Snipped from a letter from a reader expressing concern about advocates who proclaim they unequivocally believe in no kill but when faced with challenging animals, consider killing a reasonable option.  These people often employ many of the same excuses they have previously condemned pet killing facilities for using themselves, in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable:

If he/she who has been so loud gives up so easily, really, how many actually believe? How many will really do anything not to kill when the chips are down, when it affects them personally?

What are your thoughts?  How many no kill advocates truly believe that every shelter dog and cat has a right to live, even when it’s inconvenient or presents personal hardship?  Do any of us know ourselves well enough to answer the question or must we wait until we are actually tested to see where we stand?  Do excuses such as “Our situation is unique” apply differently to shelters vs. individual advocates when it comes to killing pets?

There is a saying that a group is only as strong as its weakest link.  What is the no kill movement’s weakest link?

41 thoughts on “Mailbag/Discussion

  1. well,i certainly believe in nokill,i adopted my yogi boy from the st.james missouri humane society which is 100% nokill,they have a 100%adoption rate.they subsist on public donations and corporate donations.right now they are down to about two dogs and just a handful of cats.which means they have room to take in other animals.the catch to that is the animals must be healthy and up to date on vaccines and get along with other animals in the shelter.all animals are temperment tested to see if they get along with other animals.i highly recommend the st.james missouri humane society,they are not associated with the humane society that we all know.they are independently owned by a family.

    1. But what is their definition of “healthy”? Are diabetic, senior, seizure, etc. dogs considered “healthy”? What if they are afraid of other dogs? Not taking those animals IN is one thing, but killing them if they don’t fit those very very narrow requirements…that is NOT No Kill. There is a humane society here like that. Animals they deem adoptable go into the program, and ones that don’t are killed. They don’t claim to be No Kill and they are not.
      And that is what this blog question is asking. How do you feel about people stating it is “ok” to kill animals that are harder to adopt out or care for?

    2. Carla, that’s not No Kill. That’s limited admission. It definitely has its place in saving animals and getting them good homes, but it’s not No Kill. No Kill means taking the hard cases, too, and euthanising when it IS the right medical choice for the animal–an end to irredeemable suffering–as well as treating the treatable.

      I have two dogs right now, who would have been killed in most “shelters” outside the northeast, and even some here, and yet all one needed was the right environment and some socialization and behavioral modification, and the other just needed some vet care and the recognition that a blind dog can do fine in a house without toddlers (because toddlers aren’t yet advanced enough to avoid behavior that will stress a blind dog.)

      1. the st.james missouri animal shelter has never ever killed an animal.they are just selective as to what animals come through their doors,they will take an occasional stray off the streets that the st.james police missouri does not have it,s own animal the st.james humane society will take strays but keep them quarantined from the other dogs. they then are vaccinated tempermemt tested to see if they are adoptable.i highly recommend the st.james humane society,i,ve gotten to know dani the owner of the shelter.they even have a facebook page.

      2. The semantics can be very confusing. If a group only accepts white & fluffies (my term for healthy, highly adoptable pets likely to generate a profit), they had damn well never kill an animal for any reason. That should go without saying. The same goes for groups who will accept the less adoptable pets but turn away all others when they are full. No matter how you limit your admission, in doing so you are picking a certain number or type of pets to save. There should never be any question that you might kill them. If there is, we have a serious problem.

    3. The St. James shelter, Tri-County Humane Society, recently sent a bunch of animals to Humane Society of Missouri, which is a kill facility. When they announced the move on Facebook, they told their supporters that the animals had been moved to HSMO and that they were a no-kill facility. How does a shelter make that mistake?

      Plus, they now refuse to take pit bulls, they say because of BSL, but most of the surrounding area has no breed restrictions. I hardly think this shelter should be held up as a great example of no-kill.

  2. I don’t know if euthanasia or killing is the answer, but I have a problem with dogs being housed for years with minimal socialization and interaction with other dogs/people but, by Golly, they are alive. One reason I keep my pack small (which now it is not) – one person can interact and socialize only so many animals effectively. Part of no-kill is also life enrichment. I’ve never to my understanding sent a dog to heaven for convenience and hope I never do. Foster homes, play pens where shelter dogs can interact with one another, and volunteers walking, interacting with dogs is essential.

  3. I find this to be horrible. I recently visited a FB page of a proclaimed “No Kill” cat rescue in Ohio that stated that they kill FIV and FeLV cats immediately- no re-test even! because they can’t trust the adopters to keep them inside. I found this ridiculous. What about the cats that rely on medications to survive like diabetes? They can trust the owners to provide that care, but not to keep a cat inside? I also found it sad that they had such outdated information on FIV and were unwilling to educate themselves. If Yesbiscuit wants the name of this “rescue” to include in an article, I will gladly give it.

