No Kill: Everybody’s Doing It

I am like a tiny no kill shelter in some ways.  And I suspect many of you are too.  We don’t call ourselves that because we are not official businesses – we’re just pet lovers doing what we think is right.  I don’t take in every homeless pet in my county, enforce animal welfare laws or invite the public to my home for adoption events.  There are indeed some differences between our home-operated, tiny no kill shelters, as I’m characterizing them here, and the county run facilities.  Municipal shelters are charged with caring for pets on a large scale and accept all comers, regardless of circumstances.  For their services, they are paid with taxpayer dollars.  You and I are simply doing what we can do within our personal means.

But there are many similarities.  Return to owner?  Yes, I offer that service and have returned pets to their owners, including driving the pet home if necessary.  Owner surrender?  Yes, I offer that service and currently have a dog whose owners brought her to us when she was a puppy because they live nearby and saw us with our dogs regularly and figured us for kind-hearted pet lovers.  Abandoned mama dog with litter of pups?  Yes, I offer that service and when a neighbor moved and left the dog behind to have a litter beneath the empty mobile home, I made friends with mama and got the entire family to safety.  Stray?  Yes, I offer that service and have fed and housed numerous strays over the years.  Isolation for coughing dogs?  Yes, I offer that service and have set up pseudo isolation wards in my home to contain the spread of disease.  Veterinary care?  Yes, I offer that service and have paid for vaccines, neuter surgery, heartworm testing and various other services for the pets in my care.

Killing healthy/treatable pets because there isn’t enough space or because the owner requested it?  No, I do not offer that service because I am for no kill.  I am willing to do anything within my means to help a pet in need but killing is not an option.  Threatening rescuers in my network that if they don’t take some of the pets in my care, I’ll kill them?  No, I don’t offer that service because I am for no kill.  I appreciate the rescuers in my network and setting aside the violence of the threat itself, I would never want to keep such valuable resources as rescuers in a continual crisis mode which would burn them out.

If so many of us are willing to open up our hearts and homes and wallets to operate as tiny no kill shelters, why can’t the taxpayer funded municipal facilities follow our lead?  I would argue that in fact, the taxpayer funded shelters have an obligation to at least partially model themselves after us little guys for several reasons:

  1. No kill is the only ethical choice.
  2. It’s our taxes that pay their salaries and fund their shelter operations.
  3. We are succeeding at saving pets’ lives.  They are failing.
  4. We’re succeeding, in many cases, on money carved out of the grocery budget.
  5. We’re volunteering our time and effort to save pets.  They are paying themselves with our tax money to kill pets.

Tax money is not intended to be used to fund practices that fall outside our societal norms.  We are a humane society.  We do not want to see pets needlessly killed and we most certainly don’t want to pay for it.  The last place within our society where it’s still the norm to kill friendly pets is our broken shelter system.  Many of those within that corrupt system are fighting to maintain the status quo.  But they are outnumbered and the public is fast becoming aware of no kill and demanding reform.

Naysayers will argue that we don’t understand the difficulties of operating an open admission shelter.  They have a point.  I just have my home and my small group of pets so I can’t say I face the same exact challenges as an open admission shelter.  But I know this:  There are many open admission no kill shelters throughout the country so it is indeed possible.  Big places like Reno, Austin and Charlottesville are saving pets’ lives.  Tiny home operations such as those operated by many of us here are saving pets’ lives.  What’s the excuse for the rest of our municipal facilities?  They are becoming a niche entity – boutique pet slaughterhouses, if you will.  How much longer can they hold out?  It’s up to you.

27 thoughts on “No Kill: Everybody’s Doing It

  1. that was beautiful. i hope the shelters start seeing it your way very soon because like you said, if someone can save animals with their grocery money, why wouldn’t the shelters be able to save them when they are getting so much more money than that from our taxes.

  2. Fabulous article, Shirley. God knows I spent my last dime on a dog that would eventually die anyway many a times. And all of your categories wew do too, with this added benefit: we will take your animal(s) if and when you pass over the Bridge, so that they won’t wind up in a shelter. For free.

    So if we can do, there is no reason the muni shelters can’t do it too. GREAT ARTICLE – this should be sent around to the entire rescue community.

