‘No-Kill’ Policies Save Shelters’ Statistics—Not Animals

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5 min read

Security camera footage from an animal shelter in Fargo, South Dakota, captured a gut-wrenching scene earlier this year: A man in a red car threw a cat, and then another, out the driver’s-side door. Then he drove away—running over one of the cats, crushing the animal to death.

What the footage doesn’t show are the events that preceded this gruesome killing: The man had reportedly tried to surrender the cats at two different shelters. The first claimed it was full and turned the cats away. The second told him he would have to pay a $230 fee. The man reportedly could not afford that, became angry, and left with the cats. That’s when he took matters into his own hands.

The Statistics Shelters With ‘No-Kill’ Policies Never Share

An untold number of cats, dogs, and other animals endure painful, terrifying deaths like this because of “no-kill” shelter policies. The very facilities that should be safe havens for animals are making it difficult, even impossible, for people to surrender those they can’t or won’t care for by requiring them to make appointments weeks or months in advance, pay fees, or sign onto waiting lists—or by refusing to accept the animals at all.

These “no-kill” policies are designed to save only one thing: shelters’ “live release” statistics. By keeping animals out, facilities dodge the responsibility of caring for them and keep their euthanasia numbers low. Meanwhile, no one knows how many animals are turned away by shelters or how many of those rejected animals are neglected, abused, or violently killed.

Dog looks at camera from behind a cage wall

“No-kill” policies kill animals, but these deaths are rarely covered in the news. The following examples represent just a tiny fraction of those that have been reported. These agonizing deaths could have been avoided if the shelters contacted in these cases had been open-admission facilities—which accept all animals without fees, appointments, or other barriers.

  • Sunbright, Tennessee: A man admitted to throwing six puppies off a bridge onto a frozen lake. According to the arrest warrant, he had attempted to surrender them to several different shelters, all of which refused to accept them. Five of the puppies were “smashed and killed on impact” after being thrown from the bridge.
  • Augusta County, Virginia: A woman admitted to shooting a litter of six puppies to death and dumping their bodies over an embankment. According to testimony, the woman contacted two shelters, neither of which would take the puppies. She said she had become “angry and frustrated that even though she tried to do the right thing, she wasn’t able to find a place for the animals.”
  • Kingston, Pennsylvania: A man testified that he had strangled his ailing dog to death “as a last resort” after seeking help from several animal hospitals (which reportedly required cash upfront to see the dog) and an animal shelter. He claimed that the dog had stopped eating and was vomiting and experiencing severe diarrhea after eating dirty diapers. The dog reportedly vomited in a turn-away facility’s lobby, and workers there told the man to take the dog to a veterinary hospital, which he said he had no money to pay for. They allegedly threatened to call the police if he didn’t take the dog and leave.
  • Palmetto, Florida: Two people reportedly tried to surrender a 6-week-old kitten to a shelter but were told that surrenders were by appointment only. They abandoned the kitten in the shelter’s parking lot, where he was run over. He died days later.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: A man claimed that he couldn’t find an animal shelter to take his two cats, so he killed them with a sledgehammer. A neighbor reportedly saw the man beating one cat as the animal tried to crawl away, and police found a sledgehammer covered with blood and fur, as well as a trash bag containing a dead cat, on his porch.
  • Easton, Pennsylvania: After a woman’s two pit bulls reportedly attacked and killed a smaller dog, she called 911 and requested that the dogs be euthanized but was informed that there was a charge, which was more than she could afford. The woman allegedly enlisted two other people to “get rid” of the dogs. Their carcasses were later found on train tracks, dismembered at the midsection and neck. A necropsy revealed that they had been killed by blunt force trauma before they were left on the tracks to be hit by a train.
  • Juneau, Alaska: A man seeking euthanasia for his 10-year-old terminally ill cat went to a shelter for help because he couldn’t afford the $600 fee to have her euthanized at a veterinarian’s office. Workers at the shelter reportedly told him that they would only provide the dying animal with “hospice care,” but he felt it would just prolong her pain and suffering. He allegedly left with the cat, put her on the tailgate of his truck, placed a metal snow broom handle across her neck, and jumped up and down on it repeatedly, killing her when the handle pressed down on her neck vertebrae.
  • Cornelius, North Carolina: According to police, a woman was unable to find a shelter that would take her 14 cats, so she allegedly poisoned them, put them in a suitcase, and left them near a dumpster.
  • Santa Rosa, California: A mother and son allegedly strangled their cat to death with a leash because buying food for the cat was “a hassle” and the cat was urinating on laundry. They told police that an animal shelter had told them “there was a waiting list and a $150 fee to drop off the cat.”

Animals are at risk of horrific deaths like these when shelters put statistics above individual animals’ safety and well-being. For many animals, “no-kill” means not only “no help” but also certain—and cruel—death.

Please support only open-admission shelters and inform your friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, and everyone else you know about what “no-kill” policies really mean for vulnerable animals who rely on shelters for safety. Writing a letter to the editor is an effective way to spread the word that every community needs a shelter that accepts all animals in need—without restrictions or exceptions.

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