    It disgusts to me to read about rescues or shelters that euthanize surrendered cats that have had urinary infections 5 years ago, or any manageable disease that they can live normal lives with or even shortened but enjoyable lives with. Paralyzed animals that can still have normal lives with therapy or wheels and are otherwise happy animals with no idea they have a disability…Senior animals. Seizure disorder animals. Blind animals. So it takes a little more time finding that perfect home. It isn’t about bouncing them out the door as quickly as possible to anyone that will take them. Only taking in the cutest animals and only making exceptions for tougher cases because they have sad stories that will make the news so that everyone can tell that organization how wonderful they are…

    Euthanasia is for suffering animals with terminal illnesses. There is no cure and there is no end to the pain. Dogs and indoor only cats who are unusually vicious to the point where no one can safely work with them and there is no sanctuary to release them to. Not just a dog with some fear aggression that bites the plastic hand that hits him in the face, or a cat hissing at humans because they are terrified of them.
    I do not respect the organizations that make up reasons to kill or exceptions to kill while claiming that they don’t kill for space or don’t kill any adoptable animals. When you make your own definition of adoptable, that doesn’t count.

      1. a shelter that claims to be nokill and yet kills animals is NOT a nokill shelter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I don’t know about Yes Biscuit….but I’d sure like the name of this group! I live in Ohio and support a few places and would just like to know for my piece of mind.


  4. Personally – I believe in No Kill regardless of anything else that is taking place in my life. Let me explain…I have 6 kids (5 of whom are with us 24/7 & I home school), I work from home, and up until recently have been rescuing, rehabbing, & rehoming pit bulls. Our family is considered low income and seriously barely have the money to eat each day. I have a pit bull that is 15 years old…she has been a true & loyal companion to me since she was 2 yrs old. In the past few months she has begun to deteriorate badly to the point of not even being able to walk on her own. One of us has to carry her to eat/drink and to go outside to the bathroom. If we leave the room – then one of us has to pick her up & carry her to the next room we’ll be in. We also have a 14 yr old cat that is blind & deaf and cries for my constant companionship, but she also hates dogs! About 2 months ago we took in an Olde English Bulldog pup, who is also female. Both girls are aggressive towards other female dogs. So we now have an active healthy pup & an old elderly gal.

    I run into people ALL the time that are supporters of No Kill, but yet they question me about my family’s situation and say things like “Wouldn’t she (cat and/or dog) be better off if you just let her go?” or “Why are you putting her through so much when it seems to be her time?” or “Why are you letting your family go without so you can medicate her when she’s soooo old?” and other crazy questions that make me wonder where their heads are at! It would be easy for so many people to say that since Gracie (our old gal) can’t move on her own and we have so much going on in our lives that it would save time & money to not have to deal with Gracie. Same can be said about the cat. Doing all we can to keep food on the table for our family…saving to buy meds for the older animals in our life.

    But, TO ME, there is no question of if I am doing the right thing. These animals have been truly loyal companions from the beginning. They have loved us and given us much love. Would I ever think of doing the same thing to my grandmother? NEVER! If I wouldn’t do it to another person that I love then why in tarnation would I think of doing it to an animal that I love? I know. I KNOW – animals are NOT people. But these animals are a part of my FAMILY…Every pet in every shelter can & should have a loving family to support it and be there to love it when it reaches the point that it can’t see, hear, walk, etc. They DESERVE to be loved…the DESERVE to LIVE! Anyone that supports No Kill, but doesn’t walk the walk in their own life just aren’t real supporters. I myself have met some…but on the flip side I have also met many MANY people that understand where I am coming from.

    In fact – using my old dog to talk to neighbors about No Kill recently…I was able to “convert” a few people. Just them seeing that I live out what I speak out about was enough for them. Before they met me they had no idea that there really were people that not only believed in No Kill, but also lived No Kill. To be an advocate for something like No Kill means that you need to have your entire life open for inspection. If you aren’t walking the walk, then you have no business talking the talk!

  5. My feelings on this are…conflicted? I used to buy into the party line that overpopulation and the irresponsible public was killing pets. As I learned more and saw the numbers, my opinion did a complete reversal. i now believe that most of the responsibility for the number of pets being killed rests with shelters, not the public.

    But I’ve also had a number of experiences that showed me finding a pet a home isn’t a simple matter…no matter what the numbers suggest.

    I once had a foster kitten come up positive for FIV. I couldn’t bring him home and had to pay boarding costs with the local vet office. I also paid for his medical care (he had been thrown from car and the impact with the street ripped the skin off his chin.) No local shelter or rescue would take him. I plastered his picture all over town and all over the place online. I never got a single call. It took four months before he tested negative on a retest and was adopted by one of the vets. The final cost to me was well over six hundred dollars, and this was with a hefty discount.

    I never considered euthanizing him (though I was under heavy pressure from some people to do so.) I also had a strong feeling that he would end up being negative. But what if he had continued to test positive? I’m sure i would have eventually figured something out, but I had that advantage of working with only one cat at a time. It would have been much harder to network and find solutions if I were working with a hundred or more.

    My JJ was intended to be only a foster. At rescue he was incredibly ill. We did intend to euthanize him because his prognosis was so poor (the only reason we didn’t was because he proved he still had a lot of spunk left in him.). His medical care before he ever left the hospital was into the thousands (all of which I paid out of my pocket.) Finding a home for a blind feral cat was actually somewhat easier than finding a home for a FIV + kitten, but he was still in the hospital for months.

