Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shelter Pets - What's Your Goal?

This is a continuation of the discussion in the following posts on KC Dog Blog and One Bark at a Time:

No Kill Communities vs No Kill Shelters -- and why confusing the two endangers the movement

No-kill: it can't be impossible if someone's already doing it

I want to live in a no kill nation.

Sounds like a simple enough statement. But of course it isn't because - it seems like lately anyway - nothing is.

To achieve a no kill nation, we would need the cooperation of every community in the country. These will include such diverse groups as Animal Control outfits who routinely shoot homeless pets in secret, pet haters who would prefer to see every pet in the country killed rather than one homeless pet saved, and animal advocates. It's that last group that may be the most challenging.

Even if we eliminate the wingnuts like PETA, who claim to be animal advocates but actually operate a pet slaughterhouse, there is a lot of disagreement about how to move forward. And unlike the previously mentioned groups, it is animal advocates whom we must rely upon to do most of the heavy lifting which makes cooperation essential. Animal advocates must do much more than simply stop standing in the way - we must act as a cohesive force. That doesn't mean we can't have different views and employ a variety of methods. But it does require a basic agreement on the core principle: We do not kill healthy/treatable pets - we save them.

So what do I mean by "save"? Those opposed to no kill are quick to say that we would stuff every pet in America into a cage and leave them in an abandoned building until they die. But this is just flash talk to distract people from the truth - no one wants any pet to live his entire life in a cage. When I say save, I mean that ideally, I'd like to see that pet in a home, living as a family member. And I further recognize that not every pet is going to get a home, for various reasons. So to my way of thinking, we are still saving those pets if we can provide them a reasonable quality of life which includes adequate shelter, daily human interaction, outdoor exercise (for dogs), appropriate veterinary care and sufficient food.

Some pet advocates are opposed to the term no kill and prefer to use "low kill". It's important to define what we mean by the word kill with regard to shelter pets. To me, if we humanely end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet by the gentlest method veterinary medicine offers, that is euthanasia - a kindness we offer to our pets. If we end the life of a pet who is not suffering and medically hopeless, that is killing - and I'm opposed to that. By those definitions, I am not for "low kill" because that means some adoptable shelter pets are being killed. I am for no kill and on that point, I can't see any compromise. My goal is to save every healthy/treatable shelter pet. Every single one.

If you are an animal advocate, please share your goals and principles with regard to shelter pets. I'd really like to hear and hopefully generate some brain food for thought.


Liz said...

My opinion is, we will NEVER be a "no kill" nation. It just isn't practical.

A lot of County shelters are considered "high kill" because they do not have the funding to treat animals, and do not have the space to house animals.

In addition, it's not just black and white. It's not "kill" or "no kill" - There is a fine line, and a gray area within that. It's not "adoptables" avail for adoption, and "sick pets" that are euthanized. Many do not pass temperament evaluations, also. Plus, you have to take into account the breed, as hard as it is.

I don't agree with euthanizing for space, but there just aren't enough homes and fosters for these animals. Rescues are full, too. Sometimes it just has to be done. It's not fun, but SOMEONE has to do it.

Maybe I missed the point of your post..I apologize if I did! My brain is fried.

I think what is truly needed is education, FREE Spay/Neuter programs, and low cost training! Not just for some Counties, but for the whole Country. I think we as a Nation need to adopt better standards, as far out as it sounds. I know I'm dreaming, and I know it won't happen like a "No kill Nation" but one can hope!

EmilyS said...

I disagree strongly with the attempt of "no kill" advocates to put a different name on the category of dogs they agree it may sadly be best to kill. Killing is killing whether you want to soften the act by calling it "euthanasia" or something else.

I strongly believe that the insistence on the term "no kill" is a serious flaw in the movement. I agree 100% with the goal of killing no heathy/curable animals (and I include dangerous temperament in the category of UNhealthy). But I can't follow a movement that is perpetuating what is actually a fraud. The public isn't stupid. When they figure out that "no" kill doesn't really mean "no kill" they could turn against the goals. There's already so much confusion about what "no kill" means, and it's so easy for the real opponents (who believe fundamental change isn't possible) to mis-characterize what the goals are. Change the language (and stop following people who are acting more like Robespierre than Thomas Paine) and the movement can really move forward more quickly.

Brent said...

With all due respect Emily, you are one of the few who seems confused by the name. Most people do get it...and you almost seem, at this point, to be intentionally not getting it in some weird attempt to undermine matters.

