Some Animal Advocates Say No-Kill Dog And Cat Shelters Hurtful

Animal Shelter

When many people hear that animal shelters are no-kill, they are happy that these innocent pets will not be euthanized simply because there is not enough space in the shelter. It is the hope that all of these abandoned animals will have another chance to find a home that will love and care for them.

But, some animal welfare advocates say that the nationwide shift to no-kill shelters is not necessarily the best situation for those animals who may never find a home.

A director of the domestic animal department at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said that no-kill shelters may sound good, but it may lead to some animals suffering.

“I’ve been to good no-kills, and I’ve been to bad no-kills,” said Jef Hale, San Antonio’s Animal Care Service’s director. “I was at a no-kill in Louisiana and basically what they did is they just put animals in a cage and they just continued to add animals to a cage. … If we put them in a cage and we don’t interact with them, we slowly drive them crazy.”

San Antonio’s Animal Care Services wants to turn their shelter into a no-kill facility. The program is set to be phased in by 2012.

Animal advocates say the no-kill shelters that are successful take good care of the animals because they partner with other local facilities. For many no-kill shelters that have no backup plan and hang onto animals for long periods of time, until they are adopted, have overcrowding issues which cause health problems for the animals.

Many animal organizations worry about the practice of “warehousing” when a shelter decides to go no-kill. Some animal welfare advocates say they believe that killing animals is sometimes the only humane way to help with overcrowding.

Across the nation, an estimated 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters each year. About half of these animals are euthanized.

National organizations are joining in the no-kill movement. ASPCA implemented “Mission: Orange” to increase adoption and reduce euthanasia in five U.S. communities. The American Humane Association has a program called “Getting to Zero.”

“We are definitely seeing a broad movement toward no-kill,” said Richard Avanzino, president of Maddie’s Fund in Alameda, Calif., which aims for the U.S. to be no-kill by 2017. “And there are some isolated examples of horror stories where things have gone astray and people in their zeal have actually done harm. … It’s not something that you just flip a switch and it happens immediately.”

The founder and director of Animals at Heart, an animal non-profit organization, said that some shelters that are pursuing the no-kill label will only take in pets they are certain that they can adopt out. Other shelters may also adopt out potentially dangerous animals to make space in their facility.

The director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States said there isn’t much of an alternative when no-kill shelters are filled to capacity. She said the animal most likely ends up either in a facility that does openly euthanize or is abandoned on the streets.

Source: Washington Post

22 Responses to “Some Animal Advocates Say No-Kill Dog And Cat Shelters Hurtful”

  1. Lis says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that what they’re saying is that, because badly-run or under-resourced no-kill shelters are bad (just like badly-run or under-resourced kill shelters), therefore the whole idea of no-kill is bad. Color me unpersuaded.

  2. 2CatMom says:

    Well PETA and the Humane Society would say that. We all know how PETA handles the problem - pretend you are adopting dogs, kill them and throw them in dumpsters. Now there’s a great solution…NOT.

    Since both groups are headed by people that don’t believe that pets should be ‘owned’ they really should keep their opinions to themselves unless they are willing to admit to what their end game is.

  3. Janice in GA says:

    Count me in the group that considers anything that PETA says to be suspect.

  4. Merlin Marshall says:

    Not that I am a big supporter of PETA or the Humane Society, but aren’t they the ones most vocal about persuing the Michael Vick conviction?

  5. Merlin Marshall says:

    Not that I am a big supporter of PETA or the Humane Society, but aren’t they the ones most vocal about persuing the Michael Vick conviction?

    The real problem is that people continue to let their pets breed and then dump the offspring. If people would spay and neuter their pets there would be far fewer to have to take care of in any kind of shelter.

  6. Lis says:

    Merlin, are you familiar with the saying “A broken clock is right twice a day” ?

    Yes, PETA and the Humane Society have been very vocal about pursuing the Michael Vick case. So have a lot of other organizations that don’t have PETA and HSUS’s media clout, but which do actually work for the welfare of pet animals, rather than the elimination of pet animals.

