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My Hard Lesson About ‘No Kill’

Written by PETA | January 4, 2012

I volunteered at a “no kill” cat shelter before coming to PETA. There, I saw firsthand why “no kill” policies do not work. The cats at the shelter were confined to small cages, and many had been there for years, including one poor 11-year-old girl who had been caged since kittenhood.

PETA’s Community Animal Project freed this feral cat from her suffering, who had been dragging herself along the street with a broken leg. 

This shelter even caged feral cats—which is as cruel as keeping a squirrel or a raccoon in a cage. One cat, Ginger, haunts me to this day. Terrified of humans, she cowered in her litterbox 24/7, never playing or showing any sign of happiness. The only time that she ever left her litterbox was to hiss and spit at people who came near her cage. Is this a worthwhile life for any animal?

During my time there, the shelter received dozens of calls each day from people who wanted to surrender their cats, but shelter workers never said “Yes” to a single person. It was always full. I can’t count the number of calls that ended with some variation of, “Well, if you can’t help me, I’m just going to turn him loose.” An outdoor life is no life for a cat. Cats outside are at risk for disease, abuse, being hit by cars, and worse. And other people simply dumped cats on the shelter’s doorstep. One person stuffed 13 cats into two carriers and took off.

This is why, instead of “no kill,” I refer to these shelters as “limited admission.” It’s much more accurate, and it doesn’t demonize open-admission shelters, which have the Herculean task of taking in all animals, no matter how old, sick, aggressive, injured, or otherwise unadoptable they may be, even when it would be easier to simply turn them away.


Written by Sarah Preston, intake manager for PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department

Commenting is closed.
  • Lorna Keith says:

    I worked at a shelter for 2 years. When I was hired it was “Low-kill”, only injured or dangerous and unadoptable dogs were euthanized. When I left, there were 4 to 5 dogs being euthanized each Wednesday, because the cremation folks came on Thursday and that was as much as we could fit in the chest freezer. The only real answer is educating people about altering their animals. Money should be directed to low-cost/free spay and neutering and vacination clinics. The other heartbreak was watching unvaccinated litters of puppies come in with parvo virus, which in some areas, was endemic in the soil of the area. The pups that tested positive would have to be immediately euthanized because this virus spreads like wildfire and there is nothing more heart-wrenching than watching a puppy waste away and die of severe pain from having this terrible illness.

  • Katie says:

    The shelter here at our city is a no-kill shelter (as long as the animals are healthy anyway) and the cats and dogs have rooms where they live, not cages. People are also allowed inside to meet and pet the animals too.

  • Tyler says:

    Both of them are bad; I see the point in holding them in small cages, Then killing them if they don’t get adopted in a few days/weeks. But it’s not much worse to hold them is tiny cages till they die. The first way they have a bad life and and horrible death, The later dooms them to a horrible life and a bad death.

  • JT says:

    I agree completely. A humane death is far preferable to imprisonment for years on end. It applies to spending thousands of dollars on vet care for a seriously ill animal as well. Set them free and use that money to save healthy animals. I hope this view gets spread far and wide.

  • Matt says:

    Or you could leave feral cats where they belong… outside.

  • Irene Leggett says:

    Have very, very sad. Some of the ‘no-kill’ shelters appear to put any life above an adopted, healthy, caring, loving life; and some of these shelters are probably just one step beyond a hoarding situation.

  • robin says:

    How can people help?

  • Christine says:

    I agree that most “nokill” shelters are horrible, but some are fabulous. I work at a no kill shelter for cats and they run fun in the building and rooms. I was very skeptical when I first enter the building but I signed the paperwork to start working there. It is true some of these animals may never find their forever home, but they are well loved and free to do what they want. Not all no-kill shelters are horrible.

  • ilovecats says:

    There is a simple solution to this. Get your cat desexed.

  • adruid53 says:

    Thank you for the public education.People who have tried to do rescue and not ever euthanize are fighting an unwinnable fight.

  • Christina says:

    But they ARE killing them. They’re killing their spirits, their trust, their senses….. Yes, they’re killing them….only in the most slow painful way possible. They’ve basically turned into CAFOS. Only, the difference between pets and livestock here is that the livestock are actually, eventually, put out of their misery, not left forever that way.

  • kristine says:

    It is torment to keep feral cats in a cage. Hey, any cats. That’s not a life. There is a no-kill “rescue” in our town where they keep cats in cages that allow only about 4 steps, stacked two high, and you can see them cower from the barking sounds of the dogs in the next room which is very, very loud. This is not acceptable. Rescue has to mean better, not just alive but scared, depressed. I now think of “no kill” as a religious anti-death cult, not rescue. They can’t see the forest for the trees, as my father says.

  • maryannpdx says:

    I agree with this article. It is so true that ‘no kill’ shelters often limit their admissions with prohibitively long waits for admissions.

  • Christine says:

    this article has really oped my eyes. i always thought that “no kill” was simply the best for means of being humane.