No-Kill Louisville Leader Finally Speaking Out

Jessica Reid, the leader of No-Kill Louisville, is speaking out about Louisville Metro Animal Services, Greg Fischer’s crew and the Kentucky Humane Society.

Here’s a taste:

Having mentioned our successes, I need to address some concerns that have been raised – namely about whether I am still speaking up for the pets or being yoked by the Mayor’s office. Since January of this year, when I went “on the record” regarding issues. I was asked to do so or the story would not move forward. At the same time, several LMAS staff members went “undercover” about the same issues I raised. Since then, I’ve faced a new kind of frustration. I was criticized for speaking out by members within the rescue community despite the fact that employees mentioned the same issues. I was surprised by this.

Still, I stayed on that path despite those criticisms and despite hearing from those in the mayor’s office that I should not be so critical, that time is needed to fix things. All the while, Mr. Zelinsky and others at LMAS and connected to LMAS were putting up road blocks to saving more pets – all because they were angry and calling me “unprofessional” for speaking up. In actuality, that anger had to do with an email I sent out the week before that was copied to the entire NKL board asking Mr. Zelinsky if the rescues tied to the board could save the pets slated to be killed after what I understood was an argument among mid-level management that would lead to the unnecessary deaths of dozens of dogs.

He ignored that email and instead those groups that called me “unprofessional” continued to do their best to align themselves with LMAS. This made me sick because to do so was allowing more animals to die and, in fact, condoning it. Still, I took the criticism, tried to recognize it for what it was, and moved forward and kept speaking up.

-SNIP-

At this time, several people asked if I would consider applying but I felt it was more important to *ensure* a director with the No Kill ideals got into the position. I am not in this for me but for the pets of our community, and it was very important to ensure a No Kill director would lead us into the future.
I immediately disagreed with the job description that was hammered out and said so but was ignored. When the media asked me about the job description, I told them it meant getting the “same old thing” and getting an “old school shelter director mired in the old ideas rather than the progressive No Kill ideas that the city and its people deserve.”

Once again – I got in “trouble” for speaking up but I argued it was my opinion and I’m allowed to express that as a proponent of No Kill ideas. I have not *once* spoken about the candidates, the process, or what anyone in particular has said in these meetings. I feel that honors my confidentiality agreement. However, I was not about to be muzzled and continued to raise concerns with Debbie Fox when she took the interim helm and met with her. She was extremely smart and a good manager, but she handled the immediate “window dressing” and was then called back to MetroSafe for needs there.

-SNIP-

I made it clear that there have been issues at LMAS since KHS taking over – such as the dogs dying in the cages, pets being killed when they were promised rescues would be contacted (just this last Saturday, in fact), fosters being entered in their computers without consent, and other things. I also made it clear that I felt I was misled and lied to when I asked *point blank* what KHS’ role would be at the shelter. I put my faith in the idea that we could work together when, it appears, others are simply moving forward with their own agendas.

I do NOT support this move because KHS is not transparent. I do NOT support this move of handing over our community’s pets to an organization who can decide their fate without the public’s interference. I do NOT support this. No Kill Louisville will not stand by and allow the killing to continue. We will not forget all we’ve endured and all the pets who have died as we wait for change.

Bravo to Jessica Reid.

You’ll want to read her entire statement after the jump. You’ve gotta. It’s damning.

Greg Fischer: heed her words. Take action now. Stop this madness.

Reid’s Statement:

No Kill Louisville’s mission is to establish a No Kill community and work hard to maintain that community. As its co-founder and President, I can tell you No Kill Louisville remains strong and steadfast in this effort. We are RESOLUTE! During the last year, NKL has worked to raise awareness about the issues at Louisville Metro Animal Services including the lack of management that has led to the needless killing of thousands of animals.

We also opened a Pet Food Bank when KHS closed theirs and when we were just eight months old; we’ve saved hundreds of pets through The Hope Fund; spayed hundreds more through the 28 Days of Spay and by partly funding the Cat-Snip-a-thon (we did the latter when we were just 6 weeks old); have held a rally in support of the No Kill movement dubbed the Million Mutt March; lobbied for hundreds of volunteers and fosters to help LMAS and other groups; we helped get dozens upon dozens of people to Humane Lobby Day helping to make it one of the largest ones ever; we’re paying for establishing the Rescue Waggin’ program at LMAS (this cost includes training and equipment); we’ve gotten the word out about hundreds of adoptable pets through our weekly Furry Features; and we’ve spoken out despite criticism from others on the “inside” and the outside really. There’s so much more, but on to the point:

The Last 4 Months
Having mentioned our successes, I need to address some concerns that have been raised – namely about whether I am still speaking up for the pets or being yoked by the Mayor’s office. Since January of this year, when I went “on the record” regarding issues. I was asked to do so or the story would not move forward. At the same time, several LMAS staff members went “undercover” about the same issues I raised. Since then, I’ve faced a new kind of frustration. I was criticized for speaking out by members within the rescue community despite the fact that employees mentioned the same issues. I was surprised by this.