  7. Dianne says:

    This is the rationale PETA has used to remove animals from shelters and kill them. Just Google PETA Kills and you can find the case against them in Norfolk where they killed dogs, cats, kittens, and dumped the bodies in plastic bags. They were convicted of littering.

  8. nora says:

    There is a shelter right now in GeorgeTown Texas, Williamson County that is hiding horrible deeds and neglect and inhumane actions and when the superiors who don’t work there but run the place get a mature and caring and knowing person as an employee that wants to REALLY care for the animals, they are fired, as several previous employees can confirm! The Higher Up’s are collecting over inflated salaries and they don’t give a Rat’s Ass about the poor Dogs and Cats who are unforturnate enough to end up there. Last week they uthanized a stray Dog who was there for only 3 days and it was someones beloved pet!!!!! This organization needs to be looked at much closer and as of now a Lawyer is helping an investigation into their devious methods and lies.

  9. my4meezers says:

    Our local no-kill shelter had a 90% live release rate last year. That’s pretty good. That says a lot about a shelter to me.

    It breaks my heart when you hear about these kill shelters that euthanize 60 cats and kittens in one day, and do it week after week. The poor animals aren’t given much of a chance to get adopted.

    Personally you’ll never convince me that killing an animal is better than giving it the opportunity to find a loving forever home.

  10. Janine says:

    The PETA organization, which does good in many situations, is very very wrong in this one. It is interesting that PETA is using the Michael Vick scandal to drum up donations, yet their own website states their position on Pit Bulls, that they should be euthanized and PETA does not advocate anything less. So yes, they are vocal, but for the wrong reasons. Animals are loving, wonderful, peaceful creatures who should be saved at any cost…all except the pit bull because they have a history of abuse and are stronger than other dogs???

    A no kill shelter needs the support and financial backing of their community and volunteers who care. It is absurd to think a “no-kill” philosphy is flawed because people are handling the situation poorly and without proper resources. I have 2 dogs from a class act, world class no kill facility (Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah) and anyone who knows anything about the no-kill movement has them to thank for it. There are always resources available for those in need of helping animals. Always. Some of the best pets are ones that were given a second, third, and even fourth chance by caring facilities like them that know that killing animals is not the answer. Just ask my dog who spent 8 years at happy, healthy, loving Best Friends. Sometimes the road home just takes a little bit longer. We need to give them the chance.

  11. Traci says:

    “Not that I am a big supporter of PETA or the Humane Society, but aren’t they the ones most vocal about persuing the Michael Vick conviction?”

    Because they are milking it.

  12. wescott20 says:

    Kill shelters that have high daily kill rates are doing no service for animals and should be shut down. Their directors should be prosecuted for animal cruelty, because they are killing these animals without even giving them a chance….we all know about those sorts of facilities. These are shelters run by people who couldn’t care less about the animals.

    Other shelters are currently kill shelters but would like to go no-kill. If a well meaning shelter would like some advice on how to successfully transition into a no-kill shelter, they can consult No Kill Solutions…an organization that has been very successful with their proven No Kill Equation. For more info please refer to

  13. Bane says:

    I don’t know how it is that humans are so arrogant and self serving that they think they can rampantly kill other feeling, aware, sentient creatures just because “there are too many of them”. The animal that most overpopulates the world, and is actually threatening the future existence of the world with its constant violence and irresponsible consumption, is the human.

  14. 2CatMom says:

    wescott20: I agree with you completely…if the shelter is private. No shelter that accepts private funds should be routinely euthanizing large numbers of animals. I think the key here is getting the word out to donors and having other alternatives available. Lot’s of folks give money to a shelter not knowing that for most of the animals who come in its a one way door to death.

    As for the local ‘dog pound’ - these folks are in a tough spot. There job is to pick up strays and often they have no facilities for long-term care or adoption. I think the key is for them to partner to with a good shelter in their area. Lots of county/city bureaucrats don’t want to be bothered with this - but when its your local government - you can often have a big effect by showing up at public meetings, organizing citizens to get the sit-on-their-behinds govt bosses to actually do a little work.

  15. Traci says:

    “I think the key is for them to partner to with a good shelter in their area.”

    And, animal foster parents!

  16. Buster says:

    PETA can shut their criminal mouths!


