Tag Archives: animal shelters

When ‘no-kill’ policies mean ‘slow-kill’ practices

By Ingrid Newkirk
In August, a Michigan man drove his four dogs to the woods and let them go after being served with an eviction notice by his landlord. This story is unique only in that, when three of the dogs were run over by a car and killed, their owner was traced. But wait, there’s another way in which this story is unique: The sheriff refused to charge the owner with abandonment because the man had driven in desperation to three area animal shelters, trying to give up the dogs, but at every one of them, he had been told that they would not take his dogs because they were full. 
Under pressure to avoid euthanasia at all costs—or risk being vilified by rabid “no-kill” campaigners—many animal shelters across the country are adopting ill-advised polices that actually endanger animals. The Michigan man’s case illustrates one of many things wrong with “no-kill” policies: When “no-kill” shelters are full, they turn away animals owned by people who either don’t care enough to keep on looking for a home for them or, having run out of options, decide to turn them loose or kill them, not with a painless injection but instead with a gun or a knife or by strangulation or even by taping their mouths shut and throwing them into the trash. It happens every day.
A PETA exposé documented workers at more than two dozen “no-kill” facilities refusing admission to animals in desperate need, by citing long waiting lists, charging exorbitant admission fees, saying that their facilities were experiencing disease outbreaks or severe crowding, and giving other reasons for turning their backs. It’s fair enough if you want to set up a “no-kill” shelter and only take in as many animals as you have room for, but to attempt to bully all shelters into either becoming “no-kill” or facing criticism and being labeled a “kill shelter” does not result in more “no-kill” but rather more “slow-kill.”
When someone says that there’s no room at the inn, all those rejected dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals do not simply evaporate. Something bad befalls them—often something very, very bad.
And that’s not all. Every single day, articles come up on my computer screen that tell the story of yet another “rescue” outfit busted for cruelty and neglect: dead and dying animals, sick and aged animals suffering without medical care, cats burned to death in their plastic cages, and dogs found starved on their chains with their fur so matted and caked with feces that maggots are able to live under the mats and eat away at their flesh. Why? Because “no-kill” pressure drives shelters to give animals away to outfits run by the mentally ill, the unqualified and the incompetent as long as they have the word “rescue” in their name. This means exchanging a peaceful, respectful death by euthanasia for prolonged suffering and a painful death, all in the name of “no-kill.”
When “no-kill” shelters turn away people who are on a fixed income or have no income, the elderly or the jobless, and can’t afford the $100 to $400 charged by greedy veterinarians to end an elderly or ill animal’s suffering, those animals invariably end up dying slowly and in agony at home.
Who doesn’t dream of a day when only responsible people acquire animal companions, when everyone adopts homeless animals from shelters instead of buying them from pet stores or breeders, when all animal companions are sterilized, when all puppy mills have closed, when there are enough homes to go around, and when all our educational efforts, legislative pushes and spay/neuter work has paid off and the world has become a safe place for all dogs, cats, rabbits and birds? 
We all do, but we’re not there yet—not by a long shot. So until then, let’s not allow that “no-kill” dream to be replaced by a “slow-kill” nightmare.

How ‘saving’ animals at all costs can be a dangerous proposition

By Ingrid E. Newkirk

All across the country, people are hearing calls to raise the “save rate” at animal shelters. But beware: As warm and fuzzy as that sounds, a shelter’s high “save” rate does not reduce by one puppy or kitten the number of unwanted animals born every minute in private homes, in puppy mills, in breeders’ kennels and catteries, on the street or under a porch. In fact, it can increase that number, to the detriment of dogs, cats, taxpayers andlaw-enforcement officials.

Shockingly, pressure to raise shelter “save rates” actually increases the “pet” overpopulation crisis. How? To reduce the number of animals it euthanizes, a shelter must reduce the number of animals it takes in by charging high “surrender” fees, putting people on waiting lists, sending unsterilized animals to “foster” homes and more. Many people cannot afford high fees, and those evicted from their own homes or entering a women’s shelter or nursing home can’t wait for weeks or months for their animal to be admitted.

Cities learn the hard way that to play the “high-save-rate” game, something has to give. Because the number of homeless animals far exceeds the number of available homes, no matter what is done to try to conjure up more adopters, facilities are always full. Sick, injured, old, aggressive and other “unadoptable” animals are turned away—since accepting them would hurt the “save” statistics.

Shelter operating hours are also often reduced to decrease intake, leaving anyone who can’t take time off during the day out of luck. Elderly people on a fixed income and others who cannot afford the fees charged by veterinarians for euthanasia are left with nowhere to take their old and ailing dog or cat for a merciful release.

In San Antonio, Texas, where the shelter has gone “no-kill” and many strays are left to fend for themselves, animal wardens report that thousands of stray animals are breeding, forming packs and dying on the streets, with more than 28,000 dog and cat bodies scraped up in the last year alone.

