman-Rinaldi questioned the “no kill” philosophy as institutionally advanced by Maddie’s Fund, the Best Friends Animal Society, et al.
“The number one function of animal control should be public safety”
Reported Jessica Dupnack and Amber Ainsworth for FOX 2 in Detroit on July 12, 2021, “Detroit Animal Care and Control has been apparently asking residents to watch stray animals because it is over capacity. When a teen called Detroit Animal Care & Control about a stray dog in her neighborhood, the animal control officer apparently asked her family to keep the dog in their backyard and did not tell them when they might be back to get it.”
Detroit Pit Crew director Theresa Sumpter successfully pressured Detroit Animal Control to come and take the dog, a pit bull.
“We don’t know the temperament of that dog,” Sumpter told Dupnack and Ainsworth. “If it’s scared, it might hurt someone.”
Said Millman-Rinaldi then, “The number one function of animal control should be public safety and that means taking care of strays. You simply cannot ask the people of Detroit to take this on.”
The Detroit Animal Control director is Mark Kumpf, who at his previous post in Montgomery County, Ohio, had more dog-inflicted fatalities on his watch than any other animal control director on record, in any nation.
“We only have so much room at the inn,” Kumpf bleated, “and when we reach that capacity, we have to do our best to find ways to move animals through the system.”
Sumpter, when Kumpf was hired in Detroit in August 2019, told Detroit News reporter Christine Ferretti that she “was extremely surprised that this would be the candidate that the city of Detroit would pick, especially in the wake of the Emma Hernandez mauling and subsequent death.”
“Emma, 9, was attacked last month by three pit bulls as she rode her bicycle in an alley in her southwest Detroit neighborhood,” Ferretti reminded.
Millman-Rinaldi at that time defended Kumpf at length.
Kumpf undid Ohio law that protected the public
Kumpf, in alliance with the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation and the Best Friends Animal Society, in 2012 led the legislative push that limited the Ohio legal definition of “’dangerous dog’ to “dogs who have injured a person without provocation, or have killed another dog, or have been the subject of at least three citations for creating a nuisance and/or running at large.”
Dogs who kill cats, wildlife, or other domestic animals, or menace humans without actually doing them bodily harm, were thereby exempted from recognition as “dangerous.”
Also erased from the Ohio dog law was language defining as inherently “vicious” any dog who “[b]elongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog,” and holding that “owning, keeping, or harboring a pit bull is prima facie evidence of owning, keeping, or harboring a vicious dog.”
This language obliged pit bull owners, and owners of similar bully breeds, to take special precautions to prevent their dogs from undertaking actions which would move them into the “dangerous” category, at risk of euthanasia.
21 Ohio residents have been killed by dogs since then, 16 of them by dogs who would have been banned under the former law.
“Open letter to the rescue world”
Almost a year before Millman-Rinaldi spoke out, Diane Orenchuk did, as owner/operator of the Beyond the Walk boarding and training kennel in New Jersey, a former “rescue” facility, and as previously a shelter management employee for the American SPCA.
Wrote Orenchuk, in an April 2, 2020 “Open letter to the rescue world”:
“Almost eight years ago I stepped foot into the first shelter I volunteered at, hit the ground at a full sprint, and haven’t stopped.”
However, Orenchuk immediately added, “Both with and without regrets, I am saying goodbye, in almost every way, to the world of rescue.”
“Notable decline in behavior of dogs available for rescue”
Orenchuk mentioned specifically “the notable decline I have witnessed in the behavior quality of dogs available for rescue.
“The whole point of rescue,” Orenchuk said, “is that this ‘industry’ should have become smaller, not larger, over a decade.
“Year after year there should have been less demand for new rescue organizations as ground level efforts around owner surrender, breeding, and spay/neuter improve, which they have,” Orenchuk assessed.
“Yet new rescues begin every day and they all find dogs to take in, as euthanasia decline has plateaued over the past few years.
“That leaves me to question where ‘rescue dogs’ are coming from, and the behavior quality of the dogs, with so many dogs spinning the revolving door, surrendered time after time, until meeting some inevitable end.
