7 hard-learned lessons about animal shelters, euthanasia, and the No Kill movement

My 5th Lesson: There Are No Responsible Breeders

Monday June 6th, 2011

Max 400 chihuahua
Chantilly, a beautiful Chihuahua is available at the Espanola Valley Humane Society in New Mexico.

by Leslie Smith, DogTime editor

March, 2011

Last week a tiny Chihuahua was left in the “after hours drop box” at our shelter. Many people are appalled that such thing as a drop box even exists, but our staff assures them it’s essential. For example, when a stray is found in the middle of the night, a person can leave the animal in the drop box, knowing he’ll be brought inside first thing in the morning.

The drop box, really more like a tiny closet, is heated in the winter with a bowl of water and a toy inside. About three times a week, a dog or cat is waiting there in the morning when the first staff member arrives. It’s impossible to know whether the animal’s been there an hour or five hours or twelve hours.

There are other, more critical reasons for the drop box, but we don’t advertise them. Like the fact that it reduces the number of animals who are simply discarded somewhere. The drop box saves owners from having to pay a relinquish fee and shields them from what they think will be the scorn or judgment of an in-person surrender. Sadly, some people are more likely to abandon an animal than to face the possibility of disapproval.

So while the idea of it breaks my heart, I’m grateful that we (and other shelters) provide a drop box. I feel much worse for the animal abandoned on the highway median. Or for the dog left tied up in the back yard when his owner is evicted. And for the kittens collected in a rubber-banded pillowcase and deposited on the snowy shelter steps in the middle of January.

Why DogTime lists “kill” shelters

Open-admissions shelters (see sidebar) exist for one or both of two reasons:

  1. There are not enough homes in a particular area willing or wanting to adopt animals in need.
  2. There are not enough effective shelter administrators or human or financial resources in these areas to match up would-be owners with homeless animals.

Either way, this is not the fault of the animal. So it’s our obligation, to try every way we can, to find homes for these dogs and cats (birds, ferrets, rabbits, etc.). And yes, in some cases, this assistance is to the benefit of substandard shelters.

As frustrating as that fact is, it is not our goal to put open admissions shelters out of business. (We need open-admissions shelters to ensure all animals have a safe place to go should their owners no longer be able — or want — to care for them.)

As for breeders…

So with that logic, why doesn’t DogTime list breeders? Don’t those animals also deserve a happy home?

Indeed, they do. The difference is, breeders are actively adding to the number of animals in need of homes. Not only that, they’re profiting from the venture. While we are still euthanizing millions of dogs and cats each year, there is no reason to increase the companion animal population. And there’s no reason to help breeders stay in business.

Even responsible breeders who genuinely love and want the best for their animals you ask? I know this statement will raise some hackles, but it needs to be said: There are no responsible breeders. At least not now, while our shelters are full and perfectly adoptable animals are dying (some of which came from breeders).

It doesn’t matter that you’ve grown up with Collies or that a German Shepherd once saved your life. I don’t care what breed you love above all others. Your passion for wanting to see that breed proliferate is irrelevant when it comes to the welfare of a single animal. Breeding is a hobby for humans. It’s morally intolerable to value the worth of a breed over the worth of an individual. No exceptions.

Pit Bulls are my favorite kind of dog. I see one on the street and I have to fight the urge to race over and nuzzle him. I look at a Pit Bull’s photo and I burst into tears at her beauty. But I’d rather see the breed go extinct than for one more to be euthanized in the name of pet overpopulation.

Next installment: We can’t continue to rely on adoption any more than we can kill our way to No Kill

This just in: Check out the writer's response to readers' comments.