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Ending the Killing of Shelter Pets TODAY

Pregnant dog at DeKalb Co pound in Decatur, GA, as pictured on Facebook.

There are some animal welfare advocates who find shelter pet killing acceptable as long as it meets some arbitrary criteria such as, “the shelter is killing less than they used to” or “the shelter is transitioning to no kill/low kill/a new director” etc.  The most common excuse offered is “these things take time”.  While I agree that putting all the programs of the No Kill Equation into place takes time for any shelter, I don’t agree that killing shelter pets is OK.

I know of no reason why every shelter in the country could not stop killing pets today.  Yes, it would take them some time to fully develop the programs that will ensure sustainability.  And many would be plunged into crisis mode due to a larger than usual number of animals in the short term.  But this is no different than when a shelter takes in a large number of pets displaced by natural disaster or seized from a cruelty related case.  The same programs which will sustain the lifesaving can be called upon for crisis response, even before they have been fully developed and implemented.

One program in particular is uniquely positioned to help save lives during an immediate population expansion:  Public Relations/Community Involvement.  Shelters unexpectedly taking in large numbers of animals know this and that’s why you see them on the news and in the paper when these events happen.  They know that the public will step up when called upon to help save pets.

It would be no different in the case of putting an immediate end to the killing except that the shelter would be in the unique position of going to the media with the outstanding, once in a lifetime announcement that pets are no longer being killed at the shelter.  The community can be called upon to help save lives both in the short term and in the long term.

It is astounding to me that many advocates are willing to accept the misery and chaos of desperately working to save animals from kill rooms at shelters every day yet reject the idea that shelters could simply stop the killing.  I understand that change can be daunting but really, how bad could it possibly be?  The bar has already been set for many rescuers at misery and chaos, anything above that should be a welcome change.

Even if the worst case scenario came true and animal advocates had to scramble, beg, and borrow in order to get pets out of the shelter during the short term population crisis, wouldn’t it be worth it to endure that temporary misery and chaos, knowing the future would be much brighter for shelter pets?  Rescuers are already operating this way 365 days a year with no foreseeable end in sight.  Is there anything to lose by trying a different way – that is, ending the killing of shelter pets?

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