After seeing PETA’s shocking support of shelters that kill due to overpopulation of orphaned pets, one can only ask why? How can PETA possibly justify that choice? Is it enough to say that the cruelty of keeping them alive outweighs that of taking their lives? Let’s look at both sides of the argument and how we can help solve the problem no matter which side of the fence you take.
PETA’s defense lies in arguing that life in a shelter, caged up for years does far worse to an animal than the quick injection, based on stories of animals going insane, the fact that no kill shelters often turn animals away and/or ship them to a facility prepared to kill them.
PETA says, “In the best-case scenario, they will be taken to another facility that does euthanize animals. Some will be dumped by the roadside to die a far more gruesome and horrible death than an injection of sodium pentobarbital would provide. Although it is true that ‘no-kill’ shelters do not kill animals, this doesn’t mean that animals are saved. There simply aren’t enough good homes—or even enough cages—for them all.”
I can see PETA’s point here, given that according to the American Humane Society, eight million stray and unwanted animals are taken in by shelters across the US, and nearly half of those are euthanized because good homes cannot be found for them.
Although we know that nearly four million animals are euthanized each year, how often does an animal kept alive and housed in a cage go mad? Do we have more than an ex-employee’s account of a pit-bull thrashing around in a cage after 12 years? It turns out there isn’t a lot of information on this type occurrence, but we do know what makes a bad no-kill shelter. A shelter that ‘warehouses’ (putting the unwanted animal in a cage and not interacting with it for months or years) and overcrowds to the point spreading diseases is considered a bad no-kill shelter.
The Humane Society maintains that the term ‘no-kill’ is misleading and should instead be referred to as a ‘limited admission’ shelter. They seem to agree with PETA’s point that these types of shelters don’t help the problem of overpopulation and instead turn their backs on animals that need their help. No-kill shelters refuse to take those they don’t think they can adopt out (or adoptable pets if they don’t have enough space) and at best can try to help the person who brings them in find a better place to take them.
PETA goes on to say, “No one despises the ugly reality of euthanizing animals more than the people who hold the syringe, but euthanasia is often the most compassionate and dignified way for unwanted animals to leave the world.”
This just simply doesn’t cut it for PETA’s critics. They argue that a pro-kill shelter policy is outdated. No-kill shelters have gained momentum by being proactive about adoptions to increase rates as well as volunteer hours logged, and redistribute resources to prevent the spread of disease rather than treating it once it spreads. Death is not warranted if all of the options haven’t yet been exhausted.
So what can we do to avoid this problem from growing even more out of control? Increasing education on both spaying and neutering our pets, as well as the importance of adopting from shelters rather than buying from a breeder, should continue to be a priority in every animal lover’s life. In addition we can all encourage more people to volunteer at and donate to animal shelters.
It may seem like a small thing, but parents can teach their children the importance of responsible pet ownership to reduce the huge amount of owner relinquished strays because of impulsive decisions to buy or adopt a pet.
No matter where you stand in the argument for or against kill shelters, everyone needs to do their part to decrease animal suffering and make this world a better place for all sentient beings.
January 24 is Change a Pet’s Life Day in the US and this means most shelters (no-kill or otherwise) are decreasing adoption fees and providing extra incentives to adopt a new pet. But regardless of what country you live in, make a commitment to help in any way that you can. Volunteer at your local shelter, get the neighborhood stray spayed or neutered, and promise your pets a home forever.