Jo-Lynn Estrada Proposal to New York Commission Chairperson For a “No-Kill” Shelter System

Jo-Lynn Estrada
New York, New York 10021
February 3, 2011

Mr. Thomas Farley, M.D.
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Chairman of the AC&C Board of Directors
125 Worth Street, 3rd floor,
New York, NY 10013

Dear Mr. Farley:
My name is Jo-Lynn Estrada. I am a student at La Guardia Community College. I am writing today out of concern for the animals in your shelter system. As we both know, there are many stray animals and unwanted pets in New York City. We are a nation of cat and dog lovers. Mr. Farley, this year roughly 4 million cats and dogs – and other countless animals – will be put to death in our city animal shelters. Their only “crime” is that they have no human address. Others are sick or injured, but could be saved with a little effort. Unfortunately, they too, will be killed. Still others are feral cats, who will never make into the system. On a daily basis, many of these healthy adoptable animals are euthanized. Euthanasia, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. Notice the definition says “hopelessly sick or injured”. It is my opinion that any animal put to death outside of these parameters is murder. The main reason for this is due to lack of resources, funding and overcrowding. I would like to see that every animal gets a second chance life. THERE IS HOPE.

Previously Australia’s pet population and their method for handling it was identical to the one here in America – adopt a few and kill the rest. However, they are changing their outlook on how to deal with it. They are implementing a model developed by Animal Rights Activist Nathan J.Winograd called “No Kill Nation.” A no-kill shelter is most widely defined as an animal shelter where all “adoptable” and “treatable” animals are saved and where only “unadoptable” or “non-rehabilatable” animals are euthanized. This model has been proven to reduce animal suffering and killing by euthanasia here in America as well. I have provided at list of cities, and statistics (page 4) in this country that shows that this is an achievable goal.
In 2007, Nevada Humane Society in Reno, (to be identified as NHS throughout this letter) launched an ambitious no-kill initiative to make Washoe County one of the safest communities in the United States for homeless animals. They are succeeding, despite a per capita intake rate higher than many communities nationwide. By year’s end, 92% of all dogs and 78% of all cats found loving new homes, were reclaimed by their responsible caretakers or, in the case of feral cats, were adopted as barn cats or returned to their habitats. They are considered the safest community of their size for dogs in the United States and one of the safest for cats. Here are their numbers:


Total Impounded: 8,036
Total Saved: 7366
Killed: 670
Percentage Saved: 92%
Percentage Killed: 8%
Change in Kill Rate (2006vs.2007): -51%
Change in Adoption Rate: +53%


Total Impounds 7,819
Total Saved: 6,067
Killed: 1,752
Percentage Saved: 78%
Percentage Killed: 22%
Change in Kill Rate (2006 vs. 2007): -52%
Change in Adoption Rate: +84%

I’m sure you’ll agree these numbers are impressive.

In researching the NHS’s 10 point model for creating a no-kill shelter system, I would like to suggest three easy steps that could be immediately implemented here in New York while taking into consideration the constraints on resources.

One of the ways this can be accomplished is by partnering with other groups. Non-profit organizations often seem to believe that there is a limited pie of resources out there, and therefore, they are in direct competition with other humane groups in the community. This is really more a matter of perception than reality. Animal lovers are amazingly generous, especially when they feel that groups are working together to get an important job done. NHS’s lifesaving success would truly not be possible without the support of the many amazing local rescue groups and individual rescuers who are hard at work every day helping to get the animals out of the shelters alive. For example, in Nevada, the NHS has partnered with Community Cats. Community Cats have been providing free spay and neuter for feral cats for six years. SPCA of Northern Nevada, Alley Cat Allies, Shakespeare Animal Fund, and many other humane groups are some of their partners in life saving.

Another way to save lives, is to have an “open door” policy about your practices by making a public declaration of your intent to become a no-kill shelter. While the idea of making a public declaration may be intimidating, the declaration itself actually has a powerful effect. Not only does it focus your internal efforts on the no-kill community goal, but it helps inspire and energize the community to support what you do. Most animal lovers really want animals to be saved, but they also lead busy lives. To inspire them to get involved, you need to invite them to be part of something big, exciting, and worth the effort. So declaring an all-out effort to create a no-kill community is an important step in getting the support you need to make it happen. Be sure to let people know exactly what you need them to do – ask them to donate for a specific purpose or to volunteer to do a specific task, such as walking dogs, socializing cats, distributing brochures, or fostering an animal. One important thing to remember: when putting your no-kill goal out there to the public, you’ll want to be sure to clearly define it and to report progress regularly by publishing statistics. The NHS publish statistics monthly, including the number of animals coming into the community’s primary shelters, the numbers adopted or killed, both for the current and prior year.

