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.


Spinner said...

We went through this same problem locally. It boiled down to a Director who liked being on the radio and having articles written about her in the newspaper.

It made everyone in the community feel warm and fuzzy because we had a shelter that did not kill.

The poor shelter workers finally started venting about all of the overcrowding and disease. They talked to anyone who would listen. A healthy animal going into our shelter was being sentenced to a slow and painful death.

It also affected adoptions. People had the illusion that all of the unwanted animals were being cared for and they were no longer motivated to save an animal from euthanasia.

Rose said...

Thanks. That is exactly the point I am trying to make. Maybe if we all started talking about the disease and pain, people would take a stand and decide between what is "right" and what is "easy".

LilacCottageGoats said...

Super Great Post!!!! I agree with you 100%!!!!

Melodie said...

Great post! Being politically correct dose not mean a person is right! No kill policies are stupid,if an animal is suffering with no hope MERCY in the form of painless death is what it deserves. I for one want any animal that bites put down.Really,have these people actually seen a child or anyone for that matter mauled by a vicious dog?!?Horrible!

Rose said...

Don't even get me started on biters! I mentioned it in this post and didn't really elaborate because I know I will be writing a whole blog post about that issue soon.

Lisa T. said...

I found your blog through NGIP. I never looked at "no kill" this way before. Really good points and information. Thanks so much.

Jennifer said...

Excellent post and one that needed to be written and certainly needs to be talked about. I could not agree more when it comes to suffering or vicious animals.