    With JJ I again faced a lot of pressure to euthanize him. I was told “There are so many healthy kittens…even if this one lives, he’ll be blind and have health issues. Is it worth it?”

    And yes…yes he was worth it. Worth every sleepless night and every penny (to date, I’ve spent over 25,000 on his medical care.) JJ is my poster child for why every homeless animal should live.

    So what’s my point? While I think every pet has a right to life, I don’t think we should pretend finding them homes is as simple as the no-kill movement sometimes suggests. I know shelters that genuinely are doing everything ‘right’, but still are really, really struggling. We need to support them and focus as much on helping the good as we do on showing the bad. While the numbers suggest that overall there are enough homes, that doesn’t mean those homes are evenly spread across the country, or that those homes are evenly available to every breed or pet. Acknowledging that it is sometimes really freaking hard isn’t admitting defeat…it helps us pull together to tackle the tough cases more effectively. Saying “this senior diabetic dog has a right to life” is absolutely true and vital. But it’s also step one. I think many people in no-kill are stuck at that first step.

  6. For years, my rescue specialty has been older dogs because I am personally seriously ill with a once-terminal disease (metastatic cancer) that is now considered a chronic disease. I have this on top of 13 other major medical disorders such as SLE (lupus). Since I have no idea how long I will last (but it’s been 20 years so far) I stick with older animals if possible.

    I have a dog that is deaf and blind and one that is blind. They are going on 18 and 19 years. The past winter was really rough on the younger of the two and I was going to put him down. However, now that Spring has arrived he is acting like a young pup again.

    I have wrestled with the problem of euthanasia all winter long. I have come to the conclusion that no one really knows what is right or wrong for another person. I refuse to condem those that put down suffering animals, or animals that take up space a younger animal should have, if one of the two has to be destroyed.

    I have based this on my own situation. I would willingly die to save a younger person. If my living requires another, younger and healthier person to die, then I want to take that person’s place.

    Yes, I’m alive, but at a huge cost. No one, who sees me, remotely guesses the hideous pain I endure everyday. I look fanntastic for my age and I certainly don’t look ill.

    But I am, and I am suffering. I stay alive because the animals and my husband need me.

    I have died many times, in this life, and I have absolutely no fear of death. I know I will just go on to another life or I can repeat this life and try to make it better.

    Just as we don’t go anywhere when we sleep we really don’t go anywhere when we die. We just change form.

    I think life is to be enjoyed, much like going to an amusement park. When the rides get to be too exhausting it is time to rest.

    But, just like we can’t always rest when we want to, sometimes we can’t die when we want to. We have obligations to others that we must honor.

    I think older dogs would like to be released but sometimes we just can’t let them go for our own personal reasons. I think my dog would have been happy if I had let him go, when he was suffering, but I kept him here for my own needs.

    Now Spring has come and he has a new lease on life. But ultimately, Winter will come again and he will suffer again.

    While he is suffering a younger, healthier dog, will lose its life at the pound. So who am I really helping here? Do I let the dog that is weary go so a younger dog is able to enjoy the ride of life or do I keep the older dog because he also has a right to life.

    There will never be any easy answers until we find ways to find homes for all dogs so that these choices don’t have to be made. That is the goal we must all work towards.

    Because my being alive doesn’t mean someone else needs to die. I have the option to live as long as I can or want to.

    Eventually, when we get all pet owners to spay and neuter their pets, our dogs and cats will have the same options I have. Till then, we all have to make heartbreaking choices: release the old and infirm so that younger and healthier animals can live, or put down those unable to enjoy life fully? All I know for sure is that I hate making those decisions.

    1. Here’s my issue with this equation…

      (And please understand I’m not attacking your opinion, just explaining my own thoughts.)

      The equation is that one senior dog alive = one young dog dead. Or medical care for a feral blind kitten = a dozen healthy kittens dead.

      This equation would only be true if the only reason pets died in shelters was from lack of homes. But I would suggest that the vast majority of shelter pets die not from lack of homes, but from a combination of too few people entering the shelter and too few animals leaving.

      I know that sounds like the same thing, but it isn’t. If a shelter has limited hours, smells dirty, has unenthusiastic staff, doesn’t try to match pets to adopters, has overly restrictive adoption requirements, doesn’t post pictures online or posts bad pictures (etc. etc.), then pets in that shelter are dying because people don’t want to come there (and when they do come, they’re turned away.)So killing a senior dog to make room for a younger animal won’t save that younger animal either. Instead of one dead dog, you’ll end up with two dead dogs.

      Shelters play the overpopulation card when often it’s their own policies that cause killing. Yet these shelters with bad policies will still use that death for life equation. It becomes an excuse not to make needed change. The death for life equation has never helped a shelter radically boost its adoption rates…but adopting better policies can and has.

      This is all a completely separate issue from euthanizing animals that are truly suffering. Of course, this in itself can be debated and it can be hard to determine how much suffering or infirmity is too much. I can’t find it in myself to judge anyone facing those choices even if I might have made a different decision.

