“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”
― Jack London
I support my local kill shelter. Yes, I know what kind of reactions I get when I state that: the sharp intake of breath, the glaring eyes, and the accusations. Oh….the accusations.
“You believe in the killing of innocent animals?” No. I don’t, but enjoy that ham sandwich you’re eating while making that accusation.
I believe in the saving of as many animals as possible, but even in the Bible, God told Noah there was only room on the ark for two of each species. What do you think happened to the rest? They went to Best Friends Animals Sanctuary to ride out the flood?
So let me restate this as clearly as possible: I hate, abhor, and loathe the killing of dogs, cats and other shelter animals. I just happen to see that sometimes what I want to have happen and what can actually be done are two different things. Nurses don’t like to perform triage, but they do, and my utmost respect to those individual who are capable of of understanding this and doing it.
Let me explain in cold, hard numbers. In the U.S., there are currently 6-8 million cats and dogs in shelters at any given minute. Let that number sink in. 6-8 million. That number hasn’t changed much in the past few years. You adopt your Fido from your local shelter (congrats!), but in come a litter of pups from a mill. Or a dog that was finally caught after months of wandering the streets. A surrender. So many reasons for incoming animals. Where do these dogs go?
There is a lot of mongering out there about adopting from shelters, never buying from a breeder. I wholeheartedly support shelter adoptions. You are saving a life (and enriching yours in the process!). However, remember the number, 6-8 million in shelters. Between 2-4 million of these animals are euthanized every year.
I have volunteered at both a no-kill and a kill shelter. At the kill shelter, I saw animal control officers do some crazy things: slide out onto ice covered lakes to save a stranded dog, risk a probable bite from a terrified animal just to finally retract the frightened dog from under a porch where it had been “living” for months. They do brave things. They do things without regard for themselves, only for the animals they are trying to save. And they do this with the knowledge that these animals, even once at the kennel, still aren’t necessarily saved. There is only so much room in the Ark.
I was at one time the trainer for a local no-kill shelter. It was a wonderful operation. Please don’t think I’m hating on no-kills – they are indeed saving animals! – but what is no kill? No kill means that a shelter doesn’t have the means to take in an animal, either because of the animal’s temperament, because of funding, or because they are full. So they take a pass on an animal that is offered to them. This means the animal is sent to county, where they are likely euthanized. I was frequently involved in such happenings. The shelter manager would ask my opinion on a dog, and I would do a temperament test. The shelter manage would decide the dog’s fate based upon the temperament test. None of these dogs were bad. They just didn’t make the cut according to the shelter manager.
So rather than claim a shelter is “no-kill”, I think it is more appropriate for a shelter to claim “we don’t do the killing ourselves”. Because what is really happening to these animals? They are still being put down. The Ark is full. Kinda like the beef I’m having for dinner tonight wasn’t killed by me…that happens off-site, out of my view. I’m not the one who killed it, but it still happens.
In a perfect world, nobody would know what a kill shelter even was. I love the work the volunteers at both kill and no-kill shelters do. The problem is there are too many animals, and not enough homes. Not enough funds to go towards the unwanted animals to set them up for the rest of their lives comfortably, so we do what we must.
I think education will play an important outcome for these animals. Children who grow up learning that animals are living, thinking beings are less likely to use them for cash in puppy mills. Children who are taught to love an animal are less likely as adults to leave it chained up outside, eventually sending it to a shelter when they’re finally sick of it. Children who grow up understanding an animal’s capacity for pain are more likely to volunteer as adults to help end suffering in any way they can.