My view that animal shelters can and should stop killing pets immediately is regarded by some as extreme. There are many people who believe some period of time is required (months or years) in order to fully implement all the needed programs, personnel and funding which will secure no kill for the long term. During this transition period, pet killing continues, with a goal of steady reduction, and is regarded as a necessary evil. I refer to this as transition killing. And I wholly reject it.
There is an even more watered-down philosophy embraced by many animal activists which says that, “No kill can not be achieved until [insert your killing apologist claim-du-jour here]. Some of the many claims offered to extend the killing indefinitely are:
- No kill can not be achieved until everyone spays and neuters their pets.
- No kill can not be achieved until puppy mills are shut down.
- No kill can not be achieved until we accept that we are all on the same team.
This tactic is nothing more than a carrot on a stick and it results in even more permanent damage than transition killing because there is no end in sight. The date when any of these stated goals will be accomplished is never. So when an animal activist embraces one of these indefinite delay tactics, what they are really saying is what they really believe, and what they hope to convince you to believe too: No kill can not be achieved ever. Again, I reject this philosophy entirely.
In Alabama, a political action committee called Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) is lobbying for a mandatory reporting bill (HB 238) which would require shelters to submit annual intake and outcome numbers to the state. Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor under the bill. There has been significant objection to the bill from shelter pet advocates for several reasons, which I will cover in due course. But suffice to say that the premise put forth by AVRAL seems to be yet another carrot on a stick: No kill can not be achieved until we know exactly how many animals are in the system in the state. From a recent mass e-mail sent out by the group:
In an effort to determine how many homeless animals need assistance in our state, [AVRAL] wrote the shelter and rescue reporting act, which simply asks for a tally of how many animals enter shelters/rescues annually, whether they are strays/owner surrenders, are adopted, euthanized, etc. The purpose is to define the scope and nature of the homeless animal problem in Alabama, it is a starting point from which we hope to assist shelters and rescues with their efforts. As I made clear, shelters/rescues didn’t create the problem, they are the ones left to clean it up. I urged everyone not to demonize shelters in particular: they are easy targets, but people tend to forget they didn’t put the animals there.
We knew shelters might resist releasing their numbers. What we did not realize was that certain groups—animal welfare groups included—would spread such overt lies and misinformation about our bill that we are left dumbfounded.
Although my gut reaction is to tell AVRAL to take its blame-the-public BS and shove it, I have to ask the logical questions which come to mind:
- Who is going to pay to enforce compliance with this mandatory reporting which will make criminals out of any non-profit or municipal facility which fails to submit numbers?
- Even if the funding for enforcement is obtained, there are still likely to be some non-compliant shelters so the true state totals may never be known – do we have to put off no kill even longer because of this?
- For the sake of argument, let’s say every shelter in the state reports how many animals they are killing. So what? We already know shelter pets are being needlessly killed in AL, why do we need to pinpoint an exact number? How will having that number change the need for an immediate end to the killing of shelter pets?
- Why is AVRAL pushing a bill which does nothing to help save the lives of pets in shelters?
Dog #406248 at the Huntsville pound in AL, as pictured on PetHarbor.
The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has a reporting requirement for shelters but it primarily outlines specifically how shelters must make lifesaving their primary function. Minimum standards of care and access to the pets by groups willing to save them are key elements of CAPA. If AVRAL wants to spend resources on pushing a bill, why is it ignoring CAPA in favor of HB 238 when its bill will not save the life of a single shelter animal? Even if AVRAL doesn’t believe AL is prepared to enact the full CAPA, there is a modified version available, if what the group truly seeks is “a starting point from which we hope to assist shelters and rescues with their efforts”. CAPA clearly defines those efforts as saving the lives of shelter pets. This is in stark contrast to AVRAL, which appears to define the mission of animals shelters as cleaning up after the so-called irresponsible public.
From the AVRAL mass e-mail:
HB 238 is a first step toward understanding exactly what we are dealing with, what we are paying for, when it comes to the tragic problem of companion animal homelessness. It is one of the most “common sense” bills ever introduced in the legislature.
I am not a PAC but common sense tells me that animal shelters should shelter animals, that instead of shelter directors doing their jobs they are killing the animals in their care, and that I don’t need to know the exact number of dead pets in order to demand an immediate end to the killing. One is too many. And since I know there is at least one, that’s all the information I need. Common sense tells me that if I continually chase the “No kill can not be achieved until…” carrot, I will keel over before the lives of shelter pets are protected. CAPA, or a modified version, would include the annual reports AVRAL desires but primarily would ensure that animal shelters do their jobs. CAPA takes away shelter directors’ discretion to kill animals. Common sense tells me that is a bill I would support.