  17. Buster says:


  18. Robert Davis says:

    So the life of a dog or cat is not worth a pot to pee in? The best we have to give is to give lethal injection? A sad day when animal rights groups give up on trying to help those in need.

    Shelter partnerships work better than going it alone. But it takes the community and local governments to chip in as well.

  19. N.R. B. says:

    I think that more free spay/neuter clinics would help combat this problem.

  20. Nina says:

    So I’m not a big PETA fan, but I think it’s sad that such a big-name animal rights group decides to go into killing animals.
    Personally I’m still not sure as to whether or not I support no-kill shelters. I did volunteer work at a humane society that did euthanize animals, but rarely. I suppose because there was a lot of space, though, and people came in and out all the time. But you can’t dismiss the shelter just because it does euthanizations, because you have to realize they do actually put a hardcore effort into getting a dog/cat into a home. I remember there was a blind pitbull that was obviously difficult to place, and a local rescue organization was able to take him in. There have also been months where no animals were put to sleep.

  21. 2CatMom says:

    I received a letter from the No Kill Advocacy Center. Sorry for the length but its not on their web site:

    From the Desk of:

    Nathan J. Winograd
    Executive Director

    August 14, 2007

    Dear Friends:

    A story in USA Today this week portrayed No Kill shelters in a negative light. The article quoted the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and other groups who legitimize shelter killing as saying that No Kill was akin to warehousing animals and that No Kill groups were derelict because they refused to kill animals. In an astonishing statement, the head of the ASPCA, Ed Sayres, went so far as to say “there is no room for No Kill as morally superior.” It is deeply lamentable that agencies founded to care for animals in need would claim that killing is on equal footing to saving lives. But it is not surprising. While taking the lion’s share of funding for companion animals, these groups do very little to save the lives of animals in U.S. shelters, while continuing to champion failed models and promoting the Orwellian logic that “killing is kindness.”

    At open admission shelters in Tompkins County (NY), Charlottesville (VA), at the Nevada Humane Society in Washoe County (NV), shelters with a history of dirty facilities and an over-reliance on killing became transformed virtually overnight when they replaced their long-term directors with animal lovers dedicated to lifesaving. Where there was little more than killing, these communities are now saving over 90% of all the animals, reserving killing to the hopelessly ill or injured, and truly vicious dogs. As one such agency tells it:

    “Ever creative and resourceful, we find ways to tap the pet needs of a compassionate community and match all of our animals with the right adopters in due course. And while pets reside in [our shelter], they live in an environment as close to residential living as possible, not in cages. They enjoy a great measure of socializing, exercise, premium … foods, and the best medical care available. And thanks to our award-winning team of volunteer foster families, shelter capacity can be stretched by sending our animals to temporary homes until it’s their turn to find their forever home.”

    As the incredible and often immediate lifesaving results reaped by shelter directors who have embraced the No Kill philosophy and its programs and services over the last decade have demonstrated, we know how to end the killing of homeless animals. The same programs and services have resulted in success in every community in which they have been implemented comprehensively and with integrity. Unfortunately, few communities have done so, and most lack the political will to implement them. This is because most animal control directors are content not to and groups like HSUS and the ASPCA continue to provide them political cover.

    It should also be noted that HSUS has never run an animal shelter and does not do so today. Nor are we aware that their Director of Animal Sheltering has ever run an animal shelter and certainly not one that has achieved No Kill success. It is time that the humane community and city governments cease relying on the advice of agencies and individuals who has never achieved lifesaving success. In fact, it is irresponsible for individuals associated with groups like HSUS to be offering themselves as No Kill experts, in light of the evidence that they are hostile to No Kill, have at best only a superficial understanding of it, have never had success at saving lives in shelters or have never run a shelter, and are ignorant of the dynamic and exciting changes occuring in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement and the models which have proven successful in those communities which have implemented them.

    So why do groups like HSUS continue to ignore this and continually mislead the public by framing the issue in a negative light? Historian John Barry writes that “[i]nstitutions reflect the cumulative personalities of those within them, especially their leadership. They tend, unfortunately, to mirror less admirable human traits, developing and protecting self-interest and even ambition. They try to [create] order [not by learning from others or the past, but]… by closing off and isolating themselves from that which does not fit. They become bureaucratic.”

