Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When good dogs (and cats) die

I have always been an outspoken person about the no kill/open admission movement. I believe when we close the doors of a shelter to an animal in need because there is no space, it sentences the animal to a certain death. I also believe many shelters listed as a no-kill have very tight parameters set on which dogs they will admit to their facility and which dogs they won't. This means if a purebred comes in with a mutt, chances are the purebred will be accepted and a spot will be found and the mutt will be turned away. In many cases, the mutt may be accepted and then euthanized after the departure of the owner and not even given a chance.
An open admission shelter, on the other hand, turns no animal away. They still have criteria about the animals, but provide assistance for purebred and mutts alike.
And don't think no-kill shelters do not euthanize. They do. The standards they use are simply different from what an open-admission shelter may be.
Then, once the animal is accepted, what are the criteria and who decides? Most criteria is set by the board of directors of the shelter. They are discussed over and over until a consensus is reached, and even then, there is normally not 100% agreement on the part of the members. This is because as humans, we cannot all agree on everything due to our complex personalities. We are not robots and do not make decisions as such.
The end result of most of these decisions is animals die. It is a fact of life. It is an unpleasant fact which most people want to ignore, but it is there. Watching an animal lose his life because of a decision made by people who have no emotional attachment to the animal is not easy.
Impulsively, many people I have spoken to think shelters have no right to make those decisions. Ultimately, it is not the shelter's fault the animal loses its' life; it is due to humans. Not the humans who must make these difficult decisions on a daily basis, but the ones who breed their dogs and cats with no thought to the end result. The humans who want a perfect animal, but don't want to take the time or spend the energy making it the perfect animal. The ones who believe pets are simply a throwaway item in their lives.
My list of animals I have seen come through the system and lose their lives, due for the most part, because of stupid human error, continues to grow. Some months it grows faster than others. I will never forget these animals. They will be my strength to continue the fight, even when I think the decision to end their lives was wrong. I will continue to educate, to train, to care and to cry. If I can save just one more, learn something from one death, educate one more adopter, the journey may be sad, but ongoing. I refuse to let the animals I have loved die in vain.

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