The unintended consequences of `no kill' shelters
Article Last Updated: 12/09/2007 09:02:25 PM PST
For years, various animal-rights activists have demanded - sometimes violently - the Los Angeles animal shelters embrace a "no kill" policy. And they have largely got what they wanted - plus some unintended consequences they surely didn't.
Over the last five years, the number of animals euthanized in L.A. shelters has been cut in half, from 37,024 to 17,881. But with that gain come trade-offs.
Keeping large numbers of unadoptable pets alive means shelters will be more crowded. Animals can't be as closely monitored. Contagious illnesses will spread, and violent animals will more often prey on weaker ones.
So while euthanasia rates have gone down, animal deaths from other causes - including illness and attacks - have gone up from 1,462 to 3,312 a year, a 127 percent increase.
Some of this, to be sure, could be prevented with better management at the shelters. But some, too, is no doubt unavoidable. The more animals in a shelter - especially violent, old, sick or injured ones - the more that will eventually die in shelters.
Whether it's better for animals to die from a painful sickness, or after a vicious attack, or from old age, instead of by being painlessly put down, is a matter we'll leave for the ethicists and animal-rights champions to decide. But certainly the numbers raise the question of whether "no kill" can realistically be a goal worth pursuing.
Regarding the “unintended consequences of no-kill sheltering,” the author assumes LA is a model of no-kill.
This is far, far from the case. LA still has a kill or let die rate of more than 43%, and is no-kill by General Manager’s mouth only. He has claimed having led two other shelter systems nearly to No-Kill but who has utterly failed to take any of those systems anywhere near no-kill. Boks claims to be a no-kill guru which got him his job as Director of the NYC Animal Care and control, where he failed, and then as GM of LA, again where he has failed.
If you take cities that really are no-kill or almost no-kill, such as San Francisco, Charlottesville, N.C., Tompkins Co, N.Y. and a very few others, the save rate of all live animals coming into the shelter is 90% (87% S.F.). The 10% that die—that do not leave the shelter alive--are from a combination of euthanasia, fighting, disease and injury. Overcrowding is not a factor. LA kills-lets die 300% more than that with a save rate of 55%.
Ed Boks uses the excuse that the increase in death rate is due to more older and sick animals, but he allows no one to check the actual statistics regarding the condition of the animals on impound, nor the treatment received. The author must not assume that the reasons Boks cites for his failure to bring LA to no-kill are true, or that true no-kill shelters markedly increase death rates by disease and injury, therefore have caused increased suffering.
ANOTHER COMMENTER'S RESPONSE:
"Nokill" doesn't make more animals die. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Now Boks is blaming his failure on "nokill."
One, LA is not nokill. Two, trying to be nokill will not cause more animals to die naturally. More animals are dying from overcrowding, lack of proper care and Boks' orders.
Boks sent a memo to all employees stating that they are not allowed to euthanize animals if they are dying. He basically told them to let them die. This was right before "nokill" March. They can only euthanize for lack of space on his orders.
I feel that Boks is allowing these animals to die a slow, painful death from illness and injury to improve his numbers and to spite the activists. He is committing animal neglect, animal cruelty. He did the same in New York, and was fired. Our Mayor just doesn't care.