    One of the fundamental downsides of bureaucracies is their focus on self-preservation at the expense of their mission. And in the case of animal shelters and the national allies who supported them, this bureaucracy leads to the unnecessary killing of animals.

    As a result, regressive shelters and their national allies have long painted No Kill in an unfair and untrue light. Roger Caras, the late-President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called No Kill a “hoax.” The National Animal Control Association published articles indicating that No Kill was a “delusion” and perhaps even “cruel.” And the Humane Society of the United States has likened them to a “glorified collector” at worst, and as leading to animal abandonment at best. This type of cynicism has in design only one purpose: to defend those who are doing a poor job at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker. The picture these naysayers have painted of No Kill is one where dogs and cats live out their lives in filthy, cramped quarters prone to disease and mental deterioration.

    It is a point of view that has been spread with such venom and rigor that some animal lovers have started to believe it. No Kill shelters, a rescuer writes, “are nothing more than collection stations where animals are condemned to live (if you can call it that) the rest of their lives spending the hot summers in sweltering heat and humidity and most of the rest of the year in rain, mud, muck and cold. … I have come to realize that there are worse things than death, and that No Kill has only become an excuse for hoarding!”

    Animal hoarding, however, has nothing to do with the No Kill movement. The No Kill movement seeks to end unnecessary shelter killing. Animal hoarding, by contrast, is not about the animals. It is a mental illness and a crime perpetrated by individuals. And it should be treated and punished as such. That some hoarders might call themselves “No Kill shelters” is irrelevant. If No Kill did not exist, they would just call themselves “caring pet owners.” Would we condemn pet owning because of that? Of course not. Indeed, newspapers and news stations periodically report stories of child abuse perpetrated by foster families. Does that mean we should condemn foster care for children? Should we call for the elimination of orphanages and demand that killing of homeless children be the norm? Why then do we allow groups to paint a distorted picture of No Kill shelters? And, more importantly, why do we believe and internalize these pernicious representations?

    If anything, true hoarders thrive in high kill shelter communities because they can rationalize to their friends and family the accumulation of too many animals. They have no choice but to keep these animals, they say, because their local shelter will only kill them. With shelters committed to No Kill solutions, there would be no excuses.

    But instead of No Kill shelters and No Kill communities, we have the opposite — shelters that are firmly grounded in killing, have no foster care programs, won’t let volunteers in the shelter, are opposed to non-lethal feral cat programs like Trap-Neuter-Return, limit the number of pets a family can have, won’t work with rescue groups, and don’t proactively address the issues of homelessness, all protected by misinformation from their national shelter allies. This appears to be what these shelters, the national groups who legitimize them, and people who have internalized the “No Kill equals hoarding” view seem to be advocating for. They are trumpeting the cause of failure and the continued but wholly unnecessary killing of millions of animals every year in U.S. shelters.

    So when so-called “animal advocates” imply that it is acceptable to kill animals because the alternative is a shelter that is overcrowded, where no one gets vaccinated, where filth is the norm, and therefore we should kill animals because otherwise they do not enjoy quality of life, we become our own worst enemies.

    There is a false assumption at work here, the fault of which lies with the traditional “catch and kill” crowd. The rise of the No Kill movement has led to severe defensiveness and outright maliciousness on the part of the architects of the status quo. Groups like the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and many local animal control agencies, have painted a distorted picture of No Kill to deflect blame for the killing.

    In an article entitled “I Used to Work at a ‘No-Kill’ Shelter,” a program coordinator for HSUS writes that she left a No Kill shelter because she “wanted to be a shelter worker again, not a glorified collector.” Another HSUS staff member stated last year that “in order to be No Kill, you have to adopt Pit Bulls to dog fighters.” Yet another stated that feral cat caretakers were “closet hoarders.” True animal lovers need to stop listening, and more importantly, internalizing these viewpoints. The views of HSUS on this issue should be rejected. We must accept the reality that opponents of No Kill who mislead and obfuscate, like HSUS and other reactionary agencies are not part of our movement no matter how hard apologists for killing try to pretend otherwise.

