ASPCA Will Teach You How to Kill Viable Kittens “Off the Books” to Keep Your Live Release Rate Shiny

Screengrab of shame
Screengrab of shame

The ASPCA and the Mayor’s Alliance are teaching more people how to gut pregnant cats whose kittens are so close to being born that they would survive the gutting.  Euphemistically referred to as “late term spay”, this horrific practice inflicts violence on both the mother cat and her unborn babies.  Once cut out of the mama cat’s belly, each kitten helplessly crawls around until someone kills her.  Mama is sewn up and, if she survives the risky procedure, is left to grieve for her kittens whom she knew were alive inside her when the ASPCA vet gave her an injection and are now inexplicably, heartbreakingly gone.  So much for that prevention of cruelty to animals thing.

And all this needless killing can be kept off the shelter’s books since the kittens are not counted as intakes – only the mama cat.  So the shelter’s live release rate can be touted as an achievement even as it masks the killing of kittens deemed so valueless by the shelter they were never even counted as being alive, despite the fact that they most definitely were.

When I saw a link tweeted by the Mayor’s Alliance and the Feral Cat Initiative on Twitter advertising the ghastly “workshop” above, I chimed in with my two cents:


To be clear, yes there is always a possibility that a kitten, just like any other living being, might die prematurely from an accident or illness.  There is also an excellent chance that she might not, especially if shelters do their jobs to protect life and get homeless animals adopted.  But it is absurd to attempt to justify the killing of viable kittens, ripped from their mother’s belly, in order to protect them from the possibility of premature death.  Late term spay is premature death for kittens.  Death doesn’t get any more premature than that.

I am not saying it’s easy for shelters to handle all the pregnant cats they receive.  I get that it’s a challenge.  What I’m saying is that it’s wrong to kill the kittens who are alive inside these pregnant cats and that option shouldn’t even be on the table at any so-called shelter, let alone a routine practice.

Reaching out to the community for assistance with temporary foster homes is one way to allow the kittens to be born without placing any burden on the shelter.  Partnering with feral colony caretakers is another tool which allows shelters to keep tabs on mama cats and kittens within colonies in order to trap animals at the right time for spaying the mother and taming/adopting the kittens.

There are always alternatives to killing and groups like the ASPCA and the Mayor’s Alliance should be the ones leading the way in protecting the lives of animals.  Instead they are promoting the heinous practice of killing viable kittens while inflicting emotional and physical harm to mother cats.

Oh and for the record:  vegan pizza?  You’re doing it wrong.


54 thoughts on “ASPCA Will Teach You How to Kill Viable Kittens “Off the Books” to Keep Your Live Release Rate Shiny

  1. Isn’t that the same philosophy at PETA? Kill them now because MAYBE they MIGHT meet a terrible death down the road at some point.

  2. The pessimism of the people in the so called animal “welfare” orgs is atrocious. They have turned their twisted belief that killing is unavoidable because bad outcomes are inevitable into a multi-million dollar fundraising machine. “Give us money so we can help these poor animals … and by the way by ‘help’ we mean ‘kill’ because it’s the only way to make sure nothing awful ever happens to them … “

  3. When you say you know it is a challenge to take in cats I’m not sure you know the magnitude of the issue in some locations. I know the shelter I help has calls for over 30 cats and kittens PER DAY! That is much more than a challenge, that is a tsunami of cats. I don’t approve of late term spays as suggested by ASPCA but I object from the viewpoint that it can likely kill the mother cat. It is an extremely risky procedure and should only be done as a last resort if the mother cat is in danger with dead or decaying kittens inside or similar.

    I wish I knew the answer to this issue but so far I’ve not heard of a good solution. I do know that late term spays is not the way I hope my local shelters choose.

    1. I know the shelter I help has calls for over 30 cats and kittens PER DAY!

      Cats have the right to live regardless of the number of cats who need help. Even if I don’t comprehend the magnitude of the situation as you suggest, that in no way diminishes the fact that cats have a right to live.

  4. Just when I was starting to have faith in the people at the ASPCA again, this comes along. I was so shocked when I got the email I set it aside and read through it again. Just in case, you know, I was REALLY tired and mis-read it. Nope. I guess someone went to the Ingrid Newkirk school for cat care.