      1. I agree, Triangle, and would only add that another reason healthy animals die in shelters is that there is no real desire to market them. It takes work, and killing is so much easier for the lazy. Treating animals who are ill, even when not convenient or easy, takes work. It’s easier to kill. Looking for owners of lost animals and engaging in T/N/R for ferals takes work. It’s easier to kill. Never mind the financial incentive which exists so often to maintain status quo: bunchers and those paying for animals who will die or for their dead bodies to be taken to labs. Horrific, but too often the case. Add to that the power trips that many are on and you have a hellish nightmare for the poor babies unfortunate enough to wind up there. We have to do better. We MUST do better!!

  7. Just yesterday we had this discussion on FB. Might be about the same person here with a dog that has behavior issues? Either way, every situation is unique and a shelter probably has more resources available than a person.

    1. I did not see the discussion on FB you are referring to, nor did I know about it. But to clarify, this post was intended to talk about general issues and not any specific person or pet.

    2. Part of the problem is that a lot of shelters really don’t have the resources that they should. I have family members who are dealing with this issue right now, and I’m very conflicted about it. They adopted a dog from a really crappy shelter, and he turned out to have some aggression/biting issues. They have a trainer, but the training isn’t helping with the biting, and they just can’t afford a behavior specialist. There’s a teenager in the home who is so scared of the dog that she’s banished herself to her bedroom.

      They called the local “no kill” shelter, but they won’t take a dog with aggression issues. They thought about returning him to the shelter they got him from in the first place, but that shelter simply does not have the resources to work with him. It’s likely that the shelter would either adopt him out again without informing the new adopters of the aggression, or they would just put him down. They’re out of options.

  8. To me, there are only certain extremes that I believe in killing. The main one is if an animal has attacked a human to the point of hospitalization or death, as I have seen before, to me that animal no longer deserves to live. Especially if they turn on their owner and do them harm purposefully. This also I have seen happen. The other reason an animal should be put down is if they are so ill and in so much pain and there is no cure for what they have.. and I do not mean that you can not afford the treatment.. that’s no excuse.. Vets work with you on things like that. I mean that if there is no chance of them surviving what they have and they are in an insurmountable amount of pain, they should be put out of their misery and let rest in peace. I have had to do this twice and it nearly killed ME but I knew the animal was in such pain because I could see it in their eyes… But just to put one down because it can no longer hear nor no longer see or both.. is stupid and heartless and the person just doesn’t want to take the time to teach the animal where things are. Their sense of smell is so acute that I assure you if you were to hide, that blind and deaf animal could find you with ease. This too has happened to me. Everyone kept telling me to put the dog down. I was being cruel by letting it live.. BULL S**T! This dog lived for another 12 years and was the light of my life. But to answer your question about the no kill shelters.. to me, the two reasons I spoke of in the beginning of this statement should be the only reason they should ever kill an animal in their care. A NO KILL shelter should be exactly that. NO KILL. There are so many ways to raise money for the shelters. The lack of money is no excuse. It’s like adopting an animal from a shelter.. if you adopt it, you adopt it for the entirety of it’s life. Someone asked me today a question that I would like to ask …. Would you give up a meal so that your pet could eat? I have and would again in a heartbeat. When I got that animal I got it to care for for it’s entire life and whatever I had to do to feed and care for it I do. Period.

    So .. that’s My2CentsWorth…

    “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened” Kathie

    >________________________________ > From: YesBiscuit! >To: >Sent: Saturday, April 27, 2013 2:34 PM >Subject: [New post] Mailbag/Discussion > > > > >YesBiscuit posted: “Snipped from a letter from a reader expressing concern about advocates who proclaim they unequivocally believe in no kill but when faced with challenging animals, consider killing a reasonable option. These people often employ many of the same excuses th” >

  9. I believe we need to look hard at our adoption process to find the weakest link. My biggest issue is rescuers, good people, that hold potential adopters to unreasonable standards. I see a lot of applications denied. And so many anecdotal stories of people being rejected, they have essentially stopped being anecdotal. Today, talking about No Kill with seven veterinarians (my dogs were the guinea pigs for acupuncture), 2 had been rejected. That’s our weakest link.

    1. Funny that you mention the rescues with crazy ridiculous standards for adoptions….not too long ago my mother attempted to get a Doberman from a Dobe rescue. My mother said that she didn’t’ care the age, or if it had a docked tail or clipped ears. She was trying to let them know that she was open to anything. They turned her down saying that she supported practices that they didn’t agree with – when that wasn’t the case at all. Next she tried a German Shepherd rescue and had similar issues with them.

      She has a daughter that works at a vet. A daughter that trains dogs. A daughter-in-law that is a groomer. The family vet has been used for 50+ years that vouches for her. And, yet each rescue that she has contacted about dogs has had her jump through hoops. Home checks. Reference checks. The last application was 10 PAGES long! These same groups say they are desperate for homes, is constantly begging for money & supplies. In fact my mother has donated lots to every rescue that she has contacted. And still…every single person she has contacted has turned her down. Each & every one claims it is for some reason…she has 2 cats, my step brother is 15 (kid in the house), they work all day, the fenced in yard is a standard fence & not a 6′ high privacy fence. Talk about jumping through hoops! Each place had a chance on placing a dog in a great family and found some crazy reason to refuse her. She got so ticked that she finally just went to a breeder and got a couple of dogs.

