When we look at how an animal shelter performs, we typically judge them by how many animals are adopted / rescued vs. how many animals are killed. These numbers may seem simple at the surface but are often skewed by a veil of deceit.
Typically this should be a simple approach: The shelter took in 100 animals, 90 were adopted, 10 were killed, the shelter has a 90% LRR (live release rate). Many shelters that don’t want to play the games will use these numbers, but they are often then criticized because other shelters have a lower “kill rate”. So how do they achieve this? Since I’m not one to over-explain, this might be the simplest outline available.
If a shelter is using a program that boasts a no kill or low kill program, there may be more to the numbers than the simple equation offered above. These shelters will take into account the number or “healthy adoptable animals” they killed. For example a neonate (under 8 week animal) is not adoptable, aggressive dogs are not adoptable, old / sick dogs or cats are not adoptable, and this list goes on and on. So therefore this number is deducted from their kill numbers. If this shelter takes in 100 animals and adopts out only 40, of the 60 remaining, 25 might be sick, 15 are labeled as aggressive, 15 are neonates. This shelter only counts 5 as being killed “per se.” Now this shelter is operating at a 95% Live Release or 5% euthanasia. This places this shelter in the very top of the game. BUT is it honest?
Shelters that kill for space are frowned upon because on the surface it seems WRONG! So instead shelters are forced to pad their numbers. Better to say that the animals killed were not adoptable. Or is it. I say NO!
I’ve had this discussion / argument over and over again. I would prefer to be honest and say YES, we had to kill these animals because there was no room and no one adopted them instead of lying on the souls of these animals that had to be killed and then their behaviors or health lied about. Don’t get me wrong, if there is an animal that is a danger to society (a true danger) I have no problem killing it (same for a person in my opinion – but I digress).
If I lie about an animal’s health and say that this kennel cough was a serious illness and the animal was justifiably killed or the dog that barks at his kennel door is aggressive and again justifiably killed – NOW I have a big problem. Let’s put the focus onto the public and give them the chance to adopt, let’s show that shelters do have good dogs and cats and other animals. Let’s strive for shelters that really shelter. Let’s make shelters a place that will treat illness with medicine and behavioral issues with training. Shelters that will work with the public and a public that will work with shelters to reduce the number of animals that are killed there. Let’s strive to shut down backyard breeders and dog fighters, work with feral cat groups and look for a society where animals are safe, humans are compassionate and people work together for a common good. Let’s open our eyes to the honesty that may hurt but will lead to a solution instead of putting our heads in the sand.
Transparency may not be easy to look at, but without knowing the truth we may just think that everything is OK, when it really isn’t.