HSUS has a pdf for shelters titled “Selecting Animals for Euthanasia”. It details 4 pages worth of guidelines. Let me repeat that: Four pages of guidelines on selecting shelter pets for death. On the plus side, I found a sentiment I can support:
Although euthanasia decisions should never be completely without subjective opinions and the ability to make choices based on individual animals, written guidelines provide some parameters for employees to work within.
As for minuses, there are many. HSUS lists the following as factors in euthanasia consideration:
Animals who are very young when they arrive at a shelter may not receive much needed developmental experiences and may not have the ability to fight off diseases that can exist in a multi-animal environment like a shelter.
So maybe it would be best to kill them? Alternate plan: shelter foster program.
For liability as well as ethical reasons, most animal shelters euthanize any animal who exhibits aggressive or dangerous behavior.
Aggressive behavior as determined by whom – the people doing the killing? Alternate plan: Attempt to retrain the pet under the guidance of a qualified individual or seek a sanctuary appropriate for long term care.
Non-aggressive behaviors, such as fearful actions or demeanor, destructiveness, or housetraining difficulties, can be a barrier to an animal staying in a lifelong home. These behaviors should be diagnosed to determine severity and should be discussed with potential adopters if an attempt is made to place the animal. There is no benefit to adopting out an animal who will just be returned to the shelter or resigned to a worse fate (i.e. a cat put outside because he doesn’t use the litterbox).
A cat who isn’t consistently using his litterbox in his cage at the shelter might be better off dead? Alternate plan: Place the pet up for adoption, offer litterbox counseling and ongoing support. Cat owners are pretty capable and so are cats. Maybe we could give everyone the benefit of a doubt before we start killing.
When determining adoption or euthanasia policies regarding certain breeds, it is important to evaluate your community for dogfighting-related activity and to ascertain which types of animals or breeds may be at risk for involvement.
The shelter staff is supposed to evaluate their community for “dogfighting-related activity” and decide if certain “types of animals or breeds” should be killed based upon this? I’m not at all sure shelter staff is qualified to make this type of assessment of their community. I suppose the potential for activity related to dogfighting (which is what, exactly?) might arguably exist in any community. How is that a justification for killing certain dogs? Alternate plan: Screen adopters appropriately and provide follow up support.
Animals who have been ordered for euthanasia at the direction of a judge, hearing officer, or other public official with such authority. [Euthanasia] is performed to comply with this ruling.
They left out the part about how the HSUS has historically wielded all possible influence to obtain those court orders for killing in the case of dogfighting seizures. Alternate plan: Use your powers for good, not evil.
Animals who are extremely shy, timid, high-strung, stressed, or distressed. [Euthanasia] is generally necessary due to an unlikely chance for successful adoption and/or adjustment into a new home.
Many pets in shelters are understandably stressed and not exhibiting their normal behavior. So it might be “necessary” to kill them instead of adopting them out and giving them a chance to live a normal life in a home? Seriously? Alternate plan: Get these pets into homes with normal people.
These guidelines indicate a 1999 copyright. Time for an update perhaps?
I am thankful for the option of euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets. Killing healthy/treatable pets in shelters is not euthanasia to me. It’s just killing. And it can’t be rationalized, justified or guidelined – no matter how many pages HSUS devotes to it.
We are a no kill nation of pet owners who want shelter pets to be given every reasonable chance at adoption. We are the real humane society. Join us.
Update, 7-21-09: I received a tweet yesterday from someone apparently affiliated with HSUS thanking me for bringing this doc to their attention and stating it was outdated and they removed it. They haven’t removed it as of this morning. I requested a link to the current version of the doc but haven’t received a reply. Will update if any response is received.