I can't figure out how to ask this without sounding like Hitler (animal adoptions)

OK. I am not a bad person, I like to think. These are just some thoughts I have had about the issue of spaying/neutering/homeless pets/the fact that there are too many animals out there who need to be adopted. I am thinking mostly of dogs and cats. I am truly interested in the perspectives, thoughts, and opinions on this issue. I hope I do not get crucified. Here goes… Apparently there are many pets out there who need good homes and there are too many of them for the pound or Humane Society. This is likely due to a variety of factors - people do not spay or neuter their pets; people abuse and/or neglect pets and then abandon them or bring them to the pound; dogs and cats can reproduce pretty easily. What I don’t quite grasp is this: there are too many dogs and cats in the shelters and they cannot possibly take care of all the animals, right? But when it comes to any particular dog or cat who is without a good home, why is the solution not to just euthanize them and why is this so controversial, if it is? Obviously we would not consider doing this with people (unless we were Hitler or Stalin or their pals). But there are huge differences between pets and people. The animal who needs a home by definition has nobody who will be traumatized or devastated if he is gone. Animals themselves have only the potential to be animals – they are not going to cure cancer or something, so there’s no danger of accidentally killing an important genius. The animals do not have family members who will mourn for them. The animals themselves will never know that they are about to be euthanized, and once they are gone, they won’t know anything. If their alternative is a sad life without a good home (such that they are stuck in a cage at the Humane Society), isn’t euthanizing them the kindest thing? Why is the fact of too many animals needing homes such a big deal? Why can’t we continue with efforts to get people to fix their pets on the one hand, and on the other hand euthanize the extra dogs or cats who would represent an unmanageable number by the applicable shelter? Can’t we easily solve the problem without trauma to anyone?

I am asking quite honestly and without any agenda. Thanks for your perspectives.

Most pounds/animal shelters (outside of the specific no-kill ones) do euthanize animals that have been there for a certain amount of time. And if they run low on space, they probably decrease the amount of time before they euthanize animals. It is unpleasant, but is probably the least-bad solution to the issue, given the resources available.

" If their alternative is a sad life without a good home (such that they are stuck in a cage at the Humane Society"

I agree. Although sometimes I think that, if the local climate allows a good chance of survival, spaying/neutering them and releasing them would be better for them. Yes, their death would be unpleasant but perhaps their life would be pleasant. Compared to the environment in which cats and dogs evolved and adapted, a city/suburb has to be a pretty good place for to live; lots of food & shelter and, in most places, few predators.

I have vague connections to an animal welfare organization and they are incredibly compassionate towards animals, but even they euthanize when they run out of space.

Feral cats they CNR (capture, neuter, release), but feral dogs are simultaneously too dangerous and vulnerable to do this with. They have space for X number of dogs and they place each dog they care for up for adoption, but when they have too many dogs they have no other choice. They also euthanize new-born kittens if the mother is dead/incapable of caring for them.

Nathan Winograd writes very well on this topic.


Basically, it’s not so much a problem of too many animals for not enough homes. It’s largely a retention problem - too many people get an animal, but don’t keep it for life. Sometimes for legitimate reasons, but more often because the animal has become inconvenient. It’s relatively easy to find homes for cute kittens and puppies - people will take them because they’re sooo cute, but when they’re no longer baby-ish and cute, they’re not as attractive. It’s much, much harder to find homes for adult animals. Allowing animals to breed indiscriminately doesn’t help matters either, which is why spay-neuter and responsible ownership generally is pushed so hard.

It’s a big deal to people who are compassionate, because we’d like to change people’s attitudes and cut down the slaughter - or long-term warehousing - of perfectly good, healthy animals. Also because caring for, or killing, animals by the thousands every day costs a lot of money and uses up incredible resources. The kill shelter in the county I live in may be closing down next year because the county is broke.

Some no-kill shelters, if they have enough funding, keep animals is very nice, open facilities with lots of interaction. Or animals are in foster homes and treated like the rest of the family pets. I agree that some no-kill shelters warehouse animals for years with very poor quality of life and euthanizing would be a better option.

Most no-kill shelters and rescues only take adoptable animals, which ensures that the animal has a very good chance of being rehomed. Animals that have behaviour or chronic health problems, are older or not cute, etc are more likely to be turned away for “lack of space.”

This is an incredibly bad idea for dogs. The county north of here has had some pretty bad problems with feral dog packs killing pets. I have read about this happening in other areas. Dogs are pack animals by nature and revert to that when they are feral. Cats, not being pack animals by nature, do not pose such a threat.

It’s not a kindness, in my opinion, to take a pet and turn it lose. Euthanasia is kinder than leaving an animal alone and hungry.

You’re right about dogs.

I can see why dogs are particularly dangerous but I am curious why they are considered especially vulnerable as jjimm says.

As for alone and hungry. Cats are ok alone. I’ve read they can form colonies too. I think most places where humans live give them enough food but I could easily be wrong about that.

If the dogs are in or near an area where dog fighting is common, they’ll be used as bait dogs. Cats too, but they usually require trapping.

Also dogs on the freeway or any roadway for that matter are a danger to drivers, and of course running a very high risk of being hit and killed or injured, plus possibly causing accidents.

