‘No-Kill’ Pits Shelter Against Shelter—and Animals Lose

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3 min read

I recently received a letter from the Wyandot County Humane Society, a shelter in Ohio that accepts all animals regardless of their condition—including the ones “no-kill” shelters reject, put on a waiting list, or charge a fee to accept. Recently, they got a call from a woman who found a box of kittens. Her local shelter said it couldn’t take them because it was full—the usual refrain at shelters striving for “no-kill” status—and told her to call Wyandot Humane instead.

But the woman explained that she didn’t have the gas money for the two-hour round trip. What was the “no-kill” shelter’s solution? Just leave the kittens outside, they said—there was nothing they could do. Wyandot Humane arranged to meet the woman halfway and pick up the kittens.

“Could we guarantee none of them would be euthanized? No,” the shelter’s directors wrote. “But we could definitely guarantee they would have all the food they want, a warm safe place to be, toys and petting and blankets, and if necessary, a humane euthanasia in the arms of highly trained and skilled professionals who really care about the animals.”

We hear similar stories from shelters across the U.S. that are left to clean up the wreckage caused by the “life at any cost” mentality. PETA works to stop the killing of all animals, for food, clothing, experimentation and more, but we can’t—and won’t—turn our backs on dogs and cats in danger of being tossed out or whose owners can’t afford costly euthanasia services. To us, the choice is obvious. A humane death is better than a slow and painful one.

Many shelters have thanked us for accepting every animal—including elderly, ill and badly injured ones who need a peaceful end to their suffering—even if doing so is unpopular and often mischaracterized or misunderstood.

Jolene was one of those animals. A family in Portsmouth, Virginia, acquired the dog from Craigslist on Christmas Eve 2014 and soon discovered why she had been given away: She was so aggressive that they couldn’t even feed her or let her out of the crate that she had been put in. The family called one local agency, which said that it couldn’t help. Another shelter told them that they had “made a bad decision” and would have to figure out what to do themselves.

Finally, they called PETA. We accepted this terrified dog—she was indeed stunningly aggressive—and did what needed to be done. But what would have become of her if we hadn’t?

“The entire concept of the ‘no-kill’ movement is a fallacy,” Wyandot Humane writes. “While a particular shelter may turn animals away in order to call themselves no-kill, those animals will likely die—and badly—dumped on the road or given away to just anyone. … We cannot understand how any organization can call themselves ‘humane’ and still turn away desperate people with desperate animals with no place to go.”

This problem is everywhere. In Odessa, Texas, seven puppies were found locked in a cage at a landfill without food or water. The local “no-kill” shelter had refused them entry. “We turn (animals) down every day, all day long because there’s no way we could handle all of them,” the shelter director explained. The same week, five more puppies were found in a crate next to a dumpster.

Pretending problems don’t exist hurts animals much more than a peaceful death does. The president of the board of directors of a Wisconsin shelter told us, “(T)he cat population in this area is horrendous and we are the only open admissions shelter within a 100-mile radius. We just took in 3-week-old kittens this weekend from another county where the neighbors’ idea of population control is to throw them in the dumpster. The Humane Society in that county said they couldn’t help. So … here we are … yet again, euthanizing someone else’s problem.”

So what can be done? Perhaps a shelter director in California has the right idea: “(G)et the message out about the need to spay and neuter and reduce the animal population.”

Yes, and stop glorifying “no-kill” policies until there is no longer a need to euthanize. Until then, no animal should have to suffer and die in pain simply because of wishful thinking.

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