“Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me.” —A.D Williams
This quote sums up the mission statement of any legitimate no-kill animal shelter in existence today. But, what exactly is a no-kill animal shelter? A no-kill animal shelter is an animal rescue shelter that doesn’t euthanise healthy animals as a means of population control (“No-Kill Shelter”). Unlike conventional animal shelters that use euthanasia to control the animal population, no-kill animal shelters rely on adoption programs and neutering or spaying. Euthanasia in no-kill animal shelters is a reserve for the terminally ill animals and animals that are a danger to public safety. In this article, we are going to look at no-kill animal shelters from the following angles:
- What is the no-kill movement?
- What are the principles of no-kill animal shelters?
- Does the no-kill policy benefit animals?
- How can you participate in the no-kill movement?
- Do we need more no-kill animal shelters?
What is the no-kill movement?
The no-kill movement condemns the killing of treatable and healthy animals in shelters for population control and convenience. Pets play a critical role in providing us with much-needed companionship. They are our emotional support systems. Sadly, some people do not value them as members of their families. This is why countless animals end up on the streets and eventually in an animal shelter because their owners abandoned or abused them.
According to a nationwide study in Australia, 25% of dogs and 56% of cats that end up in council pounds end up getting euthanised. However, this isn’t the only solution to how we can deal with the issue of abandoned animals. With more people participating in pet adoption drives and increased awareness about adopting from shelters, this trend of animal cruelty for convenience is slowly being reversed.
What are the principles of no-kill animal shelters?
No-kill shelters in Australia run on the principles of open-mindedness, voluntary services, neutering & spaying, medical & behaviour programs, pet retention, and adoption programs.
Change has to start at the top. Animal shelters need to have open-minded leaders for them to embrace the no-kill policy. Otherwise, all efforts will be in vain. Directors in conventional animal shelters need enlightening on the benefits of adopting the no-kill policy.
Taking care of animals is no small feat. It is not cheap either which is why the no-kill movement encourages voluntary participation from members of the community. Volunteers can assist many ways from donating food and services to volunteering to foster a few animals when the shelter is full. Volunteers are the backbone of the no-kill movement.
Neutering & spaying
Population control is critical in animal shelters to ensure that the number of animals is proportionate to the available resources. Neutering and spaying the animals helps control the population without euthanising healthy animals. Encouraging adoption also helps free up space in the shelters while raising money to take care of the animals left behind.
Medical & behaviour programs
Aggressive animal behaviour is one of the leading reasons for euthanasia in typical animal shelters. A dog pound will euthanise an animal the moment it shows signs of aggressive behaviour. This is, however avoidable with a few changes in pounds’ and shelters’ pet care policies. The no-kill movement advocates for comprehensive socialisation, handling and cleaning of animals to keep them healthy, happy, and friendly.
Some of the pets end up in shelters and pounds because their owners cannot keep them due to circumstances such as frequent travelling or moving into apartments that do not allow pets. The no-kill movement seeks to reduce such cases by giving advice that assists pet owners to keep their pets.
You might have heard the slogan, “Adopt don’t shop.” It means that you should adopt a pet instead of buying. The no-kill movement encourages people to adopt pets from local animal shelters through campaigns and incentives. It is an effective and humane way to depopulate the shelters.
Does the no-kill policy benefit animals?
There is no straight answer on whether the no-kill policy is beneficial to animals or not. Many critics believe that no-kill is a myth. They argue that a no-kill shelter shouldn’t euthanise any animal no matter how sick and aggressive it is. No-kill shelters, however, euthanise terminally ill and aggressive animals. Another issue that arises is the fact that there are no universal guidelines that define a no-kill shelter. A shelter can easily label itself as a no-kill shelter without oversight or vetting from an independent regulatory body. This lack of regulation leaves a lot of wiggle room for how shelters operate and how they decide the animals that live and those that get euthanasia. For example, two no-kill shelters might differ in opinion regarding whether an amputated dog lives or dies.
On the other hand, advocates of the no-kill policy believe that it is a lifeline for abandoned animals in rescue shelters. According to no-kill policy advocates, implementing a no-kill system in animal shelters results in saved lives and happy families. These shelters play a huge role in resolving animal homelessness and finding good loving homes for the rescued animals.
So does the no-kill policy benefit animals? It all depends on how you decide to look at it. It is more or less a half empty-half full glass scenario. Sure, the no-kill policy has its flaws, but that does not mean that we should ignore the good it is doing for the rescued animals. It is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that animals get their right to live.
How can you participate in the no-kill movement?
Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer! While volunteering might not be the only way to participate in the no-kill movement, it does help a lot. In fact, voluntary services are core part of any shelter’s no-kill efforts whether through foster carers, donors, fundraisers or dog walkers. No-kill shelters often run short of resources due to the high number of animals under their care. The least we can do is to get involved as volunteers – in any capacity possible. You can become a foster carer so that your local animal shelter can free up space to rescue more animals. You can also donate cash or items that you feel might be helpful to the animals at the shelter.
Besides volunteering and donating, you can support the no-kill movement by adopting pets from no-kill shelters instead of buying them from breeders. Adopting from shelters ensures that an animal gets a loving home and frees up a spot for another animal that needs rescuing.
Taking part in awareness campaigns is yet another way for you to participate in the no-kill movement. Getting valuable buy-ins from local councils and local shelters to adopt the no-kill movement is critical to how far and wide it spreads. The more that people learn about the no-kill approach, the easier it will be to convince shelters to consider it and the community to adopt instead of buying.
Do we need more no-kill animal shelters?
To answer this, we will need to first look at some statistics. Australia is among the countries with the highest rate of pet ownership with over 60% of Australian homes owning a pet (“Cat and Dog Euthanasia in Australia”). Unfortunately, the high rate of ownership translates to many animals ending up in pounds and shelters. Many people don’t know what to do with their pets when faced with scenarios such as moving to a new country or moving into an apartment that does not allow pets. All of this adds up to more pets abandoned or surrendered to the shelters.
Without no-kill animal shelters, surrendering your pet to a shelter is akin to convicting her to a death sentence. According to statistics, out of the hundreds of thousands of animals taken into shelters and pounds annually, more than 50% end up dead (“Thousands of Animals Killed for ‘Convenience’”). With no-kill animal shelters, we can rest easy that careless pet ownership will not be the cause for an innocent animal’s death. So to answer the question, yes, we need more no-kill animal shelters.
It’s important to add here that alongside this movement, we also need stricter laws in place to deal with reckless pet purchases from breeders, as well as legal repercussions for abandoning healthy animals. No-kill shelters should not become a happy escape for pet owners, rather they should work together with awareness drives that discourage people from buying/adopting pets they can’t care for in the long term.
All things considered…
The no-kill movement has revolutionised the world of animal rescue. It has introduced a much-needed change that we can’t ignore. We are slowly moving on from a time when losing your dog for more than 72 hours meant that you might never see her again. Today, losing your dog is no longer a death sentence for them. The community is sensitised on animals’ rights to life now more than ever. As a result, we can see more humane treatment of animals in most animal rescue centres and pounds. We can also see many people volunteering and donating to animal shelters while embracing the “adopt don’t shop” mantra.
If you’re considering adopting your very own dog or cat, look no further. Here are some pet adoption guides that will make the decision to adopt from a shelter a lot easier.