One of the greatest misperceptions in the world of animal welfare is that one size fits all. The No-Kill Movement is the best example of this. A community decides that ending the killing of animals in their local animal shelter is a good idea. It just feels good.
They look to no-kill animal shelters and decide to mimic them. So many people believed that the easiest way to end the killing of animals is to just stop killing them. It is this philosophy that caused the current overcrowding crisis in animal shelters today. It was easy for humane societies to become no-kill; they just closed their doors to animals coming in and let the local public shelter take the strain of the pet overpopulation. The humane society could be the good guys while the public animal shelter takes the grief for killing animals.
So? Why can’t a shelter just stop killing animals? The simple answer is space. Once you have filled up all of your kennels and foster homes, space becomes an issue. That seems simple enough; so, why not adopt them? Again, the issue comes down to space; you run out of potential homes or you find that many people don’t want to adopt a pitbull. Pitbulls or their mixes make up the largest percentage of animals in the shelter.
You can say what you will that pitbull dogs are like any other breed, but they are not. In a world of irresponsible pet owners, pitbulls demand the most responsible of owners. Most people cannot live up to that responsibility. The fact that seventy percent of any animal shelter is filled with pitbulls is a testament to the irresponsibility of their owners.
But, let us get back to our original misperceptions. Every community wants to be no-kill, so why can’t ours? The City of Austin Texas is a good example. They were able to reach no-kill status (which is a euthanasia rate lower than ten percent) by throwing money at the problem. It worked for a short time but failed when they ran out of money and people in neighboring communities began dumping their animals on them. Eventually, all of their money went to waste and Austin just found that the pet overpopulation just grew to fill their increased shelter space. Most communities don’t have the funding that Austin dished out to solve their problem and, in the end, to keep their no-kill status, they had to start restricting intakes.
So, it comes down to this: if the community animal shelter is a public service to provide protection from stray animals running in the streets; does closing your doors to accept those strays end the public protection that was your original mandate? It does. The No-Kill Movement is not a public safety protection program. Not only does it put the public at risk, but it places sheltered animals at risk. Each community has to judge for itself as to how humane it is for an animal to be caged waiting for an adoption that never comes.
Is there a solution? You bet, but it demands a mandate to force every pet owner to spay or neuter their pets. Breeding pets are the cause of shelter overcrowding. Breeding pets is the result of irresponsible pet ownership. The first step is to demand that all pitbull and pitbull mix dogs are sterilized, since they are the predominant problem of shelter overcrowded. Let’s face it if we could get the pitbull problem under control, it would be a big step in a community becoming no-kill. If the percentage of pitbulls in an animal shelter would drop below ten percent, then animal shelters would experience a tremendous boost toward ending the needless killing of animals.
Is that even possible? Not likely. Pet owners cannot be legislated into sterilizing their pets. Even if it is for the good of the community. To many pet owners, having a fertile pet is right up there with 2nd Amendment Rights. It is funny to see men come into the shelters to explain that their virility is linked to their dog’s testicles. But there are workaround solutions. A community can make it infeasible to allow a fertile dog to run loose. In Alachua County (Florida) owners of fertile animals were charged a higher impound fee if their pet was picked up. After all, it is these fertile pets running loose that are the problem. We would give the owner two choices, to pay the higher fee or to pay no impound fee if we were allowed to sterilize the animal. The problem is those pet owners found an alternate solution and abandoned their pet at the shelter. At least, in our hands, the pet could hopefully find a new home and not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
Too many people, including the No-Kill folks, blame shelter euthanasia on shelter staff. The killing starts at home; with the reckless breeding of unwanted animals. It is like blaming the sanitation workers for filling up your landfill.