There are many costs associated with no kill:
The definition of no kill
The term “no kill” is misleading. Many people believe that the term means that every animal at an animal shelter is saved from death. A rational person would realize that shelters deal with critically sick and injured animals and that a humane euthanasia is necessary. In the early days of the no kill movement, organizations accepted a ninety percent live release rate as acceptable; so, any shelter releasing over ninety percent could call itself no kill.
Today, there is more pressure to increase the live release rate to something near one hundred percent. So, the meaning of “no kill” is not clearly defined.
The no kill leaders contend that there are no costs associated with no kill. Austin Texas is a good example as to proving how wrong they are. Austin wanted to be the first major no kill city in American. Austin had to build a new shelter and each year has had to contribute more funding for staff. Volunteers are now complaining that the shelters are too full and that the staff cannot maintain humane care, so they are faced with another dilemma as to whether they have sufficient funds to build another shelter.
The cost to public safety
As the no kill movement progresses, more and more media is directed at animal shelters ignoring public safety. Reports of animal shelter workers mauled by dogs in their care and adopters facing a reality that shelter staff failed to report aggressive tendencies of their new pet. Many areas of the country are facing raising concern about the integrity of adoption organizations providing false information about the previous aggression that a dog has shown. It became such a problem in Virginia that the Commonwealth had to create laws to make it illegal to lie about an animal’s history of aggression. So another cost associalted with no kill is the loss of integrity of adoption organizations.
Programs like managed intakes is a method shelters used to force owners and people finding stray animals from surrendering the animals to the shelter. As a result many of them turned away from the shelter just release the animal to run loose in the country.
Lies, damn lies, and shelter statistics
Speaking of a shelter’s integrity, the no kill movement has led shelter managers to manipulate their intake and disposition statistics to make the shelter appear to have a higher live release rate. The idea is that if a shelter cannot attain no kill status in real life, maybe they can on paper.
One shelter in Florida received national recognition for taking the domestic cats that they receive and returning them back into the community as stray cats. The debate is whether it is better for the animals to have a chance at living or if they are creating a way that the animals will slowly starve out on the streets. Either way, it is a great boost to their no kill statistics.
It is interesting that an animal shelter director was taking heat in one locality for putting the public at risk, only to be hired by another locality to further their cause towards no kill.
The public is very vocal, but the public is not always right. Shelter directors are always under pressure to have the highest live release rate. That pressure causes them to make bad decisions. As those bad decisions become worse, shelters are being sued for endangering the public (another financial cost).
It is becoming increasingly more difficult for animal shelter directors to make the decision to protect the public because the public demand seems to stop euthanasia. We are a community of people seeking something to be enraged about, stopping euthanasia has all of the makings of being a good cause; except, it is based in ignorance.
Cost to the animals
The initial cost of no kill is finding space for all of the animals. Space is a constant. Some shelters seek methods to keep animals out of their shelters (see the blog on managed intakes). Most shelters just stockpile them. I suspect that is the present concern with the Austin shelter. Once a shelter begins stockpiling animals, more animals suffer abuse either through attacks by other dogs or lack of care. It always becomes an issue of humane care.
More and more shelters are forced to take in animals from the same folks who have been rescuing for them. Shelters and rescues seem to be unable to understand their maximum capacity. As the number of animals increase, the stress to those animals increase.
I have always found it odd that the no kill movement leaders keep claiming that there is no pet overpopulation. They tell us that it is a myth. That folks like me are fabricating the myth to justify euthanasia. After all, we can always make room for one more… can’t we?
Cost to the Five Freedoms
The purpose of animal welfare is to protect animals from unnecessary suffering:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
- Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
As shelters strive to become no kill, many times they have to compromise on our pledge to hold to their five freedoms. It is very noble to try to save all of the animals in our shelters, but it should not be at the expense of the loss of humane care.