Op-Ed in OH Paper Misses the Mark

In an op-ed piece entitled “Last Resort”, the Columbus Dispatch offers:

Hands down, the worst job in any dog shelter doesn’t involve a scoop and a bag; it requires a needle, or a gas chamber.

Killing shelter pets is a worse job than scooping poo.  This is not a valid comparison and worse – it attempts to group diametrically opposed actions into the same category.  While keeping cages clean is necessary for hygiene and humane care, killing healthy/treatable shelter pets is not only unnecessary, it’s unethical.  Clean cages are an integral part of any animal shelter, killing is the opposite of why shelters exist.

“We hate putting dogs to sleep down here. We hate it, we hate it, we hate it,” Bill Click, the dog warden of Lawrence County, told The Dispatch.

Lawrence Co killed 81% of the dogs in its care last year according to The Dispatch.  This is a travesty and to my mind should be a crime.  But the dog warden says they “hate it” so I guess that’s supposed to demonstrate that some shred of humanity resides within those doing the killing.  If they hate it so much why don’t they stop doing it?  Especially since there are proven methods for saving every healthy/treatable pet being used by dozens of open admission shelters all over the U.S.

The real villains behind high euthanasia rates are irresponsible owners who fail to spay or neuter their pets.

So I’ve heard.  And judging from the comments of those who kill shelter pets for a living as well as those who enable the killing (such as the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch), all these irresponsible owners are concentrated in communities where the public shelters kill animals.

It’s weird because common sense tells me there must be irresponsible owners everywhere, even in the many no kill communities throughout the country.  But I never hear no kill leaders in these communities decrying the horrible locals who make their lives hell.  On the contrary, I so often hear no kill shelter directors praising the public, reaching out to them for donations and other assistance – and receiving it.

Do communities where the shelters save every healthy/treatable pet have irresponsible owners who fail to neuter their pets?  Of course they must.  But just as there are a comparatively small number of irresponsible drivers and  irresponsible parents among those populations in society, irresponsible pet owners represent a tiny minority.  Most pet owners try to do right by their pets and don’t want to see shelter pets hurt.  No kill community leaders recognize that and put it to use in their lifesaving efforts.

Any shelter where more than 8 out of every 10 dogs who come in the front door wind up in the dumpster is not relying on killing as a “last resort”, as the op-ed’s title suggests, but rather Plan A.  Standard Operating Procedure.  The Number One Priority.  In Lawrence Co, and in too many other municipal shelters, the method of population control is killing and live release is in fact the last resort.  And that is not the public’s fault.

(Thank you Jan for the link.)

8 thoughts on “Op-Ed in OH Paper Misses the Mark

  1. Shirley – another brillaint post and observation. Dissecting these comments made by Animal Welfare staff is critical to all of us. Even for those who feel we know what has to happen and are on board with change. We MUST be reminded of how far we have to go and how much there is to do. Thinking has to change – and these posts help us all share with others – to do just that.

    After 3 years in Animal Control and making huge changes toward NO KILL during two Directorships – I am still practicing my NO KILL diaglogue and responses to those around me. I humbly acknowledge that I have far to go to facilitate more critical change around me. Our responses can never be too sharp or too concise – even though the proven methods of NO KILL are clear and easy…we have to be able to articulate them.

    The battle is hard and long because of the ingrained thought processes. It takes consistent efforts and hard work to get anyone to think outside their usual routine and what they do by wrote. Being fluent in the NO KILL EQUATION is what is needed. It’s hard work to make the NO KILL equation work. And as we know – not many in the Animal Welfare industry care to work hard – or care to learn anything new outside their dismal box. What comes to mind – is an earlier post topic here about friendly and compassionate people who are inside of animal control and shelters. These are our counterparts in change and we need to educate them on NO KILL as well.

  2. Recently the local paper had an article on one of the staff veterinarians at the Sonoma Co. Humane Society, who also founded & continues to run the rescue Compassion Without Borders –


    And in it was this:

    She has done outreach in the local Latino community about the importance of spaying and neutering the pets many acquire through backyard breeding. Earlier this year, she launched a series of monthly free wellness and spay/neuter clinics at the Humane Society and at La Luz, a social services and cultural center in the Sonoma Valley.

    Camblor said some people were skeptical, saying it sounded nice but that poor Latinos had more pressing needs and probably wouldn’t respond. In fact, people are lining up early Sunday mornings with their pets for a free exam, deworming and shots.

    People said much the same when Bad Rap scheduled clinics in Richmond, a chronically depressed and violent city in the SF Bay Area. They were swamped, too, and in the end had to turn people away.

    1. I think some of the naysayers know deep down that offering a hand up to pet owners in need is not a waste of time. The only reason they don’t do it is for fear that many will take them up on the offer.

      On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM, YesBiscuit!

  3. Two years ago when my shelter vet partner and I started our monthly low cost animal exam and rabies vax program – everyone said the same thing. It’s been two years and we now have no cost vax and exam clinics as well as low cost and it hasn’t slowed down yet here in Cheatham County , TN.

  4. Another well written & concise blog. I couldn’t of said it better myself.

    I certainly don’t believe Bill Click hates killing as much as he likes business as usual.

    There will come a time when people will look back & wonder, “What in the hell were they thinking to kill so many innocent healthy lives?”

  5. There is a huge need for education at Lawrence County both with the shelter and the public.. Baby steps are currently underway. They have, within the past few months, embraced volunteers and rescues stepping up and helping out. Now, there are quite a few dogs making it out alive. I took two from there a month or so ago. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a major need for improvement in Lawrence County on all fronts but there is finally a foot in the door. Hopefully we will see the door open wider and wider. It would be great to get some of the larger advocacy groups in there to assist who actually have the know how and funds to get things moving more quickly

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