      Then when the very same rescues that turned her down then contacted her about donations she told them “no”. They begged and claimed how badly they needed money due to the high amount of dogs they were caring for. So she told them that they wouldn’t have so many to care for if they didn’t make people jump through hoops and they dropped half their crazy reasons for not allowing people to adopt. She ended the call by telling them that as long as they continued to turn down people for such stupid reasons that they could just find some other sucker to donate to them as she was donating to a No Kill group that didn’t make people jump through hoops to get a pet.

      1. The ignorant delusion which fuels the “no home is good enough for our rescued pets” is the same which will now make all the groups that turned her down feel validated b/c they will say “You see? She is a bad person. She went to a breeder.”

  10. The No Kill movement depends on the volunteers support for pet-adoption and rehabilitation of the shelter pets to a very large extent.. the infighting and differences between rescues can affect No Kill from saving more lives.. so if all rescues in a region agree to work together under one banner and work out a pro-animal solution with animal control, that can resolve the situation and help save more precious lives..

    Also bureaucrats should come down to the animal shelters and take note of situation there, talk to No Kill experts, draft out and pass pro-animal laws in the state legislature in addition to CAPA, see more funding is given to animal welfare, encourage people making positive efforts and show some interest to make things happen for the animals.. that can help No Kill…

    all shelter pets want to live and deserve to live..

  11. I hate to even bring this up but one of the main reasons why so many “shelters” kill way too many animals is because the people running the shelters have become desensitized to killing and actually enjoy it.

    Zimbardo’s famous prison-guard study showed that nice, normal people can turn into unbelievable bullies when given power over the lives of others. Wiki states:

    ” 24 male students out of 75 were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond Zimbardo’s expectations, as the guards enforced authoritarian measures and ultimately subjected some of the prisoners to psychological torture. Many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, at the request of the guards, readily harassed other prisoners who attempted to prevent it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his role as the superintendent, permitted the abuse to continue.”

    No sane, caring person can kill an otherwise healthy, adoptable animal without it causing an emotional backlash. To protect itself, the mind has to justify the action as being unavoidable; So the people rationalize that what they are doing is justified by circumstances.

    The more killing they have to do the more desensitized to killing they become. Eventually, like Ingrid Newkirk of PETA, they will look forward to killing animals and find ever more excuses to do it.

    She writes about how she would go into work early so she could kill as many pets as possible before the staff arrived for the day. She rationalizes it, in her writing, never realizing how mentally disturbed she sounds to normal human beings who haven’t personally killed tens-of-thousands of healthy, adoptable animals who could have been adopted if they had been given the chance.

    Look at the guards at Gitmo who are force feeding prisoners who would rather die than remain locked up for the rest of their lives. Force feeding is a horrible process and is actually torture to most people who experience it. These guards are sons, fathers, and husbands when they aren’t torturing prisoners,

    It isn’t inertia, or lack of funds and resources, that make advocates of kill shelters go ballistic when Nathan Winograd challenges their position on killing. They can’t admit he is right because it would destroy their mental defense systems.

    That is why there are no easy solutions to the massive killing we are seeing going on around the country. It is also why the opponents of no-kill will do just about anything to stop the movement.

    The book, Les Miserables, expores, in depth, what happens when a person’s world view is proved to be false. It is often devastating. It can cause deep depression and even suicide.

    So there won’t be any quick acceptance of the no-kill movement. It will take years for people to finally accept that there are better ways to deal with our pet population than to exterminate it.

    But little by little it will change, as it must, and we all need to give kill shelter supervisors and workers time to adjust to the new way of thinking. Changing isn’t going to be easy for them; jamming no-kill down their throats won’t help.

    We need to work along side them to show them how the no-kill program works, by taking it one step at a time, such as showing them how to market their available animals. With each victory they will become more receptive to the no-kill philosophy without having to risk their mental health.

    They went into shelter work with the best of intentions. It isn’t their fault that their minds built psychological defenses to keep them sane. So, please, stop the sniping at each other. Let’s work together to solve our problems. A win-win solution is always the goal to strive for and we can make that happen with patience and understanding.


    1. “They went into shelter work with the best of intentions.”

      I dispute this assertion. We’ve seen time and again where people who are already abusive go into the shelter system so that they can continue their abuse in an environment that not only accepts it, but encourages it.

      Kill shelters turn people into monsters and they attract those who are already monsters. The solution is not to work *with* the monsters, it’s to remove the monsters and *change the system*. Giving them “time to readjust their worldview” is the same as giving them time to continue the killing. Those who are ready/able/willing to change how things are done, change (Spartanburg, SC). Those who aren’t, don’t (Memphis, TN) and they fumpher about with cosmetic alterations that give the appearance of progress without any actual change.

      Coddle the monsters when lives aren’t at stake.

      1. I tend to agree, mikken. I hate to say that I feel that the shelters not working towards no kill actively aren’t interested in being no kill — but I think that’s the reality. If we hold their hands and “play nice”, animals will die. Laws will have to be changed to force some to change and inject some much- needed accountability into the system. Those who want to be no kill will work hard to make it happen even without all the bells and whistles in terms of resources that some other shelters may have. I don’t think we can afford to wait until the resistant shelters are ready to handle the idea of no kill — I know the animals can’t!