Still, I stayed on that path despite those criticisms and despite hearing from those in the mayor’s office that I should not be so critical, that time is needed to fix things. All the while, Mr. Zelinsky and others at LMAS and connected to LMAS were putting up road blocks to saving more pets – all because they were angry and calling me “unprofessional” for speaking up. In actuality, that anger had to do with an email I sent out the week before that was copied to the entire NKL board asking Mr. Zelinsky if the rescues tied to the board could save the pets slated to be killed after what I understood was an argument among mid-level management that would lead to the unnecessary deaths of dozens of dogs.

He ignored that email and instead those groups that called me “unprofessional” continued to do their best to align themselves with LMAS. This made me sick because to do so was allowing more animals to die and, in fact, condoning it. Still, I took the criticism, tried to recognize it for what it was, and moved forward and kept speaking up.

On a personal note, my best friend passed away this same week and while I was driving to her funeral North of Chicago I was taking calls from the media regarding the issue. I was not even allowed the time to grieve. I ONLY bring this up to illustrate my commitment to this movement – it is not about me but about ENDING THE NEEDLESS KILLING OF OUR COMMUNITY’S PETS.

What followed were weeks of frustration and road blocks to saving the lives of pets in need. Then, I was astonished when I received an email s that The Ville Voice had broken the story on the escort service run by Mr. Zelinsky. Little did I know that the next day, he’d resign and things would look better for the pets at LMAS. I *truly* believed that this was a new day *because* now we could have the barriers lifted that were in place and the mayor’s office could not deny that there were truly issues with the management at LMAS.

In the weeks that followed, the mayor’s office formed the audit team, the first level of the director’s search committee, and the second level of the director’s search committee. I was told I must sign a confidentiality agreement and was basically hand slapped for speaking to the media in front of my peers on the committee.
By the way, I raised concerns that two people from KHS were on the first level search – KHS’ President and KHS’ board member Patti Swope. I was told that Ms. Swope was a business rep and not there for KHS. Also, KHS members were on the audit team. I found that very underhanded but was told this was the selection and that was all there was to it.

At this time, several people asked if I would consider applying but I felt it was more important to *ensure* a director with the No Kill ideals got into the position. I am not in this for me but for the pets of our community, and it was very important to ensure a No Kill director would lead us into the future.
I immediately disagreed with the job description that was hammered out and said so but was ignored. When the media asked me about the job description, I told them it meant getting the “same old thing” and getting an “old school shelter director mired in the old ideas rather than the progressive No Kill ideas that the city and its people deserve.”

Once again – I got in “trouble” for speaking up but I argued it was my opinion and I’m allowed to express that as a proponent of No Kill ideas. I have not *once* spoken about the candidates, the process, or what anyone in particular has said in these meetings. I feel that honors my confidentiality agreement. However, I was not about to be muzzled and continued to raise concerns with Debbie Fox when she took the interim helm and met with her. She was extremely smart and a good manager, but she handled the immediate “window dressing” and was then called back to MetroSafe for needs there.

In the meantime, there were discussions about reworking the job description when we indeed did not receive appropriate candidates as I predicted. (I’m dying to say “I told them so” but I won’t – although, does that mean I just did?) There were also discussions regarding how we could streamline everything and save more animal lives. Things were discussed regarding joint teams at LMAS and KHS so we could have a transparent and true picture of the animals coming into the shelters in Louisville AND begin to truly work together. I agreed that this needed to happen.

Then, I find out about KHS going into “streamline adoptions.” This was no *joint team* at both places to ensure transparency and “working together.” I immediately contacted the mayor’s representatives and was told that this was just in the “interim” so that we could continue forward movement and continue saving more lives. That KHS would be working *with* LMAS to streamline adoptions and that it was only so we would not lose our momentum. Basically, that we would have an even better environment for the new director to work within once he or she came on board – thereby saving more pets’ lives in the interim and the long term.

Now, I will say right here and now, that I have some major trust issues with KHS as do many other rescues, mostly to do with transparency and the fact they’d prefer all pets to be killed/euthanized at LMAS which is not dealing with the killing but rather moving it around. BUT, I was willing to forego my concerns and my personal misgivings if it meant that more pets could be saved while we continued our search for a No Kill director. I was willing to put my faith into the idea that we can only move forward by working together.
There was a rescue meeting held about two weeks ago and KHS’ President Lori Redmon led that meeting. They invited area rescues to the meeting and discussed getting each group involved. They talked about lowering the pull fees and improving… the process. I support anything to improve the efficiency at LMAS and despite some questions I still felt this was only going to help more pets.

