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Could We Please Stop the Name-Calling?

Posted by at 6:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


As someone who has spent years volunteering at a wonderful open-admission animal shelter, it breaks my heart when people use the term “kill shelters” to refer to shelters that accept every needy animal—no matter how beat up, old, ill, or behaviorally unsound they are—and that have no choice but to give some animals a painless, dignified release through euthanasia.

This mean-spirited, misleading label is a slap in the face to the brave people who pour their hearts and souls into helping animals at open-admission shelters. I wish that those who use this term could spend a day at the receiving desk of their local full-service shelter so that they could see firsthand how badly we need open-door shelters. A steady flow of people arrive with battered, broken animals of all shapes, sizes, and species: “We call her Matty because she’s full of mats,” said one person who was surrendering a dog whose matted fur was infested with maggots. Matty’s family was getting rid of her because they wanted a puppy.

Other reasons people have given for taking animals to the shelter include “He’s sick, and I can’t afford to take him to the vet,” “He’s chewing up everything, and my dad said he’s gonna shoot him,” “She’s just old,” “He was great as a puppy, but now he’s just too big,” “We just have too many animals,” “They have been hanging around the house, and we don’t want them,” “Someone dumped them at my house,” and “We’re moving.”

Nearly everyone leaves the shelter saying the same thing: “You won’t kill him, will you?” What else can shelters do when they have a limited number of cages and an unlimited number of needy animals pouring through their doors? There is no huge farm for unwanted animals—a fantasy that many people’s parents told them existed when their childhood animal friends were brought to open-admission shelters—and shelters don’t have a magic wand that they can wave to create loving homes.

This name-calling hurts animals because it scares people away from surrendering animals to reputable shelters. It misleads people into thinking that taking cats and dogs to facilities that don’t euthanize is the right thing to do, but animals at these places often suffer fates worse than death. These facilities are always full and have long waiting lists to accept animals, which results in people dumping animals to die on the streets, giving them away on Craigslist (a magnet for animal abusers), or abandoning them to starve in empty homes and yards after they move away.

There is no such thing as “high-kill,” “low-kill,” or anything in between when it comes to shelters. There are only open-admission shelters—those that provide refuge to every animal and must euthanize to ensure that their doors remain open to more needy animals—and limited-admission shelters—those that pick and choose only the cutest, youngest, and most adoptable animals and turn away everyone else.

For the sake of animals and the people who have devoted their lives to helping them, let’s stop the name-calling and support shelters that are committed to doing what’s best for animals— even when that’s the hardest thing to do.

This post was written by Lindsay Pollard-Post and originally appeared on PETA.org.

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    BridgetMoans says...

    August 4th, 2011, 7:51 pm

    Heart stick and gas facilities need to go! Its a barbaric way to die. Keeping a sick dog in kennels for months on end with no hope of rehoming him or her is brutal for any K9 friend, but in being cruel to be kind, compassion needs to remain. Dogs should not feel distressed, they should be allowed to fall asleep without knowing anything about it! In my opinion no one dogs life is worth more than another, but which dog has the best chance?! I don’t know but centres should do their best to rehome where possible. Especially those funded! People are the problem!

    Isabelle says...

    August 4th, 2011, 8:48 pm

    Ingrid I have and will always respect you for the work you’ve done but I disagree with your opinion here. I have spent a lot of time at various ‘open admission’, or whatever you want to call them, shelters and I have seen firsthand the POS people who bring in animals using all the ridiculous excuses you’ve listed. I’ve also seen the heartless SOB’s that work for the shelter, long since jaded, that need to get the hell out and get another job that doesn’t require you to care. I see it CONSTANTLY – these people euth so many animals they don’t care anymore – i hate to compare it to this – but it’s about the same as watching cows move through the line to be bolted, just moving them through one after the other. Shelters need to work within the community and with legislators to enact laws to force spaying and neutering (and actually enforce it!) and also to lower the costs of spaying/neutering as well as other aspects of vet care. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly don’t have all the answers. And yes most of the no-kill shelters are worthless too – but not bc they are warehousing animals – bc often they don’t seem to care either. A few no-kill shelters turn into bad situations and you (and others) seem to want to label all of them that way – and that isn’t the truth. The truth is, sadly, that by and large the whole situation is ridiculous and atrocious and horrible and every other negative word I can think of – ‘open admission’, ‘no-kill’ I’ve lost faith in them all.

