Killing shelter cats and dogs is a choice not a necessity
Nathan Winograd, perhaps American’s greatest animal advocate today (2022), states that “shelter killing is a choice”. He firmly believes that shelters do not need to kill their cats and dogs provided they have used all the methods at their disposal to save their lives. However, sadly, he sees excuses for killing shelter animals and he thinks excuses have “reached peak absurdity”.
He has some good arguments as to why these excuses are absurd. A very powerful argument is the following. Last month, in America, shelters across the country participated in NBC’s “Clear the Shelters” ‘adoptathon’. Shelters did the best they could to save lives and find homes and in this campaign’s eight-year history the number of cats and dogs finding homes, 161,500, is a record. And the numbers relate to municipal pounds where the animals would probably have been euthanised.
He says this is proof that when shelter management employ their best effort and methods, they can up the adoption rate and lower the kill rate. It makes excuses sound hollow. But at the same time there are some shelters who say that America has reached the maximum number of dogs and therefore there is no one out there to adopt shelter dogs. Winograd also claims that the “naysayers” to No-kill say that there will be a downward trend in adoptions generations to come.
He believes this is more than unduly pessimistic. He thinks it’s plain wrong as evidenced by the campaign mentioned above and other factors such as growing pet adoptions by ‘Millennials’ and ‘Genzers’ and the success of communities where they’ve managed to place 99% of dogs and other animals.
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Thanks to (1) sterilisation programs and (2) educating pet owners to keep their pets for the life of the pet and not surrender them, about 4.5 million animals entered shelters before the Covid pandemic which was much lower than in previous years. It is also nice to hear that senior pets are being adopted more often.
So, there were lower intakes into shelters while adoption rates have increased. Winograd says that about one third of all pets are acquired through shelter adoption.
2021 dog and cat adoptions increased over pre-pandemic levels and in the case of cats the increase was significant. Further, in 2022, intakes into shelters are below the lower pre-pandemic levels. In short, more people are adopting, and less people are surrendering to shelters.
Winograd claims that the newspaper headlines are misleading. He thinks that newspapers are writing more about animal shelters and painting an unduly negative picture because people are more concerned about animal shelters and the animals they care for. Animal shelters are more of a news item which is progress because it means that more people will adopt from shelters in being concerned about the animals.
On a bad note, the length of stay has increased in some shelters. This affects their survival because the longer the stay the more animals that there are in the shelter and therefore there is less space for incoming animals. Also, the longer animal stays in a shelter the more likely they will be euthanised in being judged unadoptable.
Some animal shelters are still running under Covid-style rules. They are not fully open to the public for adoption, and they’ve done this by choice. This has a negative impact on adoptions it is argued.
And still some shelters have not embraced Nathan Winograd’s ‘No Kill Equation’ program. The program includes such initiatives as foster care, marketing and promotion, off-site adoptions, robust adoption campaigns, being open when people are off work and families are together such as weekends and evenings.
He says that “good choices lead to good outcomes” and “bad choices lead to bad outcomes”. Where shelters have implemented the programs mentioned they reach placement rates of 99% post-pandemic without, he says, turning animals away or closing their doors.
And where the challenges are more severe because intakes are outpacing adoptions and where animals are staying in shelters for longer than they should, they need to “ramp up the programs and services that overcome these challenges”.
He doesn’t like shelters and organisations making excuses for not implementing the No Kill Equation. He says that organisations such as Austin Pets Alive, Best Friends, Maddie’s Fund, the National Animal Control Association (NACA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), tend to enable shelters to make excuses or to scale back operations.
As you can see, I am a fan of Nathan Winograd. If I was running a shelter in America, I would be on the phone to him or I would buy his book or visit his website and list all the ways I could save lives and find adopters. I would max out the possibilities and in doing that I believe I would end up running a no-kill shelter with a 90% save rate.
Below are some pages on shelters.
Volunteer ‘steals’ well-behaved shelter animal to save his life as he was listed to be ‘euthanized’
Out-of-cage time for cats and dogs at animal shelters
Canine and feline behaviour evaluation at shelters