Monday, May 11, 2009

No Kill: Celebrating Success, Recognizing Failure

Q: Why can't I just be happy that at least some shelter pets are saved, even if most are killed?

A: I can be happy that some are saved while simultaneously being outraged that others, often the majority of shelter pets, are killed. I don't see that as illogical or contradictory in any way. That's my adult answer. Answer I wanted to put first: Dude, seriously?

See I don't get why, when there are enough homes for all the adoptable pets in shelters in this country, there is pressure from rescue groups to accept - or even be happy about - killing. I can't do that. I understand the "glass half-full" concept but in the case of shelter pets the glass is half-dead. I reject that unreservedly.

I further fail to understand how being upset over unnecessary killing of shelter pets in any way detracts from the hard work and successes of rescue groups who have managed to save some of them. It doesn't, to my mind. I am positively grateful for any and all community efforts to save homeless pets from being killed. I support and celebrate the efforts. Without everyone chipping in to do their part, we would have far fewer success stories.

I want more success stories. Is that wrong? Am I supposed to be afraid of discouraging shelter staff or rescue volunteers by continually highlighting the need for improvement and change? On the contrary, I want to motivate members of the community to keep learning, keep doing their good work and/or to keep trying to effect change where needed. I'm right here with you and I am determined to keep trying.

The fact is that every day, healthy, adoptable pets in shelters are killed. They are killed for phony "reasons" such as Pass/Fail temperament tests or to make space for more pets who will be killed shortly thereafter to make space for more. That is unacceptable to me. We can do better. We must do better. We are a humane society. Let's work together to end the killing of adoptable pets in shelters. It could happen today.


Bulldog-Mike said...

I am all for pets being adopted out of shelters.... But I would never take one... for a few reasons.

1. I attended and participate in dog shows with my APBTs. You can't do that with a pound puppy.

2. I don't trust that a dog from a shelter either won't be sick.. or won't be unstable in some way or another.

3. I prefer a purebred dog.

Now with that being said I am completely against no kill shelters... I know I am on the wrong blog for that opinion... but not every dog is going to be adopted. Most people don't want older dogs. And I see it as more humane to put down unwanted dogs than to have them live out their days with the only human attention they get is at feeding time.. and they live in a kennel.

Sorry... but thats not the life I would want and its not the life I'd want for my dog.

YesBiscuit! said...

Mike, I am all for people choosing the dog they feel is right for them - purebred, mixed breed, shelter/rescue dog or responsibly bred dog. We are in agreement there.
I wonder if you have visited any no kill shelters. We go to ours several times a year to bring food and treats and visit with the dogs. There are some who have been there for years. But they have shelter, food, water, toys and daily human interaction. They get more than just a hand tossing a bowl to them once a day. I've been there when the volunteers are cleaning the pens, bathing them, etc. And I'm sure we aren't the only ones who visit and love on the dogs. It's not as good as being in a home but it's WAY better than death.
As for older dogs, *I* would and have adopted them. I will again in future. They are my favorites. They are often well mannered, a bit slow (like me!), and very grateful for the love they receive. Old dogs rule!

Erica Saunders said...

I sometimes end up torn over the 'no-kill' shelter model, partly because the idea of healthy & adoptable is not always clearly or safely defined.

I don't advocate the killing of animals that are sound in mind and body. I worry about the concept that often infiltrates rescue that every dog that is reasonably sound of body should be considered adoptable. The idea that temperment can always be brought around with enough time/love/training is one that can have tragic results. The statement 'I haven't seen a dog that I would consider euthanizing for temperment' must always appended with 'yet'

I don't say this because I am against 'no-kill' but because I believe the idea of healthy & adoptable needs to factor in the temper of an animal above everything. I say this because I have had the good fortune to know and work with professionals in animal training who specialized in fixing the broken ones, who were open and honest about some of the strangest examples they had encountered.

For the safety of all, matching of temperment to the right person and experience level, has to be first priority. Some temperments are never going to be safe in the hands of any but the most experienced and skilled, even if a perfect specimen of physical health, a fact which doesn't just apply to the shelter dog but to all dogs regardless of background.

Kelley said...

You don't always have to use the adult answer.

Right now we in Austin are in a state of big, fat FAILURE and I'm not afraid to say it.

We're still killing animals by the truckload. F is for FAILURE.

EmilyS said...

good post YB. It's very very important to understand that 1) "no kill" does not mean "hoarding" and that 2) even the staunchest "no kill" advocates accept that SOME animals must be killed, for health or temperament reasons. What I love about the "no kill" paradigm is that it STARTS from the "try to save them all" angle, not the "how many can we/do we have kill because we [fill in reason/excuse]" angle. When you have the mindset that "no kill" is both a goal and a process, you can produce the result of fewer dead animals, even if yes, some do get dead. Fewer dead animals is a GOOD thing.

Though I perfectly understand, and even share part of, the fear/paranoia/sad experience of pit bull people in desperately not wanting bad dogs-called-pit-bulls in the wrong hands. ("Wrong hands" meaning just about everybody, as I read some pit bull rescuers...)

EmilyS said...

p.s. to BulldogMike. You can participate in UKC and (soon) AKC performance events with dogs that look enough like APBTs for UKC and ASTs for AKC, or register them as mixed breeds. Of course they would have to be s/n.

Anonymous said...

Our older dog area has an extremely high adoption rate. Plus we've plenty of purebreds, care on-site by 4 vets, and trainers and behaviorists on staff. I'd take my chances. :)

Pai said...

Here's a great article talking about the 'hoarding' and 'warehousing' myth that gets spread around a lot in regards to no-kill shelters.

The choices are NOT between 'Kill' and 'Neglect them in a cage for the rest of their life'. Why so many people seem convinced that there are no other options for shelter animals besides those two boggles my mind.

Katie said...

I want to speak briefly for the older dogs that "most people" don't want. I fortunately am not "most people" and have adopted a couple old dogs. I only had them for short times- one for a year, the other for 18 months. And I will absolutely own more in the future. Adopting seniors is incredibly rewarding.

But I also know that I am not alone in seeing the value of an older dog. I don't work in a shelter, but I do work in a veterinary clinic, and we have numerous clients who go out looking for older dogs. They themselves are often older and don't have the energy or the desire for a puppy or a young boisterous dog. So they go out and find a dog who better suits their lifestyles, and kudos to them. We've also had a number of clients lately who didn't mean to get older dogs, but those are the dogs they fell for. And I am thrilled that they were open-minded enough to consider those dogs even though they weren't what they thought they were looking for.

So there are definitely homes out there for the older dogs. And they may not be as few and far between as some people seem to think.