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Support Kill or No-Kill Shelters? Not such as easy question!

July 28, 2016

As recently as 30 years ago, 17 million pets were euthanized each year in animal shelters. This common practice was done simply to control the pet population. About 20 years ago, the “no-kill” movement began in San Francisco, California. This community committed to finding a home for every pet that entered its shelters.  Their campaign promoted adoption and used spaying/neutering as a better way to control the cat and dog population. Fortunately this idea soon spread throughout the US! It’s estimated that over 13 million companion animals are saved each and every year because of these practices.

Many, but not all, animal shelters today are considered “no-kill”.  These facilities will only euthanize a pet for extreme medical necessity, when no amount of care will help the pet to lead a happy life. These facilities can euthanize up to 10% of their pets, due to temperament or health, and still be considered “no kill.” These shelters range from very small to quite large, employing staff and volunteers who are among the best people on the planet.

Though it seems like “no-kill” animal shelters should be the only shelters that win our support, it isn’t always that simple.  No-kill shelters are in reality “limited-admission” shelters, because they can be selective about which animals to take in. There are sometimes age limitations, behavioral requirements and health standards which must be met in order to surrender an animal.  

Open-admission (or “kill”) shelters have no such requirements. They are required to take in all animals, regardless of health, temperament or even available space. Therefore they are sometimes forced to euthanize a pet sooner, rather than later, in order to protect the health and safety of the rest of their pet population. These shelters are usually government run, led by people who clearly love animals and often consider this job to be their calling. Theirs is a tough, tough job.

Having worked directly with individuals at both types of shelters, it’s clear that empathy, caring and an intense love for all pets is abundant in both. Support for both open-admission and no-kill shelters should be the least we can do. Other helpful ideas include turning away from puppy mill pets (most-often bought in pet stores), always spaying and neutering our own pets and encouraging our local lawmakers to support legislation to help companion animals and to enforce the laws already in place.

Currently there’s no government agency that is responsible for tabulating statistics on the pet population or for tracking animal shelters.  Anecdotally we know that the policies which began in California are saving lives across the country. Today there are 70 million dogs and 74 million cats which live as household pets. These are the lucky ones. By supporting all shelters which touch the lives of companion animals we may just change the luck for the homeless pets, as they wait for their own forever family.

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Well written article. At present we are without pets until the happy day comes that we can adopt a dog who needs a home.

After we lost our girls I volunteered at an animal shelter. It was a no kill. Most of the animals at this shelter were older, had more health issues and were larger dogs. The smaller dogs adopted out quicker but the larger dogs not so much. When the day comes we can adopt again we will get an older dog(s) from a rescue.

After a move I volunteered a different no kill shelter. For the most part this shelter took in smaller dogs because they are easier to place. They placed more dogs than the first shelter I volunteered at because the dogs were smaller, healthier and easier to place. There were big dogs on occasion. This shelter worked with other rescue groups and vice versa. For instance if they took in a certain breed they had contacts with other shelters who were able to take that specific breed into their shelter or find a foster home until the dog was placed in it's forever home.

There are people who believe supporting no kills is better. To me the bottom line is that a pet is brought into a loving forever home.

There is the issue of overcrowding that all shelters must unfortunately must deal with. (I wish everyone neutered and cherished their pets!) Sometimes people have the wrong idea that if they drop off a pet at a no kill that their pet is safer. No kills are watched closely to make sure they are not overcrowded. So working closely with other rescues makes a difference.

So often people say bad things about "kill" and "high kill" shelters—all out of ignorance about why these facilities exist and why they have to put animals down. I volunteer at a high-kill county shelter in Los Angeles, and we see, first hand, a government system that must deal with a huge overpopulation of unwanted animals created by people who breed them and people who don't alter or take care of them. We work with the shelter to get them rescued and adopted, but there's no way to find homes for them all. So thank you for this explanatory article that's filled with facts and compassion!! <3



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