When we talk about shelter statistics – or save rate, kill rate, hard numbers or any way you want to describe it – we are talking about pets. Dogs and cats, including feral cats whose home is the community, who for whatever reason have been placed in cages at the shelter – these are the lives represented by a shelter’s stats. Every one of these animals has the right to live.
In the case of rescue groups, private shelters that don’t perform animal control duties or any other type of limited admission facility, the statistics are normally going to indicate an extremely high save rate due to the fact that the organization does not accept every pet in need but rather hand picks animals based on such factors as financial resources and available space.
But in the case of open admission shelters – those which accept all animals in need including owner surrenders (whether by appointment or walk-in) – the statistics are going to reflect the director’s commitment to lifesaving which he or she has instilled in the shelter’s staff. And when the numbers indicate that the primary function of the shelter is pet killing – that is, more than 50% of the animals are killed, I call that a pet killing facility. I know of no more fitting description.
Many pet killing facilities do not function in a vacuum but in fact have a network of enablers – volunteers, rescuers, donors and others who support the killing by attempting to justify it in various ways. The director, staff and their enablers often blame the so-called irresponsible public, the debunked myth of pet overpopulation and a general lack of support for the killing. They may claim that outsiders do not understand their unique set of challenges. Every pet killing facility seems to believe their situation is unique when in reality they all have more in common than they do differences. When the killing is criticized by locals, they may blame those people directly with witty zingers such as “How many animals have YOU fostered?” and “Are YOU going to pay for vet care for all these animals?” The irony of blaming compassionate people who don’t want to see pets killed for not providing direct assistance to a pet killing facility is apparently lost on some.
In some cases, pet killing facilities attempt to deflect attention and justify killing by referencing another facility in a nearby county which kills more pets than they do – as if that somehow trumps any individual animal’s right to live or reduces the responsibility on the part of those doing the killing. But Ma, the kid that sits behind me in class pushed two girls into the river. I only pushed one! False choices are frequently offered such as, “Would you rather we cram 20 dogs into every run, force them to fight for food and live in filth or humanely euthanize them?” As if these are the only two options available.
And then there are claims, whether vague or specific, that the pet killing facility is trying their best and/or improving. Well hey, trying your best is better than trying your worst, right? And improving beats a downward spiral any day of the week. But dead shelter pets don’t lie. If you are killing healthy/treatable dogs and cats, your best is not good enough and your improvements are falling short in the most horrifying way imaginable. Stop. Reform. Abandon your failing ways. Embrace change. Follow in the footsteps of those who have faced your challenges and worked hard to beat them long term. Spend less time in your comfort zone having your ego stroked by enablers and more time doing your job to actually shelter pets.
Rather than trumpeting your reasons for killing, let the animals saved by your shelter speak for themselves. Because live shelter pets don’t lie either. And they make way better spokesmen.