‘No-Kill’ or ‘No Admission’? Limited-Intake Shelter Policies Implode

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4 min read

Across the country, headlines like these are making the news:

They’re exposing an alarmingly common scenario in which animals are being rejected, hoarded, neglected, and failed in countless other ways by the very facilities that should be protecting them, including public, taxpayer-funded animal shelters. The reason this is happening may surprise you: “no-kill” policies.

A cascade of disasters inevitably results when shelters implement dangerous “life at any cost” policies. PETA maintains a long, chilling, and ever-growing list of news reports that detail how animals suffer when shelters prioritize “live-release rates” (the number of animals they can move out of their doors, regardless of what happens them) over the well-being of individuals.

Here are just a few recent examples of how animals suffer when public, taxpayer-funded animal shelters prioritize “no-kill” status above protecting those who depend on them:

  • Broward County Animal Care and Adoption in Florida reportedly refused to help a “mortally injured dog with wounds infested with flies and maggots” and allegedly left a pit bull on the streets for four days after the animal fatally mauled a small dog who was being walked on a leash. (In 2012, county officials “voted to become a ‘no-kill’ community.”)
  • A dog who had been confined to a kennel at a Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) shelter for over a year and reportedly hadn’t been walked in nearly a month attacked and severely injured a volunteer when she tried to take him out of the kennel. He was later euthanized. LAAS has been exposed for warehousing dogs for months with no walks, forcing animals to live in filthy cages and drink from moldy water bowls, and turning away animals. (In 2021, the city shelters reportedly “officially achieved ‘no-kill’ status.”)
  • The Animal Foundation (TAF) in Nevada routinely transfers hundreds of animals to self-professed “rescue” groups that often warehouse them, sometimes for years, at area boarding kennels. In September, it was reported that one of these dogs, Beast, was confined to a small room with a concrete floor and a sand pit on which he slept and relieved himself. The window to this room was smeared with feces. According to volunteers, Beast was “distraught from isolation and yearning for contact.” When a Las Vegas City Council member made an unannounced visit to TAF recently, she saw “horrible” conditions, including dogs in filthy cages, feces mixed in with dogs’ food, and dogs with no food or water. (In 2015, TAF, which has contracts to provide Clark County and Las Vegas with animal sheltering services, announced a plan to become “no-kill” by 2020.)
  • A TikTok video was posted that showed hundreds of barking dogs warehoused in cramped crates at Austin Animal Center in Texas. After the video went viral, the facility stopped accepting animals. One staffer said the dogs were caged for “23+ hours a day,” and a volunteer stated that dogs were “unfed, without water, and left to lay in their own waste in a small crate for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.” The city has also warehoused, placed, or transferred dangerous dogs, including one who had a history of biting and had attacked a shelter employee who then needed to be hospitalized. Residents’ beloved animal companions have also been mauled, fatally in at least one case, by aggressive dogs released from the public shelter. (The city of Austin claimed it had become “no-kill” in 2011.)

There are hundreds more cases like these, from all over the country, affecting an untold number of animals.

In 2019, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association spoke out against misguided “no-kill” policies: “The no-kill movement increases animal suffering and threatens public health with unintended consequences.”

After experiencing these harmful consequences firsthand, some communities have realized that, as PETA has long said, “no-kill” means no help for animals. They’re taking action to rescind inhumane and dangerous “no-kill” policies and choosing instead to implement safe, humane, open-door animal sheltering practices. That’s great news for animals and communities.

  • Sumter County, Florida, commissioners recently agreed that the county’s attempt to become “no-kill” has been a failure. The county animal shelter was reportedly at triple its maximum capacity, and at least 13 people had been bitten. Animals were being caged for years, including a dog named Noah who had been confined for 530 days. “In our efforts to be humane, we’ve not been,” one commissioner observed. The shelter will now adopt socially conscious sheltering—a humane, responsible model that puts the focus on animals’ quality of life instead of on numbers.
  • Big Spring, Texas, council members also recently voted to repeal a resolution that would have established a “no-kill” policy at the public animal shelter, because the shelter was operating over capacity and residents of the city were being attacked by stray dogs.

Communities must ensure that their publicly funded shelters remain safe havens for animals in need by accepting every animal, including those who require euthanasia. Shelters must protect community residents, including animals, by never releasing those who are dangerous or dumping cats outdoors to struggle for survival and terrorize and kill wildlife. And shelters must put animals’ best interests first, including by giving a peaceful end to those who would otherwise suffer and die miserably.

PETA implores everyone who cares to make a real difference by pouring their efforts into preventing animals from ending up homeless in the first place. Let’s work to pass and enforce mandatory spay/neuter laws, make low-cost spay/neuter options available everywhere, and inform the public about why becoming “no-birth” is the only humane way to become “no-kill.”

Learn more about how you can help here.

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