I support the movement to end the killing of healthy, adoptable animals in worldwide shelters. Really, I don’t know who wouldn’t support that idea.
But unfortunately there is opposition to the idea of no kill. This is probably due to some misunderstandings of what no kill really means.
Kill vs. euthanize
In order to understand “no kill” we need to address “kill” vs. “euthanize.” They are two separate things and should not be used interchangeably.
Those who support the no-kill movement believe in euthanizing animals that are truly suffering due to certain illnesses or injuries. Euthaniasia is an act of mercy. My golden retriever Brittni was euthanized because an autoimmune disease was destroying her body. Ending her suffering was an act of kindness.
Killing a healthy, energetic German shepherd because of a “lack of homes” or a “lack of space” is not an act of mercy. It is killing, and it is wrong.
Killing motherless kittens is not “euthanasia.” Killing a pitbull for being a pitbull is not euthanasia. Killing a senior Lab because she’s old is not euthanasia. Killing a cat with ringworm (a treatable fungus) is not euthanasia.
Killing is not kindness. It is not an act of mercy.
“But let’s face it, there aren’t enough homes.”
The most common opposition I hear to no kill goes something like, “But how can we save them all when there aren’t enough homes? How can we save them all when people keep breeding more dogs?”
Those are difficult questions, but in reality there are far more available homes in the United States than there are homeless pets. And I’m not talking about homes in general. I’m talking about 17 million U.S. households that will obtain a new dog or cat this year but are undecided about where they will obtain that pet, according to a study by the Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund. Meanwhile, 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are killed annually in U.S. shelters.
The demand is higher than the supply, which is why pet overpopulation is a myth. It is used as an excuse to kill healthy animals.
We can save them all, with the exception of a small percentage of dogs and cats that are truly suffering and should be euthanized as well as a small percentage of dogs that are truly dangerous and should be killed for the safety of humans.
“But living in a kennel for months or years is no life for a dog.”
No kill is not about housing dogs in kennels for months or years. No kill is more than ending the killing. It is equally important to increase adoptions so dogs can leave the shelter alive – and quickly.
How do we do even better?
There are two important steps:
1. Believing no kill is possible.
When you make the decision “My shelter is not going to kill any more pets,” you can make it happen. People are extremely creative and resourceful. If we put our minds to it, we can accomplish nearly anything. Plus, when we need ideas (and who doesn’t?) there are 233 U.S. communities who have done it and would be glad to share their advice on how a city can become no kill.
2. Absorbing the blame.
I’m pretty good at blaming the shelters for killing pets, but it’s not fair to place the blame on one organization or one person. Sure, I can pat myself on the back because my little rescue group has not killed any animals (do any rescue groups kill animals?), but if the shelter a mile away is still killing dogs and cats than I am also at fault. It’s a community’s responsibility as a whole to save the animals.
For example, if a shelter director is not compassionate, then it’s the community’s job to get her out of there. If the local government doesn’t care, then it’s the community’s job to stand up and make some changes. If the community members don’t seem to care, then it’s the shelter workers and rescue groups that need to go out into local neighborhoods and business areas and find a way to reach them.
If a community is killing animals, everyone is to blame. No kill is more than just maintaining a tiny, closed-admission “no-kill” shelter. It involves expanding the idea of community to include an entire county, an entire state, region, country and eventually the world.
What are some ways your community is working to achieve no kill?
Sign up to receive additional content in my bi-weekly newsletter: