I Used to Hate Kill Shelters; Now I Think They Get a Bad Rap
A couple of years ago, I was no-kill all the way, and any other shelter was horrible and not anything I'd ever even thinking about supporting. Since then, I've had a change of heart.
Here's the thing that got me: It's not the animals' fault they ended up at a bad place.
Do I like kill shelters? No. Are they horrible, sad places that euthanize cats and dogs right and left? Yes. Is killing for space the most awful idea ever? Yes.
But do those animals deserve the same chance at a happy forever home as the ones in beautifully decorated, plush, well-supported and well-funded no-kill shelters? Oh, hell yes. They just have a deadline for finding it.
I used to shout from the mountaintops how fabulous my favorite shelter was ("Like a little slice of heaven" was my favorite line). Go there and adopt a cat, I would say! Poor so-and-so has been there for almost two years and still hasn't found a home!
Almost two years?! That lucky kitty! If he doesn't find a home, he’s still alive and being cared for.
I'm not saying I don't support them -- I absolutely 100 percent do. We need no-kill shelters, and don't get me wrong: Every single shelter should be a no-kill shelter.
But they need help to get to that. If the animals aren't adopted out, then how can the shelters keep taking in more? And they have to take in more, because someone is always finding a litter of kittens or a stray cat or (in the saddest scenarios) surrendering her longtime pet (do NOT get me started on people surrendering pets). More need to go out, so more can go in. It's a circle.
So this is how I have been spending almost all my effort lately -- for a kill shelter. There are some of the most wonderful cats at my local animal control! Tiny cats, big cats, tabby cats, black cats, pretty cats, ugly cats, Siamese, Russian Blues, Bombays, and mutts –- all pawing at their cages hoping someone will take them home. All wonderful!
They talk when you walk by their cages and show you their bellies if you reach in. They purr the second it looks like they might be getting some attention. They rub their heads on your face and look at you with wide eyes, hoping you’re the one to break them out –- just like the cats at no-kill shelters.
And yet people avoid the place like the plague.
“Oh, I’m not volunteering there. It’s a kill shelter. It’s too sad.”
“Eww, they are a kill shelter? The people there must not care about the animals.”
“The cats are in steel cages with no toys or attention? They are probably not friendly.”
But if people like us don’t help get the word out about animals in kill shelters and try and find them homes, how in the world are they going to get out of there safely? How can it ever be less “sad” if we don’t help it get that way? On average, they have a few weeks to get out, but sometimes it's as little as a few days.
Every single animal who makes it out of animal control is a win. They deserve a loving home with a soft bed and fun toys and a loving family. They didn’t ask to be sent to this horrible place, but they can’t ask to get out, either.
It’s up to us to help them get out.
That’s why I broke my staunch “no-kill only” pledge, and why I hope more people will, too. Animal control is not a pretty place, but it will never get any better without help and support. Imagine what a difference we can make if more people work together to do this!
Here are some ways you can help:
This is not for the weak, because the reality is that many of those cats or dogs you go visit to play with and socialize won’t make it out. But even if they don’t, they deserve to know love, don't they? And with this love and attention, you’re making them less scared, happier, and more adoptable. Trust me, it makes a big difference.
2. Take pictures
The photos on sites for animal control and animal services are often just the intake photos. The animals are absolutely petrified, and often in traps. Who wants to adopt those cats, compared to the glamour shots offered up by nicer places? Let’s get these animals some better pictures!
3. Spread the word
Some people don’t realize that these places put down animals, and how quickly it often happens. They think that if they surrender their pretty kitty there, she’ll definitely find a home because “she’s a great cat!” Oh, she may be, but so are the other 50 cats there. Let’s get more people in these places to adopt these babies!
4. Share the animals
Our local animal control has Urgent Cats of Broward and Urgent Dogs of Broward Facebook pages. Volunteers visit and take nice pictures and share them here, and other people then share them, and so on -- and many dogs and cats get adopted because of it! Transport is often available, so many end up going out of state to homes. Social media is a wonderful place to network.
One final note (so I don’t get destroyed in the comments):
I think no-kill shelters are awesome (My favorite one is still a little slice of heaven!). And if more pets get adopted from them, then (logic says) that they can take in more, hopefully even from animal controls. I get that, and I have many friends at wonderful no-kill shelters who have taken many cats out of our local animal control. But often no-kill places have just as many surrenders trying to come in, so ultimately they don’t have the space to help clear out the kill shelters.
I say, help somewhere. Kill or no-kill. Basically, I’m just pro-cat. Whichever ones need the most help, that’s where I’ll be.
At the time of this writing, all of the cats pictured in this post are available for adoption from Broward Animal Care in Pompano Beach, Florida. If you're interested, please click their names for more info about them: Caruso, Gary, Emma, Macy and Manda.