It has been a turbulent past several weeks, and my column has gotten pushed back more and more. Since part one, I had a laptop failure causing me to lose the original drafts, was laid off due to downsizing from my seven-year career and launched into a new career as a real estate broker.
If you would like to go back and read part one, it is on the website, www.gcdailyworld.com, under Community Bloggers.
To summarize, we discussed euthanasia in a shelter environment can be very controversial, so please read this with an open mind. Second, we talked about the generally accepted definition of “no-kill” being a live-release rate of 90% or greater and lastly we talked about the types of facilities in regards to their open intake and limited intake policies.
“Kill-shelters” are shelters that use euthanasia as a way to clear space for animals. While there are truly sick people out there that enjoy doing this, typically most people do not. Typically these facilities have a very high turnover rate of employees because of the emotional distress of the job.
These facilities exist solely because they have no other options. Most generally this is found in government-run or contracted facilities. These facilities are typically forced to take all animals that come to them. Politicians do not want their constituents complaining about stray animals, so this is a way to get the animals off the streets.
The issue is that there is only so much space. Shelters work hard to mitigate against a multitude of ailments including kennel cough, parvovirus, panleukopenia, distemper and a number of others. If you put multiple animals in the same kennels and one infected animal is brought in, it can quickly spread through the entire facility.
Additionally, when animals are in confined spaces, they are not able to get proper exercise, there may be fighting and they are not getting the needed human interaction to make them adoptable.
Now, let’s discuss “no-kill” models. There are many variations but the biggest is between those that strive to hit that 90-95% live-release rate and those that I call “zero-kill”. This is not a recognized term but it is the best way that I know to describe it. This is a shelter or rescue that does not use euthanasia at all.
The concept of never using euthanasia seems great, but remember what “no-kill” means. No-kill facilities do not use euthanasia to create space in the shelter.
Unfortunately, in a shelter, you often end up with animals that are sick or severely injured. Sometimes the most merciful option is to use euthanasia as a means to end suffering.
There is also the issue of aggressive dogs that could be considered an extreme bite risk. While all efforts should be made to try to change the dog’s behavior before making the decision, there are dogs that cannot be rehabilitated. Beyond the safety of the staff that has to handle an aggressive dog, the question that I like to think of is “Would I trust this dog living with my children or grandchildren? Would I trust this dog living next to my children or grandchildren”.
Personally for me, if the answer to both questions is no, it seems irresponsible to adopt the dog to a situation where it would be living with or next to someone else’s children or grandchildren.
I want to state that I believe that euthanasia should be used extremely sparingly and with plenty of checks and balances in place. At the Greene County Humane Society, we have very strict policies regarding the use of euthanasia that typically require both managers and board involvement as well as the opinion of a licensed veterinarian to make sure that there are no better options that could be tried. I believe that this is something that all facilities should implement.
To close out, I have, hopefully, explained about intake types, why some shelters use euthanasia and the difference between using it for space and using it for mercy and public safety. Again, I know these topics can be controversial, I simply want to explain the rationales for the different actions. Typically, most people who work in animal welfare and rescue truly care about animals. They want the best for them and try to do what they believe that is what they are given. For the final part, I am going discuss some of my ideas around what I believe needs to be done to eliminate the need for anyone to ever make the decision to turn away an animal or euthanize an animal for space.
As always, you are welcome to reach out to me anytime with any questions that you might have.
You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the shelter at 812-847-4780 and leave a message for me.
I like to end each column with a quote, so I leave you with this: “Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.” - Coach Phil Jackson
Kegan is the president of the Greene County Humane Society Board of Directors.