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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  By choosing to cling to outdated ideas and debunked myths such as “pet overpopulation” and “killing is a kindness”, shelters doom the pets in their care to needless death.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?

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