I love animals.
You might be expecting some kind of caveat here, but I promise there isn’t one. I am not one of those people who bitch about the fact that pets use up resources that could be going to orphans (that’s not really a thing, right?) or how animals can’t reciprocate love and humans are just projecting their own emotions onto them. I think pets are amazing in general and having a pet of your own is a fantastic experience in particular.
At the moment, I have a guinea pig named Cornelius, a turtle named Plucky and six cats (which is too many cats, by the way, so just in case you were ever idly wondering what number of cats would be too many…it’s six). Throughout the years, I have been a foster mom to several different litters of kittens, and have spent way too many hours of my life visiting shelters and renaming all the animals while talking to each of them in a baby voice like a total psycho.
In spite of all of this, I am adamantly opposed to the concept behind no-kill shelters.
Growing up, my mother never entertained the notion that any of our pets had “moved to a big farm” or any other nonsensical euphemism for death. When I was nine and my cat Silver was hit by a car and staggered around the house, bleeding all over, I was obviously completely horrified and traumatized.
My dad ended up bringing her to our local animal hospital and later recounted to us how he held her as the vet injected her with whatever they used back then to put cats “to sleep” since her injuries were too extensive for her to ever be able to live a normal cat life without multiple operations. Plus, the surgeries would be phenomenally expensive.
Needless to say, I cried and mourned in the sulky way that only nine-year-old girls can. But I immediately understood my parents’ reasoning behind choosing not to have the vets operate. They knew that springing for an operation in the hopes of her just not dying would be selfish. She wouldn’t be able to run around or play with any of our others pets even if she did live.
We had a little ceremony for her and that was pretty much that. Whenever I mentioned how sad it was that she died, my mom would say something along the lines of “At least she isn’t suffering anymore.” Which was true.
Maybe this lesson seeped into my brain a lot deeper than it was originally intended to, because I truly believe that an animal is better off dead (or as I like to call it in my delusional mind, “in animal heaven”) than pining away, unloved in a small kennel. Super bleak of me, right?
Most animals are pretty much living, breathing love sponges, and as anyone who has ever raised baby animals or visited a shelter probably knows, they are desperate for attention and affection. The fact that they might not get a family to give them these things is really, really heartbreaking.
Which brings me to another terrible topic: animal abuse. Nothing sickens me like people who abuse animals (or kids, elderly people, or anyone at all actually). If I could snap my fingers and have them all fall asleep and peacefully pass away instead of suffering, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Maybe it is this mentality that causes me to feel as though being stuck in a cage or shuffled from foster home to foster home is not a life worth living. So many animals have experienced horrific abuse in the past and I wish every single one of them ended up with in a happy, healthy home. But each shelter has a limited amount of space and resources and holding out for this (at the expense of other animals) seems foolish.
Often no-kill shelter supporters will spout statistics about the alarming rate in which animals are put down -- which, swear to god, I am too much of a coward to Google -- like the numbers are what the problem is. They aren’t. People are the problem.
Not all people, of course. But people who don’t take precautions against their animals mating with local strays, or people who adopt animals, only to abandon them once their pet gets “too big”? They are the real problem. Both of these issues are addressed in the policies of many no-kill shelters, but I still think that the risk of being put into a less-than-ideal home out of desperation is scarier than dying a peaceful death at the hands of professionals.
Another super depressing reality is the fact that the majority of people end up opting for younger pets because they tend to be physically cuter than their older counterparts. People also tend to be suspicious that older animals will have “behavioral problems,” which is another strike against them. This severely decreases the odds that an animal over one year of age will be able to find a home, even if they are well-trained and in good health.
This is a fact that isn’t going to change by extending the adoption “window” for certain animals. I’m sorry, but it just won’t.
Basically, spending money in order to prolong what is honestly a pretty miserable life of an animal who will most likely never find a home makes no sense to me. Animals need love and as much as volunteers try -- and there are many genuinely wonderful volunteers out there -- there are too many potential pets and far too few potential homes for them. I sincerely don’t think that forestalling or preventing animals from being “put down” is going to be what changes this.
So what will?
Maybe the money that is currently being used to house and feed all of the no-kill shelter’s animals could instead be used to create and run more efficient programs that encourage people to spay or neuter animals, especially homeless cats (shout out to our county’s amazing Fix Our Ferals program!). Or those funds can be used to better raise awareness about “fee free” adoption events or to buy more toys and treatments for the animals that do have a chance at finding homes.
Am I just a heartless, pessimistic bitch? Maybe. But I also don’t think I am wrong. Am I?
And to be clear, I would really love to see what other people think about this. As anyone that knows me can tell you, I love debating and being able to hear other people’s viewpoints is one of my favorite things in the world. Normally, I can’t argue about this particular topic, since I burst into angry tears the second I start thinking about abused, unhappy or neglected animals. But technology is helping to shield my ridiculous emotions.