Let me say that multiple times during this meeting Ms. Redmon made it clear that KHS was only there *temporarily* to lend their support to LMAS’ staff and help get the process moving forward. KHS is good at adoptions and has an efficient process, but they are not No Kill and their leader does not necessarily believe it’s possible – she resigned from the board of No Kill Louisville telling me that our mission did not line with their mission. She later retracted that saying that it was a conflict of interest because KHS fundraises and so does No Kill Louisville. All of this after she said she’d like to be on there on an “advisory capacity” but then it became “what, I’m not on the board at all. I resigned.” It was very duplicitous.

So, needless to say, I have mirrored some of the trust issues that other rescues have from my own experience. I did not think this before this exchange.

Meanwhile – as you may all know – KHS has asked to take over adoptions at LMAS multiple times, approaching the city and mayoral candidates during the election to do so.

In addition, and so you have all the facts, I was confronted while out with friends at the Nach Bar by a KHS employee telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about – this is *despite* the fact that I’ve never *publicly* come out against KHS, so where are they getting this information that I’m against KHS? I had a second KHS employee show at Wags to Whiskers and do the same thing. It seems others were feeding that rumor mill and I have to ask “to what end?”

There are rescues in this community that are very territorial and rather than work together and figure out how to save MORE lives, they’ve sold themselves into this ridiculous idea that their turf is more important. I think they’ve simply lost sight of what matters most – the pets’ lives. At the same time, there are some incredible rescue groups in our town that have remained steadfast in their commitment to No Kill ideas despite criticism and seen the criticism for what it is – an effort to subvert.

I’m willing to eat crow and try to work with groups I have had issues with or don’t trust BECAUSE saving pets’ lives is what I and all the co-founders and board members of No Kill Louisville believe in more than anything else.

Wednesday (Yesterday)
Let’s move to yesterday (Wednesday) – I was at LAX airport heading for San Francisco last night when I got a call from a Courier-Journal reporter informing me about the contract talks that KHS is now involved in with the city. This reporter told me that there would no longer be a search for a committee director. This was the first I’d heard of any of this and I do not think it’s a coincidence that I was gone at the time.

I made it clear that there have been issues at LMAS since KHS taking over – such as the dogs dying in the cages, pets being killed when they were promised rescues would be contacted (just this last Saturday, in fact), fosters being entered in their computers without consent, and other things. I also made it clear that I felt I was misled and lied to when I asked *point blank* what KHS’ role would be at the shelter. I put my faith in the idea that we could work together when, it appears, others are simply moving forward with their own agendas.

I do NOT support this move because KHS is not transparent. I do NOT support this move of handing over our community’s pets to an organization who can decide their fate without the public’s interference. I do NOT support this. No Kill Louisville will not stand by and allow the killing to continue. We will not forget all we’ve endured and all the pets who have died as we wait for change.

Let me end with this. If you’ve ever wondered why I speak up, know it’s because I BELIEVE in the No Kill movement. It’s logical, brings the community in as the shelter’s partner, and saves thousands of lives, ending the needless killing.

I’ve had members of NKL say I say too much and I speak up too much and I should watch what I say. But, I believe, the truth is the MOST important thing and is the ONLY thing that will save these pets’ lives. We sat by idly for far too long. I’ve also had members of NKL say I should speak out MORE and organize a protest. So, what’s the answer? What’s the right thing to do?

All I can think of is the cats I took photos of when I first volunteered at LMAS in the Summer of 2009. They all died the next day without a chance. I also think of my foster cat, Buttercup, who died after her spay surgery, and my other foster, Minnie, whose sutures came open; of my first foster dog, Peanut, who was scheduled to be killed and after I fostered her for just 10 days she found a wonderful family; of the 7 lab/pit puppies I fostered and the one that came back without anyone telling me and who was killed; and of all the dogs, cats, rabbits, and more killed every day simply because we’ve all remained silent for too long.

There are so many more stories of pets that had a rescue lined up and were killed, of people who showed up to foster even this past Saturday only to learn the pets they came to help were killed, and the stories go on and on and on.

I am sick of the rhetoric and games. I feel my desire to save lives has been used against me. I want to work with ALL rescues and shelters if it means more pets’ lives are saved, but there comes a time to work together and a time to expose things for what they are.

I have a book that sits at my desk at my house where I do a lot of the work for No Kill Louisville. It’s called “A Testament of Hope” and is the essential writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. I admire this man more than anyone else who has lived. He peacefully protested for the rights of African Americans. This was not a black and white issue – this was a human issue. All of us are one people – the world is one people. He spoke up and was criticized – despite the justice of his words. When I am feeling down and like giving up, I recall that this incredible man lost his life for something so dear to him and so right. I remember that it is unlikely I will have to die for my cause – instead pets will if I do not succeed.

