Thursday, March 11, 2010

Justifying Shelter Killing

Why do we kill pets in shelters? I no longer believe in the"too many pets, not enough homes" reasoning because the math does not add up. But I understand this is a point of contention for many who cling to the old thinking. I'm guilty of clinging sometimes myself so I understand. So let's say, for the sake of argument, it's true that we have too many pets and not enough homes. Don't ask me how the math would work on that scenario because I have no idea. (Anyone?) But let's just say it's true for pretend purposes.

So here we are at Our Beagle of Mercy Shelter in Southtown, USA and we've got too many pets and not enough homes for them all. We know there are many pet lovers in the Southtown area and that at least some of them will be looking for a new pet at any given time (first time pet owners, expanding the pet family, death of a pet, etc.) So the first thing I'm going to say to my shelter staff is "Be nice to people". While many people we meet are experienced pet owners who take good care of their pets, it's a given that within our community there will be some irresponsible pet owners just as there are irresponsible parents and irresponsible people in all walks of life. Unless these pet owners are sadistically cruel, we can hope to educate them on becoming responsible owners. But we will never educate anyone if we blame them for the community's pet problems. In order to address the "not enough homes" part of our problem, we do not want to do anything that compromises our good relationship with the people who will provide the homes we seek.

While we are being friendly to folks, we need to reach out to the community to get our foster pet and low cost spay-neuter programs going. We'll need volunteers from the veterinary community, donations and transportation volunteers from the public, and media promotion to spread awareness of the clinic. We know that the major obstacles standing in the way of getting more pets in the community neutered are education, cost and transportation. We're going to continually work to remove those obstacles so that everyone who wants to get his pet neutered can do so. Our community's feral cats will be trapped, neutered and returned to their living areas. We'll continually seek foster homes for pets from the community. All of this will help us with the "too many pets" part of our problem.

In addition to our efforts in the community, we are going to extend our reach by utilizing social media such as Twitter. We'll also be networking online with shelters and rescues in other parts of the country because not all of them are going to have the same "too many pets, not enough homes" problem we have. We may be able to arrange for some of our pets to go to areas where there are fewer pets in need of homes.

Our website will feature adoptable pets as well as strays who are pending redemption. We'll keep our shelter doors open during the hours we know the public is most likely to visit, including weekends. Because we take good care of the animals we shelter, the public will see clean kennels and pets who have been adequately fed, watered and exercised. Sick pets will receive veterinary care so they can be adopted and medically hopeless pets who are suffering will be euthanized.

I know by now skeptics are thinking, "All this fancy no kill talk sounds good but meanwhile there are pets piling up in your shelter and you've got to do something with them". Right. And we will, but it's not going to be killing. Never that. Instead, we are going to shelter them - not warehouse them, not dump them in unscreened homes or rescues - really and actually and truly shelter them. Because Our Beagle of Mercy is an animal shelter, that's what we do. In fact, that's what the public has a right to expect and demand from every shelter in this country - sheltering of the community's pets. Anything less is a crime.

3 comments:

Dog Foster Mom said...

You brought up some excellent things that shelters can do to improve adoptions and reduce the pet overpopulation problem. Unfortunately at least in my part of the country I do believe that there just aren't enough homes. Many of the people looking for pets want only purebreds, or small dogs, or puppies, so the pool of potential adopters for the large mutts or the adult cats is much smaller. I have been fostering one cat for over a year now, and although she's relatively young and has nothing wrong with her, and I take her to adoption events every week, she just can't find a home. And she's not alone - there are many other animals like that, and most of the area shelters do not have the budget to provide for these animals in a humane way long-term. Solving the problem at its source (with education and low-cost spay/neuter) is critical.

cinci_celine said...

I just learned about a shelter in GA, that kills the mommy and keeps the puppies. They don't want that bond to form. How sick is that?

Pibble said...

@Cinci - are you sure they don't want a bond to form, or it's just much easier to place puppies than an older dog? To prevent a bond (which is a very odd thing for them to claim in the first place), they can simply separate mom from pups; they don't have to euthanize mom. Sounds like a paltry excuse to me.