  5. I will say that there’s a belief out there that mom cats don’t mourn for their babies the way that dogs do. I know a shelter director who staunchly held this belief, and so it was okay to abort kittens (not puppies, no, just kittens). Whether that was something she told herself so she could sleep at night or if she actually thought it to be true, I don’t know. But it’s something she tried to convince others of, as well…

    1. Sounds like part of the whole “cats are inferior to dogs” thing. Their owners don’t love them as much as dog owners do so shelters shouldn’t have to hold them, mother cats don’t have emotional attachment to their babies like dogs do, whatevs. No sale here.

  6. A person from a spay clinic once told me “unless we see a head poking out, we’ll spay.” That’s the mentality. Unless there’s a head poking out, we can be in denial that they’re really kittens.

  7. I must chime in about a similar disturbing incident that I had never before encountered. I am on the mailing list for dogs available at San Antonio Pets Alive! One face in particular haunted me and I called to let the staff know that I would foster her. Arrangements were made to pick her up on April 20.
    When Gracie was brought out, her teats were quite swollen. So much so in fact several people asked me about her puppies. I’ve never had a pregnant dog before so I was at a loss. I just said, “I don’t know. I’m just fostering her.” In the back of my head, I assumed she had delivered pups and they were … somewhere.
    To say Gracie was wild was an understatement. I managed to leash her – probably for the first time ever – clutch her medical records and get the hell out of SAPA.
    At home, Gracie proved to be difficult. She roamed through the house constantly, refused to settle down and was generally a huge pain. When I read her medical report, I finally understood her behavior.
    It seems on April 18, she was sedated for a spay procedure, but the veterinarian refused to operate because Gracie was too far along in her pregnancy. However, the next day, April 19, the procedure was completed. I had no idea about any of this, but it certainly explains her frantic searching.
    I felt so bad for her. They didn’t even offer me pain medication for her, which I would have happily paid for. Two days later, Gracie began bleeding, but rather than haul her back to San Antonio – we live an hour and 15 minutes away – I took her to my vet, who diagnosed the beginnings of pyrometra and treated her for it.
    Throughout the ordeal of fostering Gracie, I went to work in tears several times and wanted to return her to SAPA because “it just wasn’t working out.” I couldn’t do that to her though so we both toughed it out. After four months – and two rounds of dog obedience classes – poor Gracie finally calmed down and her sweet and loving personality developed.
    I adopted her because I’m obviously a horrible foster mother. However, I’m convinced Gracie would have been a wonderful mama to those poor unborn pups.
    Late term spay procedures obviously play havoc with the hormones and psyches of pregnant dogs. The very least the staff could have done was to inform me what had happened to Gracie and what to expect. But, no, I’m sure they were just relieved to get another dog out of there. What a travesty!

    1. Thank you for fostering and adopting Gracie. She needed someone special at that time in her life and obviously she found the person she needed.

    2. Judith, I’m so very sorry that happened, I remember Gracie, not by name, but by her condition as she was so advanced in her pregnancy and was very upset that they performed the surgery as were the staff at SAPA. I wanted to clarify that SAPA absolutely 100% believes that puppies and kittens should be born naturally. The surgery of your dog was not something that was performed, or even condoned, by SAPA. The surgery was done as a requirement to save Gracie’s life, according to that shelter’s current policy. We have no control over that, though we have tried very hard to influence the policy. Thank you for fostering and eventually adopting, Gracie found a wonderful family.

  8. I get a violent physical reaction to their horrible TV commercials already. You have just made it worse. :-(

  9. Those babies have a right to live. The callousness of their responses to you were sickening. Not a big fan of the ASPCA to start with, group them with many of the other big organizations. I’m going to go hug my cats now.

  10. Ugh, this is so heartless and I can’t understand the mentality. And I love vegan pizza, I just was under the impression that compassion for animals included cats, guess I”m doing vegan wrong.

