Kill Shelters: Useful, Not Useful, Needed, Cruel - German Shepherd Dog Forums
View Poll Results: Pick Two.
Useful 17 30.36%
Not Useful 6 10.71%
Needed 43 76.79%
Cruel 14 25.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 56. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 08:04 PM Thread Starter
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Kill Shelters: Useful, Not Useful, Needed, Cruel

What do you guys think?? I know it probably won't happen, but it is my goal to get kill shelters illegal in America
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post #2 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 09:11 PM
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I think it's important to volunteer in a kill shelter to understand the magnitude of the problem. You are in California, which has a problem of epic proportions -- spend some time working in the shelter to see what they are up against. I didn't really understand it until I started volunteering in a public shelter and got to know the staff and management well. It's given me a very different perspective.

In my small city, on a busy day, 20-30 dogs come in through intake. A great day of adoptions is 10, but most days just 2-3. With these numbers, we're at capacity quickly. There's only one way to make space: euth dogs to make space for other dogs.

This is a hard, hard thing. My city briefly tried to go no-kill overnight in a very poorly thought-out attempt to wish the problem away. Dogs stacked up in hallways, bathrooms, closets, on top of each other -- it was awful. I wasn't volunteering back then, so I didn't see it, but the stories of them packed into kennels and fighting for space horrifying. That lasted just a couple of weeks, then they started euthing again because the situation was inhumane.

Then there's the pit bull and feral cat problem. About 7 out of 10 dogs impounded are likely pit bulls--and probably just 1 out of 10 adopted out (I'm guessing, based on what I've observed at the shelter as a volunteer). The PB rescues are all full, always. So what do you do with them? Keep them in a small kennel with minimal care forever? The most creative solution I've heard for the feral cats is to neuter and vax them and release them back to be community cats. You can't exactly do that with pit bulls though.

We are currently looking at a 3-5 year, or more, journey to becoming no kill. (And "no kill" by the way, means a kill-rate of 10% or less, not truly no kill. The 10% includes dogs with aggressive temperaments and health issues that make them unadoptable.)

Target Zero Institute in Jacksonville (a non-profit org.) advises cities on how to do it, and I've looked carefully at their plan. The plan is very, very controversial. As worthy as the goal is, parts of it really make me queasy.

First, the plan requires a massive increase in free/low-cost speutering--including control of feral cats. The benefits of that in cutting the numbers of strays are realized a few years out with a sharp drop in shelter population, but it has to happen before the no-kill goal is feasible. This means most animals in the community need to be fixed. If you've followed this board for a few months, you've seen the controversy spay/neuter laws stir up!

In cities that have used the TZI protocol to get to no kill, they also strive for an "open adoption" policy from both shelters AND rescues, with little or no adoption fee, no home checks, and no vet reference checks. Anyone who shows up can walk out with a dog, on a whim, for next to no money. If they want to chain it up outside, make it a junkyard dog, whatever -- they get a dog and a counselor attempts "education." If their last dog died from untreated heartworms because it wasn't on preventative, they get a dog. If they have no idea how to manage a powerful breed, no plans to exercise or even minimally train, they get a dog. If they train by beating the dog, I guess they get a dog. And on and on. TZI claims the "open adoption" policy is an essential component of the no-kill formula.

Some rescues in Jacksonville, where it was instituted, have told me they view the plan as having unintended negative consequences -- shoving the problem around and making it a neglect/abuse problem instead of a euthanasia problem. It's also put pressure on private rescues who spend hundreds of dollars vetting dogs, as adopters are socialized in the community through lots of advertising to expect dogs to be "free." I fear it creates a community perception of dogs being disposable since they don't cost anything.

I've seen what terrible homes have done to the psyches of dogs I've fostered -- the idea of placing a dog into one of those homes gives me the shivers. I won't do it.

This isn't to say I don't wish we could be no kill. I have some great dogs at the shelter tagged with my phone number so that I get a call to come foster them when their time is up. I'm on the front lines trying to save lives--there's a sweet one at my feet that was under a euth order last week until she got a foster commitment.

I fear solutions that may cause other worse problems. The policy issue is incredibly complex, esp. in places like California and the Deep South were it's puppy season year round, and dogs are bred constantly and indiscriminately in the community. All of this is a long way of saying, I wish we didn't have dogs dying for space...but the path to getting there is fraught with peril.

Last edited by Magwart; 07-29-2013 at 09:16 PM.
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post #3 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 09:25 PM
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Until there is a better solution, unfortunately kill shelters are very necessary. I have volunteered in both kill and non kill and they both have their negatives. No kill is a nice idea, but there is a lot more involved than what people think. I just pulled a GSD a few weeks ago from a no kill shelter who's owner died and the wife couldn't handle him. This dog has a very strong personality and while everyone was nice to him at the shelter, they were also afraid of him. While he was at the shelter,he bit several people that he felt 'stepped out of line with him' and they were going to kill him, so they called me to come in and see him. I have had him ever since. There is also another dog who was caught feral at this same shelter who has been there for 3 years. This dog is afraid of his own skin and is literally a prisoner in his own body. He hasn't improved at all in the 3 years that he has been there.


There are a lot of animals that develop behavioral issues in no kill shelters and if they aren't going to get out of the shelter and be helped with their issues, it is kinder to kill them IMO.

Last edited by Gharrissc; 07-29-2013 at 09:34 PM.
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post #4 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 09:28 PM
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+1 to everything Magwart said. That is dead on.

