How 'No-Kill' Policies Can Hurt Animals

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Posted March 30, 2016 by Lily Trahan

Adding animals to the family should mean making a lifelong commitment to caring for them. But sometimes people fail to follow through, and the animals they let down need somewhere safe and humane to turn to.

Recently, a woman in Connecticut tried to surrender her pit bull to an animal shelter because, she said, the dog was vicious. The shelter refused to take the dog in because the animal was not adoptable, and the staff asked her to try “rescues” instead. Within hours, reports were coming in about a wandering pit bull, who was soon hit and killed by a car. A police sergeant shrugged off the incident, saying, “[I]f someone comes in and says, ‘Hey my dog is vicious.’ That’s not the city’s responsibility to take your dog [who] was mistrained.”

More and more dogs and cats are being dumped on the street to dodge traffic and eat trash, thrown away like garbage, and even cruelly killed by people who adopted or bought them but now don’t want them (yes, that actually happens!). Why can’t they go to shelters instead? The answer is that a growing number of shelters, even taxpayer-funded ones, are enacting limited-admission policies, leaving animals with nowhere to turn.

Cat on road

These emerging “turn-away” policies, reduced intake hours, surrender fees that people can’t or won’t pay, and other restrictions that keep animals out of shelters keep euthanasia statistics looking low—and might appeal to the public for that reason—but ask yourself this: What happens to those who are turned away over the phone or at the shelter’s door? They don’t just disappear, and neither do their problems. 🙁 

skinny puppy

In Hillsborough County, Florida, the local shelter is apparently making it so difficult for people to surrender animals that people are dumping dogs and cats outside of animal hospitals. When a local animal hospital manager called the shelter about dropping off one abandoned dog, she was told that she would have to wait until the following day and could only do so during the few hours that the shelter would accept animals from the public. The woman explained that she couldn’t come by then because she would be working during those hours and that she couldn’t keep the dog because she already had three of her own, but apparently, the shelter offered no help. “There was no compassion, no empathy, no solution,” she explained. “It was just do what you need to do.” 

injured cat

Euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen to animals—it’s an overdose of anesthetics that causes them to fall asleep, painlessly. It’s a peaceful end, unlike the slow, painful deaths that those who are turned away from shelters often face. Yet people who believe in a “life at any cost” philosophy bad mouth euthanasia and the shelter workers who perform it so much that many shelters fail to perform their duty to homeless and suffering animals in an effort to avoid being bullied.

Skinny cat

In another example of the implications of these misguided “no-kill” policies, there’s no place to take homeless, abandoned, or unwanted cats in Creswell, Oregon. The city contracts with a shelter in a neighboring city, but that shelter requires cats to be held for five days before it will even accept them—and then it will take them only if there is room, they are deemed adoptable, and the person turning them in makes a donation.

Cat on chair

Hearing what sounded like a baby crying inside a dumpster behind Creswell’s city hall, a woman lifted up the lid to find a kitten tied inside a mesh onion bag and meowing frantically. The kitten was suffering from a respiratory illness and was so infested with fleas that the water ran red when people bathed her. A volunteer who helped care for the kitten said, “[W]e see usually a lot worse things; usually they’re dead.”


A shelter’s refusal to accept animals doesn’t magically make the public responsible and able to care for them. People do horrible things—intentionally and unintentionally—when they have nowhere humane to go for help, and animals suffer as a result. It’s so important that every community have a safe place that accepts all dogs and cats, no questions asked, free of charge.

What You Can Do

Urge your taxpayer-funded shelter to keep its doors open to all animals in need, always spay and neuter your animals, and never shop at pet stores




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  • 282 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    The comment prior to mine said she cried reading the stories. Any living human would have cried, I did. The only ones who might not are the abusers, some read these for pleasure, sick is sick. I believe every state should keep and publish a registry of animal abusers with photos. Every state should take part of the state taxes from useless projects or from pending pay increases for officials, to open in each county one decent shelter, with vets on call day or night, they should be open 24 hours 7 days a week. They should provide free spay and neuter programs. For remote areas they should provide mobile services. Tax money is allocated for useless projects, like bridge repair, often some of the bridges listed were demolished years ago and replaced, so there are not repairs due. So as a country that shows pride in its abilities, animals should be high on the list with children, elders, veterans and handicapped. This sounds like my wish list for Santa, but the people can make this happen by contacting their County, starting petitions, or having meetings scheduled with their local official.

  • Profile photo of AllyDovah

    292 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I cried looking at those pictures D:

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