The Needle and the Damage Done

In the United States, we kill millions of pets in shelters every year.  Most of them are healthy and friendly – or at least treatable.  And there are enough homes for all of them.  As a society, we have come to accept the killing as “unavoidable” because that’s what we are continually told by those sanctioning and performing the killing.  But that is a lie.

Did you know that some shelter pets are killed for readily treatable conditions such as ear mites, ringworm or obesity?  Others are killed immediately upon intake because a shelter worker is afraid of possibly getting scratched, because it’s close to quitting time, or simply because they are kittens.

Even pets with homes eagerly waiting for them are killed because:

Those in charge blame the public for being stupid, for not taking care of their pets, for failing to neuter and vaccinate their pets, and even for causing the shelter to be infested with rodents because John Q. Public touches the dogs!

In fact it is all too often the shelter staff who treat the pets in their care cruelly, are too lazy to do their jobs, and allow shelter pets to needlessly suffer.

Our shelter leaders lie to the public, telling us that MSN and restrictive breeder laws are the ways to end pet killing, and that pets are better off dead than being adopted out without unusually extensive and costly applicant screening.  They tell us that shelter conditions are good while pets suffer.  Worst of all, they repeat the pet overpopulation myth – which has been debunked – as a so-called explanation for the killing of healthy, friendly cats and dogs.

In fact, the proven way to improve the quality of care pets receive is to help people, not threaten to punish them.  And the only proven method to end the killing of adoptable pets is implementation of the No Kill EquationPunitive laws (pdf) do not end killing or even reduce it.  Sadly, their effect is often an increase in needless pet killing.

In spite of the facts, many shelter leaders continue to misinform the public.  And we, believing that anyone who devotes their career to “sheltering” homeless pets must be a truly compassionate person of great integrity, believe them.  The truth is that too many shelters are not providing a safe haven for the community’s pets – quite the opposite:  They are needlessly killing adoptable pets and lying about the reasons they’re doing it.

We the people, whose taxes pay the salaries of these shelter directors, have become so accustomed to the lies that they feel free to make such outrageous statements as “We kill our friend every day”.

This is the damage done.

They needlessly kill our communities’ pets.  We accept it.  They lie about it.  We accept that too.  And we pay them for the privilege.

I know we are better than this.  I know we love our pets and don’t want them killed in so-called shelters.  I know we are smart enough to question the lies, to educate ourselves and our friends, and to demand change.  We are a no kill nation of pet lovers.  Join us.

15 thoughts on “The Needle and the Damage Done

  1. I keep waiting for the day when people will wake up, realize what’s going on using their tax dollars and donations and demand that the killing stop. How soon that day will come depends on all of us. I am on my stump/bandwagon about no kill and about what happens in my local shelter every day. I think some people know what’s going on but feel powerless to do anything about it. Other people claim that they did not know but then their outrage does not lead them to act. We – people – the public – are the key to stopping the killing. We do so by saying “this must stop now” and we do so not just by saying we value the lives of our companion animals but by making choices which reflect those values. Our local shelter is run by a veterinarian and so people – including the city’s mayor – have this “do no harm” assumption about her decisions and her labels. She is not only doing harm but she is needlessly killing each and every day. It makes me physically ill to think about what she does to those who cannot speak for themselves and who cannot save themselves. I live for the day when others will join with my voice and force the killing to stop once and for all.

  2. Unfortunately there is no law against even obvious lies and no way to reform many of the people responsible or to hold them responsible for what they do. I believe, and even Winograd relates in his stories, that once you get two or three key people in the right places the whole story of a shelter will change. That all the publicity on horrible stories at a shelter will do little, unless the key people are replaced.

    Not to say that we shouldn’t report on these issues, but only that this reporting will often accomplish very little. While some people at shelters simply don’t care, others believe they do care and what they are doing is right and will defend that, ignoring anything you say including any logic or facts that you cite.

    Finding and positioning the right people is hard. But, it’s the only real solution. However, the same thing applies to many other areas of our lives, where we are failing just as poorly. Why is there so much support for HSUS and PETA and so little for the No Kill Advocacy Center?

    1. I think the answer to the support for PETA and HSUS is summed up:

      1-Take a look at what is on prime time any night
      2-People like winners. When this nation becomes no kill, if we survive that long, everyone will support it.

      The day Pamela Anderson not only writes a book but reads it is the day No Kill will win the war.

  3. Thank you for summing this up so eloquently. Even some of the most good-hearted, animal-loving people I know have drunk the kool-aid. Getting the word out is the key.

  4. My Mum always says it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness…but I tend to do both…and this article like Neil Young’s tragic song – hit it right on – thank you –

  5. If some organization was slaughtering thousands of, say, monkeys every day, there would be public outcry, protests, and legislation. BUT…. every day thousands of dogs and cats are murdered and few people even take notice. This is SO WRONG!!!

    1. Been there, did that, had the mayor’s ear long enough to get the shelter vet to the 09 no kill conference and now we’re back to status quo again. I think her kill rate was above 73% last year and she blamed it on the economy or some other made up story.

      I have not given up but the process is made harder when a licensed veterinarian is the one running the show and tells the city leadership, using complete and utter sincerity in her voice, “I have no choice but to kill them and I wish I didn’t have to do it.” In areas like mine, it will take numbers to be heard. I am the lone voice in the darkness while the rescue group leaders blindly support the shelter vet and while those holding the purse strings assume that saving lives costs more money in spite of my protests to the contrary. I have tried to explain to them that it doesn’t have to be this way but they are so focused on saving singular animals here and there that they cannot seem to understand that none of them have to die.

      This sounds like whining and I don’t mean it that way. I’m just stuck at the moment.

      1. Thank you Brie, you’re not stuck. You’re exactly where you need to be. You may think you are the lone voice, but you are not alone. We may not be in your town, but we are with you. There are other licensed vets on both sides of the fence. You are right that numbers matter. Find your support. It’s out there.
        Our Animal Control invited a vet from HSUS or some other big group to “review” our system many years ago and management still quotes killing recommendations from that…
        Me? I quote NKN, The No Kill Advocacy Center, and this blog! Together we can make a difference. Thanks.

  6. Brie and LynnO –

    and thanks to you all not feeling so alone – our local animal control sends dogs for veterinary school research (then they are killed)… the No Kill language has been introduced in this area…(personally I have delivered copies of Redemption to the local A/C director, county commissioner, newsreporter, shelter director)

    I’m still at it.

  7. OMG, it constantly horrifies me what is acceptable within our society. We all need to donate whatever we can to change the laws that govern animal rights or lack there of. Emails and protests help but $$$ goes a long way to changing things.

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