Sold Out Animal Rescue Conference Evidence of Continued Rallying Cry for Michigan to be a No-Kill State

Nathan Winograd speaks at the conference. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

Nathan Winograd speaks at the conference. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

Troy was this year’s spot for the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s Annual No-Kill Conference “Getting to the Goal” on September 4th and 5th, bringing together 250 animal rescuers, shelter workers and volunteers all across the state. The “Goal” referenced in the title is for Michigan to be a No-Kill state and this conference is a combination of networking between the groups and conference seminars to educate and inform animal rescue advocates on how that can happen. No-Kill shelters are defined by most in the animal rescue community as a shelter who does not kill for space – they do not kill adoptable animals, pets who can be medically and behaviorally rehabilitated and adopted. These shelters have a 90% and higher save rate.

Coincidentally, about a week after this seminar took place, it was learned that Michigan Senator Steven Bieda along with many other Michigan senators introduced Senate Resolution 0178 – No-Kill Legislation – on September 11th, 2014. Their resolution encourages Michigan animal shelters and pounds to adopt a “No-Kill” philosophy in dealing with homeless pets. You can see that legislation here. This bill has bipartisan support with seven Republicans and five Democrats listed on the bill as sponsors.

SR 0178 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture. You can find out how contact them here with your support. You can also find out how to contact YOUR Michigan State Senator to support this bill here.

This year’s keynote speaker at the No-Kill Conference was No-Kill advocate Nathan Winograd who also held a workshop on legislating No-Kill with “CAPA“, the Companion Animal Protection Act. CAPA sets minimum standards for shelters, including a modest holding period, a ban on the gas chamber, a ban on heart sticking, a ban on killing with empty cages, a ban on killing when rescue groups are willing to save those animals, and an end to the practice of killing “owner surrendered” animals within minutes of arrival at the shelter without ever giving them a chance at adoption. CAPA mandates the programs and services which have increased lifesaving in shelters, follows the only model that has actually created a No Kill community, and focuses its effort on the very agencies that are doing the killing.

Winograd also screened his movie Redemption about the No Kill Revolution in America. Winograd is the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center and a graduate of Stanford Law School. He was a former criminal prosecutor and attorney, holding a variety of leadership positions including director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA, two of the most successful shelters in the nation. He has spoken nationally and internationally on animal sheltering issues, has written animal protection legislation at the state and national level, has created successful No Kill programs in both urban and rural communities, and has consulted with a wide range of animal protection groups all over the world. Nathan is the author of four books: Redemption, Irreconcilable Differences, and along with his wife, All American Vegan and Friendly Fire. Redemption won five national book awards and redefined the animal protection movement in the United States.

There were many other dedicated and established No-Kill advocates, volunteers and shelter staff members who spoke on topics such as: how to market shelter pets, how to lobby for animals to legislators, how to provide services to under-served areas, why no kill makes dollars and sense, enrichment for dogs and cats at shelters and more.

conference seminar

Animal advocates were also able to visit the many vendor booths and participate in a drawing for pet items including live traps, cat trees and other fun prizes. The sponsors of this year’s conference included: Bissell, Embrace Pet Insurance, Gorgeous Gal, No Kill Nation,, Petsmart Charities, Tomahawk Live Trip and Animal Farm Foundation Inc.

Animal advocates visit the vendor booths between their meetings. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

Animal advocates visit the vendor booths between their meetings. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

Awards were handed out to animal shelters with the best save rates. The winners included:


Copper Country Humane Society (small shelter – less than 1000 annual intake) – 96% save rate

Humane Society of Midland County (medium shelter – more than 1000 intake, less than 5000) – 100% save rate

Humane Society of Huron Valley (large shelter – more than 5000 intake) – 86% save rate


Barry County Animal Shelter – 70.11% in 2013; up from 34.11% in 2012.


Cascades Humane Society


Humane Society & Animal Rescue of Muskegon County – 94.4% save rate in 2013; up from 46.5% in 2012

BEST FRIEND AWARD – This award recognizes a person, agency or organization that has gone above and beyond to save, care for, home or advocate for Michigan’s homeless cats and dogs:

Amber Sitko, President of “All About Animals Rescue” (AAAR)


This award recognizes an elected official who has successfully, through their actions either introduced and shepherded legislation to benefit and improve the lives of homeless cats and dogs in Michigan or made a transformational change for the homeless animals within their jurisdiction:

Mark Hackel receives his award. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

Mark Hackel receives his award. Photo credit: Pet Fund Alliance

County Executive Mark Hackel (Macomb County)

According to Pet Fund Alliance, Macomb County ran one of the worse county shelters in the state. In 2009, only one of four animals left the shelter alive and very few were spayed/neutered in advance of adoption unless they came in the door that way. The shelter literally smelled. For years, animal advocates lobbied the County board of Commissioners for change and improvement. Excuses were plentiful – over-population, lack of budget, union rules, even “residents don’t value pets.”

Mark Hackel was elected to the new form of Macomb government as County Executive in January of 2011. The animal advocates shifted their attention from the Commissioners to the new County Executive. He listened. He established an Advisory Committee and accepted the retirement of the Shelter Director. He asked for the Advisory Committee’s help in writing a job description for a new shelter director and had them interview the top candidates. He committed to changing the shelter – in fact, he set the goal: to have the BEST shelter in the state of Michigan.

In January of 2013, animal welfare professional Jeff Randazzo was hired as chief Animal Control Officer in charge of the shelter and Animal Control. Change and reform does not come without controversy  and pain. Standards and credentials for Animal Control Officers were set high. Best Practice programs were introduced and collaborations with rescue groups established. Push-back came from a variety of areas: employees, misguided animal advocates not versed in new best practices as well as Animal Control Officers and Police Chiefs from local communities who were comfortable with the status quo and killing. County Executive Mark Hackel stood firm to the push-back – supported the change and continues to take a stand of life for homeless Macomb cats and dogs.


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