No Kill Is Not “Imprisonment”
I read with great disappointment the article “To Kill or Not to Kill,” which equated no-kill with imprisonment. Eleven years ago, my husband and I took in a small white cat from Corrales Kennels who had been there several months. She weighed less than half her normal weight. She had blood poisoning from multiple animal bites. For six months, she was “imprisoned” in our guest bathroom, where my husband and I sat with her, hand-feeding her and encouraging her to live. In honor of her courage, we listed her as Number 001, and CARMA was born. Lilly is still with us, reminding us of the beauty of no-kill and the challenges. CARMA has saved almost 4,000 animals, and every one of them has been worth it.
No-kill is not just about stopping euthanasia. It is a much bigger concept that pairs an end to euthanasia with aggressive and creative elements of vitalized placement. By talking about “imprisonment” for those saved by no-kill, the author makes the same uninformed argument those without vision make when they excuse unnecessary euthanasia.
On March 24, no-kill shelter directors from around the country came to Albuquerque to talk about no-kill. Not only are they achieving impressive no-kill rates, they are achieving equally impressive adoption rates. Corrales has officially been no-kill since May 2011. Because we have no shelter, we have had to make up things as we go. Intuitively the rescue groups in Corrales have employed many of the necessary steps to enhance adoptions, but we are hampered by not having a place for potential adopters to go on a daily basis to see available animals. As a result, many of us have kenneled dogs until they can be taken to adoption events. The picture shown in the article is of a private kennel, not a shelter; and these dogs are hardly imprisoned, any more than most of our dogs are when they are boarded. This was very misleading and did a disservice to the wonderful work of many of the rescue groups that have practiced no-kill for many years.
If you doubt no-kill, check out the website for the No-Kill Advocacy Center in California. Then, please support the work of rescuers in Corrales and the effort to build our cage-free, state-of-the-art, no-kill shelter. If a society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable, euthanasia must be used only as a humane alternative to suffering, not as a means of population control or a substitute for hard work and imagination.
Don’t Overlook Foster Homes
I was disappointed to see the statement in Cricket Mara’s article regarding the “shell game” purported to be used by no-kill private shelters to shunt animals with poor health or behavior to other facilities. I personally have worked at six no-kill organizations and only saw that behavi or once. In fact, I’d argue that policy is the exception.
Additionally, I don’t think any educated person working with homeless animals would consider a shelter the ideal place for any animal. One option the article overlooked is placement in a foster home. This is not only best for the animal, which has near to normal of a home life as possible, but also for adopters who can talk to someone actually living with the animal. Animal rescue groups make a lifelong commitment to the creatures that pass through their hands. If for any reason the animal cannot stay with the adopter, a reputable rescue group will step in to re-home the animal.
Ideally there would be no homeless animals, but until we reach that goal through responsible pet ownership, including a high spay/neuter rate, we must manage the problem as best we can. If everyone who professed to be an “animal lover” opened a spot in their life for an animal transitioning to a new home, we would go a long way towards solving the issues faced in the shelters. Animal foster homes save lives.
Cricket Mara responds:
While I was in no way equating no-kill with imprisonment for all homeless animals, it is an unfortunate reality for many of them. Fostering is one option, but not all foster homes are created equal—good ones can be hard to find and keep, and some dogs have issues that make them unsuitable. In a perfect world, there would be a perfect home for every stray animal, but this is not a perfect world.
You may call it lack of vision, but I do see the big picture. It will likely take generations to change attitudes and laws regarding humane and responsible pet ownership. No-kill is a worthy goal, and perhaps in time our society will reach a place where we won’t need shelters or rescue groups. In the meantime, we are faced with the reality of surplus dogs and cats that have been abandoned or damaged. Critics of no-kill are generally not opposed to its philosophy; they simply question the means to that end.
Corrales Kennels [which was pictured in the article] is a private boarding facility that also acts as a shelter for homeless animals in Corrales. Sometimes dogs may be kenneled there for months and months. As a result of my article, I’m told that several of these homeless dogs were transferred to Animal Humane in hopes that better exposure would help them find permanent homes. I’m thrilled to see that sort of cooperative effort on behalf of these animals. I applaud the work and goals of CARMA and other rescue groups like it. But we cannot ignore the day-to-day problems that currently exist, and which require our immediate attention. I don’t have all the answers. I only suggest that we never stop asking questions.