  11. I will disagree here.. Dogs and cats make look like they are “mourning” but I really do not think they are. Of course everyone has they own opinion but none of us really know what a cat thinks. Most animals after a spay are fine.. and this mean fewer cats and that is what shelters are all about .. reducing the number of animals.or they should be. there is NO shortage of cats.. the ingrid Newkirk school of cat care would be to kill the adult cat regardless. as a person who raises puppies i can tell that dogs may carry around a toy or two when they are having a false pregnancy but that is only for a couple of days if even then. I would assume most here bike in choice for the human animal and we make the choice to say/neuter our own animals. To say cats have a “right to life’ means they should be making their own decisions about their future

    1. And your evidence that the clear signs of mourning in dogs and cats don’t indicate real mourning is…?

      Their brains are smaller and less complex than ours, but the same in basic structure and wiring. Emotion is an older system than rational thought; deciding that animals must not feel real emotions or strong emotions because they’re “just animals” is willful self-delusion.

      No, being pro-choice does not mean that consistency requires me to approve of late-term spays in dogs OR cats. We know they can’t consider arguments about the relative merits of giving birth vs. spay/abort. We know–yes, know–that they will mourn the loss of their babies, especially late term.

      Unless it’s medically necessary, late-term spay is a moral outrage.

  12. there is a difference between believing that animals have rights and anthropomorphizing them to the point they are weepily grieving over the bodies of their lost kittens. please. confusing emotion for reason is no basis for an argument.

    1. “Culturally, we try to deny human-like behaviors in animals,” says Alan Beck, Professor and Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “People used to believe that animals didn’t feel pain”, says Beck. “We know, of course, that this isn’t true. Then, they used to question whether animals could think. Clearly, they can.” Beck adds, “I suppose that denying animal’s human-like behaviors allows us to be more comfortable eating them and using them.” But attitudes toward animals have changed over the years. While he believes that cats probably don’t perceive death the same way as people do, for pet cats experiencing a drastic change in their environment, it seems reasonable to think that they do grieve. “We can’t be certain if they mourn in the human sense of the word, but we should give them the benefit of the doubt”, says Beck. “If something would cause stress in a human, we should assume it would cause stress in animals.”

      From -

      Not to mention the storm of hormones that happens with pregnancy.

      Mourning loss is not limited to humans.

  13. rather hard to have pyo when there is no uterus…terms like ‘those poor unborn pups” etc are way too much like the “pro life” people who think that termination of pregnancies in any form is murder. Anthropomorphism of animas is bad enough when done by the animals rights people but here? did not think i would see that. If cats and dogs have a “right to live” we should stop killing the ones already here.. if the are “too many” we should prevent more form entering the world. Shelters cannot have it both ways.. too many animals? blame it on the “irresponsible public’ too few.. let’s let them have puppies and kitties and then blame that on the “irresponsible public” too.

    1. “If cats and dogs have a “right to live” we should stop killing the ones already here.. if the are “too many” we should prevent more form entering the world. Shelters cannot have it both ways.”

      Actually, they can have it both ways. You stop killing the ones already here and you s/n so you don’t make more. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  14. I see these “but if you’re pro-choice…” arguments come up in every discussion about spay abortions, and they make me cringe every time. If you’re making that comparison then you don’t understand what “pro-choice” means, and quite frankly you scare me. It doesn’t mean “pro-abortion, all the time, every time, even without consent.” It literally means pro-CHOICE – respect the choice of the pregnant person, whether they’re choosing to abort or to carry to term. We only give abortions to people who ask for them, unless there’s a pressing medical need and no feasible way for the person to give consent. Because cats and dogs cannot make the choice or consent to an abortion, we should not take it upon ourselves to perform abortions on them unless it’s truly medically necessary.

    1. I would add to your very good points Sarah that IME there is no one calling themselves pro-choice who advocates for removing near term babies from the mother and killing them. The people who try to apply this pro-choice argument to dogs and cats are so far off the mark it’s alarming. Can you imagine if anyone, anywhere attempted to apply the “unless we see a head poking out at the time of the procedure, we do it” standard in the pro-choice movement? It would immediately and unequivocally be shut down by people on both sides of the issue, rightfully so.

      1. Right? Removing a uterus full of near term kittens and injecting it with Fatal Plus? There’s absolutely nothing even remotely similar to that that would be permissible to do to a human!

  15. From Alley Cat Allies, the most respected feral cat group in the country: “Learn safe techniques to spay pregnant or lactating females that can mitigate the risk of complications. Because it is difficult to retrap a cat, Alley Cat Allies believes that the benefits outweigh the risks when spaying pregnant or lactating females. After spaying a pregnant female, administer 150 ml subcutaneous fluids before returning her to her trap. Be sure to keep her warm while recovering. If the kittens are near-term, euthanasia solution should be injected into the uterus after it has been removed. While the decision to spay a pregnant female is a difficult one, remember that the goal of a spay and neuter program is to reduce the number of kittens.”