    1. That is a wonderful service to offer (taking pets after the owner dies)…just read a story yesterday about a lady who passed and the local ACC got the cats – that were supposed to go to a rescue group. Sadly someone (it is not verified but said they were a family member) called and requested the cat(s) be put down and the shelter complied! The rescue groups are trying to initiate legal action because they are the executors of her estate! This poor lady KNEW her family would do this and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen! Sadly, anything done from this point won’t bring her pets back…..

  3. This is what I do also.. one or two dogs at a time. If you go look in my refrigerator, there isn’t much in the way of people food, but the dogs eat twice a day. I’ve been blessed here lately with a couple of on-line friends that have donated funds for minor vetting.

    I agree, if I can make a diffidence in saving a dogs life… Shelters can do a whole lot better.

  4. I must really be in a funk. Yea–I like this post. But in the back of my mind I’m also thinking that I’m burned out and there’s a part of me that wants to take some of my foster dogs to Animal Control and let THEM deal with them.
    Should I euthanize the 14 year old rescue from the Alaskan village of Ruby? How about the 12 year old blind and deaf dog from the Porcupine River? How much quality of life do these dogs have?
    I noticed that Polar has lost a lot of weight. And Oz and Feal are really hard keepers. I could save a hundred dollars a month if I didn’t have those three dogs.
    That new Sibe I took in is now chain fighting with the aged sibe I’m boarding for free for a neighbor while she and her husband are in California for cancer treatment. Although I had a gal interested in adopting that one, so that’s good. (Especially if it actually happens, sigh.)
    Fleckerl would be way happier as a house pet. Would Animal Control do a better job of finding her a home? (I’ve had her–on and off–for four years.) She was adopted but was afraid of aircraft flying over and her family lived off the end of the Air Force Base runway, so she came back.
    Mostly I’m just scared and depressed. My 15 year old dog Marten goes in for dental work tomorrow. It’ll costs hundreds, and I’m hoping not more than a $1K cuz that’s all I’ve got. He’s been off his aspirin for a couple of days (aspirin thins the blood.) He hurts. I can’t fix it. If it’s worse than just rotten teeth, I’ll have them euthanize him on the table. But hey, that should be cheaper, right?
    Maybe I should take the two yearlings I have to Animal Control. They are young and vital and very social creatures. Somebody would LOVE to have them…except that I’ve had them available since they were 16 weeks old and nobody has adopted them from me…so maybe nobody does want them?
    p.s. there are those who call me a hoarder. Maybe they are right.

    1. Wow… I wish I could hug you. There are far too many days I feel overwhelmed also. Then I look into the eyes of the dogs that are just so happy to lay on their back wiggling on the carpet or grass. They live in the moment. No worries. That’s where I find the strength to get me threw another day and night. Every night when it’s time for bed, each dogs gets covered with their own blanket bought at the Goodwill, a special rub, kiss on the head and a whisper in the ear.. “I love you”. At the end of the day I know I did my best and I thank GOD for keeping us all safe, warm and fed.

      I won’t be here forever. We all will die, but for today I’m happy.. I did all I could do. It shows in the eyes of the dogs…

    2. Have you thought to ask the ACC if they will courtesy list any of the animals for you? It might help if they have a larger base that they reach…and you could keep the animals in the process if you fear the ACC might put them down.

      You do SO MUCH Lynn! I know there will be MANY rewards for you when you go to the ever after. I know it’s a long haul…and there are days you want to throw in the towel (been there myself). I don’t think you are a hoarder….you have a good heart and I think you put the animals best interest first. AND anyone who questions if they are a hoarder probably aren’t…typical “hoarders” say they don’t’ have a problem!

      As far as questioning quality of life – you will KNOW when/if it is time to say good bye. From my personal experience with blind & deaf animals I don’t think they have a bad quality of life – just a different quality of life. I currently have one cat the is both blind & deaf – and had similar thoughts myself – but she has adapted wonderfully and she ‘knows’ every time I walk into the room. She must smell me? But she comes right up to me and rubs all over me wanting attention and goodness her purrs are so loud that everyone can hear them from another room!

