No Kill Conference 2011: Ryan Clinton

July 30, 2011

No kill advocacy with Ryan Clinton. It’s time to talk about Austin.

  1. You are not unique
  2. Winning = relationships.

Every letter Ryan gets starts with “you are not going to believe this.” But you’ve got to get past the victimization status.

You are not going to be effective advocate by blogging or being on facebook or staging a protest. The real way to get people to make policy changes is to get them to want to, not scaring them. Until you have real relationships with human beings, you’re not going to accomplish anything.

Until you can get people in charge to stop in the supermarket and say hi to you and ask how your pets are doing, you won’t accomplish much.

So who is Ryan Clinton and why should we listen to him? Follow me under the  jump:

  • Time in the game.  He’s been at it for a long time.
  • Advocacy successes.
    • City Council mandate to implement the No Kill Equation and end the “convenience killing”
    • Hiring of experienced and committed No Kill shelter director.
    • Downtown adoption center instead of out in the middle of nowhere (where nobody could watch what’s going on)
    • They resisted ALL efforts to shut down their voices.
  • 2005:
    • No foster program
    • No off site adoptions
    • Save rate – 50%
    • Number of animals killed: 14,304
  • 2011
    • Foster program
    • Offsite adoptions
    • Committed shelter director
    • Save rate – 90%
    • Expect to kill less than 3,000 animals