I believe that the No Kill movement is another social issue that someday will be looked upon with reverence to the respect for life it brought to our communities in this nation. Despite what many think of my position, I support many of those in our shelters currently trying to effect change and, as I’ve long held, I believe it is the lack of leadership, management, and checks and balances at the shelter that is the issue.

In Martin Luther King, Junior’s words “..one seeks to defeat the unjust system, rather than the individuals caught up in the system. And that one goes on believing that somehow this is the important thing, to get rid of the evil system and not the individual who happens to be misguided, who happens to be misled, who was taught wrong. The thing to do is to get rid of the system (in this case the old model of sheltering) and thereby create a moral balance (the no kill model) within society.”

Jessica Reid
President, No Kill Louisville

57 thoughts on “No-Kill Louisville Leader Finally Speaking Out

  1. Dear Tall Guy, On Tuesday of this week LMAS had taken in 60 animals by 8:00 p.m. and the animal control officer’s trucks had not yet come in for the night with their animals on board. This means the total intake for the day might be greater than 60. That same day six animals were adopted from Animal House, 5 dogs and one cat. Until we have increased S/N and more animal retention programs, I do not know how ET can be avoided. All pieces need to be in place for it to work, rescues, animals to the East Coast in transports, S/N, counseling programs for folks w/difficult animal and pet issues in the home, etc.

  2. Agreed Turner – ALL pieces need to be in place. The No Kill model also emphasizes comprehensive spay/neuter programs (such as our 28 Days of Spay) AND Trap-Neuter-Release programs (such as the Cat-snip-a-thon we partly funded). But, you must ALSO deal with those animals who are living – with pet retention programs (such as our pet food bank), better community relations/customer service, efforts to reunite lost pets with families, a comprehensive foster program, more volunteers, comprehensive adoption efforts, and so much more.

    For the very logical, proactive, and community-partnering steps for going No Kill, head here: http://www.nokill-louisville.com/stepstonokill.htm

    A CAUTION FOR EVERYONE: Beware those people who love to label No Kill advocates as “hoarders” or people who will “do anything to save a pet” – it’s an attempt to label a very intelligent, proactive approach as “fringe” or “impossible.” I know there are people who do too much and take on too much and it ends up exasperating the issues. There are always extremes in any effort. But, those people exist whether in a traditional sheltering model or a no kill sheltering model. So don’t allow people to use *shock stories* as a way to discount the logical and intelligent approach that is the current No Kill model in the United States.

    If you truly want to understand the model, I invite you to take a little time and read “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd. It is the book that changed my mind because, guess what, I used to believe we had no other option but to “save a few and kill the rest.”

    Citizen Z – thank you for kind words. For some reason, I didn’t see them before. If I could, I would. I want to save all our adoptable pets. But the fact of the matter is in the current climate I would never be offered the position or opportunity. So, I choose to try to work at finding a person who could carry the No Kill model into fruition.

  3. And we have all those things! Ready willing and able fosters, transporters, rescue groups ready to step up and take special needs animals…the powers that be just need to relax their death grip on the city’s homeless animals! There are many groups working on spay/neuter, most of the public understands the benefits and want their pets altered. It is becoming more and more widely understood that TNR of feral cats is actually cheaper than the old “Catch & Kill” model. There ARE enough homes for all of them. If a savvy marketer promoted shelter animals as the awesome unique potential pets they are instead of sad-sack charity cases, more people would adopt instead of buying from puppymills and backyard breeders. (According to the hsus only 19% of pets are adopted from shelters. Sounds more like a marketing problem than a ‘not enough homes’ problem to me).

  4. Poodlerama, I agree with you. It is much simpler and easier to kill animals than to educate people and ACTIVELY promote spay/neuter and TNR. You need city leaders and people passionate about the job. Currently the city is not leading nor listening!

  5. Observation: This is the largest number of posts that I recall for any issue since I’ve been following this blog. IF Mr. Fish doesn’t wake up on this EASY AND SIMPLE ONE, God knows what’s going to happen as the REALLY DIFFICULT decisions enter the picture.

    There could well be nearly a hundred task forces before his hegemony (4 years) is over.

    Come on young man — grow some balls and take action.

  6. So, Jessica, are you saying if you were asked to be the director for MAS, you would accept?? I think you should apply and make them explain why you are not “GOOD ENOUGH”

  7. Seems to me the Mayor just wants to ‘pass the buck’–so they wont have to deal with the problems at MAS.

    “Lets just turn it over to KHS–that way everything is Private–and there is no public accountability”

    And of course KHS wants it. Done right, moving animals out quickly–Animal House and Manslick would be a money maker.

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