    In fact, No Kill is the opposite of hoarding, it is the opposite of filth, and it is the opposite of lack of veterinary care. In 1998, No Kill advocates in California pushed a major animal shelter reform package through the State Legislature. One aspect of the reform was the requirement that shelters had to provide care to impounded animals (socialization, nutrition and veterinary care.) It also required shelters to assess cats to differentiate between feral cats and shy or frightened cats. It required shelters to offer animals for adoption. It required them to provide lost and found information to the public. And more.

    The law was uniformly supported by No Kill shelters and rescue groups around the state. It was, however, opposed by many of the large national organizations and by virtually every major animal control shelter in the state with a few notable and progressive exceptions. This is what happens when you value animals so little that killing them for expediency becomes preferable to putting in place a foster care program, a medical and behavior rehabilitation program, to opening the shelter up to the scrutiny of the public and to their support through a volunteer program, by sterilizing rather than killing feral cats, and by taking animals the to offsite adoption locations to better help find them homes.

    In fact, there are a lot of traditional shelters that are filthy. Their logic: Why clean so much? Why spend the money on vaccinations? Why provide veterinary care? Why socialize the animals? Why do all of these things — which require enormous compassion and dedication — when you are just going to kill the animals anyway? There are also many that are very clean. In the latter case, where animals are well cared for, vaccinated, provided routine veterinary care, and are socialized — for the five days before they are injected with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus” and their bodies thrown in an incinerator.

    So to imply that No Kill by definition means filth and hoarding is a cynicism that has in design only one purpose: to defend those who are doing a poor job at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker. The philosophical underpinning of the No Kill movement is to put actions behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals. And valuing animals not only means saving their lives, it means good quality care.

    Saving lives requires a shelter to keep animals healthy and happy, make the shelter more inviting for the public, and allow animals to move through the system as quickly as possible.

    Remember, No Kill doesn’t mean announcing a policy change and then getting bogged down with animals because you do not have programs to keep animals moving through the system and into loving homes. No Kill means comprehensive implementation of the No Kill Equation which includes adoption, foster care, transfer to rescue groups, pet retention programs, spay/neuter, and helping people overcome medical, behavior and environmental conditions which may cause people to relinquish their animals. Doing so eliminates the problem of “overcrowding,” unreasonably feared by sincere animal lovers and unfairly painted by cynical proponents of the status quo.

    We need to send a message to people like Ed Sayres of the ASPCA, Kim Intino of HSUS and all the other dinosaurs quoted in the misleading article: No Kill is morally superior to killing. To claim otherwise, is to abandon the very principles of compassion, caring and kindness that are the underpinnings of this movement’s founding. But take heart, the days when killing was considered kindness are coming to an end. And the dinosaurs of this movement will soon be swept aside.

    For the Animals,

    Nathan J. Winograd

    P.S. Take a tour of U.S. shelters and see for yourself. Is this really what we should be championing? Click here.

  22. Sierra says:

    I have been to no kill shelters that are under kept. The simple fact is, they cost WAY more than a kill shelter, and no one is willing to cough up the money to keep all of these animals healthy and adoptable.
    Because i work in a what is considered a “kill shelter” maybe my opinion is bias. We have not put down a completely healthy animal in 17 years. However, animals with complex, untreatable, and contagious diseases risk infecting the whole shelter. We do not have the space to quarantine them, nor the money to send them to a full service vet. Why risk making all the animals sick, to save that one? If we had the resources, we would gladly treat these animals. Unfortunately, having large amounts of animals in close proximity means that spreading diseases is easy.

    As for the behavior, we cannot afford to waste time on animals who need extensive behavior modification. Instead, we try and focus on the animals who are adoptable, are adopted as quickly as possible. (No, we dont shuffle them off to homes they are not fit in, because then they would just come back and it would be useless)Animals who stay long periods in these stressful environments become shy, unsettled, aggressive, and overall unadoptable.

    In a rich city, a no kill shelter is a great idea. But places that do not have the funding sadly need to stay with the euthanasia policies.

E-mail It