Wednesday 28 February 2024

Why does the no-kill cat shelter policy mean that 10% of the cats are killed?

You may have wondered why the much vaunted no-kill animal shelter and cat shelter policy results in 10% of the cats being killed. Surely "no-kill" means no killing whatsoever? I'm afraid not. 

What it does mean is that there is no killing i.e. euthanasia of healthy cats but exceptions are made for cats with severe medical conditions that cannot be treated causing significant pain and poor quality of life and cats with severe behavioural issues that pose a danger to life to humans or other animals and where rehabilitation efforts are unlikely to succeed.

These cats are euthanised. The term euthanasia would genuinely apply to a chronically ill and terminally ill cat but under any other circumstances it wouldn't really apply. We have to use the word "kill" under circumstances where the cat is euthanised because of behavioural issues.

There is a muddying of the waters in terms of the language used at cat shelters. However, the no-kill movement - which is the brainchild, as I understand it, of Nathan Winograd, American's greatest advocate of saving the lives of shelter animals in America - has reduced unnecessary euthanasia.

The no-kill philosophy focuses on saving all healthy and treatable animals and with that in mind it can dramatically reduce the number of animals euthanised due to the limits of space at shelter facilities and time limits.

The concept is there to focus the minds of managers and workers to use their best possible practices and imagination to find ways to save lives. And there's been a quite dramatic - I think it's fair to say - increase in the number of no-kill shelters in America over the past decade.

The euthanasia rate has dramatically dropped in America over the past decade too. It's still pretty high but much better. There is still work to do.

Some people decry the no-kill movement. I've read quite a lot about PETA but once again there is misleading language used against them in my view. But they seem to believe that killing feral cats is preferable to looking after them and putting them back on the street under TNR programs. 

I think that is a misleading idea about PETA. But ironically Nathan Winograd is in a running battle with PETA about saving cats and killing cats. Nathan Winograd hates PETA as he thinks that this very high-profile animal charity kills too many cats. Either they promote the idea of killing feral cats or they kill themselves and he consistently says this. It's a shame because both of great animal advocates. We don't want people on the same side fighting each other over policy decisions.

I'm told that in 2017 a milestone was reached when for the first time the total number of dogs and cats euthanised in US shelters fell below 1 million. The actual number is estimated at 800,000. I'm also told that it is difficult to obtain accurate data on the number of cats killed 10 years ago compared to the number of cats killed today at shelters. There's been a reduction though so no-kill has worked to a good extent but more work needs to be done.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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