Shelter Killing: Cruel to be Kind?

Nathan Winograd talks about one of the hurdles for No Kill: burned out rescuers who have witnessed so much animal abuse they come to feel that death is a kind and sensible option for the victims:

What makes this point of view especially disturbing is the illogical leap it causes people to make from a false assumption (animals are suffering in overwhelming numbers) to a violent conclusion: the idea that mass killing is acceptable, indeed desirable. Because even if the first assumption were true (it is not), the conclusion simply does not follow. There are many, many possibilities in between to combat it—education, adoption, redemption, sanctuary, rescue, rehabilitation—that are ignored simply because the notion that killing is the “logical” outcome has dominated the sheltering dialogue for so long and so completely. It is regarded as acceptable and inevitable even though it the most extreme, unnecessary, and inhumane of many possible responses.
In the end, their argument comes down to the false notion that there are fates worse than death. And, sadly, too many people who in rescue work have adopted this point of view, even though it is patently false on its face, all the more because it incorrectly assumes there are only two choices available: killing at the pound or killing at the hands of abusers or on the streets. Working hard to end the scourge of abuse and neglect—and to punish the abusers—is not mutually exclusive with saving the lives of the innocent victims. In fact, the moral imperative to do one goes hand in hand with the other.
No one is suggesting that shelters leave animals to their abusers or that we adopt animals out to them. Everyone agrees that abuse is terrible and something no animal should be made or allowed to endure. Of course, they must be rescued from these horrible fates. But once rescued and taken into protective care from former abusers, the question becomes do we find them homes, or do we allow them to become victims yet again by killing them? Why the leap to arguing that because they experienced abuse in the past, they should be killed now? Or that all the other animals entering shelters should be killed? It’s illogical.

Thank you Nathan for writing on this important topic. I reiterate my position on euthanasia: it should be performed by a Veterinarian using the gentlest method modern medicine allows to end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet. Killing unevaluated, abused dogs seized in dogfighting cases makes a mockery of the idea of “rescue”. Killing unevaluated shelter pets to make space for more unevaluated pets who will be scheduled for killing shortly thereafter is a cruel cycle of insanity.

A recent news story hits close to home. The Lee Co animal shelter in SC has space for 35 dogs. The shelter has killed 100 dogs in the past 30 days. They are asking for food donations. How many in the community will be eager to come forward and offer support knowing that the food they donate will likely be a last meal for a dog on death row? I see a missed opportunity for community involvement had the shelter called in the media to appeal for food and homes while those 100 dogs were still alive. To my mind, people are much more likely to pitch in when the goal is to save pets. Even now, while making an appeal for donations, the shelter could and should make public a commitment to rehome the pets in their care, not to perpetuate the cycle of killing for space.

We all get burned out but killing is never the solution. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. No one can do everything, but each of us can do a little something. Find your nearest no kill shelter here.

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