  • Arm yourself. Get ready for battle.
    • Need to understand the movement, and how it works.
    • Know the 11 steps of the no kill equation.
    • Familiarize yourself with the communities that have already demonstrated success.
      • Charlottesville, Tompkins County, Reno, Marquette…and now Austin.
    • Know the history
      • What people THINK No Kill is: Legislate, educate, sterilize
      • And that’s not it.
      • It’s not all about law enforcement, hiring people to talk to kids in schools, and sterilizing every animal you can find.
      • Mandatory spay/neuter FAILS EVERY TIME.
    • What works
      • Feral cat TNR
      • High volume, low cost spay/neuter
      • Behavioral modification.
      • A compassionate shelter director
      • Reject excuses and pick sides
  • Build no kill campaign.
    • Identify goals
      • Become a no kill community
      • No adoptable or treatable animals will be killed.
      • Save 90%
        • That said, even in Austin, there are still beautiful, potentially savable dogs and cats dying. Austin is a huge success, but there’s still a long way to go. They could hit 96%…eventually.
      • Progressive shelter leadership – regime change when necessary….and it often is.
      • Codify lifesaving basics.
        • Look at Companion Animal Protection Act
          • All by itself it won’t get you to no kill, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it codifies basic, humane shelter practices.
    • Identity your audience that needs to be turned into an ally
      • Shelter manager.
      • Governing body of shelter (city council, county commissioners, board of directors, etc…depends on your situation and municipality)
      • Secondary audience. Influencers.
        • Public and most importantly, the PRESS.
    • KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid.
      • Must have a two minute ‘elevator speech’
      • One or two sentences.
      • Use high impact language. Use real numbers. One every 12 minutes the shelter is open, an animal is being killed.
      • Target your message to your goal.
        • “If the city moves the shelter, even more animals will die.”
      • Pick your talking points and repeat & repeat & repeat & repeat.
    • Project professionalism.
      • Wear a suit. Crazy cat lady shirt will make people ignore you.
      • Act like you’ve been there and this is what you do.
      • Look like a professional organization with a staff.
      • Image matters. Sorry, but it’s true.
  • Advocacy tools
  • You MUST have a website, and it must look worthwhile.
  • It needs to be informative.
  • Blogs are helpful and spread the message, as they build a following.
  • Facebook connects to your own network and fills the leadership void, but you’re only speaking to people who already agree with you.
  • Examiner can be helpful, since it looks like a newspaper and drives traffic.
  • is a good, informative, and well-designed site.
  • You need a logo, so you have a familiar brand image.
  • is another good site. And it’s a free site, done with a Mac. Contains video, and is very powerful.
  • Using the media. (Christie will talk about this later today)
    • Create a media list. Focus on reporters who have already done stories on animals.
    • Develop real relationships: email, call, introduce yourself in person. Get to know the reporters. Talk to them. Show them you are legitimate, not a ranting crackpot.
    • Press releases:
      • Logo
      • Attention-grabbing language
      • Write it like a legitimate news story, including quotes.
        • Use dates, headlines, bio line
        • Write it in paragraph form.
      • PROOFREAD. Typos make you look like an idiot and destroy your credibility. Show it to someone else if you have to.
      • Always be honest. The moment you lose credibility, you’re toast. Reporters will never listen to you again if you lie.
      • You can buy media
        • Take out an ad in the newspaper.
          • Make it a full-page ad. Get noticed.
        • Spread the message.
      • ASK for something in your ads.
      • Support, money, sending messages to city council, etc.
      • If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • Develop real relationships with elected officials.
    • People who KNOW you won’t say bad things about you, or doubt your motives and behavior.
    • It helps to make friends. Real friends. If they LIKE you, that’s enormously helpful.
    • Don’t just haunt them and stab at their policies. Relationships work….pretty much everywhere.
    • Lobby and educate decision makers. Shmooze, but be concise, and clear.
    • Be prepared.
    • Always make the ASK in each conversation.
    • Prepared presentations that are bound and user-friendly
  • Participate in elections.
    • Candidate questionnaires.
    • City Council animal-welfare scorecard.
    • Hold them accountable, rate the candidates based on questionnaire and position commitments.
  • Politicians LOVE being seen with animals. Cute puppy/kitten with a city council member is impossible to resist.
  • Email/web/blog
  • Press releases and press conferences.
  • Highlight the important parts in bold and bullet points. People will only pick up the high points.
  • Trashing the guy who is about to win makes no sense. Create allies.
  • Understand and overcome predictable and recurring challenges.
  • Status quo is very powerful.
  • Shelter management, city council, etc.
  • Change is hard, scary and bad.
  • You’ll be called names for suggesting change.
  • There will be lots of denial.
  • Redirection of responsibility
  • Falsely claim credit
  • Scare tactics are common.
  • HSUS and ASPCA and PETA will line up against you every single time. That’s what they do. If they’re not getting credit, they will attack.
  • Major animal societies may be enemies too.
  • They will be co-opted by uninformed press.
  • Who’s with you?
  • Maddie’s Fund
  • Nathan Winograd
  • The general public will be with you, if you show them why it matters.
  • The press
  • When they’re sympathetic and informed.
  • Animal lovers all over the country who, like you, will not let another day go by without standing up for change.
  • This will be a marathon, not a sprint.
  • It’s a battle, by design. There’s a reason it’s hard to create change, but there’s also a reason it’s not impossible.
  • Small groups can make a difference (for good or ill), but it won’t happen today. It needs to take time.
  • Always take the high road.
  • Always respond with facts. Know your stuff. Use facts, not “I think” or “people say.”
  • Prove your points.
  • “Blaming the public” is an excuse, not a strategy. Have a strategy.
  • No community has ever spay/neutered their way out of overpopulation. Ever.
  • It’s key, but all by itself it’s grossly inadequate.
  • No Kill can work in any community. Don’t accept “it can’t work in our community.”
  • Document, document, document.
  • Every failure.
  • Shelter workers do the best they can, but perhaps in a bad, dysfunctional system.  Don’t personalize it to be about the shelter workers. Don’t make it personal. It’s about policy and leadership.
  • Become a power player. Donate to political campaigns. Hold fundraisers (see ‘build relationships’)
  • “Those who defend the status quo are defending the act of killing.”
  • Know when you’re winning
  • Dogs and cats start coming out of shelters alive.
  • The old shelter director moves on or retires.
  • The movement becomes much bigger than just you…it’s about the principle and the policy and the leadership. It’s NOT about YOU. It’s about the animals.
  • It’s about compassion and love.

    Filed under: no-kill,pets, connected — David S. Greene @ 9:13 am


    1. So much fabulous information in here! Thanks so much for doing this, David.

      Comment by Miz Pierson — July 30, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    2. WOW, this is so helpful! Thanks David!!

      Comment by Karen D. Mitchell — July 30, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

    3. An awesome post of fantastic info; thanks for sharing!

      Comment by Saving Pets — July 30, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

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