    Nancy C. says...

    August 5th, 2011, 9:16 am

    this article says it all. no kill shelter is perfect, but thank goodness they exist. i volunteer at one and can only imagine what would happen to these animals if there was no place for them to be taken.

    cecily says...

    August 5th, 2011, 7:39 pm

    Open admission shelter, no-kill shelter, rescue group–all are necessary.
    I’m now working on categorizing those for “my” state. There are 565 of these entities in just one state. (I have not yet started adding up admissions and euthanasias.)

    The only humane remedy is to reduce the “supply” of dogs and cats–the “suppliers” include people who encourage their cats and dogs to breed for money, people who permit their animals to breed through carelessness or stupidity, and people who get rid of their animals on a whim. Until the “supply” is less than the “demand” all groups face an
    uphill battle.

    Open admission shelter, no-kill shelter, rescue group–please let’s all work together and stop putting each other down. We are the only chance the animal have.

    Cherry Marrone says...

    August 5th, 2011, 11:15 pm

    I have names I could call you……..kind, wonderful, loving, compassionate, humane, giving and blessed!!
    :-)

    kim says...

    August 6th, 2011, 12:49 am

    I volunteer at a wonderful no-kill shelter where I and many volunteers walk and play with dogs (and or cats,) and interview perspective adoptees. I have never seen a dog stay for more than 6 months without being adopted and the average overall stay for one of our dogs is 3 months. The dogs are walked at least 3-4 times a day. We serve 3 cities (in southern california)and it’s payed for through the city. When we are low on dogs they will go to the county shelters and rescue some that (that is paid by a non-profit animal organization that works closely with the shelter).

    Tina says...

    August 6th, 2011, 7:21 am

    It sickens me to think that the US is the wealthiest nation in the world (or was I might add) and to think we are barbarically killing the surplus animals that nobody wants instead of providing them with forever homes. This country wastes money like there is no tomorrow or stupid things but yet provides no funds for homeless animals. It is not the fault of the kill shelter in general, it is the ignorant people that surrender animals for absolutely no valid reasons. I hope karma exists in this world.

    cath ens says...

    August 6th, 2011, 10:15 am

    I worked with an animal rescue group once and have no moved on to trying to combat the problem; I believe that we need to go to the source and sort it there and spend less time creating rescues/shelters, labelling ‘kill’ or ‘no-kill’ and caring for the endless flow of animals now destined for either type of shelter.
    I recall that one lady’s answer,when they were at their limit with animals (at the rescue group) was to simply not answer her phone any longer and with no-kill shelters, essentially, that is what they do…when they no longer have space, they essentially ‘don’t answer the phone’ …. when our local ‘no-kill’ has no room in the inn – they direct people to – guess where – the regular ‘open-admission’ shelter! I honestly believe, that if folks busily trying to re-home animals spent 1/10th of their time trying to come to grip with the over-population problem, much could be solved …otherwise nothing will ever change. Work on banning breeding or severly limiting it, mandatory spay/neuter and more responsible companion animal communities.

    Dave Bernazani says...

    August 6th, 2011, 2:58 pm

    Yes, could we please just stop using both terms? Using the term “no-kill shelter” implies that other sheltes “kill”, which they don’t– they EUTHANIZE– when they HAVE to, and only because the rest of society keeps breeding animals and then dumping them. Please, everyone, use “open-admission” for shelters that take in all animals, it’s only fair to them. They do the hard, dirty work that no one else wants to do. It’s the least we owe them.

    LeeAnn says...

    August 11th, 2011, 2:19 am

    Although I have no easy answers, I just wanted to say that I empathize with Lindsay Pollard-Post, the article’s author. I know there is a lot of blame, finger pointing and name calling out there. There are many passionate people in the animal rights groups, but unfortunately we don’t all agree on solutions or methods of making things more humane. On Facebook the quarrels between activists becomes quite awful sometimes, yet every one of those people means well. Still, things are being tried in various cities more than ever, and as proven successful models emerge, perhaps there will be more compassion and unity amongst us. One can only hope.

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