Shelters trying to achieve a high “save” rate invariably stop requiring verification that previous animal companions have received veterinary care and stop conducting even basic home checks—vital safeguards that prevent animals from falling into the hands of people with evil intentions. And animals are handed over to anyone who can “foster” them, including to animal hoarders who stack cages in their house, basement or garage. This situation creates nightmarish scenarios, such as the recent Florida case in which 100 cats burned to death inside individual plastic crates, unable to flee as the plastic melted onto them, and the Angel’s Gate “animal hospice” in New York, where police found caged animals who had died in agony without veterinary care. Every week brings news of more little houses of horror.

Shelters that cram more animals into runs and cages than can safely be accommodated become so severely crowded that the dogs fight and injure themselves, the cats contract upper respiratory infections and disease outbreaks sicken healthy animals, as has happened in Washington, D.C., and is happening in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties in Florida now. In Austin, Texas, the city shelter stopped accepting cats and then, two weeks later, dogs. Where do they all go? In parts of Oregon where shelters have stopped accepting stray cats, they go into the woods or into a bucket of water.

There are literally hundreds more unwanted animals born every minute of every day. Once every available home or basement has been filled with animals from the shelter, where are all the new animals and their litters going to go?

What’s a community to do? To truly save dogs’ and cats’ lives, let’s reject this shelter “save-rate” nonsense and get to the root of the problem: the population explosion. Open-admission shelters, solid animal-control services, community education and reduced-cost spay-and-neuter programs are the keys to a real “save” rate.



Spring: The saddest season for animal shelters

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

For most of us, the unusually warm spring that much of the country is experiencing is a welcome relief from winter. But for people who work in animal shelters, it signals an early start to the most dreaded time of year: kitten and puppy season.

Dogs and cats reproduce year-round, but early spring through late fall is prime breeding time—especially for cats, whose heat cycles are triggered by increased daylight hours. People who thought they could wait “just a bit longer” to have their cat spayed are often surprised to find out their kitten has become a mother herself. Female cats can go into heat every two to three weeks and can become pregnant while they are still nursing kittens—which means that one cat can give birth to multiple litters over the course of a single season.

Where do all these kittens and puppies go? Some end up on the streets, where many die young and in pain after being hit by cars, succumbing to diseases, starving or crossing paths with cruel people. Others pour into animal shelters across the country, leaving them scrambling to accommodate the surge of kittens and puppies. One shelter near Atlanta reported that it typically takes in 400 to 500 stray kittens each month during kitten season.

Baby animals may be cute, but their overabundance leaves shelters in an ugly situation. With 6 to 8 million animals entering U.S. shelters every year, most are constantly filled to capacity. In order to accommodate the deluge of baby animals during kitten and puppy season, open-admission shelters (those that never turn animals away) must euthanize other animals who have been at the shelter for a while to make room for the newcomers.

Playful kittens and puppies tend to steal the show (and people’s hearts), making it even less likely that the gentle, affectionate adult animals who have been waiting in shelters for homes will ever be adopted. But with so many litters flooding shelters, not even adorable kittens and puppies are guaranteed a home. Every day, caring shelter workers are forced to hold animals in their arms and euthanize them—including those whose lives have just begun—simply because there aren’t enough good homes for them all.

This tragedy could end if we all spayed or neutered our animals. Sterilizing even one cat or dog can prevent thousands more from being born only to end up on the streets, in the hands of abusive people or in shelters. Without spaying, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years, and one unaltered female cat and her descendants can lead to a staggering 370,000 cats in only seven years. Male animals contribute to the overpopulation crisis even more than females do: Just one unsterilized male animal can impregnate dozens of females, creating hundreds of unwanted offspring.

Sterilization also has many health benefits for animals. Female cats and dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle have one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer. Spaying eliminates female animals’ risk of diseases and cancers of the ovaries and uterus, which are often life-threatening and can require expensive treatments, including surgery. Neutering eliminates male animals’ risk of testicular cancer and reduces unwanted forms of behavior such as biting.

By having our animal companions sterilized and helping our friends, family and everyone we know understand why it’s so important for them to do the same, we can save lives and make spring a season of hope instead of sadness for animals and the people who care about them.

Better late than never!

Fetch a dog from a shelter this October

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Walk into almost any animal shelter, and you’ll see row after row of homeless dogs with wagging tails and pleading eyes, their wet noses jammed between the cage bars as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!” All of them—purebreds and mutts alike—are desperate for attention, for love and for someone to take them home.

October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month, and for people who have the time, patience, money, energy and love needed to care for an animal, there has never been a better time to take home a grateful dog awaiting adoption at the local animal shelter. Continue reading Better late than never!