      Then one of the pits I have started having some really bad problems a few months back. He started getting nippy and was barking and growling at the kids. I began to ready myself because I knew that if he was acting like that then it was time to say goodbye and have him euthanized. But one day I had this idea and while he was out in the yard I called to him – squeaked his favorite toy – anything to get his attention, things that normally have him running to me. Nothing worked. Then it hit me – he’s gone deaf. I knew it was a possibility because he’s a white dog and I have heard of other white dogs going deaf later on in life. So I took my dog training skills to the next level. Through trial and error I found that perfect way to communicate with him – laser light in the day & flash light at night. I started rewarding him when I would flash the light and he would come to me. Once I figured out what was going on AND adapted my training skills by thinking outside the box he’s right back to being the loving sweet dog he’s always been. If it wasn’t for me trying other methods, honestly I would have had him put down. Mainly because of his breed and not wanting to add to the bad rap this dogs get.

      Now I am able to successfully help other people that find themselves in similar situations… just helped with a little terrier down the street that is deaf and they had problems with him nipping at their kids. He is older, but still has years left. After working with him for a few weeks and then teaching his people how to do the same things I was doing he’s become the same sweetheart he use to be! Never thought one of the pet lasers and a flashlight could do so much to help with my training skills…now I never leave home without either one so if I run into a person with a problem I can explain what I do and how and they can let me know if they want me to help.

      After the first of the year I plan on going to the local ACC to offer my services because I know that when they have a deaf dog their first reaction is to kill it! I had honestly never heard of things I could do – besides using hand commands on deaf dogs…so when I threw all conventional training methods out the window and came up with some new ones on my own I can’t tell you how excited it got me!

      You’ll get through this slump Lynn…I know you will. You are one heck of a strong woman and you have a heart of gold! And you know we are always here for you…no matter what. If you need to dump let me know! I got a good ear! Give yourself a GREAT BIG hug from me!

  5. great article – also did you know Nathan Winograd got a mention in Forbes magazine? Word is getting out.

    And dear LynnO – you’re not a hoarder what ever that is. I’ve googled hoarder and what a bunch of hooey.

    LynnO and all of us could stop doing our rescues like we have to do if animal control would stop being a slaughter-house for dogs and cats.

    1. Mary Francis, may yes, and maybe no. Local Animal Control will never make it as no kill unless each and every one of us pitches in! The whole premise of no kill is that it is a COMMUNITY thing. One rescue can’t pull it off. Animal Control can’t pull it off. We all need to network and cooperate and collaborate. What I’ve found is that we each get into our own little funk and build up our egos and our walls by comparing ourselves and our policies and our *track record* to others (this is where we develop that skewed vision of the *irresponsible public* too.)
      I hereby declare that I’m not doing such a hot job of it.
      I’d be THRILLED to share my foster animals with others…really! A lot of you folks would diss me because I’ll adopt out to just about ANYBODY. And even so, I’m not getting a lot of takers. Are these *bad dogs* yeah, well, some of them are neurotic or shy, many of them are old, so maybe I don’t have the cream of the crop here. I know that local Animal Control has killed animals with a lot more going for them than most of my fosters, although I haven’t been keeping track lately.
      I’ll be okay. I’ll just keep on keeping on. An excellent owner/adopter recently told me she was getting dogs from somebody about 300 miles away because my foster dogs were *too happy* with me…sigh. I get it, she wanted to *save* some dogs, and mine are theoretically already safe. But, dang that threw me into a tailspin.

      1. Lynn I read lately that is some rescues & shelters would be a little more lax on who can get their animals that we would have a LOT less animals being put down. You can come up with specific questions and be ready to educate (like with declaw issues or having a back yard). So many times those questions look good on paper – and many think they will weed out the bad seeds. My thing is – IF they are looking for a rescued pet in the first place then 9 times out of 10 they will be fine. I’m not saying don’t’ check for any records of multiple animals being gotten and then cast off – or checking to make sure they don’t’ have pending cruelty charges (but even the questions can explain a lot that you wouldn’t know otherwise when you meet with them in person). Plus watch how they interact with the animals – it speaks volumes…not to mention the animals themselves are a VERY good indicator on how that person is!

        I know I have to be more careful just because of the breeds I deal with – pit types – and Ohio is still a BSL state…even with the HB 74 going through the senate right now it still doesn’t address the fact that localities can still ban them or have crazy insane requirements, but with some one on ones and lots of questions a lot of the problems (or what we thought were problems) can be avoided! I don’t fault you for adopting to anyone. You have a good head on your shoulders and I believe you will know if something doesn’t feel right. And think of it this way – less hoops they have to jump through the better the chances they WILL adopt..and you can always contains a clause where they have to return the animal to you if things go south. But I have found that even in those situations sometimes all that is needed is a little time spent with the family to see what the issues are and many times they can be addressed and the family will still keep the pet. All goes back to education & support. If they know you’re there for them no matter what chances are keeping the lines of communication open will also help ensure the family and pet are all ok.