I think one of the most important ways to achieve a no-kill shelter system is to actively work to keep animals out of shelters. While we are all familiar with the reasons why people bring animals to shelters or abandon them, what many people don’t realize (or believe) is that many of these situations can be resolved in such a way that will keep the animals out of the shelter. After all, shelters are stressful places for animals and should be places of last resort, not a readily available dumping ground. Most pet owners aren’t animal behavior experts and not everyone is good at problem solving, but I have found that many people are willing to try a few things to help keep their pet. One of the ways that The Nevada Humane Society has found to assist people with these issues is by creating The Animal Help Desk, where they suggest ways to help the community keep their pets. The suggestions may include behavior modification, training, minor changes to the environment, vet care, or – if they really cannot keep the pet – making the effort to find a new home for the pet themselves.

Sometimes they provide information as to where the public can find practical assistance, vet care, free spay/neuter services, or pet food. In other cases, all the caller needs is a bit of information and moral support. The Animal Help Desk at the NHS received 300 requests the first week it opened, and now averages around 400 calls or emails per week. They will be more than happy to share their Animal Help Desk Handbook with any organization that wants to establish such a program for their community.

Mr. Farley, in the last decade, several progressive shelters have put in place a bold series of life saving programs and services which have dramatically reduced the death rates in our communities. The resulting process shows that there is a formula of saving lives, and that if we are to achieve a No Kill Nation, it is incumbent upon shelters nationwide to embrace the programs and services which have been proven to save lives.

In closing, the challenges we face are great, but not insurmountable. We have a choice. We can fully, without reservation, embrace the techniques of the No Kill Nation model as the future of shelter reform, or we can continue to legitimize the two prong strategy of failure: adopt a few and kill the rest. We have the power to build a new consensus, which rejects killing as a method for achieving results. We can look forward to a time when the wholesale slaughter of animals in shelters is viewed as a cruel aberration of the past.

We are the generation that can question the killing. We are the generation that has discovered how to stop it. Will we be the generation that does?

Thank you so much for your time. Please feel free to contact me at for any help or information I can provide in helping achieving the goals we both have: providing a good life for all animals.

Jo-Lynn Estrada

Fellow Animal Lover and
Veterinary Nursing Candidate 2012

By The Numbers:

Below, I have compiled a list of cities in America where the no-kill nation philosophy has been adopted and proven to save lives.

In 1994, the City of San Francisco popularized the trend towards No-kill shelters. The San Francisco SPCA, led by President Richard Avanzino who would later become the President of Maddie’s Fund, along with the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control guaranteed a home to every “adoptable” dog and cat who entered the shelter system. Since then the city of San Francisco (the SPCA along with the Department of Animal Care and Control) has been able to keep San Francisco as a no-kill city. In 2007, the live release rate of all dogs and cats in the city of San Francisco was 82%.

In 2001, Thompkins County, New York transitioned over a two-year period to a no-kill community. The Tompkins SPCA, an open-admission shelter and animal control facility for Tompkins County, was instrumental in achieving this goal. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve a live release rate of over 90% every year since then. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve this while going from having a budget deficit to a budget surplus and was even able to raise millions of dollars to build a new cageless no-kill shelter. In 2006, 145 (6% of a total intake of 2353) dogs and cats classified as unhealthy or untreatable were euthanized. In comparison, the national average rate of euthanasia in 2005 was 56%.

In 2005, The Charlottesville SPCA in Virginia began a two-year long transition to no-kill. The SPCA claimed a 92% save rate; however, statistics from 2007 show that this is no longer the case. In 2007, the shelter admitted 4079 dogs and cats of which 598 were euthanized, with an additional 200 who died at the shelter or were lost.

In March 2010, the Austin City Council in Texas unanimously passed a resolution for the City’s open-admission shelter to achieve a 90% save rate of all impounded animals. The City Council mandated, among other things, that the City shelter was prohibited from killing healthy, adoptable pets while there were empty cages at the shelter. In December 2010, the City celebrated its highest save-rate month ever, in which the shelter saved 88% of all impounded animals. Advocates in Austin give considerable credit to the non-profit shelter Austin Pets Alive! for helping increase the City’s save rate.

In May 2010, three communities announced a pact to become no-kill communities by guaranteeing homes for all healthy and treatable pets: Hastings and Rosemount, Minnesota, along with Prescott, Wisconsin.

The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah is a no-kill animal sanctuary providing homes for thousands of homeless pets. With financial help from Maddie’s totaling over $9 million spread over five years, they led a coalition of rescue groups called “No More Homeless Pets in Utah”. The goal of the coalition was to move the state of Utah closer to a no-kill community. In the period from 1999–2006, the organization reported that statewide adoption rate increased 39% while euthanasia rate dropped 30%.

An article published by The Nevada Humane Society called “How We Did It” can be found at:

Pictured Above: Roxy, 2 year old pit-bull, previously being trained to fight, scheduled to be euthanized 8 months ago. I committed my training skills to make her a likely candidate for adoption. She was moved to a no-kill shelter in NJ. I am happy to announce that this fighter in training is now considered to be a “nanny dog” to 6 month old Kayla, a family member and when not guarding Kayla enjoys laying on the porch in the sun and carrying small bags of groceries from the store back home. This is just one dog who wanted to live, and was NOT euthanized because a group of people came together to provide a little. To Roxy it made a difference and to Kayla’s family, it made a difference.

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