A No Kill Agenda: Minneapolis councilman Gary Schiff looks to reform the city’s animal control


For the past year council members Gary Schiff and Lisa Goodman have been working to make changes to improve Minneapolis’ department of Animal Care and Control. On Friday, September 26 during his monthly Breakfast with Gary, No Kill is on Schiff’s agenda.

“Some of the policies advocated by no kill advocates are things we should have done yesterday and we should start planning to do in the future,” he says.

Minneapolis Animal Care and Control Director Dan Niziolek, Underdog Rescue Director Shannon McKenzie and Mike Fry from Animal Ark, the state’s largest no kill shelter, are scheduled to speak at the event.

There’s a laundry list of problems with the city’s shelter when dealing with pet overpopulation, Schiff continues. In addition to being poorly staffed, Animal Care and Control does not put pictures of adoptable animals on its website. It does not have a simple system for pet licensing and does not offer low cost spay and neuter.

Just the other day Schiff saw a sign on a home in his district advertising Pit Bulls for sale for $200. He was unnerved when he found out the seller wasn't doing anything illegal.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “We really need to do something about home based breeding. We need stronger regulations and prohibitions. There are so many complaints about stray cats, barking dogs and dog bites and we got to get to the root of the problem,” says Schiff.

Schiff was introduced to No Kill after watching a video made by Animal Ark. “It blew my mind. It was a huge eye opener,” Schiff says.

The video highlights the ideas of Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. Over five million unwanted cats and dogs are killed in shelters across the United States every year, including thousands in Minnesota. Winograd argues that shelters are to blame for much of the killing because they refuse to implement specific programming.

When shelters follow a no kill agenda, even open door facilities can dramatically reduce their euthanasia rates, he contends. Starting in 1994 in San Francisco and most recently in Tompkins County, New York; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Reno, Nevada open door shelters have been able to reach save rates for dogs and cats in the high 80 and low 90 percentiles using the no kill model.

As detailed in last month’s feature, no kill is not without controversy. Despite urging from other groups, The Animal Humane Society, the state’s largest animal welfare organization, has refused to adopt no kill. AHS CEO and President Janelle Dixon has argued that no kill will not work in places like AHS that have open door admission. Last year, the Animal Humane Society accepted 36,378 living creatures into its shelters—and killed 14,610 of them. The vast majority of the dead animals—94 percent—are dogs and cats.

Days after City Pages printed its story, AHS posted a link on its home page about what they say "No Kill" really means.

“I’m not interesting in telling the humane society how to run their programs,” says Schiff. “I’m just looking at Minneapolis Animal Control and what the city can do to help reduce unwanted pets and encourage adoptions. I think this is a good place to start.”

Breakfast with Gary is a monthly meeting for 9th Ward constituents held from 7:30 to 9:00am the final Friday of the month at the Mercado Central (1515 East Lake Street). Five dollars buys breakfast.

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