“No Kill” Animal Shelters Are Not Black & White

While the thought of “no kill” shelters brings a smile to animal advocates, many are cognizant there's a significant grey area that exists regarding euthanasia. In an ideal world, we’d like to believe there would be no need for animal shelters — that strays, abused and unwanted pets didn’t exist. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Define “No-Kill”

Yet, with a glimmer of hope, the next the best thing to aid overlooked pets was the creation of “no kill” centers. The definition of "no-kill" is an animal center that does not kill healthy or treatable animals, even when the shelter is full, reserving euthanasia only for terminally ill animals or those considered dangerous to public safety.

So as you can see, the operative words in that definition is “healthy or treatable animals.” This means that unhealthy pets or those who need surgery or medical treatment ‘may’ be euthanized. This is the gray area. And it’s sad, because it can be interpreted differently dependent on the no-kill center in charge of making these life-or-death decisions.

Can’t be rehabilitated . . .

It’s the interpretation as to which animals can or cannot be rehabilitated. Centers with limited budgets are under extreme pressure to dismiss animals who need a lot of healthcare. Why? Because these procedures are costly. “So,” according to Mother Nature Network contributor Mary Jo DiLonardo, “while one shelter may decide to treat heartworms and amputations, another could question the expenditure and instead use the funds to save several pets.”

Emotional issues can also aggravate the physical needs of a dog or cat. Many of these animals are dealing with fear or aggression triggered by previous abuse or constantly being attended to by strangers. So their lashing out at these threats might be a factor as to whether or not they should be sentenced to death. If the employees at a shelter don’t have the time or expertise to attend to the emotional needs of these animals, these factors may lead to a sealing of their fate.

Saving as many lives as possible . . .

So, in many instances, it comes down to numbers: What’s the best that can be done to save the most?

According to Best Friends Animal Society [BFAS], "In our view, for a community to be considered truly no-kill, it means that no healthy or treatable animal is killed. The community’s focus should be on saving as many lives as possible through positive outcomes (adoption, transfer to rescue groups, etc.), not solely on reducing the killing to achieve a numerical goal."

Nine out of ten . . .

The No-Kill Advocacy Center notes that: “​If every animal shelter in the United States embraced the no-kill philosophy and the programs and services that make it possible, we would save nearly three million animals who are scheduled to die in shelters this year, and the year after that . . . it is not an impossible dream.”

Unfortunately, currently that is not the reality.

BFAS points out the importance of having a benchmark, in order to give shelters goals and accountability. Generally, the no-kill threshold for a community is considered to be 90 percent, which means nine out of 10 dogs leave the shelter alive.

Readers, should that percentage be closer to 100? How can that number be achieved? Please weigh in with your comments below.

Primary Source: No-Kill Centers