“I think we’re fighting a losing game.”
November 28, 2012
Harrison Co, WV recently hired a new AC director named Cheryl Shaw and a local paper ran a story about it:
In 2011, the center euthanized 2,399 out of 3,184 animals, or nearly 75 percent.
“To put that amount of animals down is crazy,” Shaw said.
The paper also printed comments on pet killing from county commissioner Ron Watson:
[W]hen the day comes for their number to be called, we have to do what we have to do,” he said. “It’s saddening to me … but what can we do?”
What can we do? We can start by agreeing with Ms. Shaw that killing 3 out of 4 pets in the county shelter is crazy. But it’s not enough to simply nod our heads and agree that we are all sad. We need to ask and answer the question, Why is it crazy?
It seems that so many people who kill shelter pets, as well as those who enable the killing, are stuck in a narrow, outdated mindset. They envision a conveyor belt of pets being fed into the pound as a result of the so-called irresponsible public failing to neuter their cats and dogs. They see themselves as assembly line workers who are unable to keep up with the constant flow of animals.
There are too many.
We don’t have enough workers or funds to take care of them all.
We don’t have enough space to house them all.
We have to kill them.
We can only hope that someday the irresponsible public will become responsible and the conveyor belt will bring in fewer animals.
Until then, what can we do? It’s crazy to be killing all these pets but what can we do?
Ms. Shaw appears to be on board with this philosophy and told the paper how she aims to slow down the conveyor belt:
To help decrease the number of euthanizations, Shaw said she is working with the local Humane Society to educate the public on the importance of spaying or neutering pets. She also is trying to reduce the amount of backyard breeding in the county.
Setting aside the fact that wagging a finger at the so-called irresponsible public while preaching spay-neuter has never ended the killing of shelter pets anywhere, ever, this still does not answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many shelter pets?
It’s crazy because shelter pets have the right to live.
It’s crazy because there are proven alternatives being used in open admission no kill shelters all over the country which are available to everyone.
It’s crazy because slowing down the conveyor belt is based upon the premise that the shelter director is failing to do his job. A shelter director’s job is to keep up with the conveyor belt and shelter the pets in his care. There will always be community pets in need, even if everyone in the country suddenly qualified for a Most Responsible Pet Owner award. There will always be emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, unintended breedings, strays and yes, irresponsible pet owners representing a tiny minority of the pet owning public. There will always be a need for shelters.
Remember this skit from I Love Lucy?
As Lucy realizes they are failing at their jobs, she tells Ethel, “I think we’re fighting a losing game.”
Shelter directors who manage to save only 1 out of every 4 pets in their care and base their plan for improvement on blaming the public for the killing of the other 3 are fighting a losing game. Instead of viewing shelter staff as victims of an irresponsible pet owning public gone wild causing the conveyor belt to bring in 75% more pets than they are capable of saving, directors need to break out of this old-think.
Shelter pets have the right to live.
Killing is not an option.
What can we do?
Try embracing the pet owners in your community who represent the majority instead of demonizing them for the actions of the minority. Put them to work on the assembly line. Partner with them both inside and outside the shelter to save lives. Return their loose pets to them before even bringing them to the shelter. Bring your pets to high traffic areas so the public can fall in love with them. Let people see, touch and spend time with every healthy/treatable pet in your shelter. Ask them for money, ask them to foster, ask them to help you save lives.
The conveyor belt is never going to slow down to the point where saving a few animals is going to mean an end to the killing. The conveyor belt is not the problem. The problem is the needless killing of shelter pets while directors remain committed to fighting a losing battle and blaming the public. There are many directors who have abandoned this old-think and in so doing, began saving more than 90% of their pets. Their conveyor belts haven’t slowed down. They simply stopped fighting a losing battle and started doing their jobs.
This same success is available to every shelter director in the country. Today. As a no kill advocate, you can help your local shelter director answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many pets? You can help your director to understand there is something we can do. Or if he refuses to accept your help, you can force him to start doing his job or get out of the way of lifesaving efforts through political advocacy.
The days of fighting a losing game and blaming the public for the failure of shelter directors to shelter pets are coming to an end. The time for action is now. Join us.
(Thank you Vicki for the link.)