OPINION: ‘Kill shelters’ are not the enemy

All shelters share the goal of finding safe and loving homes for homeless animals. (File photo)

I want to preface this by saying I love dogs. I love most animals, but dogs have a special place in my heart. Most of the dogs I’ve met in my life were adopted from no-kill shelters.

But I don’t think “kill shelters,” also known as open-admittance shelters, deserve the bad reputation and hate they sometimes receive.

That must sound weird coming from someone who cries at the thought of a sweet, innocent animal’s life being cut short by euthanasia, but even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which claims to be “the largest animal rights organization in the world,” will argue that villainizing open-admittance shelters detracts from the real problem: breeders and irresponsible owners who don’t spay or neuter their companion animals.

If every shelter became a no-kill operation, the homeless animal population would skyrocket. As it is, there aren’t enough safe and loving homes for the animals we have. Shelters desperate to adopt animals already accidentally put animals in the care of unfit owners, hoarders and abusers. Imagine how much more frequently this would happen under the strain of millions — yes, millions — more animals.

But that’s not how the world is. Instead, shelters face a daily dilemma: accept the animals and try to make room for as many as possible, or turn them away to an unknown fate.

And that’s what many no-kill shelters do. They turn away the animals that open-admittance shelters will blindly accept. They also shuffle around animals from shelter to shelter, allowing them to suffer in scary, uncomfortable, stressful and unfamiliar environments, for years in some cases.

These shelters may even be less “no-kill” than you think. According to NPR, no-kill shelters can euthanize up to 10 percent of their waifs and still hang on to their title.

The debate between no-kill and open-admittance shelters is more complicated than good versus bad. “Kill shelters” are not murderous operations. Every time I think of a veterinary technician inserting the needle into the vein of a dog who has overstayed its welcome in the shelter, I image they feel a lot like I did when my family suddenly had to let go of our chow-chow mix Mabel because an undetected cancer had metastasized in multiple areas of her soft, fluffy body.

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Mabel Jane passed away on Oct. 14, 2017. (Courtesy photo by Rachel Hogan)

That night, the sweetest dog I ever met had her life cut short because it was better to let her go gently, on a soft blanket with a bit of her favorite food (pizza) in her tummy, than to let her continue to starve and dehydrate herself to death. I smiled through tears, told her I loved her and that it was going to be okay. Because it was going to be okay, or at least better than the alternative.

In an ideal world, every shelter would be a no-kill shelter, but there are simply too many stray and abandoned animals to accommodate in terms of space, food, water and veterinary care.

At the end of the day, every shelter has the goal of finding safe, loving homes for as many animals as possible. They just do it in different ways. No shelter is the enemy. The real enemy is irresponsible pet owners who surrender their animals or recklessly allow them to reproduce. The real enemy is greedy breeders and the people who support them.

Rachel Hogan is the copy chief for the Collegian and a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Hey, hi, hello! I’m Rachel Hogan, the copy chief for The Collegian. I’m a senior in journalism from Olathe, Kansas. When I’m not at work in the newsroom, I like to spend my time cuddling with my dog, working as a barista and laughing with my friends.