The "No Kill Shelter" Myth

Posted Aug 30, 2018
The concept of a “no kill” shelter is one that everyone who works in animal welfare dreams of. But it’s also a concept that we struggle to understand.

The “No Kill” is plainly and simply a marketing concept that has reaped millions of dollars for those shelters advocating this policy, to the detriment of animals and other shelters struggling to do the right thing by all animals not just a select few.

A “No Kill” Shelter has a very selective “selection process” on what animals it will accept through its doors and it will only take those animals it knows that it can re-home without difficulty. Thousands of other animals are turned away and referred to pounds or other animal welfare shelters that will take the sick, injured and stray dogs and cats. And yes, sadly, some of these will have to be euthanased. Having said that there are a number of rescue organisations, (not shelters as such), that that really are “no kill” organisations and RSPCA Qld deals with them on a regular basis. Most of these do a wonderful job and their dedication is second to none. This is yet another example of how the community works together to save lives. Often the RSPCA has put scores of hours of behavioural modification or performed major surgical procedures before they go to the rescue group.

At RSPCA Qld we don’t turn away any animal although there can be long waiting lists when our facilities are at capacity. However if an animal is injured we always push the barriers and find space. We do everything we can to save an animal that wouldn’t even get through the doors of a so called “no kill” shelter. We now perform more surgical procedures and spend more hours on behavioural rehabilitation than any organisation in the Southern Hemisphere. Our rehoming rate is now 88% for dogs and 87% for cats.

For us euthanasia is a last resort. If an animal is going to be in pain and have no quality of life for its remaining years we believe it’s inhumane to put him or her up for adoption. The same goes for an animal that is likely to be a danger to the community and themselves.

The “No Kill” shelters have made it extremely difficult for other animal welfare agencies to fundraise effectively and retain a strong staff and volunteer base. We all know that the worst job in any shelter is to have to euthanase an animal. However the public would rather pull the wool over their eyes and donate and bequest to an organisation that appears to be doing the right thing. It gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling. But the truth is these organisations are helping less animals and placing more strain, financially, emotionally and physically, on other shelters.

In the animal welfare industry euthanasia is a horrible necessity and a fact of life that has to be accepted as part of running a shelter. I reiterate, there is no such thing as a “no kill” shelter. The ones that claim to be are discarding their responsibilities, fooling the public and enjoying the best part of the job- sending an animal home with a new owner.

The focus needs to shift away from euthanasia rates and concentrate on one simple question-how can we rehome more animals?

Education, presentation of a good product, suitability of dog/owner relationships, basic obedience training and compulsory de-sexing will all play a part. This is where we must concentrate our resources and the euthanasia rate will continue to fall. A “less kill” policy is the reality. The “No Kill Shelter” is purely and simply, a myth.        

Mark Townend
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