How 'No-Kill' Shelters Kill Animals

Profile photo of Rachelle-O

Posted August 5, 2011 by Rachelle Owen

As someone who has spent years volunteering with PETA’s Community Animal Project (and coming from a background at a “no-kill” rescue before learning my lesson), it breaks my heart when people use the term “kill shelters” to refer to shelters that accept every needy animal—no matter how beat up, old, ill, or behaviorally unsound they are—and that have no choice but to give some animals a painless, dignified release through euthanasia.

This mean-spirited, misleading label is a slap in the face to the brave people who pour their hearts and souls into helping animals at open-admission shelters. I wish that those who use this term could spend a day at the receiving desk of their local full-service shelter so that they could see firsthand how badly we need open-door shelters. A steady flow of people arrive with battered, broken animals of all shapes, sizes, and species: “We call her Matty because she’s full of mats,” said one person who was surrendering a dog whose matted fur was infested with maggots. Matty’s family was getting rid of her because they wanted a puppy.

Other reasons people have given for taking animals to the shelter include “He’s sick, and I can’t afford to take him to the vet,” “He’s chewing up everything, and my dad said he’s gonna shoot him,” “She’s just old,” “He was great as a puppy, but now he’s just too big,” “We just have too many animals,” “They have been hanging around the house, and we don’t want them,” “Someone dumped them at my house,” and “We’re moving.”

Nearly everyone leaves the shelter saying the same thing: “You won’t kill him, will you?” What else can shelters do when they have a limited number of cages and an unlimited number of needy animals pouring through their doors? There is no huge farm for unwanted animals—a fantasy that many people’s parents told them existed when their childhood animal friends were brought to open-admission shelters—and shelters don’t have a magic wand that they can wave to create loving homes.

This name-calling hurts animals because it scares people away from surrendering animals to reputable shelters. It misleads people into thinking that taking cats and dogs to facilities that don’t euthanize is the right thing to do, but animals at these places often suffer fates worse than death. These facilities are always full and have long waiting lists to accept animals, which results in people dumping animals to die on the streets, giving them away on Craigslist (a magnet for animal abusers), or abandoning them to starve in empty homes and yards after they move away.

There is no such thing as “high-kill,” “low-kill,” or anything in between when it comes to shelters. There are only open-admission shelters—those that provide refuge to every animal and must euthanize to ensure that their doors remain open to more needy animals—and limited-admission shelters—those that pick and choose only the cutest, youngest, and most adoptable animals and turn away everyone else.

?For the sake of animals and the people who have devoted their lives to helping them, let’s stop the name-calling and support shelters that are committed to doing what’s best for animals—even when that’s the hardest thing to do.

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  • Profile photo of AlleyC

    993 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    Personally, I am for putting an animal down if it’s suffering–but NOT just because of space reasons. The shelter I volunteer at only turns away animals from people who just don’t like their pets anymore but can still take care of them. It has over 700 cats, and that number keeps on growing because they don’t euthanise any animal, not even the ugliest, oldest, and least adoptable, unless the animal is suffering. I’m sure most no-kill shelters are like the ones in this article. But not all of them are.

  • 1205 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    “those that pick and choose only the cutest, youngest, and most adoptable animals and turn away everyone else.”

    thats not true to the one i volunteer at.

  • 1300 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    In some cases I feel it is best to euthanise animals if they are suffering. If I were suffering I would like to be euthanised. I am all for jack kavorkian’s method.

  • 1334 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    ALL my pets i have owned throughout my life, i got from a shelter that euthanizes, because they are animals who truly need and will truly appreciate a loving home. all my pets are complete sweethearts and i love them with all my heart, they are family. the shelters that only pick the healthy, young, cute ones, those animals are practically 100% going to get a home. most people dont want the 7 year old mutt with a missing leg, or the old cat with the tattered ears. what they dont realize is that those animals will love them unconditionally, for the rest of their lives, for giving them a caring environment to spend their days in instead of a cage or running around on the streets alone.

  • 1340 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I’m sorry the name upsets you, but it is what it is. If a shelter kills to make space, it is a “kill shelter”. Donors and volunteers have a right to decide where they prefer their money be spent. It’s good they’re being honest.

