UPDATE 7/25/12: Sayres has confirmed his departure. You heard it here first.
I’ve been hearing whispers for some time now but I’ve recently confirmed it: Ed Sayres, President and CEO of the ASPCA, is looking for an exit. I’ve been able to confirm that he’s applied for at least one job outside the organization.
To New Yorkers, Ed Sayres’ tenure will likely be best remembered for his opposition to meaningful shelter reform in New York City and New York State, his arrogance in the execution of a dog named Oreo after his organization used her to raise huge amounts of money, and for the ASPCA’s role in propping up the regressive and abusive New York City Animal Care and Control – although to be fair, when the ASPCA ran city animal control, they did a considerably worse job of it. His signature initiative at the ASPCA, “Mission: Orange”, promised to take cities in America to No Kill and failed miserably. In Austin, one of the first Mission: Orange cities, killing actually increased 11% in the year after the ASPCA initiated their program. It was only once local activists rebelled against the program, ejected the ASPCA-backed city shelter director and insisted on proven No Kill strategies that Austin did finally achieve No Kill status – without the help of the ASPCA, who obstructed progress at every opportunity. Indeed, his tenure has been marked by open hostility to progress in animal welfare nationwide and the promotion of policies designed to impede it.
So now we get to envision what the ASPCA might look like in a post-Sayres mode, and I like what I see. As the dinosaurs of animal welfare get out of the way it only leaves room for improvement, and the ASPCA has a lot to offer. They’re wealthy and well known, they’re politically influential, and they have some very solid programs and some knowledgable staff. They actually do run a (small) shelter in New York City and formerly ran New York City Animal Control for around a hundred years, so they have the benefit of real-world experience that is sadly missing at the HSUS. They provide significant spay/neuter resources in the New York City area, provide grants to animal welfare organizations, and have been very active in the fight against puppy mills. They also have a lot of bloat in the form of extraneous management and bureaucracy and a lack of focus – they have their fingers in so many pies at the moment that it’s hard to say exactly what the ASPCA’s mission is.
A new leader could change all that and could sharpen their focus, and if I may I’d like to suggest a central mission for an organization that seems to have lost sight of theirs.
The No Kill revolution is here. We’re now up to 28 communities in the US saving 90% or more community-wide [UPDATE 7/25/12: That number is now more than 40.], saving all of the healthy and treatable pets in their communities, and not a single one of them has had significant participation in that effort by the ASPCA. Not participating in this isn’t really an option: if the ASPCA wants to keep their donors long-term, they need to get on the right side of history before their donors turn to the small, mostly local organizations that have led the No Kill revolution, as I and others continually urge animal lovers to do.
The right leader – a progressive, forward thinking leader who truly embraces strategies proven in communities throughout the US to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals – could leverage the power and reach of the ASPCA to turbo-charge the No Kill movement in America.
This is the ASPCA I imagine – and indeed, if they’d like to still be here a hundred years from now and known throughout the world as the organization that ended animal homelessness in the United States, there is little other path for them to take but to wholeheartedly embrace, promote, and capitalize on the existing successes and growing expertise of the No Kill movement.
The search for a new President and CEO is probably a bit down the road, but as a lame duck Sayres’ influence will be on the wane within the ASPCA and the list of possible successors has likely begun to be drawn up. A No Kill leader with a proven track records of lifesaving, tremendous progressive vision, and keen organizational leadership skills could lead the A into a new era of astounding success.