Some of you have probably seen Lake Superior State University’s Banished Word List for 2012. (I note that “pet parent” made the list, without comment.) One word I wish would disappear from every rescue post now and forever is “dump” when referring to pets surrendered by their owners to shelters. I’ve written on this subject before but it’s something I come across daily and it’s grating on me. So here we are again.
It is entirely reasonable for John Q. Public to draw the conclusion that a place which calls itself a “humane society” reflects the values of an actual humane society, such as what we have here in America. A recent AP-Petside poll indicates that 71% of Americans believe that shelters should not kill pets but rather reserve euthanasia for medically or behaviorally hopeless cases.
Likewise, any animal facility with the words “shelter”, “prevention of cruelty”, “animal services” or similar is logically perceived by most people to be a safe haven for pets. Even if a staff member counsels the owner during the surrender and/or has the owner sign a form stating that the pet may be killed, it is likely that the owner believes this is a remote possibility, only being mentioned to cover some legal liability.
It is completely understandable to me that most surrendering owners believe one or more of the following:
- The people here love pets and although they might kill some pets, I’m sure those are sickly or mean animals – not like my pet.
- My pet is so wonderful and as soon as the animal loving staff here gets to know her, they will fall in love with her and there will be no chance of her being killed.
- People visiting the shelter looking to add a pet to the home will be instantly drawn to a nice pet like mine and she will probably be adopted quickly.
- I’m so overwhelmed right now (because I’m losing my house/undergoing cancer treatment/barely able to keep my kids fed/whatever) that I really can’t conceive of this whole “we might kill your pet” notion and I just have to believe that these animal loving people will help us in this time of need and not hurt my pet.
Just because you and I know that tragically, too many shelter workers are not animal lovers and in fact, abuse and needlessly kill pets every day – it doesn’t mean that the typical surrendering owner knows that. In fact, I think the AP-Petside poll clearly indicates the opposite. Most people believe shelters are a safe haven for pets. That’s why they are surrendering their pets there. They don’t want anything bad to happen to their pets. Whether they are genuinely unable or outright unwilling to keep the pet is irrelevant. The important thing is that they care enough about the animal to take him to a place where it is believed he’ll be protected from harm.
This is not “dumping” a pet.
That said, there are some people who do dump pets, literally. They work at your local pound. They take in donations and pets from the public and then, behind closed doors, kill pets, toss their bodies into a dumpster and send them to the dump. They kill pets and attempt to justify their heinous actions by providing phony “reasons”. They kill some pets without ever offering them for adoption because they are too lazy to open up the entire shelter to visitors or get pets out to high traffic areas to be seen. They kill because it’s easier than setting up and maintaining a cage for an animal. They kill because it’s a power trip getting to stroll the kennel halls picking who lives and who dies.
There are any number of so-called reasons why those paid to protect our community pets kill them but there is one reason which overshadows all the others: because they can.
Why is that? How can anyone be paid with taxpayer money to fail at their job?
They kill because they can and they can because:
- There is no law in place to stop them from killing.
- The public does not realize they are killing instead of sheltering and trusts them to do their jobs.
- Rescuers enable them by blaming the killing on owners who “dump” their pets at the shelter and perpetuating the myth that the workers “have to” kill because there are too many pets and not enough homes.
Please join me in dumping the word “dump” in describing owners who surrender their pets to shelters. Instead of helping to “justify” the needless killing of shelter pets by blaming the public, take action to end the killing.