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As impossible as it may seem, an estimated 3-4 million dogs and cats were killed in American animal shelters over the course of 2004, a rate of one death every nine seconds. Recently, in an effort to save lives and reduce that number for 2005, two former shelter workers named Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer announced the “Every Nine Seconds” campaign, being co-ordinated through their volunteer-run nonprofit, “No Voice Unheard”.

Authors of an award-winning book entitled “One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter”, the book that has already had a major impact on readers. It looks at what happens to 75 animals in one American shelter over the course of a week. The book pulls no punches in telling the true, heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories of animals who did and did not make it out alive. Each story is accompanied by unflinching images, including barrels full of euthanized animals and, Kelly, a dog staring at the camera as she sits and receives an injection that ends her life. The book also provides inspiring images and stories of animals rescued and given a chance to be wonderful companions.

The campaign is focusing on “Nine of the Neediest Cities,” American cities with some of the nation’s highest rates of shelter euthanasia. The cities include: Tampa, FL; Tuscaloosa, AL; Bakersfield, CA; San Antonio, TX; Chattanooga, TN; Charleston, SC; Amarillo, TX; Gulfport, MS; and Fresno, CA. For example, in 2002, 80 animals were killed for every 1,000 residents of Fresno, CA, compared with just 2.5 animals per 1,000 people in San Francisco.

“The shelters in these nine cities are dealing with thousands upon thousands of homeless animals, and they need the help of their communities,” said Geyer. “Residents of each city play a critical role in their animal shelter populations, and we hope “Every Nine Seconds” helps all shelters educate the public on responsible animal care and help promote shelter adoptions.”

The campaign calls for people to write in (online or off) about an animal who has influenced their lives. “No Voice Unheard” will then donate a copy of the book to a shelter in honor of that animal. Elected officials such as Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), “Bloom County” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, have already signed on to “adopt” shelters in their area. Now, Leigh and Geyer are asking everyday Americans to help them achieve this goal by “adopting” a shelter in their community.

“We have been surprised and touched that shelter ‘adoptions’ are already pouring in,” said Geyer. “Some are on behalf of a dog adopted from a shelter, others are in memory of a former companion animal who touched someone’s life. The stories of these animals’ lives remind us of the individual animals at risk in these shelters, putting a real face on a problem with incomprehensible statistics.”

Dozens of readers and shelters have written the authors to express how the book changed their thinking about this issue and how they are using the book to educate others. Like a woman in Louisville, Kentucky who left her high-paying sales job to spay and neuter animals in veterinary clinics. Or a school teacher in Florida, whose students, after reading the book in class, raised money for a local humane society. Or a landlord who realized that changing her policy to allow pets in the building could mean preventing an animal from being given up to the shelter.

Each year, approximately 6-8 million dogs and cats end up in 4,000-6,000 shelters throughout the US. About half of those (3-4 million, one every nine seconds) are euthanized – the leading cause of death for healthy animals.

“In human terms, this is proportional to losing the entire human population of Los Angeles every year,” said Leigh. “Wonderful, precious animals are dying in animal shelters every day. The problems behind these shelter numbers are preventable, and the solutions are in all of our hands. How we treat the helpless among us says everything about who we are – surely we can do better than this for these innocent creatures.”

Leigh and Geyer provide numerous tips on their Web site about how to reduce shelter populations. For more information on the “Every Nine Seconds” campaign or to “adopt” a shelter, visit:

About No Voice Unheard

No Voice Unheard is a tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded by the authors of “One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter”. The group has no paid staff, carrying out its work with a small group of dedicated volunteers who have come together out of a deep love of and respect for animals, and who believe in the potential of “One at a Time” to help bring about a better world for animals. / Issue 54 - September 2018
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