      2. Expending time and energy “fighting” a well-entrenched situation rarely works. Just look at Iraq and Afganistan. Those wars have cost us 4 trillion dollars and thousands of lives to date. As soon as we leave the situation goes right back to where it was before we became involved.

        I know animals will die in the process of enlightening people so they realize things have to change and they are willing to make the changes. You can’t go in and remove people by force because they haven’t evolved to the level you have. If that was possible progressives would walk into Congress and kick out all the conservatives.

        I understand your frustration; I feel it too. Unfortunately, all we can legally do is educate the public so that they will actively work to change the system.

        The best way to do that is to continue to produce excellent documentaries such as Shelter Me. The large majority of the public has no idea that their local shelters are full of animals that would love to serve their adopters and are quite capable of doing so with training.

        Each time I get a new service dog it is one that needs adopting. There is little reason to breed dogs for service work when there are thousands of dogs, in shelters, that would do the job equally well if given a chance.

        The average cost of a service dog is about $7k and it usually takes 2 years before it is ready for service work. A half-decent trainer can take a suitable shelter dog and turn it into a great service dog in 4 to 6 months and at a fraction of the cost.

        If the dog is going to be used to warn of an impending epileptic attack it can be trained in only a couple of months for a few hundred dollars.

        The same is true of a dog that is used to sniff for new cancer growths. There is no reason why the dog has to have been specially bred to do the job. We already know we can easily train almost any dog to sniff out cancer.

        Dogs can be trained in dozens of ways to save llives but it isn’t being done, as much as it could, because people are just waking up to that fact. Really good trainers can even teach cats and ferrets to do some of the same life-saving tasks now being performed by dogs.

        I could probably come up with a hundred ways a dog, cat, or ferret could be used to save a life or make it more bearable. I have trained cats to work with the blind, autistic, deaf, mobility impaired, and terminally ill. I’ve taught my own service dogs the tasks I need help with and I’ve trained dogs for other people’s special needs.

        This isn’t rocket science. Anyone with good business skills can setup a training program, for shelter dogs, and turn the dogs, society considers trash, into treasures they won’t believe they ever lived without.

        This is the fastest way to save the lives of the animals in our shelters. Show the public what they could have and get them to want and demand it.

        The ball has already started rolling and it is going to gain momentum as more troops return from Afganistan, with PTSD. Our brave soldiers are going to need service animals to help keep the guns out of the soldiers’ mouths.

        Our armed services are rushing to get dogs trained as fast as they can. They plan to use soldiers to train shelter dogs so enough animals will be available. That will hopefully relieve some of the strain dogs, who have been abandoned for financial reasons, have put on the shelter systems.

        This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the cat situation which is critical in many areas of the country. For cats we have to educate parents about the benefits cats can offer children having problems with their studies. Cats are easy to care for and are relatively inexpensive compared to dogs.

        They make great therapy animals for autistic children, people under extreme stress, diabetics, people undergoing intense psychotherapy, and many other situations.

        Make videos of how to train cats to do these services and encourage fosters to seek out individuals who could be helped by owning a specially-trained cat. Then train the cats to do whatever is needed.

        We are never going to get anywhere fast, if people continue to think of shelter pets as “damaged goods.” We have to get out there and show them just how wonderful, and even life-saving, these animals can be.

        Encourage those with money to finance flashy PR campaigns about the benefits of owning a shelter pet. Get public figures to include their shelter rescues in PR events. It will get them more notice plus it will boost the value of shelter pets in the mind of the public.

        As you can see, there are lots of ways we can work with the system to change it. Shelter pets have got to become the “in thing” so that people will see them as something of value in their lives. That is when they will be horrified, by what is going on in many shelters, and demand the change the no-kill community wants.

      3. Sadly – the ones running the shelters are the ones that have labeled these animals as “damaged goods”…concocting crazy sob stories in an attempt to get animals adopted – or making false claims about the dog/cat being abused and fearful because of it. If those same shelter workers would spend their time actually marketing the animals and stressing the positive traits then most people wouldn’t see them as “damaged” good instead of faithful companions.

  12. You have some great marketing ideas, although I find your political analogy offensive. Please keep in mind that there are many conservatives who believe in no kill also (and could argue that the “evolved” thing would be to kick out the liberals….. ) Best leave the political left/right arguments out of the equation since not everyone agrees with your politics.. This is, always has been, and should be — about the animals and how to hold shelters accountable for the killing they do. I still maintain that changing the laws governing the shelters is a key part of the equation. Marketing well is vital, but unfortunately there are many shelter personnel who will claim they do not have the “resources” to do what you are requesting. Again, it takes work and the will to do so – and to be blunt, not every shelter employee cares enough to do the networking and marketing necessary to save lives. Volunteers and rescue groups are already trying to “work with the system” but often meet with roadblocks, get “kicked out” or “banned” from the shelter and animals die when they are requested by rescue groups willing to work with them. THIS is what must change (among many other things) — and as long as it remains legal to do the above, there are shelters who will continue to do so because they care more about power and maintaining status quo than they do about helping animals find homes.

