The killing of friendly, healthy/treatable pets in animal shelters is a matter of choice.  Every community’s shelter chooses whether to stick with last century’s “catch and kill” philosophy or embrace this century’s No Kill Equation.  By choosing to cling to outdated ideas and debunked myths such as “pet overpopulation” and “killing is a kindness”, shelters doom the pets in their care to needless death.

While the transition to no kill may be more challenging for some than for others, it is the only ethical choice.  Sheltering, by definition, requires that pets be protected from those who would harm them.  And killing is harm.

The long standing practice of excusing the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets takes a few common forms.  Blaming the “irresponsible public” for “forcing” shelter workers to kill friendly pets is probably the most well known.  While I absolutely agree that there are some irresponsible pet owners, I don’t in any way see that as an appropriate blanket description for the majority.  I believe most people love their pets and certainly don’t want pets in their community to be needlessly killed at the local shelter.  As such, it makes no sense to me that shelter workers are “forced” to kill pets by a caring public who does not want them to do it.

I am editing the below article excerpt, replacing a few key words with forms of the word “choose”.  (Read the original article here.)  See how it reads to you in this form:

Tragically, the Charleston region — and most of West Virginia — swarms with so many castoff pets that humane shelters choose to put thousands of them to death.

For the fiscal year that just ended, the Kanawha-Charleston shelter reports it chose to euthanize 4,861 cats and kittens, plus 2,707 dogs and puppies.  The toll was 544 worse than the previous year.
What a shame. More than 7,000 charming companions are chosen for termination yearly at the capital city’s shelter, while other pounds around West Virginia choose to suffer similar results.
If adoptive families cannot be found, the shelter chooses to allow the grim toll of euthanasia to continue — more than 7,000 each year in Kanawha County alone. It’s heartbreaking that the shelter makes this choice.

When I remove the language about the shelter being “forced” to kill pets and rephrase it as a choice made by the shelter, it makes the whole practice seem unacceptable, doesn’t it?  It is unacceptable.

For a community to become no kill, changes are required and the public’s involvement is essential.  The person in the best position to lead that change is the local shelter director.  He/she already has media contacts, community ties, a strong social networking presence, and most importantly – the power to choose to stop killing.

Every friendly, healthy/treatable pet being held down on a kill table or on a cement floor in a shelter right now is almost out of hope.  The absolute last chance that pet has to live is that the shelter director will make a choice to stop the killing.  What does your shelter director choose?

14 thoughts on “Choice

  1. Mine chooses to kill. She says, “getting to no kill takes time and time and more time.” She does not see it as a choice that is hers to make. She laments the death in words while continuing to cause it with actions. She refuses to consider or adopt methods being used in other regions. She hides behind the Accords and the fact that a local humane society is seeking a community collaborative grant from Maddie’s Fund. She says that no kill concepts are not new to her but that they are unreasonable and no one can possibly understand the challenges she faces every day. She acts as though people like me are simply naive and uneducated. I long for the day she is either terminated or she walks off on her own. I have spoken to the mayor. I have tried to rally the rescue group leaders who treat her like a rock star. I will be on my stump to stop the killing until I can no longer talk, rant or scream about it. She has made her choice and she continues to make it every day. And she is a veterinarian so people assume that she will do no harm. We are better than this.

  2. Houston’s five kill shelters choose to kill 80,000 animals every year. (We are at over 67,000 so far this year). Nathan Winograd even put on a Building a No Kill Community seminar here in March of 2009. None of the directors at the kill shelters attended even though I sent them all free tickets.

    Houstonians donated money to the city so that Nathan could assess the city animal control facility, but the city just ignores his recommendations. Over 1 year later and the kill rate is exactly the same.

    So yes, all of the leaders at all five kill shelters in Houston choose to kill.



    1. Genevieve, I hear your rage and frustration. At times I share it. But I choose NOT to reply in All Caps. I choose not to shout. Two wrongs will never make it right. Most of what I have learned about compassion, I have learned from the animals.
      National Shelter Appreciation Week has as much to do with compassion for humans as anything. You rage because they kill, but they kill because they rage! It’s an endless loop unless each of us is willing to STOP, look, think, listen and love.
      Nobody likes to be called scum. Animals read our intention. Humans are animals too! Parenting is an art and a science. Teaching even moreso. Can we work to hire better teachers without parenting better? Can we hire more compassionate shelter managers without being more compassionate ourselves.
      I strive to emulate the creatures. Some eat their young. Fortunately, I have also chosen not to have children.

  4. We have a serious problem at our local shelter, they say all the right things, make you have empathy for them and what the workers have to go through, then before you know if the KILL highly adoptable animals within 6 hours of becoming avail, many animals never even make it to the adoption side. There is no euthanize list, the workers walk the halls in the morning and decide who dies from there… adoption side is always full so as soon as there 4 day hold is up, even with many empty cages in the hold area, chances are many will never even be seen, they won’t allow us to take pics or network until on the adoption side, but most won’t make it there! GRRRRRR UGGGGGG ANGRY

    1. Lisa, that’s a really tough one—you simply aren’t given the choice. I’ve lived in that space a lot. Here are some of the things I have done:
      1) Stopped pushing to change their choices.
      2) Worked to keep the public from relinquishing the choice to them. (I’ve had friends hang out in the parking lot at Animal Control and offer to take any/all animals that people came to give up.)
      3) Do their job for them, but don’t rub their nose in it.

      Nathan and the No Kill Advocacy Center have steps you can take to legally CHANGE their choices, but I’m not a legal beagle type and my strength is in caring for and loving creatures. So I just do my part in my way.

      4) Oh, and every year, first of the year, I do a FOI request for the euthanasia log for the prior year. They MUST keep track of the killing juice, and I have a legal right to see it. Depending on my mood and energy level, I go through it page by page and look for errors, for names of friends, etc. I count and sort and do my own number crunching. I see every line as a living being and I honor them in death as much as I could have or would have in life. I do it for me as much as for the animals. But I think, maybe, just a little bit, it might impact the killers too. Some have been there for YEARS and understand that in my own way, I’ll be watching them. Makes it really hard for them to say the right things when I come to visit.
      Take care of the ones you have, offer to participate positively in the process, and if they choose to ignore you, thwart you, block you, or bad-mouth you, just know that their choices (not yours!) hurt the creatures way more than they hurt you. There are animals out there that need us. Choose the ones you can help.

  5. None. She is never there when anyone calls her on the phone. She is just there to collect her monsterous salary. Period.

  6. All of the shelters in my area call themselves no kill, but they are not open admission. This is better (for the shelters, anyway) than killing pets, but by turning animals away or not taking in all the pound animals in surrounding areas, they are choosing to allow the killing to happen elsewhere. To me, that’s not much different than doing the actual killing.

  7. What director? Our BOD of local humane society chooses bad directors as their choice and worst of all … they choose to be a “no-kill” shelter in name only. You can only be “no-kill” if you have programs in place and a desire to work with rescues in your community. Worcester County Humane Society has no low cost s/n program, has no resources listed on their website, refuses to disclose ANY information on numbers or animal welfare, they misuse donations (ie: they will not work with a local vet and therefore donations are spent with extra costs for transportation, they transport puppies from the south while animals in need in our own community are denied access to the shelter and it’s potential resources … I could go on and on …
    My plea for others is, do not become a bumper sticker “no-kill” … become “no-kill” in every sense. The animals and pet owners in your community depend on it.

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