Also, it’s really easy for one whacko to put out poisoned food (antifreeze, meat laced with antifreeze or rat poison) to kill animals. This also happens more often than you might suspect.

I should have been clearer. The case I’m talking about is very specific: it’s a rural Muslim area where dogs are considered unclean and strays get subjected to the most horrific abuse you can imagine. Boiling oil poured over them, machete attacks (ETA: as chiroptera says, paraquat-laced meat left out too), accidentally or sometimes deliberately hit by vehicles, or sometimes ganged up on and attacked by packs of other ferals.

Don’t want to derail the thread, but just to point out the historical absurdity of it all, Hitler and his regime were actually quite progressive when it came to animal rights:


Human rights? Not so much.

Because to people who like animals, it is tragic when an animal that didn’t do anything wrong has to be killed because of human irresponsibility.

Euthanasia isn’t necessarily a pleasant way to go, even if it is the least bad option. I’ve heard accounts about how animals will sometimes struggle against being restrained for lethal injections and the injection itself may very possibly be painful for them.
A while back I posted about this dog who survived being in a gas chamber. It’s quite possible that an animal might find it frightening or distressing to be stuck in a chamber full of other dying animals if it is the last to die or the type of animal that doesn’t like being left alone without human contact.

Another problem is that many people who work in shelters do love animals, and find it very upsetting to have to kill them even if they feel it is necessary.

Many of us feel that it is unethical to kill needlessly, even if it’s just an animal.

I support kill shelters because I know that they’re just doing their best, but I do advocate alternatives and wish that people would just be more responsible.

If people would spay/neuter, didn’t buy puppy mill dogs instead of considering shelter animals, if people didn’t try so hard to convince themselves that it’s okay to give up an animal just because it’s inconvenient, then none of this would be necessary.

I would recommend Redemption. No healthy animal ever needs to be killed in a shelter, owing to the fact ‘pet overpopulation’ is a myth.

More here

According to the Human Society website, we euthanize about 3-4 million excess cats and dogs a year. That’s 10,000 cats and dogs euthanized every day.

So your radical solution is what we already actually do.

We try to place animals, we try to neuter and spay, we try to educate, and then we euthanize the excess animals. Except, doesn’t 3-4 million euthanized animals every year seem like a very high number? I don’t think we’re at the level where we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves the status quo is good enough.

Animals with no hope for a good quality of life should be euthanized, and this would be true if every pet owner in America was responsible and every shelter in America tripled their funding. But euthanizing animals by the millions? Is that what we want?

Can you give a brief summary of what kind of concrete things the author advocates doing to improve the situation at local shelters?

I am involved in the local animal shelter community and I have seen firsthand that there are a lot of homeless pit bulls and cats in this community that can sit on display in the shelter for weeks without getting adopted. My own cats came from a humane society where they had been hanging out for several months without being adopted before I adopted them (that was a kill shelter but they do try their best to give the adoptable animals a chance, which is fortunate for my cats since at many other places they wouldn’t have been given that much time).
One shelter has actually started giving away adult cats for free because nobody wants them (they can still charge money for the kittens, but very few people are interested in the adult cats).
What is it that Nathan Winograd suggesting that we should do with these animals that aren’t adopted?
Is he actually contending that there really are homes for all the pit bulls that get dumped at shelters, it’s just that the people who want to adopt them aren’t finding them?

reddog, that’s a great book (I linked to Winograd’s website in my post above too.)

lavenderviolet; Winograd doesn’t claim that there are homes for every animal currently. However, if a community has the funds to launch an aggressive, affordable spay/neuter campaign, educate owners and enact sensible legislation, (he’s helped write some; he’s a lawyer) then it can go from a high-kill community to a no-kill one. It’s not an overnight endeavor, though. A big part of it involves teaching people to stop producing litters of excess baby animals. And then to value and retain the ones they acquire.

It can be done - in a nutshell:


While I have not read that book, I have to say - from the perspective of a shelter employee - that “pet overpopulation” is not a myth. If you have more pets than there are willing homes, you have overpopulation. Even with feral cat TNR making great strides here in reducing the number of kittens born, the shelters are always full. All too often they have to turn away someone wanting to surrender an animal. Some people are not responsible about disposing of a no-longer-wanted pet.

There are feral cat colonies here, maintained by volunteers who provide food. All too often they will arrive to feed only to find a hysterical house cat running up to them - someone has heard of the colony and decided it would be a good place to dump an unwanted cat. For this reason we try to keep colony locations secret from the general public.

The animals that really broke my heart as a shelter employee were the large dogs who were there for years. With not enough training and socialization, they were bascially unadoptable - but the board of directors had decided we were a “no kill” shelter, so they stayed in the runs. And we turned away potentially adoptable dogs because we didn’t have space for them.

The only answer to pet pverpopluation is to spay and neuter pets. All pets. Not “just one litter so little Snowflake can witness the miracle of birth”. Not “I love my dog and my friend loves her dog so let’s breed them and sell the puppies!”

SnakesCatLady - you really need to read this book. :wink:

And I say this as someone who has volunteered in foster, training, care, transport and TNR for over 20 years. The “overpopulation” and “spay and neuter everything on four legs” meme has become so entrenched that even the smartest and best don’t realise that’s only a very small part of the answer.