  13. I am an ardent No Kill supporter and advocate. I am also co-founder and President of a No Kill rescue group for dogs and cats, with a small shelter operation out of our office building. The short of it is that I believe those of us who are vocal AND who are also in a position to lead by example, do so.

    With that said, a few observations:

    (1) Any shelter or rescue group that is presenting one face but secretely operating differently deserves to be called out. Too often, these organizations solicit donations, grants, and other funds pointing to all of the life-saving work they do, but then they turn around and save far fewer than they would have you to believe.

    (2) The “big gorilla” traditional shelters need to be held accountable first and foremost. If, for no other reason, they are typically doing the bulk of the unneccessary killing. They virtually control the local media, refuse to work amicably with rescues, monopolize resources for fundraising, and (most importantly) are often granted (by their state or by contract) police powers for animal cruelty/neglect cases. As such, they must be held to the highest standards. Such shelters also generally have a highly-paid director and a large paid staff, as well as the most extensive facilities in a given locale or region. In short, they claim to do it all, they receive a disporportionate portion of donations, and they have a PR machine that makes sure that the ONE case garners them BIG BUCKS due to media coverage.

    (3) A private, not-for-profit organization (especially one that is small) has no obligation to do more than it can do with its resources and its (often all-volunteer) staffing. It can specialize in certain breeds of dogs. It can limit itself to taking in only those animals it feels it can help. It can limit intakes to its capacity to care for the animals. But such organizations should not present themselves as something they are not. They MUST at least be honest with and accountable to their donors and to the public. But such organizations (whether breed rescue, sanctuary, “old dog” rescue, FIV or FeLV kitty shelter, or TNR group) play an important role. We can’t ask them to do everything if their mission is limited.

    (4) On the matter of limiting intakes — no group should be expected to take in more animals than it can care for adequately. And that may mean they cannot take certain kinds of cases. On the other hand, all such groups need to be serve the animals they turn away — either through helping find placement with another, appropriate group, or perhaps finding help (behavioral or medical) for that animal. But if you are just saying, “No, we can’t” and not helping the person find an alternative or help, then you are NOT upholding No Kill principles in your own actions/activities. Traditional shelters often manifest this in having multi-month-long waiting lists with no “exceptions” for emergency cases or who simply say “we don’t take feral cats, period.” In the case of feral cats, there are options: Explain TNR. Offer to put people in touch with a local TNR group, and then follow up! Counsel people on rational alternatives.

    (5) Those who lead rescue groups, smaller organizations, or specialized animal welfare operations MUST lead by example. Though they may have to work within their constraints (available foster homes, access to veterinary services, etc), they can hardly be considered helping animals if they are taking only perfect animals, only those in high demand, fully vetted, charging exhorbitant “adoption” fees, and just trying to rake in big bucks — and then pocketing some of that to “pay themselves” because, as they say, “look how much work I do.” Well, just like lazy shelter directors, that is lazy “rescue.” You have to fundraise, build capacity in anticipation of difficult cases, network with other rescue groups, increase your foster-care base, recruit volunteers, work with owners to keep their own animals and provide help so they can solve their own animal-related problem.

    (6) ALL groups need to be respectful of the animal, first and foremost. Decisions must be made to serve that individual animal. The one exception is when the animal presents an unacceptable risk to the public, In that case, we may have to KILL that animal (and, yes, it is KILL, because that is not euthanasia). I would also stress that the group needs to have first made a significant and coscientious effort to rehabilitate the animal before electing to kill it. As for medical considerations, thankfully, irremediable suffering with poor progosis is rare. As for aggression that is sufficiently dangerous to the public and that has grave prognosis for rehabilitation given repeated efforts using state-of-the art methods. — well, this too is rare.

    All this said, my group today is wrestling with a case of medically-recommended euthanasia. We didn’t cherry-pick when we took this animal. It was in our local municipal shelter. The dog was older (around 7 or 8 years old). She obviously had hip/joint problems (common in her breed). She also had a growth that kept “blowing open” at the shelter, where she was not receiving any care. We took her and got her surgery to have the growth removed. Biopsy returned with verdict of cancer. Thought we got everything. She had difficulties healing, and it took several months. Then there were renewed problems. A second surgery to remove two toes on her foot in the hopes of getting all the cancer. Problems healing again, and the dog in continuing pain. Options? Amputate the entire leg, but the joint issues render that difficult, since she cannot support her weight on a single (already painful, dysplastic) hip/leg. The dog is in constant pain. Pain meds are not alleviating this. The leg wound from toe-amputation is not healing. Do we say good-bye? We are discussing this now.

    We have put thousands of dollars and many months into this dog. We had hoped for a better ending. We felt there was a reasonable prognosis for the dog’s continued quality of life for several more years. But it appears not. And it is never easy raising money to cover the costs associated with the ones we try to help but eventually lose.

    I have personally fostered dogs for over a year because it took that long to rehabilitate them given their aggression issues. I have rehabbed many dogs with severely destructive separation anxiety, and placed them into homes where they had no anxiety issues beyond the intial week or two of adjustment. I have a foster dog now, returned for the 5th time, who has (a) chronic medical issues, (b) separation anxiety issues, (c) is dog-reactive/aggressive. She will stay with me until I can find the right home. For now, her health is fine, and we have a program of routine monitoring to ensure it stays that way. I have her separation anxiety resolved. And she’s getting along with my 4 resident dogs and the 2 other foster dogs. So much for her reactivity — given a bit of work. We are offering the dog adoption fee sponsored and with lifetime veterinary care on us.