“Turn off the faucet rather than spoon out the sink”
“Nowadays,” Orenchuk continued, “copious amounts of resources are dedicated to ‘saving’ severely behaviorally compromised dogs who will never truly be ‘fixed,’ yet are adopted out fearful, aggressive, or complicated, dooming their future human to a lifetime of struggle or sentenced to sanctuary or behavior-hospice or a court room.
“There are more than enough responsible rescues to accomplish adoptions for all the behaviorally sound, medically fixable dogs in this country,” Orenchuk opined.
“The rescue world would do best to funnel the efforts of those ill-fit to run rescues into turning off the faucet, rather than spooning out the sink,” Orenchuk suggested, channeling advice offered first to the animal welfare community by National Animal Control Association cofounder Doug Fakkema, in almost the same words, nearly 40 years earlier.
“The rescue world must begin a new way of thinking”
“Yet I see barely anyone trying to turn off the faucet. Why?” Orenchuk asked.
“We have effectively reduced the number of behaviorally sound homeless dogs in many geographic areas,” Orenchuk noted, “leaving much of the country with a majority of unwanted dogs being dangerous or, of the behaviorally sound dogs, gravely injured or ill.
“The rescue world must begin a new way of thinking,” Orenchuck emphasized, “especially as the dogs in rescue for behavioral reasons get worse and worse, and they have and will continue to. And they cannot all be saved.
“I have watched rescues pour $900, $9,000, or five digits into behaviorally unadoptable dogs while the dog suffers confinement, boredom, isolation, or daily terror or psychosis,” Orenchuk testified, “and poses a safety risk to caretakers or the public for months or years.
“While I don’t hope to see the rescues that are doing things right continue to go dark one by one,” Orenchuk finished, “the sad reality is that the good ones are the most tired and the most abused. They are the ones who will leave when they have to. The ill-rescues with no sense of morality or work ethic never will leave, because they’ll never feel all this the way we have and do.”
ANIMALS 24-7 warned the first No Kill Conference
Why we cannot adopt our way out of shelter killing outlined all of the above, augmented by a wealth of data collected by ANIMALS 24-7 demonstrating each of the points made by Millman-Rinaldi and Orenchuk in hard statistics.
So, for that matter, did the keynote address that ANIMALS 24-7 delivered to the first No Kill Conference in 1995.
One need have only a fourth grade understanding of statistics to realize that setting the “no kill” threshold at a rigid 90% “live release rate” means that as spay/neuter reduces shelter and rescue intake, the numbers of healthy, behaviorally sound animals steadily drops, obliging shelters and rescues to “save” more and more of the animals who are neither healthy nor behaviorally sound, until eventually only unhealthy and dangerous animals are left.
Continuing to “save” 90% at that point means that 90% of the animals rehomed are animals who should have been euthanized.
Missing the “missing link” realization
Millman-Rinaldi, and Orenchuk before her, and probably countless other rescuers and shelter personnel who have yet to speak out, appear to have at last reached this realization, obvious as it should have been all along, even as Maddie’s Fund, the Best Friends Animal Society, the No Kill Advocacy Center, the ASPCA, and many others who ought to have known better continue to preach the Big Lie that “We can save them all.”
Yet Millman-Rinaldi and Orenchuk, bold and long overdue as their statements to the “no kill” and “rescue” worlds are, nonetheless shied away from the “missing link” realization that puts all of the rest of their insights in context.
Read back through the many passages from the Millman-Rinaldi and Orenchuk and this time substitute the words “pit bull” for “dog.”
From a third to half of the U.S. pit bull population are in shelter/rescue custody
While shelter and rescue dogs other than pit bulls are also frequently behaviorally unsound, or would not have been surrendered to shelters or “pulled” by rescues in the first place, reality is that well over two-thirds of the dogs entering U.S. shelters over the past 15 years have been pit bulls or pit mixes with easily recognizable traits.
