Euthanasia is NOT the Answer

Elisa D’Ortenzio

As the year 2009 comes to an end, over 4 million dogs and cats will have been euthanized in the United States alone due to over population in animal shelters. Dogs and cats that do not end up living in shelters often live as strays on the street. Television commercials such as those from the ASPCA which focus on promoting animal adoption and ending violent animal cruelty, often fail to educate the public as to the fate of the millions of animals that live in the shelters if they are not adopted.  There are many people that believe that it is kinder to euthanize dogs and cats than it is to allow them to live their lifetime in cages in animal shelters. Others criticize this opinion saying that euthanizing animals merely treats a symptom of a much greater problem. After working in an animal shelter in the past, it is clear to me that even the largest and most well-funded animal shelters cannot accommodate the amount of stray dogs and cats that live in this country.

Since so many people consider companion animals to be members of the family, I find it surprising that more people, especially those with their own dogs and cats, do not appear to take more notice of the overwhelming number of dogs and cats that shelters euthanized every year. I find the practice of euthanizing shelter animals to be an issue of cruelty because most of these animals are healthy ones that need a loving home and would make excellent companion animals if given the chance.

I do not think that routinely euthanizing shelter animals as a measure of population control is something that we should continue to allow. One of the most effective ways to start to combat this problem begins with pet owners themselves. It is very important for pet owners to spay/neuter their own pets. It is also important for us to encourage others to spay/neuter their own pets and support spay/neuter programs to control cat and dog populations in our communities. This would gradually reduce the amount of animals in shelters to numbers that the shelters can accommodate, ending or severely limiting the need for euthanizing millions of  healthy animals each year.

2 Responses

  1. I absolutely agree with the sentiment promoting spay/neuter practices. And as someone who does consider his dogs to be family, and who has found seen healthy, well-behaved dogs abandoned at my local dog-run, I do feel strongly about promoting no-kill shelters.

    Though, as you mentioned, I don’t see how many shelters can continue to house the amount of dogs and cats they receive without massively expanded facilities and funds. There are just way too many animals continually coming in, and too few going back out, especially for shelters that are at least mildly selective about the prospective owner. Some shelters can afford to be both no-kill and selective in placement (think North Shore Shelter in Long Island, in addition to other no-kill shelters in NYC) but most simply don’t have that luxury.

    Further, ‘fixing’ dogs is quite expensive, and services need to be expanded. In NYC, the procedure usually costs $600-$700 (after the costs of all the shots, vet appointments, etc., entailed in having a puppy, which can run well over $1,000 already, if you go to a real animal hospital rather than Petco). Demand for the ASPCA truck is so great that it is like ‘Black Friday’–people desperately try to find out when the truck will show up, then they take the day off from work to arrive 2 hours early in the hopes of being one of the 15 served by the truck. (Pit bulls are done for free, a policy that the Humane Society may follow as well–I’ll know for sure in a few months when I bring mine in.)

    And, of course, there are always those who feel that it is ‘cruel’ to fix your dog (they usually only feel this way about the boys, though–evidence that sexism transfers quite easily to our feelings about dogs) and that they are confident that their dog will never breed (a plan about as effective as abstinence-based sex ed.–animals mate at all costs).

    But again, even if you are able to convince people (owners of male dogs) that they should do it, the cost may be anyways prohibitive.

    I’m not sure how to get around this problem. Most municipalities are too cash starved to make this a priority. An organized media campaign, combined with serious attempts to attract private money, may be a good start. Sounds like a good idea for a grant application focusing on lobbying, public education, and expanded low-cost services.

  2. One, pet stores that “sell” their cats or dogs not neutered(males) or spayed(females). Pet stores need to be made responsible to make sure that the cats or dogs they “sell” are not able to add to the cat and dog overpopulation problem by manditory neutering(males) and spaying(females) before “sale”. Pet stores are one of the biggest problems for this issue. Every year, there are millions of animals who end up in shelters – many of them are abandoned after being purchased from pet stores.
    Manditory neutering and spaying of cats and dogs by their ownners.

    We need to attack the problem at the root of its cause “human irresponsibility” and until we do that there will always be a cat and dog overpopulation problem.

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