DogTime Smears No-Kill


DogTime is a “vertical media company” that aggregates dog blogs to create traffic based upon this content and then sell advertising to select dog-themed partners.  The only compensation most of these blogs get is a little JPEG which announces their participation.  Unlike other vertical media companies, DogTime produces very little of its own content and unlike other advertising driven content sites like YouTube, content creators are not necessarily compensated for the views they generate and the process is opaque.

I was a “premium blogger” for 4 years and never received a dime and the promise of millions of eyes on my content never drove much traffic to my blog.  In fact, when searching google for my own content, my republished posts would show up higher ranked on DogTime than on my own site due to DogTime’s higher google page rank.  My traffic jumped almost immediately and permanently after leaving the network.  It took them over a year to remove my feed after I asked due to incompetence, turn-over in their employees, and inability to remove my feed myself.

The reason I left wasn’t primarily the lack of revenue or the traffic stealing–you’ll notice I still haven’t put ads on this blog–but the first significant original content (advertised as “Exclusive” which indicates just how much the site relies on aggregating other’s content) on the DogTime network written by Editor-in-Chief Leslie Smith where she seethes with hatred for dog breeders declaring “there are no responsible breeders.”

Leslie Smith is the Editor in Chief of DogTime, and beginning in May 2011 she wrote an eight-part examination of the No Kill movement which unfortunately spread more disinformation than light. Despite claiming input from “Nathan Winograd, Michael Mountain, Richard Avanzino, and Helga Schimkat,” Smith’s series documents a profoundly flawed understanding of what No-Kill means and reveals deeply held but wrongly aimed resentments toward breeders.

Brent Toellner of the KC Dog Blog, being well versed in the No-Kill movement, gives a convincing critique on how Smith’s analysis veers from reality into rhetoric and crashes into the well-worn territory of fixing the blame.  Blame, blame, blame, lots of blame.

Blame and shelter dogs have a lot in common: there’s plenty enough to go around; the bleeding hearts are deeply in love with both and associate them with breeders; and most striking, trying to fix one will not fix the other and policies which attempt to do so simply create more of both.

In one post, Smith decides that “No Kill” is the wrong name for the movement and that it’s time to change it. This coming from one of the few paid employees of what is foremost a marketing firm. No Kill is perhaps the singularly most successful slogan and brand in the dog world: it is short and easy to remember, it is widely known and the message aligns with the values of the cause.

In ranking the Top 100 Advertising Campaigns of the last century, a marketing expert proposed three criteria:

  • It was a watershed, discernibly changing the culture of advertising or the popular culture as a whole
  • It either created a category or pushed its brand to the top of its category
  • It was simply unforgettable.

“No Kill” satisfies all three.  And one of the pillars of the No Kill movement is embracing effective marketing techniques to find homes for dogs.  So again, Leslie seems fundamentally unable to appreciate what No Kill is on its own terms.  This is evident from her suggested alternate name for the movement:

“No Suffer”: the new No Kill?

I’d like to see the U.S. become a No Kill nation. But my even greater hope is that we become a No Suffer nation. No animal deserves to die simply because the shelter is full, but neither does he deserve a life devoid of exercise, companionship, security, and medical care.

The success of a No Suffer movement would be harder to measure, but its impact, at least as profound. We’ll have achieved it when our animal cruelty legislation is strictly imposed and enforced, when our shelters are all but empty, and when euthanasia is a reprieve from incurable affliction, not a method of population control.

No Suffer would mean we’re not classifying animals in terms of how adoptable they are, but instead, we’re devoting resources to any dog or cat who needs extra care. Ultimately, we’ll know we’ve become a No Suffer nation when we’re no longer keeping track of those animals we, as humans, have failed. When the reality is truly a humane society, where every creature is respected and treated with compassion.

Right off the bat Smith makes it clear that she doesn’t understand No Kill by setting up the false antagonism between “full” shelters and suffering in the form of no exercise, no human contact, no medical care.  Both of these positions require you to assume positions that Nathan Winograd argues are false: that shelters are full and they are inherently unable to provide enrichment to the animals under their care:

Animal activists see it. And others in sheltering do also. They see it daily, but still believe in pet overpopulation. What do they see every time they go into animal shelters? They see empty cages. Shelters kill dogs and cats every single day, despite empty cages.

The City of Los Angeles Animal Services Department kills every day despite empty cages. A veterinarian who tried to keep more animals alive by keeping the cages full was fired in 2005, in part, due to staff complaints of “too much work.”

They never say, “we kill because we have accepted killing in lieu of having to put in place foster care, pet retention, volunteer TNR, public relations, and other programs.” In short, they kill because they have failed to do what is necessary to stop killing.

If anything needs a new name due to failing to live up to the marketing, it’s not No-Kill, it’s the word “shelter.”  No one goes to a shelter to be killed.  And this is where Leslie Smith is still steeped in the old paradigm of shelters: the notion that any degree of inconvenience of misfortune can be labeled “suffering” and that human failures to find expedient solutions to that “suffering” necessitate a moral intervention of killing to end the “suffering.”

This is how shelters have operated for centuries, giving the public the impression that it’s about success and happiness but operating under the philosophy of defeatism and suffering and extermination.  You give us your dog because we make promises of a doting little kid getting their new best friend or a pastoral life in the country for Poochy, but we’re really just going to kill it and dispose of it in a landfill if it can’t overcome the numerous roadblocks we put in its way.  And it better do so fast because it’s got 72 hours or less.

Not only does Smith still buy into “overpopulation,” by backing traditional shelters over No-Kill she is supporting the immorality of slaughter for human failings and expediency while preaching an unattainable idea of utopia.  Until no dog will suffer, it’s ok to kill them and end their suffering.  Until humans are perfect, it’s ok to be barbaric and slaughter perfectly healthy animals.  Other people have forced our hands, we have no choice, the dogs must die.

Smith dreams of a canine socialist paradise where there are infinite resources to attend to every need of every dog, and such care will be given simply because it is needed.  This utopia assumes that human failures to provide are irrelevant to the dog’s needs and that the equation need never balance.  There will always be enough to give and it will be given by those who have it and this will always balance with the level of need and those who need it.  Those needs should and will be met no matter what and it shall not harm those who have to give it to those who need.

Leslie Smith is a dangerous sort of person who would sacrifice the real on the altar of the ideal to a false god that doesn’t exist.  Someone who doesn’t understand that the word “utopia” is not derived from the Greek for “good place” but from the Greek for “no place.”  Her fantasy world does not and never can exist and yet she’s perfectly willing to burn people she deems to be witches on her pyre of indignation.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.