The Prime Directive of the No Kill Movement

A Spartanburg Co ACO dangles a kitten in front of an animal control truck for a photograph in SC. (Image via Picasa)

No kill advocates face some challenges in winning the hearts and minds of the public and particularly those active in animal welfare.  We must battle the myth of pet overpopulation.  We must expose the truth about the records of groups like HSUS, PETA and ASPCA.  We must educate people regarding the difference between killing and euthanasia.  We must dispel the notion that the public is too irresponsible to be trusted with pet ownership.  These issues, and many others, require vigilance and persistence on the part of no kill advocates in order for us to advance our cause.

But there is one principle of the no kill movement that to my mind surpasses all others.  It should be considered our battle flag – our Prime Directive, if you will.  That fundamental truth is:  Every pet has a right to live.

Even if every one of our core beliefs fell apart tomorrow – somehow the math debunking pet overpopulation is wrong, PETA doesn’t actually kill close to 100% of the pets it takes in, all pet owners are loose cannons, etc. – there can be no wavering in our commitment to the tenet that healthy/treatable dogs and cats, including ferals and fetal puppies and kittens, have the right to live.  To paraphrase a revered document:  We hold this truth to be self-evident.

Many of you have likely encountered resistance to no kill in the form of justifications for pet killing such as:

While we can temporarily allow, for the sake of discussion, that any of these things are true (I don’t believe they are), it does not follow that killing is an option.  In other words, even if we were to agree that we have too many pets and not enough homes, it does not follow that these pets must forfeit their lives.  Not only is this a proven failure as a “solution” (otherwise, shelters wouldn’t still be doing it since the problem would have been solved by now with these millions of pet killings, right?), it defies our own moral compass and guiding principle that pets have the right to live.

So if somehow all other aspects of no kill were shattered (which is not something I believe will ever happen), I would still steadfastly advocate for the right of pets to live.  Because pet killing is not an option.  I am for no kill.


11 thoughts on “The Prime Directive of the No Kill Movement

  1. These photos need to be put in the local newspaper in the city of each shelter doing this with the caption-Is this how you want your stray cat or dog treated with your taxpayer dollars?

  2. I pretty much fully agree with this post. I agree that every animal has a right to live as long as it’s not extremely aggressive, suffering/sick or anything along those lines. You know, what euthanasia is SUPPOSED to be for. That’s why I say that shelters should shoot for a 90% rate. If they can be 100% no-kill, then that is AWESOME. But there will be some dogs and cats that do need to be euthanized (euthanized, not killed) and so I think sometimes shelters hear “100%” and they think it’s too unrealistic and they tune out. If they hear 90%, that gives them a little bit of wiggle-room. Whether they choose to be 90.1% or 99.1% no kill, that’s up to them (though of course, the higher the better).

    Also, I came across this Facebook page for a shelter in New Jersey. They recently rescued 60 shih tzus from a hoarding type of situation. They literally adopted out, or are going to adopt out, all 60 animals! When was the last time you have heard of that?? Anytime on this page we hear of a hoarder type of situation, 80% of the animals end up getting killed in the end “for space” at the shelter. And on a side note, the shelter uses solar panel roofs which I also thought was really cool and not done too often. I emailed the shelter and told them to keep up the good work. I just wanted others to know about them as well. Here’s a link to their FB page, you may know of them: So I just wanted to share my thoughts on that lol

    Okay sorry for writing a novel! LOL

  3. This is a little off-topic but I was hoping for some feedback. I wish to talk about the “irresponsible public” I have mixed feelings about something that happened recently. My husband found what looked to be a 5 or 6 month old kitten wandering the park a few days ago. She obviously belonged to someone, she looked well fed and was very friendly (although she did some fleas). We took her in and posted flyers. Someone called that night but was confused about what cat was missing and couldn’t properly describe her markings. Today the owner called and identified the cat so my husband went to return her. When my husband took her back he found out the cat was not spayed, the owner said she was an adult and according to him, she’s pregnant. Her mother has already had 3 litters. The owner vaguely talked about getting her fixed “sometime.” The irony is he lives right across the street from the local low cost spay/neuter clinic. The cat was obviously happy to see him but I worry that she will never be fixed and will just keep having multiple litters like her mother.

    Should we have given the cat back? Should we have stretched our budget and fixed her first (keeping in mind there’s often times a weeks long waiting list to get them fixed)? This person obviously cares for the cat, she was practically jumping out of my husband’s arms to get to him. Is he an “irresponsible” owner by not getting her fixed? And now that she’s back, should we do anything to try to convince him to fix her and the other cats? The clinic is “low cost” but still costs a lot, $40/cat unless there’s a special.

    1. Giving a pet back to an owner who loves and cares for her is never wrong. You did the right thing. If you would have taken her to be spayed first, you would have unknowingly killed her unborn kittens so tragedy averted there. And now you have established a relationship with this person as a good-deed-doer and the door is open for you to follow up and see if you can offer any assistance (educational, financial, etc.). Maybe he could use some help finding homes for the kittens once they are old enough – that would give you additional opportunities for contact. If it turns out the owner needs financial assistance for the spay, set up a ChipIn and post the link here. We will help.

      1. I so agree with this.. creating a good relationship is the first step toward helping… education is a key also… and being willing to help with the spay surgery… thanks for some good advice. so many in the humane movement HATE people. the irresponsible public as we are called – and thus treat people with hatred and disgust, and that turns away the very people who may need a little help in doing the proper thing to care for their pet AND also may turn away someone who can help the shelters, etc…that irresponsible person you just cursed out, may have the very friends you need to contact when you need help! You do not know.

  4. I live in Spartanburg. I see these types of pics every day. I’m so proud -NOT. And , yes, I do contact AC, as well as County Council. The media doesn’t seem to see it the way I do. sigh….

  5. I too am for no kill. But I refuse to use the word “right” in regards to animals. The animals dying in shelters deserve to live, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and as higher thinking beings humans should know how to treat them properly (unfortunately there are many cruel, violent people out there). Animals do not and can not have “rights” if we wish to keep them in our lives. I know that you are just as angry at HSUS and PeTA as I am, and I know that you know neither group wants to save animals. Do you know that they want pet ownership to disappear? That they want the only interaction between people and animals to be us observing them in the wild? That is what Animal Rights is fundementally about, and why it makes me uncomfortable to hear anyone use the world “right” in conjunction with an animal.

    Say companion animals have a right to live. Why don’t the cows and pigs that humans eat by the millions have a right to live too? Or the chickens? What about hunting, do game animals have the right to live? Shall we ascribe rights to some animals but not to others? Or perhaps animals only get “rights” once they become pets, no matter the species? Animal Rights becomes a very tricky subject when you get down to it. It is also a very scary subject for anyone involved with animals, from hunters to farmers to pet owners. I see nothing wrong with hunting, farming, pet ownership, etc. as long as it is done in a humane manner. Those who beleive in Animal Rights think everyone sucks, and that all domesticated animals should die off so that none can ever be abused by a person again. They even view using a service dog as “exploitation”. I want to see the end to the suffering of animals in shelters and anywhere else they suffer, but Animal Rights scares the crap out of me. I do think “deserve to live” is a much better and less inflammatory way of phrasing. But I respect your choice to use “right to live”. I just wanted to put my two cents out there. I’m sure I’ve made enemies posting on this site, and that’s fine. I probably made enemies posting on my dog forum about the no kill nation ( seriously, that thread went crazy and so many people defend the killing). Oh well, such is life.

    I am for Animal Welfare, not Animal Rights.

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