Open-admission or “traditional” animal shelters have a negative stigma surrounding them. You may better know them as “kill” shelters. They are places where the animals that are taken in might be euthanized, for better or for worse. The truth is, is there anything that makes them actually worse than no-kill shelters?
There is one difference between the two shelters. No-kill shelters can pick and choose which animals they accept; if they run out of room to take in animals, don’t have the funds, or don’t want to take in a certain animal, they won’t. Kill shelters are obliged to accept every dying animal off the street, regardless if they have the room or not. Because of their limited resources and ever growing number of patients, kill shelters will inevitably have to euthanize some animals.
However, this is not always a bad thing; think about it. If a cat in great pain is sent in who they literally cannot accommodate, the very least they can do is give them a comfortable death. Instead of prolonging their lives and their suffering, kill shelters bring an end to it all in the kindest way possible. It’s better than leaving the animals to die uncared for on the streets like what might happen with a no-kill shelter.
No one wants to think about pets being killed before what may be considered their time, and that’s perfectly reasonable. What isn’t reasonable, however, is the way that kill shelters and their volunteers are treated. People hear that they euthanize animals, and suddenly everyone who comes and donates their efforts to help those very animals are supporting a corrupt system; murderers, even. Though malinformed, it is this thinking that is the cause of kill shelters.
If you boycott and protest a kill shelter by buying exclusively from breeders or no-kill shelters, that’s more animals left without homes. Those animals take up space, time, and money in shelters, and with no one wanting to buy them, some will end up being euthanized so that more animals can keep coming in. No-kill shelters get endless amounts of support and praise and help from the community for all of the hard work they do, but kill shelter workers have harder jobs by far.
Do you remember when I said that no one wants to think about killing a pet? Well, kill shelter volunteers are people, too. They are aware of the prejudices against their work, and they are trying their best to make a difference. Volunteers make up a lot of the limited resources available to kill shelters, caring for the animals in whatever ways they can. One of the duties of a volunteer may be euthanization. For people who have attended these animals and grown attached, it’s extremely difficult to see them go. Unfortunately, the misguided public brings them even more grief by calling them names.
So, how do we bring an end to the euthanization of animals so that all shelters can be no-kill? The truth is that’s nearly impossible. No matter how many strays are spayed and neutered, there will always be too many animals, always too many whose conditions are dire, always be some that a shelter is unprepared to care for. It’s the circle of life, but people are quick to forget that it ends in death. The best thing that we can do to help the kill shelters is to put in effort to actually help them.