If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are likely a supporter of no kill, unless you just come here to hate read which – hey, we take all comers. But if you are for no kill, you are a compassionate person who believes that shelter directors should do their jobs and not kill the animals in their care. And it’s likely you do more than read about ending the killing – whether you have adopted an animal to save his life, addressed your local politicians about no kill, volunteered at a shelter or any number of other ways you might be engaged.
If you work with (or for) the director and staff of your local shelter for any length of time, you may come to consider them friends. You may come to feel that, even though they kill animals, they are basically good people in a bad situation. And you may be right. Every pet killing facility that transitioned to no kill had some well-intentioned people working there who needed education and had a willingness to change. You might be working with people like that.
Here’s the thing: education and change don’t fall from the sky and bathe you in their glory. There has to be someone to speak up and demand reform. It can be demanded in polite terms. It can be demanded respectfully. It can be demanded with a bouquet of daisies. But someone has to do it.
People are hesitant to bring criticism to their friends, especially when they have developed and want to maintain the relationship. And many pet killing facilities make it clear on social media or even in their policy handbooks that criticism is not allowed. Animal advocates sometimes have the concern, and rightfully so, that their ability to help animals at the shelter will be taken away if they speak up against the killing. I get all of that.
Still, someone has to do it. If no one stands up and says unequivocally that killing is wrong and it needs to stop immediately, no one will hear it. And if no one hears it, those good people you are working with, sympathizing with, making excuses for, enabling – whatever you want to call it – will maintain the status quo. They will keep killing animals while you keep silent.
I have no problem being the bad guy. I will call out every director failing to shelter animals and killing them instead. Every last one. The ones who say they hate it, the ones who seem to enjoy it, and every one in between. If they never hear it from anyone else, they will hear it from me: killing shelter animals, including the unborn, is wrong.
My hope though, is that by bringing attention to the individual shelters doing the killing, someone local will be motivated to take action to protect the animals. I’m not saying anyone is going to chain themselves to the kill room door and chant “No more killing” into a bullhorn or anything, but maybe a meeting will be sought. Perhaps a conversation will be had. Even if it’s only to say what a jerk that YesBiscuit is and what does she know and we’re doing the best we can but oh I did notice that no kill checklist she posted and I wondered if one of those things might work for us. It’s a start.
Complacency is the enemy of reform. If you find yourself defending the killing of shelter animals, you have become complacent about the failure at your shelter. Snap out of it. Do not wait for a mandatory spay-neuter law to magically solve your challenges – mainly because MSN has never eliminated or reduced the killing of shelter animals anywhere it’s been tried. It’s a proven failure with some communities seeing an increase in killing after the passage of MSN. This is why MSN is opposed by most every major animal welfare group in the country including the No Kill Advocacy Center, ASPCA, Alley Cat Allies, AVMA, and the American College of Theriogenologists. There is no excuse for continuing the killing while waiting to implement a failed plan and ignoring those practices which have been proven to be successful in saving shelter pets. The programs and policies that will help you long term to maintain no kill can also be relied upon to help you in your immediate crisis.
It all starts with a hard working, compassionate director committed to lifesaving for whom killing is not an option. Do you have that at your shelter? If yes, you’ve got a head start. If no, you need one. You can’t skip that one for now and expect to move ahead. There is no shelter saving more than 90% of its animals being led by someone who kills animals for convenience. And yes, that is the right word. You can call it killing for space, time, resources, population control or any name you like but the animals are being killed for convenience – yours, obviously. And it’s entirely inconsistent with no kill.
There is no easy to be had in this world, I’m convinced. Sheltering pets instead of killing them takes extensive, continuous efforts from the director, staff, volunteers and the community. I guess that’s why they call it work.