It is obvious to pretty much everyone else that when people say "no kill" they don't intend to keep really sick, terminally ill animals alive just for the heck of it or put dangerously aggressive animals out on the streets.

But it does mean saving the rest.

And your insistence on arguing terminology isn't helping.

YesBiscuit! said...

Liz - in what way is it not "practical" to stop killing healthy/treatable shelter pets? I would argue that it is more than practical - it is possible, desirable and ethically necessary.

Emily - it seems to me as if your first paragraph stands in opposition to your second. Can you clarify?

Anonymous said...

How about rather than "Kill or "No Kill" we give shelters a rating like a 4 "Star" Hotel, a 4"R" shelter. All the policies of the No Kill Equation still apply but we evaluate the shelter on 1. Reduce TNR S/N and education.2. Rehab medical and behavioral 3.Re home off site extended hours 4. Report quarterly stats collectively on money spent and individually on where each animal went. Maybe less divisive?

Liz said...

By "not practical" I mean there aren't enough homes, and there aren't enough funds even if the animal IS healthy.

Like I said before, if it's a COUNTY RUN shelter, they are on a budget - They IN MOST CASES cannot afford to treat even treatable conditions.

Again, space is also an issue. Until the pet population is under control, places HAVE to euthanize for space. There are no foster homes, not enough rescues, and not enough kennels to house all of the homeless animals.

Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to have a "no kill" nation, but it's just not "practical" for lack of a better term.

I volunteer at my local "kill" COUNTY run shelter. I have learned that sometimes euthanasia is necessary. That said, we do get some mange cases in, and they usually ARE treated. However, since we have a Spay/Neuter ordinance in effect, our numbers are WAY down and our County no longer euthanizes for space :)

Just hear Emily out - She is very knowledgeable.

I <3 this blog! I read your blog instead of watching the news :)

YesBiscuit! said...

"Until the pet population is under control, places HAVE to euthanize for space."

No. Shelters HAVE to shelter (protect) pets. Slaughterhouses have to kill for space.

MSN has caused increases in shelter deaths over and over where it's been enacted. I strongly oppose MSN for that and other reasons.

EmilyS said...

Brent, I'm pretty sure that all the "no kill" advocates talking to each other on these blogs understand what they REALLY mean by "no" kill (which is "of course we're still going to kill SOME and we always will"). I'm pretty sure the general public has not a clue about this truth (as it has no clue about the truth of how many nice animals shelters kill). I'm pretty sure, based on your response and those of other "no kill" advocates, that you are all digging yourself into a nice little politically correct bunker in which no one is allowed to raise questions. That is death to social movements.

I'm pretty sure that in the non-Orwellian, fact-based world that I live in, "no" means "none", not "some". I'm pretty sure that in my world, words DO matter. Darn me for believing that people should say what they mean, and mean what they say. I'm pretty sure that I'm mighty disappointed that you and so many others think I should just shut about words and what they mean.

Luisa: I don't see any conflict in my post.. can you clarify what you mean?

Liz said...

What do you recommend then? Can YOU build more shelters? You can't pack 15 dogs into a kennel.

I don't see why this is even an issue. Sometimes, euthanasia HAS to happen. It ALWAYS will, it's just something we have to get used to.

I don't agree with euthanizing for space, or breed.

Katie said...

I have to say that, working day in and day out with the "general pet owning population", I agree with Emily. At least in this area, "no kill" does not mean to the average pet owner what it means to the knowledgeable dog blogger. Many clients that I work with hear the phrase and think crazy dog hoarders and warehouses.

And I thought that too for quite awhile. I'm more educated on the topic now, but I've got my own motivations for that. I don't expect the average casual dog owner is going to be interested enough to really dig into the issue and find out what the movement truly stands for.

YesBiscuit! said...

Liz - Obviously *I* can't solve the issues resulting in needless shelter pet killing. It takes the entire community - and every community in the country. That's my hope - that everyone commits to saving shelter pets instead of killing them. Semantics aside, I honestly believe we're closer to that than we might think.

YesBiscuit! said...

EmilyS - I think most people understand that the term "no kill shelter" means a shelter that does not kill savable pets but does euthanize those suffering and medically hopeless. I've never heard a pet owner say, with regard to euthanizing his own pet, "I had to have him killed". Most people do understand that it is a kindness to euthanize and that it's different from killing. You sell the public short to characterize them as believing the term "no kill" means the shelter allows medically hopeless pets to suffer.