Written by PETA
In college, I volunteered at a small animal shelter in Ohio. I never thought much about the shelter's policies. Only later did I realize how much suffering its limited-admission policy caused. All "no kill" animal shelters—big or small—are limited-admission facilities.
The dogs no one wanted sat for years (yes, years) in solitary concrete and metal cages. The only bright spot in their day was when a volunteer would walk them for 15 minutes and give them a bit of time to wander in a dirt pen outdoors. Otherwise, they spent their days and nights confined to cages. On weekends, when everyone else was in the park or at the movies … on holidays, when everyone else was with their families and opening presents … 365 days a year, they sat in a cage. Occasionally, a puppy would be brought in and quickly adopted, but many of the older, bigger dogs sat hopelessly month after month.
I befriended a dog named Tigger, who probably weighed 80 pounds, was very cute, and had a wonderful personality. He was one of the sweetest dogs. (I suspect that he wasn't adopted because of his size, because he was a mutt, and because he didn't look like a dog you'd see in a magazine. I would have adopted him without hesitation, but animals weren't allowed in my dorm.) It broke my heart to leave him after our walks because I could see how lonely he was and how our walks were all that he looked forward to each day.
Looking back, I think of all the Tiggers languishing in limited-admission shelters and all the animals who are turned away from those shelters only to suffer on the streets or in abusive households. I wonder why people think those fates are preferable to giving animals a chance to be adopted at an open-admission shelter and, if no home can be found, a peaceful, dignified, painless exit in a loving person's arms. I sympathize with the folks who run limited-admission shelters—as I saw, many of them really do care about animals. But they often have such a fanatical fear of euthanasia that they will let an animal's spirit die for lack of joy or love or a home, just to keep them breathing for breathing's sake. The limited-admission model has proved over and over again that it isn't the answer—it's just sweeping the problem under the rug.
I have so much gratitude for people who work in open-admission shelters and have the thankless task of having to euthanize the animals they have fed, walked, cared for, and loved while constantly dealing with the question "Why aren't you 'no kill'?" We all need to speak out in support of shelters that accept every animal in need and support aggressive spay-and-neuter and "adopt—don't buy" campaigns. And next time you are chatting with staffers or volunteers at an open-admission shelter, thank them for their courage and compassion.
Written by Chris Holbein, associate director of special projects
Before coming to PETA, I worked at a small animal shelter in
rural South Carolina, where I saw firsthand why it's crucial for shelters to
accept every animal in need instead of turning animals away, as most so-called "no-kill" shelters
One day, a man showed up with a carrier containing a mother
cat and five kittens. They were bony, greasy, and crawling with fleas. "This
is the best cat in the world," the man said. "This is her 18th
litter of kittens!" I had to practically bite off my tongue to avoid
bluntly informing him of how badly he'd contributed to the animal overpopulation and homelessness
Instead, I politely accepted the cats and told him we'd sterilize his animals
for free if he got any more.
Another time, a woman walked up carrying an old flour bag and
a fruit bag, both of which were knotted shut. The bags contained terrified, unsocialized cats.
"These cats are taking over—you gotta take 'em," she said. On another
occasion, we were called out to pick up nine newborn puppies who were still
nursing off their dead mother's body under the house where their owners lived.
And I will never forget the day that a large, rough-looking
man raced up in an old truck with an elderly dog in the back. I met him outside
with a give-up form, waiting to hear his excuse. Instead, I got a rare glimpse
of kindness: The dog wasn't his. He'd found her looking ill by some train tracks,
carried her to his truck, and sped to the shelter for help.
An examination revealed that she was suffering badly, possibly
from congestive heart failure, and I explained that the best I could give her
was a peaceful passing.
The man agreed and insisted on staying while I wrapped the dog in a towel, carried
her gently to an exam table, kissed her head, and gave her a lethal injection
to end her suffering. If not for him, this poor angel would have surely died
slowly and in agony.
Whenever I hear "no-kill" propaganda,
I think of all the animals we helped at that open-admission shelter. Turning them
away would have meant their suffering and certain, painful deaths, and caging them indefinitely
is never a humane option. Some are too broken, too old, or just plain unwanted
and will not be adopted. Euthanasia was and remains a mercy for many animals,
although it breaks the hearts of those who choose to provide this kindness. What
gives me hope is that spaying
can drastically reduce the number of animals who end up homeless. Please, if
you haven't already, have your animals sterilized as soon as possible—and urge
everyone you know to do so as well.
Written by Teresa
Chagrin, PETA's animal care & control specialist
As someone who has spent years volunteering at a wonderful open-admission animal shelter, it breaks my heart when people use the term "kill shelters" to refer to shelters that accept every needy animal—no matter how beat up, old, ill, or behaviorally unsound they are—and that have no choice but to give some animals a painless, dignified release through euthanasia.
This mean-spirited, misleading label is a slap in the face to the brave people who pour their hearts and souls into helping animals at open-admission shelters. I wish that those who use this term could spend a day at the receiving desk of their local full-service shelter so that they could see firsthand how badly we need open-door shelters. A steady flow of people arrive with battered, broken animals of all shapes, sizes, and species: "We call her Matty because she's full of mats," said one person who was surrendering a dog whose matted fur was infested with maggots. Matty's family was getting rid of her because they wanted a puppy.
Other reasons people have given for taking animals to the shelter include "He's sick, and I can't afford to take him to the vet," "He's chewing up everything, and my dad said he's gonna shoot him," "She's just old," "He was great as a puppy, but now he's just too big," "We just have too many animals," "They have been hanging around the house, and we don't want them," "Someone dumped them at my house," and "We're moving."
Nearly everyone leaves the shelter saying the same thing: "You won't kill him, will you?" What else can shelters do when they have a limited number of cages and an unlimited number of needy animals pouring through their doors? There is no huge farm for unwanted animals—a fantasy that many people's parents told them existed when their childhood animal friends were brought to open-admission shelters—and shelters don't have a magic wand that they can wave to create loving homes.
This name-calling hurts animals because it scares people away from surrendering animals to reputable shelters. It misleads people into thinking that taking cats and dogs to facilities that don't euthanize is the right thing to do, but animals at these places often suffer fates worse than death. These facilities are always full and have long waiting lists to accept animals, which results in people dumping animals to die on the streets, giving them away on Craigslist (a magnet for animal abusers), or abandoning them to starve in empty homes and yards after they move away.
There is no such thing as "high-kill," "low-kill," or anything in between when it comes to shelters. There are only open-admission shelters—those that provide refuge to every animal and must euthanize to ensure that their doors remain open to more needy animals—and limited-admission shelters—those that pick and choose only the cutest, youngest, and most adoptable animals and turn away everyone else.
For the sake of animals and the people who have devoted their lives to helping them, let's stop the name-calling and support shelters that are committed to doing what's best for animals— even when that's the hardest thing to do.
Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post
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