Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"No Kill" Is Not Equal To "No Suffering"

Here's a subject that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time.

I have a real problem with "Humane" Societies. I put "humane" in quotes because I find that some of them are very, very far from that. My problem is not with all of them, my problem is with the "no kill" ones. While I believe that every animal deserves a good chance at a good life, there are some animals that are either too sick, too frail, or too mean to be kept alive. As human caretakers of our animal counterparts, we are responsible for their lives, their welfare, and their deaths. If we are to continue to produce animals for our own goals, we have to take responsibility for that -- all of that, even death.

I recently spoke with someone who worked at a Humane Society in a big city. She worked there for many years and loved her job very much. When she started there, it was a shelter that took in animals from all over the city and its suburbs. Many of those animals went to new homes with very happy new owners. Some of those animals were humanely euthanized due to being very sick, very old, or very unadoptable (usually only the biters). She saw lots of cats come through the door with feline leukemia, feline AIDS, and feline distemper. These diseases have no cure and the cat slowly suffers a painful death. These diseases are also highly communicable to other cats. She had to put down many of these cats in order to keep the healthy cats at the shelter from getting very sick. No one wanted to adopt a sick cat. The dogs also came in with many diseases and uncurable problems. She carefully evaluated each case and only put down the animals that would not get better with treatment. A veterinarian worked closely with her and they both tried every option available before choosing euthanasia. Money was not a factor when it came to surgeries or treatments. If the animal had a chance to get better, it was given that chance.

Eventually the shelter changed directors. The new director decided that it must become a "no kill" shelter because that looked better to the media. He did not allow any euthanasia of sick or dying animals in order to keep the numbers of euthanasia deaths low for the year end reports.

The woman told me about a puppy that came in with heart failure. It had a birth defect that was not fixable. The puppy was suffering horribly as its organs started to fail. It was dying a slow and agonizing death. The director would not allow the woman to put the puppy out of its misery. The puppy died after 22 hours of painful heart failure. Medicine was given to relieve the pain, but you could see in its eyes that it was suffering horribly.

Even though the euthanasia numbers were low at the shelter because of the new "no kill" policy, the adoption numbers plummeted. The shelter could no longer take in animals from the surrounding suburbs. Before the shelter would take adoptable animals from overcrowded suburban shelters and bring them to the city where they had a very good chance of finding a new home. Now the shelter is full of sick cats and sick dogs. The surrounding shelters in the suburbs are also completely full. No one wants to adopt a sick animal. Basically this good shelter that gave great animals a second chance turned into a nursing home for unwanted animals.

This is a great example of what can happen when shelters decide that "euthanasia" is a bad word. Another example that I want to think about is what happens to the animals that can't be taken into the shelters because the shelters are already too full. Where do people turn when they have an animal that they don't want or can't take care of any more and no one will take it? This is why there are so many stray and abused animals around. People that can't take care of them will dump them somewhere. Or they will become empathetic and starve the animal until it goes away. Annual vaccinations and veterinarian checkups cost lots of money. Pet food costs lots of money. When the choice is between feeding a pet you don't want anymore and feeding your family, what will you choose? I am not saying that this happens to every pet that is turned away from the shelter, but it does happen to some.

I think we all need to reevaluate how we view humane euthanasia and "no kill" shelters. I would like to see a return of responsible animal husbandry that includes positive breeding programs, responsible spay/neuter decisions, and euthanasia when necessary. If we continue to flood the world with undesirable animals, soon there won't be any room for us. If we continue to put animal rights above animal welfare, we will be hastening our own means to our own end.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


By now I am sure the entire country has been innudated with the frosty white stuff. I hear it's even snowing in Texas! It finally started to snow up here and I am ready for it. Well, not ready, but I knew it was coming sooner or later (I mean, I do live in the Adirondacks!).

Monday it snowed a little. There was about 2 inches on the ground. Not enough to ski in, but enough that it blanketed everything. Yesterday it was sunny and the snow stayed around. I put the girls out in the pasture. They weren't very happy about that. I had to laugh when the young girls came bounding out of the barn only to just about flip over when they hit the brakes at the door before they hit the white stuff. It was hilarious! They didn't know what to do at all. I shoved them outside anyways and figured they better get to know the snow on a sunny day than on a not so pleasant day.

I knew that the weather man was calling for more snow so last night I ran around and got everything ready for the onslaught. I put the electronet away for the winter. The snow smooshes it and renders it useless so I rolled it up and put it away. I then moved the bucks to the cow shed for the winter. They had been living outside in the back pen. With the snow and cold I figured they might like living the remainder of the time inside the 10' X 12' lean-to shed rather than in an open pen. I even drug their sleeping box all the way from their pen to the shed so they could have an extra sheltered spot to sleep in at night. Aren't I thoughtful? Then I had to clean the chicken house. Until it gets cold enough for the floor of the chicken house to freeze, the floor gets really messy with 15 chickens in a 5' X 5' barn. Once there is snow on the ground they won't step on foot out of the chicken house, even though I leave their door open all the time. They make a mess of the water dish and spill it all over so I wind up cleaning out their house every week. Once the floor freezes I can just keep throwing new shavings on top of the frozen ones until the spring. Oh well, it comes with the territory.

Now the only things left to do before it gets really cold is put the Christmas lights up around the barn and move the rabbits from the outside hutch to cages in the goat barn. Right now the rabbits are fine living in the outside hutch. They have warm nest boxes and plenty of hay. Once it gets to -5F or less I will move them inside to stay warm.

Winter is wonderful, isn't it?