    From Maddie’s Institute: 26) Q: What do you tell individuals/groups who are against spaying pregnant females?
    A: At this point in time our community euthanizes a great number of kittens that are already
    born. Until we equalize the number of kittens born with the number of homes waiting for them, we’ll spay the pregnant cats. Our volunteers seem to get it, or maybe the ones that disagreed have left and joined foster groups that keep the moms until their kittens are weaned and adopted.

    Newbies and misguided No Kill folks really need to rethink what they’re spewing. Safe aborting of ferals is the humane thing to do.

    1. You are entitled to your opinion on who is the most respected feral cat group in the country and who is a spewing newbie. As a shelter animal advocate, I could never stand behind the recommendation that viable kittens be removed from their mother’s belly and killed. As for Maddie’s Fund’s outrageous claim that it’s ok to kill kittens via late term spay because other, naturally born kittens are also being killed – they can go fuck themselves. This is the exact same type of argument used by shelter directors who refuse to do their jobs and kill animals instead of sheltering them:

      There are healthy pets being killed, there is no reason we should save ones who are sick or injured.
      There are well-trained, well-adjusted pets being killed, there is no reason to save overly exuberant dogs or scared cats.
      There are other shelters killing more animals than we are so leave us alone.
      It’s all bullshit. If we as shelter animal advocates are not advocating for the right of every healthy/treatable animal to live, who will?

      Shelters have a job: to shelter animals in need.
      Shelter animals have a right to live that can not be undermined, redefined, or qualified.

      I am a no kill advocate. I don’t do asterisks.

      1. One more thing: I see ACA is telling vets to inject the uterus with Fatal Plus instead of injecting each kitten individually. Cowards. It’s easier to inject a mass of flesh than to hold each precious living kitten in your hands and kill them. If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Shame on ACA for giving vets an out that allows kittens to suffer inside the uterus just so vets don’t have to deal with the enormity and tragedy of what they’ve done.

      2. The sound you hear from me is applause!

        A personal experience – ex in-laws used to have a small farm. I remember one summer when a cow delivered a stillborn calf. They buried the baby in the pasture and the mom sat right next to the burial spot crying emotionally and mournfully for her lost baby. Don’t tell me that animals don’t experience loss and grieve.

    2. Abortion is by definition not safe – it is killing. “Safe abortion” is a contradiction in terms, and anyone who uses that phrase is a liar.

      1. This is not a forum to discuss the wide-ranging issues surrounding abortion. Keep your comments related to the issue in the post.

      2. My comment was a direct response to Jackie’s comment: ” Safe aborting of ferals is the humane thing to do,” so I thought it was wholly relevant.

      3. In that case, it is relevant. I couldn’t tell when I first read it that you were responding to a specific sentence and I am obligated to err on the side of caution when it comes to reining in off-topic discussion of heated issues. Carry on.

    3. I just lost any respect I may have had for both Alley Cat Allies and Maddie’s Fund.

  16. So what you’re saying is that everyone and every group is wrong except you?? Um, OK, don’t let the truth get in the way of how you guys feel. Just curious who you do feel is a respected feral cat group that has done even half of what Alley Cat Allies has done for ferals in the past 20 years? I would appreciate an answer- thanks!

    1. Everyone who tries to justify killing kittens by saying that kittens are already being killed anyway is wrong about that. Everyone who tries to justify killing kittens by saying that the goal is to reduce the number of kittens – implying that therefore anything done in service of that goal is justified – is wrong about that. That doesn’t mean those groups or those people are wrong about every single thing or that they’ve never done anything right. It is indeed possible to believe that Alley Cat Allies has done a lot to help feral cats and at the same time disagree wholeheartedly with their stance on spaybortion.

