When a man in Juneau, Alaska, couldn’t afford the cost of euthanizing his sick cat at a veterinarian’s office, the vet referred him to the local humane society. But the shelter reportedly refused to euthanize the cat and instead offered to provide “hospice care.” So the man, who said he didn’t want to prolong her suffering, took matters into his own hands—literally—and allegedly attempted to kill her with a broom handle in the humane society’s parking lot. Staffers witnessed the assault and called the police. The mortally injured cat was rushed to a veterinary clinic, where she died. The man is not being charged with cruelty because prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence of a crime and because the man allegedly believed he was trying to kill his terminally ill cat humanely, since the humane society refused to do so.
What this man did was undoubtedly cruel, but shelters must shoulder a portion of the blame when they turn away animals in need and/or refuse to offer free euthanasia services for suffering, terminally ill, or elderly animals at the end of their lives. When shelters refuse to accept unwanted animals or provide euthanasia services, these animals often meet cruel, painful fates, including being beaten, drowned, shot, or dumped on the streets.
Here are just a few other horror stories involving “turn away” shelters:
- Earlier this month, five 1-week-old kittens miraculously escaped drowning when they were found in a weighted box that had gotten snagged in a tree after it was apparently thrown down an embankment next to a river in Lockeport, Nova Scotia. The local animal shelter has previously reported having a “severe wait list” of more than 1,000 cats and has said that “staggeringly high” numbers of animals are being abandoned across the province.
- In June, workers at a self-professed “no-kill” animal shelter in Bay Minette, Alabama, saw a man repeatedly punch a dog “hard enough to where she was screaming and squealing” after they refused to admit her. The shelter then accepted the dog and decided not to pursue charges against the owner for fear of retaliation.
- A cat and kitten were abandoned in a zippered travel bag at the limited-admission Franklin County Animal Shelter in Maine in February. The facility doesn’t accept most animals and charges a fee for those it does take in.
- A North Carolina woman was charged with cruelty to animals after allegedly poisoning 14 cats and then stuffing their bodies inside a suitcase, which was left near a dumpster. The woman said she killed the cats after a “no-kill” shelter had refused to accept them.
Animal abuse, homelessness, and abandonment are at crisis levels, and shelters’ refusal to provide animals in need with sheltering and euthanasia services only worsens it. Every community needs a safe haven that accepts every sick, unwanted, lost, and homeless animal without restrictions, fees, or waiting lists. Without it, the animals pay dearly.
What You Can Do
Urge your veterinarian to set up a charitable fund for indigent clients who cannot afford to care for their animals and to offer discounts to low-income animal guardians. Support shelters that are true refuges that keep their doors open to every animal. Urge your local shelter to accept all animals, including those who are sick, elderly, and “unadoptable” and whose guardians can’t afford euthanasia at a veterinary clinic. This is an invaluable service that may skew shelters’ “saved” statistics, but animals are more than numbers on a page. They are individuals in need of individual care, and misguided “no-kill” policies that encourage shelters to help only “cute,” young, adoptable animals are contrary to shelters’ mission to help the neediest. Educate friends and family about why open-admission shelters deserve their support.