The Dilemma Faced by No Kill Animal Shelters

By Elisa Black-Taylor

For those of you who don’t know, Greenville County Animal Care Services (GCACS) is the facility where my daughter Laura and I used to do rescue and fostering out of. This week they had a crisis, and they used news media to successfully adopt out several hundred abandoned, stray, and family pets instead of euthanising them.

GCAC Rescues names of cats

GCAC Rescues names of cats. Collage by Elisa

Oversupply of animals

Wednesday was a very scary day for everyone who supports the shelter. Here’s the situation. On any given day, the shelter takes in 100+ animals. They have space for a total of 600. On Wednesday, they had 800 and were 30% above capacity. So they contacted the local news stations and announced to the public that 11a.m. Thursday was the deadline for finding homes or rescues or they’d have to euthanise. Thanks to everyone pulling together, in two days, 252 dogs and cats found temporary or permanent homes. This is a shelter I’m proud to say I’ve been involved with for almost three years.

Their Facebook page at Greenville County Pet Rescue has also been hopping the past few days. I don’t go on their often anymore, because it breaks my heart that we can no longer help the shelter. Now I can only use my writing talent to help the dogs and cats who find their way there. I saw a few things on their webpage that made my blood boil.

No Kill?

The first was one person commenting on the staff being “well educated in Murder 101.” I know the ladies that do rescue coordination for the shelter. They put a lot of time and effort into finding people who can take the pets. There were also comments on why aren’t adoption events held on weekends and why the shelter doesn’t go no kill.

I’d like to address the latter one first. The Greenville Humane Society IS no kill. And there are quite a few pets adopted out through them who do the revolving door act and end up at GCACS. These animals are spay/neutered, have tested negative for everything, and are up to date on vaccinations. It hasn’t stopped the 100+ animals from being dumped at the shelter on a daily basis. Quite a few are already altered. And kitten season isn’t really with us yet! Kittens will pose a whole different set of issues. I just want everyone to understand a cat being spay/neutered when adopted only stops reproduction. It doesn’t stop heartless owners from dumping the cat at the shelter for any number of lame excuses.

It’s my belief that no one should judge a shelter until they’ve sat in the lobby for a few hours and watched a line form 30 feet past the exit and into the parking lot. Most people lie and say the pets are strays. We took home a lot of strays that smelled of perfume or laundry detergent. I wonder how many cats were plucked up during a nap out of a soft laundry basket filled with comfy bedding and thrown away without a bit of remorse?

Our final rescues and fosters took place during the morning hours, usually before 11a.m. You wouldn’t believe how many people would show up HOURS before the shelter opened to the public. As if they had to get rid of a pet they once loved before sitting down to lunch somewhere.

The next issue is the shelter becoming no-kill. I love the idea of no-kill. I’ve written articles wishing all shelters could keep alive every healthy cat to come through their door. I’ve also read how no-kill shelters would tell people they were out of room, and a few angry pet owners have even thrown their so-called pets out the car window as they left the shelter. One man ran over his dog when the no-kill shelter told him they couldn’t accept it.

I don’t believe no-kill can happen for GCACS. It’s a nice idea until you do the math. The shelter takes in 600-800 pets a week. On a good week they may adopt out 250-300. How many weeks could they take in every single pet with a guarantee of it not being euthanised? If people knew the shelter had become no-kill, then it would only increase the number of turn-in’s by the public. Of course, many who turn in their pets under the current system have no remorse anyway. How long before accepting 1500+ pets a week would bankrupt a shelter? There’s just no where to put all of the cats and dogs. Many shelters, not just in Greenville, are struggling to keep their doors open.

Adoption Events

As for the shelter not doing adoption events, what led the person who commented into believing there are no adoption events? The rescue coordinators take their free weekend time and spend it trying to adopt out as many of the animals as they can. I spoke to one of them before writing this article, and this was confirmed. Plus the rescues who pull from GCACS can be found at Petsmart or Petco EVERY weekend. Sometimes Saturday and Sunday. The shelter also has low-cost clinics, as well as periodic adoption events.

I’ll end this here, as I could ramble on until I’ve written a book about this wonderful shelter. They’re not like shelters in some places up north where an animal is said to be safe and killed anyway. The ladies here are very organized. Once an email is received from an individual or rescue that a pet is wanted, that pet is SAFE! I get very very angry at the remarks made to the rescue coordinators who spend the majority of their life devoted to the cats and dogs no one wanted.

Readers, is there an answer that will reduce the number of cats and dogs turned in to shelters? Do any of you who are in close contact with your local shelter experience any of these problems? Are the no-kill shelters as great as everyone is led to believe, or do they have their own set of problems? Your comments are definitely needed on this one.

Facebook Discussion


The Dilemma Faced by No Kill Animal Shelters — 20 Comments

  1. Referring to my last post about the shelter I volunteered in. They had a foster program to socialize kittens. They also had a room in the shelter that was operated by Forgotten Felines, for ferals. FF tried to place these cats in rurual homes as barn cats.

    The staff were all very caring people, mostly women.

    And, the shelter had a spot in the office for donated food, which residents could have in limited amounts.

    Hills and Royal Canin donated a lot of food, so that’s what the cats got, along with a bag that went with them to their new home. A great way to keep money flowing to these pet manufacturers!