        When I look at the other side of the coin where there are places that have 20 page questionnaires and all these requirements it does tend to put people off. Much easier to go to Craigslist and just get one for free with no requirements!

        Keep up the wonderful, draining, and VERY fulfilling work. When you have one of those days where you just want to throw in the towel…go grab a dog and cuddle with it for a while – the kisses will make all the difference to you and your mental state! (And no I am not saying you are mental – just that when you reach fatigue level sometimes we need those puppy kisses to remind us why we’re here in the first place!

  6. Have to add that there are hoarders among us….ASPCA, PETA, HSUS and all those that betray the animals by hoarding dollars given by those that hope to save them.

  7. All of us that “do what we can do” are in danger of going broke, missing a grandchild’s special event, getting run off someone’s property, missing an anniversary or birthday party, missing or being late for work, running out of dog or cat food, making a mad dash to the store, being bitten, being threatened…..but it’s all worth it….I guess!

  8. Until you’ve worked at a real shelter, I don’t believe you have room to point fingers. You don’t know what really goes on behind the scenes.

    Yes, county/city run shelters operate off tax dollars, but the money that’s given to us is never enough compared to the number of animals flowing non-stop through the doors. We did not create this problem, nor do we ignore it. We pour blood, sweat, and tears into saving as many lives as possible. It is not a job to us. It is a lifestyle. We get paid next to nothing to do some of the most gruesome labor imaginable, in deplorable conditions. And I don’t just mean euthanasia. We pick maggots out of infected wounds, nurse the emaciated back to health, stitch up dog fighting victims, comfort the abused, medicate the ill and injured, etc. We often foster these animals in our own homes with our own money, in order to save them. By the end of the day we are covered in blood, vomit, feces, urine, anal secretions, drool, pus, mites, and so on… Every day is a struggle.

    Not only do we work with the animals, we work with the public. We try to educate the ignorant and inspire the apathetic. Most of the time, it’s like talking to a brick wall because the general public just doesn’t give a darn. Even though we have a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, that doesn’t mean everyone will make the right choice and use it. No matter how much we want to, there is simply no way to force the community to care.

    And as far as euthanasia goes… not a single person enjoys it. In fact, most of my co-workers are on anti-depressants to keep them from giving up. But we would rather it be us in that room holding them when they slip away, than some heartless bastard at a gassing facility. There are worse ways for those animals to die. Think about it. Being hit by a car, attacked by another animal, beaten by a human, contracting a disease, starving, and the list goes on. My shelter takes in 22,000+ every year, and I’m proud to say our euthanasia rate is only 39%, and decreasing every year. Do the math and you’ll see how many lives we’ve saved. Those same lives that the “no-kill” shelters in the area turned away. And for the animals that no one steps up to take home, at least their death is peaceful… falling asleep in the arms of someone who cares.

    You think “no-kill” shelters are more humane because they don’t euthanize? Wrong! “No-kill” means limited admission. They can turn away whatever animals they choose to, which are usually the ones that need the most help. And for the ones that get looked over time and time again for adoption, they go kennel crazy. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s when a dog or cat literally loses its mind from boredom. There is no saving them after this. They may be alive, but there is no one home upstairs. Dogs will spin around in circles in their kennels and bark endlessly. Cats will either sit and stare at the walls, or start chewing holes in their limbs. But yet that facility refuses to relieve that animal of its suffering and continue to house it, because they’re “no-kill”. That is cruelty, plain and simple.

    So please choose your words more cautiously in the future. I encourage everyone single one of you to volunteer at a county/city shelter, if you don’t already.

    Stop bashing us and help us!

    1. I hear and feel every word you wrote. And I have volunteered at my local shelter that kills for space every Tuesday and Friday. I see the body bags at the landfill. But when my shelter told me that I couldn’t take pictures and network the sick, scared, injured, pregnant, old or timid dogs. I gave up and I’m now helping other shelters by fostering one dog at a time. My local shelter doesn’t want the dogs most in need to be seen.. they think it makes the shelter look bad… like they have control over what’s been dumped in their lap. You can hide the inhumane things humans do to the animals. But my shelter sure is trying.

