“I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

Harrison Co, WV recently hired a new AC director named Cheryl Shaw and a local paper ran a story about it:

In 2011, the center euthanized 2,399 out of 3,184 animals, or nearly 75 percent.

“To put that amount of animals down is crazy,” Shaw said.

The paper also printed comments on pet killing from county commissioner Ron Watson:

[W]hen the day comes for their number to be called, we have to do what we have to do,” he said. “It’s saddening to me … but what can we do?”

What can we do?  We can start by agreeing with Ms. Shaw that killing 3 out of 4 pets in the county shelter is crazy.  But it’s not enough to simply nod our heads and agree that we are all sad.  We need to ask and answer the question, Why is it crazy?

It seems that so many people who kill shelter pets, as well as those who enable the killing, are stuck in a narrow, outdated mindset.  They envision a conveyor belt of pets being fed into the pound as a result of the so-called irresponsible public failing to neuter their cats and dogs.  They see themselves as assembly line workers who are unable to keep up with the constant flow of animals.

There are too many. 

We don’t have enough workers or funds to take care of them all. 

We don’t have enough space to house them all. 

We have to kill them. 

We can only hope that someday the irresponsible public will become responsible and the conveyor belt will bring in fewer animals.

Until then, what can we do?  It’s crazy to be killing all these pets but what can we do?

Ms. Shaw appears to be on board with this philosophy and told the paper how she aims to slow down the conveyor belt:

To help decrease the number of euthanizations, Shaw said she is working with the local Humane Society to educate the public on the importance of spaying or neutering pets. She also is trying to reduce the amount of backyard breeding in the county.

Setting aside the fact that wagging a finger at the so-called irresponsible public while preaching spay-neuter has never ended the killing of shelter pets anywhere, ever, this still does not answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many shelter pets?

It’s crazy because shelter pets have the right to live.

It’s crazy because there are proven alternatives being used in open admission no kill shelters all over the country which are available to everyone.

It’s crazy because slowing down the conveyor belt is based upon the premise that the shelter director is failing to do his job.  A shelter director’s job is to keep up with the conveyor belt and shelter the pets in his care.  There will always be community pets in need, even if everyone in the country suddenly qualified for a Most Responsible Pet Owner award.  There will always be emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, unintended breedings, strays and yes, irresponsible pet owners representing a tiny minority of the pet owning public.  There will always be a need for shelters.

Remember this skit from I Love Lucy?

As Lucy realizes they are failing at their jobs, she tells Ethel, “I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

Shelter directors who manage to save only 1 out of every 4 pets in their care and base their plan for improvement on blaming the public for the killing of the other 3 are fighting a losing game.  Instead of viewing shelter staff as victims of an irresponsible pet owning public gone wild causing the conveyor belt to bring in 75% more pets than they are capable of saving, directors need to break out of this old-think.

Shelter pets have the right to live. 

Killing is not an option. 

What can we do?

Try embracing the pet owners in your community who represent the majority instead of demonizing them for the actions of the minority.  Put them to work on the assembly line.  Partner with them both inside and outside the shelter to save lives.  Return their loose pets to them before even bringing them to the shelter.  Bring your pets to high traffic areas so the public can fall in love with them.  Let people see, touch and spend time with every healthy/treatable pet in your shelter.  Ask them for money, ask them to foster, ask them to help you save lives.

The conveyor belt is never going to slow down to the point where saving a few animals is going to mean an end to the killing.  The conveyor belt is not the problem.  The problem is the needless killing of shelter pets while directors remain committed to fighting a losing battle and blaming the public.  There are many directors who have abandoned this old-think and in so doing, began saving more than 90% of their pets.  Their conveyor belts haven’t slowed down.  They simply stopped fighting a losing battle and started doing their jobs.

This same success is available to every shelter director in the country.  Today.  As a no kill advocate, you can help your local shelter director answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many pets?  You can help your director to understand there is something we can do.  Or if he refuses to accept your help, you can force him to start doing his job or get out of the way of lifesaving efforts through political advocacy.

The days of fighting a losing game and blaming the public for the failure of shelter directors to shelter pets are coming to an end.  The time for action is now.  Join us.

(Thank you Vicki for the link.)

17 thoughts on ““I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

    1. I don’t think so. This is more of the “blame the irresponsible public” approach that IS NOT WORKING. Surely it would be better to have pictures of happy pets with “I got adopted today!” and such and such a shelter name, info.

      Blaming the public only alienates the pet lovers a shelter needs to succeed. It’s divisive and unhelpful. Education is important (vital, even), but animals die in shelter because shelter directors do not assume a leadership role in getting them out alive.

