Previously, we were introduced to how the growth and popularity of the No-Kill movement has caused some shelters to further hide their bad practices and animal euthanizations. Today, we will look to the methods shelters use to conceal this data.
So, we’ve learned that despite the movement’s growth, animal shelter euthanasia in both municipal and private shelters remains the leading cause of death among dogs and cats in the United States. How can this happen? Shelters can continue bad practices because of a lack of transparency (veracity?) in the traditional shelter industry that prevents them from actually being called out on these issues. The public pressure to join the No-Kill movement only makes them work harder to conceal the truth.
The principle way by which these shelters can artificially inflate their numbers and save rates is through the abuse of the “adoptable” criterion. Adoptable is defined as any animal that is healthy or treatable from illness or injury. Sadly, many shelters will falsely categorize an animal as “unadoptable,” and euthanize them on that basis. When this happens, their save rate goes unaffected, because the animal was never “adoptable” in the first place.
Temperament tests are most often used to affix the label “adoptable” or “unadoptable.” Many traditional shelters will run these tests soon after the animal arrives at their facility – when they are scared, unfamiliar with their surroundings, and/or recently abandoned. For cats particularly, this new environment can cause extreme amounts of stress that skew any sort of “temperament test” in the first place. Angel Tales Magazine of Chicago likewise reports on the questionable validity of many of these tests, especially in the ways some of them are being implemented. For example, a Los Angeles shelter claimed to be saving almost all “adoptable” animals; in reality, 80% of the cats coming in (50% of the dogs) were being euthanized.
Such practices are entirely unacceptable. Without question, truly implementing the No-Kill movement into a shelter is not easy – one must go above and beyond, but shelters should not be looking to take the easy way out. After all, they are supposedly there for the betterment of these helpless, homeless animals, so why not go to work for them (and not for themselves)?
Although challenging, many No-Kill Chicago shelters work to take in those cats with challenges, knowing these felines do not face a better alternative. Jenny Schlueter, Director of Development at Tree House Humane Society (a No-Kill shelter on Chicago’s north side) asserts, “We try our best to take in as many ‘harder to adopt’ animals as possible, knowing that their chances of being adopted from or admitted to another shelter are slim.”
A lot of shelters that hide in the humane/No-Kill language claim that achieving the goal is just not feasible. False. With a dedication to each animal as an individual, like Tree House, along with a focus on big picture strategies, shelters nationally and internationally have achieved success. That does not mean it comes overnight, but it does come without the deception and manipulation.
In the next article, we will look further into how Chicago’s truly No-Kill shelters implement this movement, and the role that euthanasia and Chicago Animal Care and Control (the city municipal pound) still play in a No-Kill Chicago.