04 April 2013

An essay in defense of my workplace

Some may hate me because they know that "no-kill" is not attached to the name of the shelter where I work. They may know nothing else about the place but that.

I want to clarify things. "No-kill" is a misnomer. And it must mean that if we aren't "no-kill" we are a "kill" shelter. So what does that make someone who is not "pro-life"?

So what does "no-kill" mean?

 "No-kill" shelters are generally limited admission shelters. Their population often gets stagnant because they have unadoptable animals. This means that they often actually turn animals away because they don't have room.
My shelter is what is called an open admission shelter. We take any animal brought to us. We even take animals from "no-kill" shelters so that they can have more room. We've received boxes of kittens that people have found in the parking lots of "no-kill" shelters. We are able to do this for several reasons. The first is the huge facility. It is one of the top three largest animal shelters in America (and therefore, likely, the world.) Another reason is that we have an amazing marketing team that facilitates animals leaving the shelter. There is a third reason, but I'll get to that.

We have one of the highest live release rates of any shelter. This means that more animals leave out the front door with happy people than most any shelter (including "no-kill" ones!) We have achieved this high rate mostly due to our numerous behaviour programs. We have programs for dogs with fear, barrier aggression, food aggression, etc. We even have programs for cats with similar behavioral issues. We also have an awesome team of veterinarians and vet techs who keep the animals healthy. Because of our generous resources, we can treat most illnesses in dogs and cats and we perform many major surgeries. Many shelters do not have the time, space or resources to treat health or behaviour problems. These animals are most often marked for euthanasia. "No-kill" shelters still euthanize animals for health reasons. The behavioural ones are often kept around indefinitely (or transferred to a shelter like mine.)

And now that point I said I'd come back to. Yes, at my shelter we perform euthanasia. This does not make us a "kill" shelter. It makes us humane. There are basically two reasons to euthanize an animal: health and behaviour. As I previously stated, we treat most physical ailments and work out behaviour problems. But there are things we cannot fix.

Old age. Many animals are relinquished to us or found in their old age. Their bodies are failing and they are euthanized humanely. There are a few other health problems that we cannot help. Heart conditions, neurological conditions, massive trauma, chronic illness, genital defects. There are others, but in each case, euthanasia is the only humane route.

The behaviour marks are admittedly the most difficult. However, they are also rather rare. For dogs it's generally aggression. We work through food aggression and fear aggression, but it is unwise and irresponsible to allow a dog with a history of aggression towards people or other dogs out into the general public.

We do happen to be located in a city with a pit bull ban, so we cannot adopt them out to anyone. However, we work closely with several other shelters who are not in the city who generally take the pits from us. It is a very good thing.

Anyhow, all these things add up to my good fortune to work in a large facility with all the resources needed to keep our life release rate higher than most shelters. No, I do not work at a "no-kill" shelter. I work at a shelter much better than that. And even though I am at times dissatisfied with my job, I am glad to have one at such a place.

1 comment:

Abby said...

Of the top three largest? Hmmm, impressive.
Too bad you need to make these points, but you're right, many latch onto that "not no kill", and that's what they connect to the shelter.
I've had dealings with our local humane society and they are a wonderfully run organization. They also euthanize for the same reasons as your shelter.