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April 29, 2008

More to the Story

Newsweek has an online story about the supposed divide between animal groups over the issue of euthanasia. It's an overly simplified and somewhat inaccurate story, and it bears some comment.

First, The HSUS does not oppose "no kill" sheltering operations as alleged in the article. In fact, we support that strategy—we just think it's easier said than done. There's a big difference between a single shelter going no-kill and a community achieving that status—and the latter is what we as a movement must strive to achieve.

Two kittens at a Mississippi animal shelter
© Bill Petros

It is a tragedy that there are about 4 million dogs and cats killed in private and public shelters in the nation each year. Euthanizing healthy and treatable dogs and cats at shelters is a failure, and it should not be accepted as a norm. While we've made steady progress on this front—30 years ago, there were 15 million or so dogs and cats killed in shelters—we still have a considerable way to go.

What stands in the way of achieving no-kill? Too few people are adopting animals from shelters; too many people are relinquishing their pets; too few animals are spayed or neutered; too many rental properties do not allow pets; and too little promotion of our ideas is reaching the public. I went into these points in great detail in a blog some months ago (you can read that here).

At this point, no-kill sheltering is our shared aspiration, but a difficult goal to achieve in more than a handful of communities throughout the nation. But that should not deter us from working diligently toward the goal of ending euthanasia, except for sick and very aggressive animals. In fact, it is a moral imperative. But achieving this goal takes more than a declaration—it's an operational state, and few communities, if any, are devoting enough resources to the task.

Again, we must stretch ourselves and find new ways to save the lives of dogs and cats. There are no shortcuts. And it's not a matter of wordplay. And while some reporters and advocates simplify the issue, we recognize the complexity of matching supply and demand for dogs and cats. But it's a challenge that every community in our nation should take on, and it takes all of us to get the job done.

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