    The type of shelter that hurts everyone is the high kill rate shelter that lies to each individual who comes in the door: “of course we don’t kill pets” “we’re no kill” “we keep animals until they’re adopted”. I know of one like this in my region that fills giant trash bins every week with the dead bodies of all the pets they kill there. Some of them have only been there a few days — no chance of being adopted. Most adult dogs, anything pit-bull looking, all feral cats, and most adult cats are killed upon arrival. They’re given over $800,000 in government money in addition to donations, adoption fees, and license fees.

    In comparison I volunteer for a no-kill nonprofit rescue program. Because we don’t take [then kill] everything that walks in the door, we can’t get Animal Control funding. But don’t be misled by the idea we can’t take every animal; it doesn’t mean we can’t help every animal owner. Some people just don’t know where to get help. Some have been given bad vet advice. Some don’t know how to afford a treatment or euthanasia. There ARE RESOURCES out there. And by making them wait a few days before conveniently dropping off the unwanted pet, I’d like to think we’re making them think a little harder about what they’re doing.

    I support no-kill. And with education, affordable spay/neuter, and better welfare laws, I hope to live to see the day that no pet is killed to make space or because it’s an adult or the wrong breed.

  • Kat

    1343 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I understand the point of this article. I know it’s true, and I think it’s very sad. :-( But, I still support my local no-kill center, because I know they try their hardest and this center accepts everyone! This article has a good message, and it’s true, but I will still try everything to help the Humane Society of Morgan County in West Virginia.

  • 1346 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I’m not sure if the reasons listed are meant to make the people giving up their animals sound like villains, but some of the reasons are completely legitimate. “He’s sick, and I can’t afford to take him to the vet,” “We just have too many animals,” “They have been hanging around the house, and we don’t want them,” and “Someone dumped them at my house,” all make sense, because in those cases the people giving them up cannot take care of the animals properly. Leaving them sick, neglected, or unwanted because they did not choose to bring them into their homes would be far more cruel than turning them over to a shelter where they have a chance at a better life.

  • 1346 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I got my dog Gus from our local shelter. He is 8 years old and his previous owner abandoned him in a water drain in the side of the street and my mom’s coworker found him and took him to the shelter. We adopted him the same day. ((=

  • 1347 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I understand. It’s tough though.

  • 1358 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    Animals are living beings. please stop killing them. be compassionate

  • 1359 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    My family had to take a dog given to us to the shelter because she was dog- and cat-aggressive and the other animals have lived with us for years. She was at our house for a few months and I fell in love with her–I wish I could have given her a home. I miss her so bad. ;__; I really hope someone has seen how wonderful she is and has been placed in a forever home, but the guilt will always be with me.

    • 1346 days ago

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

      0

      Don’t feel too guilty, it wasn’t your fault that the situation didn’t work out. It is of course always sad when you have to give an animal up, and I know personally from a similar situation: I had two dogs who got along wonderfully for years, and we boarded them in a kennel together without a problem several times. One time, however, our lab viciously attacked the other dog when they were boarded together and left her needing two layers of stitches in her throat. (We were incredibly lucky and found a home for her without having to take her to a shelter because there was an older couple who had just recently lost their dog and were looking for an only dog, so they were more than happy to take her, but of course if we hadn’t been able to we would have taken her to a shelter for the safety of our other dog.) It was the right decision to let your dog have a chance at a better life without the stress of other animals, because it could have happened similarly and left one of your other pets injured or worse. Still, it was difficult, and I am very sorry that it didn’t work out; it is hard to let go of a friend, even if it’s an animal.

  • 1359 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    thats so sad :(

  • 1359 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    actually my shelter IS a no-kill facilty. there was a pitbull named hannah that i wanted but couldn’t have (she was too big). she had been there so a while when we first saw her. and she was there for many months after. we always saw her and i always gave hder a treat when i came. she knew me. and im proud too know that my Humane Society shelter is no kill. (they do put sick animals down if requested, they put my 4-year-old hedgehog down when he was old and sick.)

    • 1357 days ago

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

      1

      I think you missed the point of this post. A no-kill shelter kills more then you would think. When they turn animals away because they are full, people tend to just let the animals loose or worse. Please take your support to a shelter that does what it must, not just what it can.

  • 1360 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I agree more people should adobt from shelters that euthanise because that way you save more lives. I have adobted two dogs from a place like this and saved two others before they could get there. I love my pound puppies and they love me. I also requenlty donate food and money to the shelters as a means of giving more aid so they can keep more animals alive longer.

  • 1360 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    getting rid of an animal just to get another? Talk about chucking away life. :L

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