      How many spayed and neutered pets are being killed in shelters today? Quite a few. Spaying and neutering didn’t save them. What saves pets? Leadership and vision. A willingness to engage the public and learn to use them to achieve your goals. The good people are out there, ready to help, but the shelters won’t reach out to them. Instead, they take the easy way out – mass killing followed by hand wringing and wailing of “oh, the irresponsible public makes pets dead!”

      Bullshit. The people who kill pets make them dead. It’s that simple.

    2. Honestly, that doesn’t bring ‘oh, I must spay and neuter and adopt’ to mind. I immediately start thinking basements and weird smells.

      It looks like a serial killer t-shirt. I’d be more likely to call an spca to warn them about the guy wearing the dead animal t-shirt, than to adopt a pet.

      How many people ‘wanted to talk about it’, and how many people just crossed the street and looked nervous?

  1. Read the Original Article in it’s entirety.
    Cheryl Shaw is replacing someone who has held that job for 21 years. She is NEW to the job, give her some RESPECT to get established in her new role. Shaw was a Humane Society police officer in Chester County, Pa., for 13 years. She graduated from the Police Academy in Delaware County, Pa., in 1992 and worked for many years at an animal shelter in Montgomery County, Pa.
    He was chosen from 30+ applicants.
    75% kill rate is from 2011 well before Ms. Shaw started in 11/2012.
    The SLANT this BLOG towards Ms Crew and Harrison County, WV is HORRIBLE. Honestly IF YOU thought YOU COULD DO THE JOB…. WHY in HECK DIDN’T APPLY for IT????

    1. I read the original article in its entirety. I quoted from it directly to indicate the 2011 kill rate. It’s normal to use the prior year’s kill rate for a pet killing facility because most don’t provide current data. I didn’t apply for the job because I am not in the area and would never consider any shelter job unless I would be allowed to save every healthy/treatable pet. Further to your concerns, Ms. Shaw was cited merely as an example of a larger group, and I think I made that clear. Uh, Joe.

    2. What i want to know is why doesn’t Nathan’s No-Kill group take in donations from all of their supporters to hire a team of 3-5 people to travel to these shelters to implement his methods?? Even if they only worked with one shelter per month, it could make a huge difference.

      1. I think what he has done is very effective – that is, making all the materials available for download for free on the No Kill Advocacy Center website so that local advocates and shelter staff can implement the changes themselves. Any shelter that has the will to go no kill also has a way – and it’s all online, all for free. I’m not sure that sending in a team to implement change would be as effective. An outside team can’t change the will of those doing the killing. They have to want it themselves.

        On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 12:45 PM, YesBiscuit!

  2. Perhaps if “shelters” were paid more to adopt out, rather than kill, there would be a better balance of the scales. I read, somewhere, that Memphis pound gets paid $30 to kill each dog. I have tried to get that same info from our kill “shelter”, but they refuse to let me know. These places should get NO pay to kill an animal, only to adopt out.

  3. I think sending in a team would be highly effective – definitely more effective than hoping a shelter finds the free info online when they are likely not even looking for it. When shelters are highlighted in a news article or blog, where so many of us read about it across the country, it could be submitted to the team as a shelter in dire need of help. You assume shelters that kill are doing it only because they want to and I do not think that is the case. I do not think shelter employees want to kill animals and I think most would welcome the help to change. Most have limited resources and they are just doing the job they were hired to do and no more. If a team could come in and show those in charge of the shelter’s budget what could be done using his methods, I think it may make all of the difference in the world. Isn’t it worth it to try? I think he could easily raise enough money from supporters to cover the cost to do this.

    1. They need to want to change. Shirley offered to send Mr. Rogers from MAS to the NK conference this year (paying his way). He declined.

      The sad fact is that for whatever reason, many shelters are stuck in the old mindset – that it’s the irresponsible public’s fault that they’re killing pets, that killing is somehow necessary, that what they’re doing is somehow acceptable.

      If the old guard is not willing to change, they need to be replaced with people who have the leadership and the vision to make a shelter function as it should.

    2. WeedEater,

      Since you feel strongly about this, why not contact the No Kill Advocacy Center with your suggestions? Leaving comments here puts them up for discussion amongst our group, which is fine, but does not reach the NKAC.

      1. I agree with WeedEater’s suggestions and the suggestion to contact NKAC with it. The same ol’ problem arises when these kill shelter’s directors don’t want to change. Sooner or later they’ll have to.

  4. If Ms. Shaw really cared then she would allow volunteers to take pictures and post them with descriptions in order to find possible rescues or adopters. The only way out of AC in Harrison County is the Humane Society. When they are full, dogs and cats die. Many could be saved if the volunteers were allowed to post them. Ms. Shaw says its too much of a hassle because they don’t keep the dogs long and people call after they are gone (DEAD is what she means). It may be difficult, but it’s doable. If you care then show it!!!

Leave a Reply