With the annual conference of the No-Kill Advocacy Center just over and with dire forecasts for the American economy ahead of us, the question over the potential reality of a no-kill society takes on new fervor and heightened attention – and nowhere more so than here in Virginia.
For the uninitiated, “no-kill” refers to the practice of finding adoptive homes for all shelter pets that are of sufficient health and temperament to be adoptable. (There are specific guidelines on this which I will not go into here.) The basic premise is that, since there are estimated 23 million people adopting a new pet in the U.S. each year, and there are now only about 3-4 million dogs and cats being euthanized in shelters each year, there should be an ample supply of good homes for these pets if only the effort is made to get them matched up. Those seeking a good look at the no-kill topic are often referred to the book “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd, founder of the No-Kill Advocacy Center.
Representing the flip side of this debate is PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – an organization often known for its radical animal welfare activities. According to PETA, the notion of “no-kill” shelters is misleading when the reality is that such shelters, when full, must decline the intake of homeless animals and, when unable to adopt animals in a reasonable time frame, are forced to warehouse animals in confined situations that may result in fates worse than death.
This question is no more alive than right here in Virginia where the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters (VAAS) has arisen as an alternate voice to the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies (VFHS) , the long-time central voice for animal welfare in Virginia. While not embraced as part of its official mission, VFHS is generally seen as promoting the no-kill goals of the private shelters that dominate its membership. In contrast, the focus of VAAS is upon the “open-access” shelters “which cannot or do not ‘pick and choose’ the animals they receive. “ Often, these are municipal shelters but they may also include privately run shelters that practice “open-access” admission. In its case statement VAAS provides an informative account of the nature and history of this division.
The “no-kill” debate is an important and often misunderstood issue. Some people question the availability of truly “good” homes and worry about the fate of animals not adopted or adopted into hoarding, abusive, and neglectful situations. Others counter that achieving a truly no-kill society is simply a matter of a willingness on the part of those managing shelters to be committed to it.
While I cannot address the issue in depth here, I'll occasionally return to this issue bringing different facets into discussion. And I invite readers to consider and explore the issue: how it plays out in your own localities and what you can offer to help promote understanding and collaboration among shelters and individuals who strive to find the most effective balance for the well-being of animals in your community.