  17. Oh I agree 100% that we can all have our own opinions and not agree with everything that every organization does. However, the point I’m trying to make is that it only hurts animals to malign groups when you don’t agree with them and by stating that the ASPCA and Mayor’s Alliance are teaching people how to “gut pregnant cats” is not only irresponsible but a lie! Aborting might be wrong for you and that’s OK but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong in general and maligning otherwise good groups or “losing all respect” for them just hurts the animals we’re all supposed to be protecting. Aborting has always been done and it will continue to be done. If you have issues with it then don’t do it – no one is forcing you to, but don’t malign others – including reputable groups that have helped thousands and thousands of animals over the years – because they see it as the right thing to do. I would really also like to know which feral group you guys respect because every feral group that I know of does spay pregnant feral cats.

    1. Well aborting would be fine for me personally because I would consent to it for myself. But I don’t believe non-consensual abortion is ok unless, as I already said, it’s truly medically necessary, and again, cats and dogs can’t give consent.

      Your question at the end of your rambling there indicates that you really don’t understand my point at all.

    2. Sorry, but if we talked about all of the things that have been done over the years, and are still being done to animals, that doesn’t make it right. If those kittens and puppies are viable, then they deserve to be born and to have a chance to live. We have enough gray areas, where if you don’t like it don’t do it is the reason people give for doing some pretty ugly things. Killing living beings because there are too many of them is wrong. So, how do you feel about societies that only permit a certain number of children? They have been doing the abortion thing for a long time and continue to do so. And that makes it okay? I would hope that, as we learn more and develop as a society, we would also be more kind and compassionate and respectful.

    3. I do consider late term spay to be ‘wrong in general,’ a procedure which should only be done on a case-by-case basis when medical need outweighs the harm done. Thus, it’s not a practice I’m going to just agree to disagree about, as if it were a matter of no more import than a minor social solecism or the one true recipe for borscht.

      I also cannot politely express how strongly I disagree with the notion that we should not openly criticize established organizations when they promote practices we consider unethical and abhorrent. That these organizations are well-known or widely respected is immaterial – there is no authority on Earth which is or should be above criticism.

  18. “Rambling” – I think you’re not playing nice because we don’t agree so you’re proving my point. My question at the end was a general question – I said “you guys” – I didn’t mean YOU sarah. Glad to know that you are a fan of Alley Cat Allies because they have made huge strides for ferals in the past years.

  19. Alley Cat Rescue, a smaller group started by someone from Alley Cat Allies, doesn’t spay cats who are known to be pregnant. And killing kittens who are capable of living outside their mother is wrong because it’s bad for them and for their mother. Just becsuse a large organization that has done a lot to help feral cats says it’s morally acceptable does not make it so. People generally like kittens and want to help them, so it’s easier for shelters to find volunteers to foster moms and kittens, to raise money for their care, and to find adopters for the kittens (and moms, if they’re tame) than it would be for, say, large senior dogs. The shelters just need directors and staff willing to put in the necessary amount of work.

  20. I had a feral calico give birth to seven kittens. She took excellent care of them and as they got older she was bringing them to me. At five weeks of age I was advised to take the kittens rather than have them cross the road to my house, be subjected to roaming animals, etc. I took them but she sat where she had hidden them for days. She never came to me to eat and it took me time to rebuilt her confidence. They HAVE feelings. They DO mourn their losses. Get off your high superior horse. The reality is only God knows the depth of feelings they comprehend.

  21. Jackie, I didn’t know that; I’ve never visited Alley Cats Rescue’s Website. Their office and the vet clinic they work with were two blocks from my house before I moved last year, and I worked closely with them. In my experience with them, I was aware of many pregnant cats they cared for in their office/cattery.

  22. I support your kind and caring no kill philosophy, Yes Biscuit. I wish I had a huge hoard of cash to fund you and others like you, who, as Gandhi did, revere all life. All I can do is cry, yell, write, and now and then make tiny donations. Life does stink, as Natalie Wood’s sister said.

  23. Why do they choose barbaric killing instead of punishing the real offenders? People who don’t spay or neuter their animals are to blame! They obviously don’t care of the animals born as a result of their not caring! We need strict laws to make these people to fix their animals, so we don’t have to kill animals!

  24. People who don’t spay or neuter starts the problem.The rest of us have to deal with it.I only give money to my local no kill shelter.I learned HSUS only gives one per cent to shelters.Any stray who comes into my yard is spayed or neutered,then fed by me or neighbors.My vet gives me special TNR rate.I can understand the need to abort the babies but I don’t like it.

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