Not surprisingly in view of that statistic, repeatedly affirmed by just about every animal shelter population researcher with the guts to track breed-specific data, somewhere between 34% and 54% of the total U.S. pit bull population are in shelter and rescue custody.
(See Dog breed census 2021: Labs, hounds top list; pit bulls come in third, COVID-19 boosts Labs, goldens, & small dogs; pit bull breeders crash, and Breed survey 2019: more puppies, yet fewer homes for pit bulls.)
Denial of breed-specific issues
Most of the many issues cited by Rinaldi and Orenchuk result specifically from “no kill” and “rescue” denial of the many issues specific to pit bulls.
Among these issues are the very low pit bull sterilization rate, which has actually declined over the past 20 years and now runs at around 25% of the sterilization rate for non-bully breeds; the unpredictability of pit bull behavior as compared to normal dogs; the high rate of recidivism among biting pit bulls given a second chance; the abnormally high rate of adoption failure among pit bulls; the high rates of impoundment and owner surrender of pit bulls, especially for dangerous behavior; and, most of all, the resistance of the humane community to recognizing that breed-specific problems call for breed-specific solutions.
Acknowledging genetics is not passing moral & ethical judgment
This is not a matter of passing moral and ethical judgment on pit bulls themselves, none of whom ever asked to be born.
It is a matter of recognizing that genetics shape dog behavior. Dogs have been selectively bred by humans for thousands of generations to accentuate particular behavioral traits, depending on what work humans breed them to do.
Fighting, baiting, and “war dogs,” all directly ancestral to pit bulls and other “bully” breeds, have demonstrably been line-bred to kill humans and other animals since the late Middle Ages, approximately 500 years ago.
While demographers measure human generations by increments of 18 years, a dog generation is only one year.
What that means is that pit bulls have had as many generations to differentiate themselves from other dogs as humans have had to differentiate ourselves since all living humans last shared a common ancestor.
Stop perpetuating myths––& stop the breeding!
What this means in turn is that rescuing the “no kill” and “rescue” communities from the morass recognized by Millman-Rinaldi and Orenchuk requires treating breeding, selling, and passing along pit bulls like manufacturing, selling, and passing along crystal meth.
“No kill” shelter directors and rescuers must stop perpetuating the myths that pit bulls and other bully breeds are dogs like any other, and that it is possible to “save them all” short of stopping breeding bulls and quitting lying to the public to try to rehome them.
It is not necessary to euthanize every pit bull and similar “bully breed” dog to restore safety and sanity to the “no kill” and “rescue” worlds, if the people currently in custody of pit bulls and closely related “bully breeds” are willing and able to keep them safely to the ends of those dogs’ natural lives.
It is, however, necessary to sterilize each and every “bully breed” dog, until the U.S. dog population is again as safe as were the dogs of between 60 and 90 years ago, between 1930 and 1960.
National pit bull advocacy groups have little “skin in the game”
During those 30 years, pit bulls barely existed outside the enclaves of professional dogfighters and the U.S. averaged less than one non-rabid dog attack fatality per year, compared to 50-plus non-rabid dog attack fatalities per year now, 80% by pit bulls, along with 500-plus grievous human disfigurements by pit bulls and the deaths of 30,000-plus other domestic animals.
It is most of all necessary for the “no kill” and “rescue” communities to recognize that most of the hugely well-funded national organizations who have been encouraging them to take in and try to rehabilitate and rehome pit bulls, including Maddie’s Fund, the Best Friends Animal Society, the American SPCA, and the Humane Society of the U.S., have little or none of their own “skin in the game,” handling only token numbers of dogs, if any at all, relative to the tens of thousands of private individuals they have persuaded to invest their own time and money and put their own families and adopters at risk trying to “save them all.”
“No kill” rescuers have been scammed
Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, Diane Orenchuk, and tens of thousands of other well-meaning people much like them, have been scammed.
When they realize the extent of the scam and respond accordingly to stop pit bull breeding and promotion, we will at last be within reach of becoming a “no kill nation,” in which the need for “rescues” diminishes each year instead of endlessly increasing.