DogTime’s No Kill series: Afterword

by Leslie Smith, DogTime editor

The last segment in the DogTime No Kill series posted several weeks ago, but readers’ reactions to the various articles are still very much on my mind. That’s a good thing, as my goal was to elicit discussion, awareness, and thought from people who are troubled by the crisis in our shelter system.

As for what I’m still thinking about…

This is too complicated an issue to speak for anyone but myself.

Some within the movement expressed disappointment that I characterized No Kill as primarily adoption-focused. Several prominent No Kill voices wrote to say that isn’t true, that spay/neuter, among other goals, is just as central to their message. Fair enough.

My conversations with leaders in the movement led to me gather that adoption was the highest priority. We talked largely and at length about shelters not doing enough to promote adoption, and I learned about various adoption techniques and strategies the movement advocates. A good portion my No Kill posts drew from those conversations (as well as from my years of hands-on shelter volunteership), as I approached this series less as a reporter, more as a philosopher.

That said, this is not about misrepresenting any individual’s or organization’s mission or purpose — the goal is to find out where we agree and to leverage those shared beliefs to end the suffering of shelter animals.

For an unmitigated, direct explanation of what No Kill is all about, please visit their website:

Perceptions about breeding animals vary widely

Some readers were offended by my use of the word irresponsible in referring to breeders. I think it’s important for me to again stress that there are many compassionate, caring people who breed animals. A significant number are involved in rescue; many donate money, time, and valuable resources. I wholeheartedly applaud that.

That doesn’t mean I agree that adding companion animals to the population is a good idea at this time, a time when so many animals are needlessly suffering and dying. I’m not asking you to concur — only to continue to think about and discuss the issue so that we may respectfully work together.

For more on this, check out the latest comments on and responses to the installment addressing breeding.

To achieve a humane nation, humans need humans

Finally, I’ve learned that it’s incredibly tempting to dismiss those with differing opinions. The relative safety and anonymity of the internet means disagreements might unfold more contentiously online than they would in person.

But I’ve realized that the opposing views I pay most attention to — and contemplate most seriously — are the ones expressed with respect and a true desire to educate. My personal resolution is to emulate those who’ve dissented without disparagement, who’ve raised points without sinking to insults and invective. If we can’t treat members of our fellow species with decency, how can we expect to muster and synchronize the tremendous energy it will require to solve this crisis?

As I stated at the outset of this series, these posts developed from personal experience — a journey involving years of volunteering, intense reflection, and direct talks with leaders of the No Kill movement (as well as with advocates unhappy with the movement). The goal was not to represent a particular side of the debate, but rather share my perspective and hear from others who care deeply about animals.

Not one person has all the right answers nor can one individual solve this crisis. That’s why it’s so important to me to keep this discussion alive, and to share best practices in hopes of getting closer to a solution.

Let’s keep talking.