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post #5 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 09:39 PM
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All of what Magwart said makes sense to me from what I have observed. It's amazing that shelter tried to go no kill!

Our small rural shelter has managed to go "no-kill" as in 90% save rate, but they have the worst screening procedures I have ever seen for new owners. They also give cats away at $10 and I wonder what happens to them. Very few people in this town are "pet savvy" and a lot just let their pets run wild in the streets, in danger of being killed every day. Animal Control can't keep up with it and probably doesn't care to since they are busy with more serious neglect cases. I do think part of this is due to the town's demographics and it is definitely a cultural problem, not an overpopulation problem. People here just view pets as transient, practically expecting them to come and go from your life on a whim.

I don't think this absurd level of open adoption is necessary in all cases. You have a responsibility to place safe, healthy pets with the general public, but you also have a responsibility to place dogs in safe, healthy homes. The guy who originally adopted my dog kept her locked in the backyard for two years, then returned her to the shelter, lying about her history in the process. I was honest on my questionnaire about having to euthanize a dog at an early age, and they didn't even ask about it. I think the middle ground is probably training staff to recognize when an exception should be made to stricter rules. For example, not all great homes have fenced backyards.

Euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals has fallen dramatically in this country. The number of communities with a 90% save rate is only going to grow. So even if there are some very sad situations where no-kill doesn't work right now, that doesn't mean it's not a worthy and achievable long-term goal. However, it will be VERY important not to demonize shelters like the one Magwart described, who are fully willing but not yet able.

Just my two cents. I realize this topic has been done to death, but I really care about it.


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post #6 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 09:45 PM
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Great post Magwart!

What has your experience been with municipal animal control agencies coordinating and cooperating with shelters and rescues (local, regional, state and out-of-state)?

In my area, there is a great deal of communication between Chicago ACC and local groups to pull adoptable dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. There are also a lot of efforts to communicate and coordinate with shelters in parts of the country that are overflowing and just do not have the adoption traffic that is needed.

I do not think it will be possible, or wise, for municipal shelters to be completely no kill - in fact, a surprising amount of people surrender their severely ill pets to municipal shelters for euthanasia because it is the most affordable option to put the dog to sleep humanely. This, on top of the fact that some dogs are just not adoptable due to many other factors.

But, with that said, I do think it is possible to achieve no-kill for dogs that suffer from treatable illnesses and fixable behavior problems. In other words, to eliminate euthanasia of adoptable dogs due to capacity issues.
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post #7 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 10:05 PM
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Best Friends is doing some excellent work on this very issue. I know that Albuquerque is one of the pilot cities and has greatly reduced their kill rate.

Check out some of their blog posts: No Kill | The Best Friends Blog

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post #8 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 10:07 PM
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I wish it were different, that we could find a home for every animal that was healthy enough (both mentally and physically) to benefit from a home. But we are not there yet.

Considering the **** that some animals have to endure, I learned to accept that there are worse fates than a humane death. I have seen animals living in situations that are just unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

I am really struggling with a local shelter right now. The county that had operated the shelter decided that they just couldn't afford the cost any more and said they were going to close down. A local woman who had been involved in a local "no kill" shelter (which was really a system of foster homes and not a physical shelter) offered to take over the shelter as a stand alone non-profit, service the animal control contract from the county for pennies on the dollar on the old contract and go "no kill".

And for the past year they have participated in the Rachel Ray Challenge, where the shelter with the highest adoption numbers wins. They came in second place last year and won something like $50,000. They want first place this year.

So...they are giving dogs away. It started with Black Dog Saturdays and has morphed into a "pay what you can" for any dog. Every adoption fee is a suggestion and open to negotiation. No application. You just have to have an ID that shows you are over 18 years of age. And that means somebody under age wanting to "adopt" can solicit some stranger in the parking lot and the shelter will do the adoption, knowing that the dog is actually going to the 16 year old kid and her boyfriend who woke up that morning and decided they wanted a dog. Some dogs are being adopted and returned four and five times. It is a revolving door. And not good for the dogs.

There has to be some golden middle between that and euthanizing for time and room issues. I don't know what it is, but there has to be.
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post #9 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 10:33 PM
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That's a lofty goal, and I don't envy you in trying to achieve it. It is a very sad fact that the pet overpopulation problem in the US is severe

I don't want to discourage your efforts, by any means. But if you want to rescue every dog, you will have greater success going into business, achieving great wealth, and I mean Bill Gates and Steve Jobs' degree of wealth, and then redistributing your profits to the dogs in need. The US mentality toward animal welfare is progressive world wide. Yet, for dog lovers, it is still appalling.

Euth is a sad option, but all too often, it remains the most humane option. Volunteer at a shelter and you will get some painful perspective

I think, hon, you will have a greater impact doing personal service to individual rescues. Find an abandoned dog soul you can focus on, and save her!


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post #10 of 53 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 11:10 PM
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Hi Sheilah (sit/stay),

Yikes... what a nightmare! So very sorry to hear the situation you are facing with your local shelter.

If you ever want someone to bounce ideas off, please know I would be very happy to share my experience with things that have been tried out by different groups in my area - some were total disasters and others have worked really well.

To me, the worst answer is to resort to "giving away" dogs by any means necessary. A better answer is to move dogs to organizations and areas where the demand ensures the standards of adoption remain in place.

Last edited by LifeofRiley; 07-29-2013 at 11:18 PM.
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