As the No-Kill movement gains popularity across the United States, there are some concerning truths that Chicago residents need to be aware of. This series of articles will be published in four parts, in an effort to make Chicagoans more humane in their attempts to search for a new pet, give up a pet, or donate to a cause.
Late in the night in war torn Afghanistan, a suicide bomber strapped with 25 pounds of explosives snuck onto an American military base, heading toward the barracks where American soldiers slept. Before much harm could be done, the canine companions of these soldiers – Sasha, Target, and Rufus – forced the bomber to detonate the explosives before reaching the soldiers. While five were wounded, one of the dogs, Sasha, was tragically killed in her heroic act. With dozens of lives saved, Rufus and Target returned home to the United States after their tour of duty, living with two soldiers and their families. Sadly, in November 2010, Target was lost, and euthanized in an Arizona animal shelter.
The harsh reality, as explained by Nathan J. Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center, is that “it is more dangerous for a dog in a U.S. animal shelter than it is in war torn Afghanistan.” Perhaps it is time to take a closer look.
We all see the difference between the city pound and the nice private animal shelter down the street, but don’t take a shelter at face value; they might not be as great as you think. Many animal shelters often intentionally misuse and manipulate their language, especially the term No-Kill. This is a nationwide problem, but one that is likewise manifested in the Chicago sheltering system through simpler terms like “humane,” or those that claim No-Kill does not exist. [*Please note that the use of the term humane here is not associated with the Humane Society, although those local organizations are not always No-Kill.]
These shelters – often with “open door” policies, meaning they do not turn an animal away or put it on a waiting list – mask the fact that they regularly euthanize (kill) animals by using misleading terminology and misrepresenting their shelter data. As a result, shelters can deceive the public with inaccurate kill and save rates.
The concept of the “No-Kill” movement is gaining in popularity and prominence, but that is the same reason to use caution. All shelters want the respect that comes with the term, but many simply embrace the language without the programs and services, and therefore the result.
Despite the movement’s growth, animal shelter euthanasia remains the leading cause of death among dogs and cats in the United States… and it’s not just happening at the city pound. It is happening on behalf of so-called “humane” or “No-Kill” shelters. In fact, nationally 70% of cats (60% for dogs) that enter animal shelters never make it out alive.
In the next part, we will look at how shelters in Chicago and across the United States are able to let this happen without being exposed for these excessive euthanizations (killings).