    Hopefully, our actions will speak as loudly as we sometimes seem on the protest lines!

    1. Need I say that it is one thing to turn away an animal you fell can’t help, versus killing ones you already have to make space to take in another you may just eventually kill too?

  14. I am a firm believer in no-kill. Animal Rescue New Orleans is the only no-kill shelter in the New Orleans area. I recently had to take sebatacle because I just can’t do it anymore now that I’m pregnant but I will do what I can for them. The shelter is always full so very rarely can we take walk-ins. We do have a waiting list but if we have a case come up where the outcome does not look good for the animal if he were go to the municipal shelter, whether it be for behavioral or medical reasons, we make as many exceptions as we can. For those we cannot take, we always ask if they can foster until another foster home is found and we post the animal on facebook to help find an owner/foster. We take in a LOT of behaviorally challenged dogs. We just had one dog that would have never made it out of a kill shelter alive because he was so unruly that just got adopted. One of our volunteers got trained as an animal behaviorist and works with several of our dogs to make them more adoptable. We have had many small dogs as well as large, including many pits and pit mixes. We feed a feral colony right outside of the shelter. Once our animals are adopted, we work with the adopter if there are problems and we take the dog back if it isn’t a good fit. We have a hospice foster program for the older pets that come in on their last leg that provides all medical treatments for the pet while in their care. I was bitten by a dog once who has also bitten a couple other people because he is a redirected dog aggression. Most shelters would have deemed him ‘unadoptable’ for that reason but to this day all he has for anyone is tail wags and kisses. We also work with the other shelters in the area to promote their adoptables and help them save more. We pull animals from them as well. We also have one of very few feral rehab programs in the U.S., from which we have rehabalitated and adopted out many feral or unsocialized dogs. It does take work but there is no reason to give up on any of them. As far as the excuse I have heard against no kill about not agreeing with the dogs being in a shelter for a long time, all I have to say is at least they are still alive. We have a handful of dogs that have been there for at least 3 years just for not being as pretty or not liking other dogs but they all still get play time and walked at least twice a day. No-kill works and it’s just a matter of some people realizing that. I understand about building up a psychological barrier against the killing if you ‘have’ to do it, but once the solution to the problem is handed to you, then why not take advantage. It’s not condemning shelters for doing it their way before but once they know how to change and improve and just refuse to is when they should reassess their morals.

    (sorry if my writing is run on or rushed. I was between clients when I wrote this :) )

  15. Not for publication

    What about the big models of No Kill that aren’t living up to the No Kill standard. I have visited and observed 1 community that is betraying the movement. I think they are the second largest. ( NHS ) I believe that they could fairly state a work in progress, but instead they tout success. They are not a No Kill community. Their animal services are not No Kill. NHS is limited access, but proclaim open admission. They turn away the owner surrenders daily. Do they then
    get surrendered as strays? Their numbers reflect so. Since No Kill was announced at NHS the stray numbers have tripled.
    I would ask you to dig as you have done in Austin and other communities. I worry if a model isn’t really the model that other communities will be set up for failure.

    1. If you have any evidence to back up your claims, or if you are willing to put your name to your claims at least, please e-mail me. I pursue as many tips as I can make time for, provided there is some credible evidence or at least eyewitness testimony to base things on.

      On Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 10:48 PM, YesBiscuit!

  16. I realize that it was asked to put keep politics out but I will use it as an example and hopefully get my point across without offense. In politics, the focus on winning an election is by getting your supporters to turn out in droves while convincing the independents. Voters are actually categorized by how they vote on how Democratic or Republican they are based on their voting history. So during a campaign, each party will solicit their supporters. All of the discussions, ads, etc are to sway the independents. A democrat is who soliciting voters is not going to go to an extremely republican voter to ask for their support. They can beg or argue but overall, the Republican is already entrenched in his/her thinking and the debate will only deepen the entrenching. I believe it is why No Kill advocates allows and supports debate in spite of many outright lies that the opposition tells, so people who are “independents” can decide where they stand. I also believe that arguing and begging people who are entrenched in the killing philosophy is pointless. You can provide them with them solutions. If they want/choose to read the information that is provide to them and act/change on their own, it is an added bonus. After all, it is in their best interest to do so because the public will be asking for accountability, the public sentiment is headed that way. However, I don’t believe for one minute that giving them cupcakes and asking them to see the light will start saving shelter animals. Time is one luxury that the animals don’t have.

    1. After rereading this, I should have included or vice versa. A republican will not likely convince a deeply entrenched democrat, etc. Didn’t mean to insinuate that Republicans are the same as pet killers, because they aren’t. People of many different parties are pet lifesavers and I suspect, it is the same with pet killers. I do believe in asking nicely first and allowing people the chance to do the right the thing. If not, then, you know who you are dealing with, so you can, with a clear conscience, act accordingly.

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