Shelter Pets – What’s Your Goal?

This is a continuation of the discussion in the following posts on KC Dog Blog and One Bark at a Time:

No Kill Communities vs No Kill Shelters — and why confusing the two endangers the movement

No-kill: it can’t be impossible if someone’s already doing it

I want to live in a no kill nation.

Sounds like a simple enough statement. But of course it isn’t because – it seems like lately anyway – nothing is.

To achieve a no kill nation, we would need the cooperation of every community in the country. These will include such diverse groups as Animal Control outfits who routinely shoot homeless pets in secret, pet haters who would prefer to see every pet in the country killed rather than one homeless pet saved, and animal advocates. It’s that last group that may be the most challenging.

Even if we eliminate the wingnuts like PETA, who claim to be animal advocates but actually operate a pet slaughterhouse, there is a lot of disagreement about how to move forward. And unlike the previously mentioned groups, it is animal advocates whom we must rely upon to do most of the heavy lifting which makes cooperation essential. Animal advocates must do much more than simply stop standing in the way – we must act as a cohesive force. That doesn’t mean we can’t have different views and employ a variety of methods. But it does require a basic agreement on the core principle: We do not kill healthy/treatable pets – we save them.

So what do I mean by “save”? Those opposed to no kill are quick to say that we would stuff every pet in America into a cage and leave them in an abandoned building until they die. But this is just flash talk to distract people from the truth – no one wants any pet to live his entire life in a cage. When I say save, I mean that ideally, I’d like to see that pet in a home, living as a family member. And I further recognize that not every pet is going to get a home, for various reasons. So to my way of thinking, we are still saving those pets if we can provide them a reasonable quality of life which includes adequate shelter, daily human interaction, outdoor exercise (for dogs), appropriate veterinary care and sufficient food.

Some pet advocates are opposed to the term no kill and prefer to use “low kill”. It’s important to define what we mean by the word kill with regard to shelter pets. To me, if we humanely end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet by the gentlest method veterinary medicine offers, that is euthanasia – a kindness we offer to our pets. If we end the life of a pet who is not suffering and medically hopeless, that is killing – and I’m opposed to that. By those definitions, I am not for “low kill” because that means some adoptable shelter pets are being killed. I am for no kill and on that point, I can’t see any compromise. My goal is to save every healthy/treatable shelter pet. Every single one.

If you are an animal advocate, please share your goals and principles with regard to shelter pets. I’d really like to hear and hopefully generate some brain food for thought.

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