    There is a vet who gives 1st free exams for any adopters. I brought my cat to her, and she was very nice, except she didn’t do a good job with my cat, and pushed the Hills/RC food on me, even though I said I didn’t want it. I ended up bringing it back. And I recently changed vets, and
    although they don’t push this food, they did give some drugs that resulted in serious side effects. Not their fault, but my little cat must be sensitive to drugs. I try home remedies first, unless I think a vet is needed.

  2. This example is Specifically calculated for Greenville County , SC. However, the basic math could be used for ANY shelter.
    PETA?? really ? you referenced an organization that kills 99% of intake ? Healthy , adoptable intake ? Alright , you wanna’ see the breakdown ? Here you go –
    Let’s say intake is 22,000. Right now , they say they take in more dogs than cats. so , for arguments’ sake let’s say 10K cats. at least 1/2 would qualify for TNR. Boom! that takes 5,000 from ever entering the shelter. We’re down to 17K. Current RTo- return to owner is 3%. The nat’l average is in the 15% range. I’ll be generous. Get that number up to 10%. Boom — 2200 out of the shelter.We’re down to 14,800 Have some REAL super charged adopt events. If they have one a month like they had over the past 2 days – Boom another 2800 animals out.Down to 12,000 Add that to what they have been adopting p/yr – 3500 (conservatively).Down to 8500. Put into place an owner retention program that offers more services- food banks, lowcost/free s/n. Keep another 10% out. Down to 6200. Rescues pull about 5,000. Boom down to 1200. 10% are gonna’ be medically hopeless/suffering/ too aggressive. Guess what ? That’s No Kill!

  3. First section deleted because it was rude….(Admin)

    In the USA alone, you can’t cram 90-150 million EXTRA cats into more homes than want the already-owned 86 million of them! It don’t work that way. The cat-per-capita ratio has already been over-saturated for decades now. And the more you try to FORCE people to want your cats around, the more that people realize that NOBODY wants your cats. Since cat-lickers have tried to force cats on everyone the desire to own cats has decreased, not increased. You are actually making even more unwanted cats, not less.

    See how that works?


    You will.

    • You’re ranting and raving again. Sit down, take a valium and restart 30 minutes later.

      The answer is not to attack the cat but to address the cause: people. Focus your considerable anger towards people, please. Cats are victims. The perpetrators are people.

      • LOL. Yes, he is permanently on the grumpy pill — aka cat hatred and madness. Elisa, I hope you don’t mind me arguing with Woodsman. I feel I have to because you need some bad stuff on PoC to make the good stuff stand out and be seen as correct. If it is all cat lovers’ comments it becomes a bit of a mutual admiration society. I don’t like that. I need the harsh reality to make the good stuff shine.

        • I stopped reading any rubbish he writes under his various aliasas but I love to read your replies to him Michael, you show him up for what he is, a totally insane cat hater!

  4. TNR won’t stop the old men I saw who would come into the shelter grinning like they’d shot the prize turkey at a turkey shoot and presenting the staff with cage after cage of trapped cats and kittens. The consider themselves doing the public a service getting rid of the stray cats in the neighborhood.

    And I don’t know what will stop the lame excuses like allergies and change in lifestyle. Not to mention personal tragedies like moving and can’t take pet or foreclosure.

    It’s a very complex problem in the states.

  5. ”is there an answer that will reduce the number of cats and dogs turned in to shelters?”

    The answer for cats would be Trap Neuter Realize (TNR). The shelters should be only for cats which are not capable survive outside – a small minority.

    I would also suggest changing this flawed ideology that every cat must be someone’s pet. No cat is actually ”homeless” or stray”or ”feral”. We don’t use these terms for other animals (homeless bird? feral horse?), nor should we use them for cats. There are some abandoned cats however these are again minority which could be made even smaller if we educate people about the responsible ownership. Most of cats are random bred and do not belong to anybody.

    Cats have lived thousand of years freely outside just like any other animal. Now we are told that we should imprison them all to homes or shelters. Is this logical?

    I can’t speak for dogs, cat and dog are two different topics and should not be thrown into one category because both of them we imagine as ”pets”.

    Kind Regards.

  6. Shelters for cats should be like hospitals for humans – for those which needs them. Weak, vulnerable, ill cats should be our priority. There are various shelters (good, bad…), but if we try to look from cat’s point of view – they all are just that – prisons. One must imagine himself being a cat in order to understand that we, humans not always know what is best for them. Anthropomorphizing the cats is another big ”sin”we commit…

  7. Dear Michael,

    I am sorry, it may be a bit off-topic.

    Probably we will be the first one who will say that welfare of cats the way it is done today is fundamentally wrong. It’s illogical and based on emotions where cat is reduced to the human infant. In Turkey, the welfare of cats is regulated by groups of women which statistically would be from middle class, often housewives and have plenty of time to devote for cats. The picture may be different in other countries. The solutions in cat welfare are based primary on emotions however……..

    From Michael – I am converting this comment to an article because it should be the catalyst for a good discussion. It will be published soon and a link here will take you to it. Thanks.

    This is the post:

    Currently the Welfare of Cats is Fundamentally Wrong

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