      No matter what.. I will help… one dog at a time.

      And Thank You for Sharing…. I too am frustrated.

    2. How dare you come on here and act like we don’t’ do our part to help. Many MANY folks on here DO volunteer at shelters. Many of us go above and beyond what shelters will do too – OUT OF OUR OWN POCKETS! No pay. No compensation for vet bills. No low cost anything to help us out!

      Everything you claim your shelter does – I DO in my own home – with no TAXPAYER dollars! Plus I am not open for specific hours – I am on call 24/7.

      I have worked at my local shelter and found they left a BAD taste in my mouth! The refused to let me take photos of animals to post online. They refused almost all the rescues I spent years developing relationships with to pull animals. They wanted a shut your mouth and do your work folks. Sorry but I am not going to sit back and say that’s ok. I if can network and save 5-10 dogs a week – sometimes a LOT more, but the SHELTER refused the help – they would instead kill the animals.

      And instead of complaining that the tax dollars aren’t enough maybe your shelter should look outside of the box and come up with some fancy fundraising. Sorry but if MY tax dollars are going to take care of animals and those same animals are mistreated and ultimately killed because of lazy workers that don’t’ care two fiddles if those animals are posted online or networked than there IS a problem!

      Maybe you should check out the No Kill Nation website for some ideas and suggestions. But coming on here saying that we don’t know what you go through is BS! YOU don’t know what WE go through. Many of us are forced to choose between having Christmas for our children OR to take care of our critters! Have YOU ever had to make that choice? Because I sure have.

      Plus the way you worded how you “help” the generally public reeks of disdain and honestly if that’s how you approach them when trying to educate – sounds like the messenger needs a little compassion check!

      “Not only do we work with the animals, we work with the public. We try to educate the ignorant and inspire the apathetic. Most of the time, it’s like talking to a brick wall because the general public just doesn’t give a darn. Even though we have a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, that doesn’t mean everyone will make the right choice and use it. No matter how much we want to, there is simply no way to force the community to care.”

      Sounds to me like maybe there is MORE that can be done – ever heard of mobile clinics that go out into the community and offer similar services right there in the middle of it all! And while I don’t’ know what shelter you are at – how are those hours of operation? Adoption friendly at all? When you work with the ignorant and apathetic public so you offer resources – training classes, food banks, low cost vet care – including spay & neuter – vaccines?

      And, yes, there are worse ways to die – but a shelter is there for the community pets that do not yet have homes. How you feel if we offered euth services to homeless shelters? You know the people have been there for so long and nobody wants them so why not end their suffering too? Why? Because it is murder! Unless your shelter is doing EVERYTHING it can do then I have nothing more to say! Other than get off your high horse and stop acting like we don’t’ do anything to help the animals. Kuddos on the 39% kill rate – but if you are still killing healthy treatable dogs you might take a note or two from NKN.

  9. I think most animal control facilities operate in secrecy…it’s structured that way with their limited police powers and tax money supporting it…. There is no incentive to show what’s really going on…..

    A tragically broken system.

  10. Sing it sister Erica….you have soothed my weary heart and soul today! Thank you and God bless us everyone!

  11. Put cat instead of dog and it sounds like this lovely little place called “help save the furry ones” here in south Australia where I volunteer

  12. i too help save the animals in the town i live in and find them homes,i just brought a kitten home from work (that someone dumped) and taking care of it until its new owner can get here Friday to pick it up. i also take care of 5 stray cats at work 2 of which were babies when i started 3 yrs ago the other 3 are their babies now. i am able to pet and pick up 3 of them which i plan on spaying and netuering them soon. since i have lived in our new house (3 yrs come march) i have fund 5 cats/kittens and 6 dogs, sorry to say i had to call animal control on 1 cat whose front paw looked like it was caught in a fence or a trap and was all infected and had turned black and was rotting off,he was living a life of hell with all the infection, it just about killed me to have to do that, but he didnt need to suffer anymore then he already had RIP little kitty. KUDOO to everyone who does what we as a tiny no kill shelters do everyday.May GOD bless each and every one.

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