Kill or No Kill shelters: how you can help

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.

 Cindy Romero is an animal rights activist and a volunteer at the Humane Society near her home in North Carolina. She has adopted four animals so far: a cat, two dogs, and a rabbit.

2 thoughts on “Kill or No Kill shelters: how you can help”

  1. I started volunteering at a no kill shelter. I question practices of theirs’. Whilst I like that they inist on walking dogs usually once a day and they keep their pens clean and temperature adjusted – these things I struggle with: not giving the dogs anything like a toy, a cong, and even a marrow bone or rind to chew on, instead leaving them with nothung but water and a bed to sleep on, for at least twenty two hours every day. Also, for keeping dogs in said conditions for up to three whole years! And also, for rejecting adopters of dogs, even when the dogs are big dogs who have been there for a year already, and when they are more than just careful but picky or self righteous even, in deciding who looks responsible – something that isn’t necessarily obvious even after interviewing the person.

    The reason they do not give a chew toy or bone is apparently because: these are “messy”. Another reason was because the dogs would get possessive over a bone. …to me, there have got to be ways around this. Even if it meant constructing a new area where a og could chew on a bone for a day once a week, if it is a long term stay dog. Include things like a tree and grass for it to have somewhere away from the barking dogs.

    Basically, I could only justify keeping animals for months if they had something more like what I describe. Otherwise, I believe that keepimg an animal for more than a few months in these conditions is cruel. I definetly could not agree on keeping an nimal in such conditions for more than two years, three years tops.

    It is cruel. I look at the people who run it in this way and they have a definite control freak, self righteous manner. They seem to believe that any life is preferable to death – and this is just narrowmindedness.

    People who work in such areas, whatever basically good intention they started with or meant to have, need to temper this with a mature acceptance that real sufferring exists and that it is horrible. They need to face and accept that things are not black and white. And, if they are too sensitive to accept euthanasia, then better quality of life than staying in a cage with no stimulation or interaction for almost the entire day and for a year or years is cruel. It also seems to be just adding to the sufferring rather than helping.

    There has to be some balance.

    Unfortunately these people are so tunnel visioned, so convinced that they are right and that anyone who disagrees is a monster -! …even the more open minded ones seem still to be missing an understanding of why a person would euthanise an unwanted animal.

    It is like the abortion debate ; full of people who are overwhelmed by their passionate emotions and don’t stay open to choosing a different option, or seeing why others would choose it.

    Taming animals meant that now a lot are dependent on us. We have a mess now, not helped by all the people who aren’t thoughtful or considerate enough about animals, and those who exploit them by breeding them for money.

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