An Unrealistic Ideal?

Two “no-kill” shelters are shut down due to crowding and neglect.
By JoAnna Lou, March 2010

In an ideal world, no-kill shelters are safe havens where homeless animals stay as long as it takes to find their forever homes. In reality, these places are often strained for resources, forcing many to turn away animals that may be hard to place.

Last year, Julia Kamysz Lane wrote about the difficult dilemma of no-kill shelters. Recently, organizations that resist euthanasia have been in the news due to overpopulation and neglect. 

In January, the Clarksdale-Coahoma County Animal Shelter in Mississippi was shut down after 400 animals were discovered in a facility built to hold 60 dogs. The organization’s numbers quickly grew unmanageable since they did not turn away or euthanize any of the animals brought to the shelter. 

Last November, the Toronto Humane Society was raided by police and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), resulting in five managers being led away in handcuffs. An affidavit documents a pattern of alleged abuses.

For years the Toronto Humane Society used its low 6 percent euthanasia rate as a marketing tool, easily outnumbering other big-city shelters that regularly put down 50 percent or more of the animals they accept.

Julie Morris, senior vice president of Community Outreach for the ASPCA, notes that shelter management usually has good intentions, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. She also says that some shelters can become so fixated on low euthanasia rates that they begin to overlook suffering.

I understand that with proper management, no-kill shelters play an important role in the community, taking dogs off the street and educating potential adopters. But until every person in the world truly understands the responsibility of pet ownership, we will continue to have more dogs than potential homes. With limited resources, particularly in recent economic times, euthanasia seems like a necessary evil. 

Is the concept of no-kill unrealistic?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.