We have too many unwanted animals in our shelters. Not all shelters are no kill. If they were, and every adoptable pet found a home in a timely manner, wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place. The cold hard facts are that animal shelters and pounds are still killing unwanted pets.
I’d love to sugar coat it and hand you a line of fluff and say it’s fine for you to breed Fluffy or Coco and experience the miracle of birth and have puppies and kittens, and your beloved pet becoming a mother… or father, as some people feel that their pets should do this at least once. If you’re willing to embrace the miracle of life, and feel the need to add to the growing population of unwanted pets, then face the opposite end of the circle of life – the reality of death.
Death in the shelter system is a daily occurrence. There is only so much kennel space, only so much money to go around to look after all these animals. I experienced working for a high kill shelter back in the mid nineties.
I worked at the society’s hospital for several years, and about 6 months at the shelter. It was two different worlds. The two buildings were separated by a parking lot. It was pretty much hell on earth for an animal lover like myself. I began to dislike people, for what they did… or didn’t do.
Dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits, mice, rats and hamsters were being dropped off daily. I told every person signing the surrender form that in 24 hours, their pet could be legally destroyed, and then we would cremate him or her. It was there in print as well. I said this to drive home the fact that this was a one way ticket to the end of the line. Not one person ever changed their mind. As far as they were concerned it was a done deal, they would just sign and walk. And get on with their lives.
Not so their former pets. Full to maximum capacity, the staff had to choose who was likely to get out of there first. And then kill the rest. I am purposely leaving out the term euthanasia. Killing is what happened. Killing humanely, also known as ‘humane destruction’.
Black, black and white cats were destroyed first. Same with black or black and tan dogs. People are picky with what color of pets they would like to adopt. I think perhaps they shouldn’t own any if they are that fickle. The very young would likely catch a virus that was going around and spread it. They were doomed. The seniors or middle aged animals weren’t what people wanted so they were next to be destroyed. Any pet over 6 months to a year wasn’t as desirable as an 8-10 week old youngster. Pets needing medical care for chronic problems were also destroyed.
Some ‘no-kill’ shelters have a list of criteria that they will destroy an animal for, so unless it is 100% healthy, it may fall into a category that essentially renders it ‘unadoptable’, thereby letting them be able to claim that they never destroy adoptable animals.
The next several paragraphs are extremely graphic. I chose to write about this as not many people know what goes on in the ‘back’ of a high kill shelter. It is gruesome but it is real.
There was a crematorium to dispose of the bodies. They would get piled fairly high in the walk in cooler. A terribly tragic sight to see, all sorts of pets heaped in one massive pile. The unwanted. When the pile got too high, the bodies on the bottom would get flattened and ooze out blood and other bodily fluids. This massive puddle would then seep out from under the cooler door and trickle across the floor and down into a drain.
Some methods of euthanasia are legal, but still very controversial. Some pounds and shelters still gas animals to death by carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. Not a pleasant way to die.
Years ago, I witnessed the end result of C02 gassing. I worked at a private clinic and we had to take our deceased patients to the shelter for cremation. We went in to let the kennel attendant know we were dropping off the bodies. I walked into the very back of the shelter into the killing room. I saw about a dozen wire cages full of dead cats and litters of kitten, that snaked away from the gasbox and all the way across the room.
Some cats were still sitting in what is called the meatloaf position with their head down. Others, had kittens in with them. The kittens had tried to escape out of the cage, their paws were sticking up through the wires, their jaws clamped onto the cage and their eyes wide open in death. Kittens under 4 months of age are not supposed to be gassed, the effect of the gas is delayed, causing them to fight for their lives to get out. Same issue with senior pets or ones with certain health issues. It’s a gruesome way to die. And yes, it is still going on in Canada.
Some places use T-61, a drug used in Canada but not in the U.S. as it cannot be purchased there. If used incorrectly, it will cause suffering and take minutes for the animal to die – by suffocating alive. Google T-61 and read for yourself.
This still goes on daily in some shelters, it’s the reality of dealing with pet overpopulation and irresponsible pet owners. People letting Fluffy and Coco breed and have a litter or two. Perhaps they are making money on Craigslist and Kijiji selling the youngsters to make money for their rent, cigarettes, etc. Some may dump them off at the nearest pound or shelter to let other people deal with the issue, they’ll get a good home, right. Some people will just dump animals anywhere. Or Coco escapes and goes off to have more litters after becoming part of a feral cat colony. Maybe Fluffy got hit by a car while running loose and was never claimed by her owners and the pound had to have her destroyed as she was badly injured.
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies released their 2012 statistics compiled from 102 shelters across Canada in December 2013 (not every pound or shelter responded to the survey, 102 is a conservative number according to the CFHS). 41% of cats were euthanized compared with 15% of dogs. Only 7% of dogs and 5% of cats brought into shelters were already spayed or neutered.
Overall in 2012, more than 119,000 cats, 53,000 dogs and 15,000 other animals were taken in by shelters. The statistics were close to those seen in 2011. The CFHS noted that in the mid nineties the euthanasia rates were 60% for cats and 30% for dogs.
If everyone spayed and neutered their pets, as well as were responsible pet owners, animals wouldn’t have to die because they were simply unwanted.
Please visit the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies article and statistics at www.cfhs.ca/news/shelter_animal_statistics/
Part 2 to follow on the health benefits of sterilization versus leaving your pet intact.