Animal killing presents significant moral and ethical concerns for communities in the United States. Furthermore, euthanasia itself is associated with considerable economic loses, adverse health and emotional consequences for shelter workers and decreased public satisfaction in government policies. Approximately, four million animals are killed arbitrarily in shelters every year. In light of these shocking statistics, animal lovers and philanthropists are clamoring for changes in municipal policies that allow the use of antiquated techniques in favor of humane no-kill policies. This paper seeks to provide a scope of the kill shelter problem in the United States, its rationale, effects, and relevance to municipal policy-making and Americans at large.
Animal management in the United States has evolved significantly over the past decades. Euthanasia has been a long-accepted and practical approach to managing injured, ill, vicious, and maladjusted animals with no hope for rehabilitation. These animals only constitute about 5% of all animals killed in American shelters annually The remaining 95% comprises healthy, treatable animals who are often put down under claims of managing animal overpopulation. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates, of the 6.5 million dogs and cats entering American shelters annually, 1.5 million are euthanized. Of these, a significant proportion consists of healthy and treatable animals with incredible chances at rehabilitation.
Given the overwhelming statistical evidence in favor of life-saving practices the rationale behind animal killing seems misconstrued. Some animal shelters kill close to 100% of all adoptable pets in their care. Some shelters have decided to abolish adoption policies and kill all adoptable animals before they can find suitable homes (Radke, 2013). Such shelters remain inaccessible to the public, have no adoption hours, and implement robust euthanization practices for all animals brought to their care. Shelter directors have maintained that their mission is to provide a humane death for animals and control animal overpopulation (Radke, 2013).
Given the overwhelming popularity of pet ownership in the country, these claims bear little weight. Over 23 million American households get a new pet annually (No kill advocacy center, n.d). Seventeen million of these households may ultimately decide to adopt a pet from a shelter. Furthermore, as much as two-thirds of pets entering shelters can be reunited with their owners (No kill advocacy center, n.d). Given that the number of pets entering American shelters every year is 6.5 million, the demand for adoptable pets is considerably higher than supply. It seems unnecessary that animals are beings killed in the first place.
Tragically, animal protection agencies like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are no better at improving outcomes for animals (Radke, 2013). For instance, PETA kills 90% of all adoptable animals in its care (Radke, 2013). Furthermore, HSUS has repeatedly advised animal shelters that it is still acceptable to euthanize animals in their care even though no-kill strategies reduce the economic costs of animal control and palliate ethical and moral concerns in the community (Radke, 2013).
Animal killing is economically irresponsible (Rand et al., 2018). The cost of caring for, killing, and ultimately disposing of an animal costs the American taxpayers roughly $106.00 per animal (No kill advocacy center, n.d). Every US municipality has the obligation of rounding up, delegating stray animals to shelters and providing care until owners can reclaim them or proper rehabilitation is available. In states like New York and Florida, it remains legal for privately owned and public shelters to euthanize animals when viable rescue groups, organizations, or individuals are willing to save them (No kill advocacy center, n.d). Thus, the number of animals saved rather than killed in such states remains significantly low while the rate of animal control budget utilization remains high.
In states where life-saving policies have been enacted and rigorously enforced, annual savings of close to half a million dollars have been realized by working with rescue organizations (No kill advocacy center, n.d). Despite the additional savings and increased revenue that can be anticipated after adopting humane, lifesaving practices, municipal administrations in some states have remained adamant with some shelters killing animals after turning away non-profit rescue organizations that offered to save them.
Killing high numbers of healthy animals impacts the emotional health and wellbeing of shelter workers. Workers with high levels of concern about animal death may develop penetration induced traumatic stress (Bennet el al., 2005). These intense psychological ramifications of animal are expected to increase work stress levels, exacerbate family conflict, produce somatic complaints, necessitate substance abuse, promote job dissatisfaction and lead to increased turnover levels in shelter centers across the nation. Euthanasia related stress, therefore, results in increased costs for the shelter in rehiring, retraining new employees to work at the shelter (Rand et al., 2018).
The arbitrary killing of animals in shelters is inhumane, economically unviable, and unnecessary. Furthermore, policies that support euthanasia have been ineffective in controlling animal overpopulation and created overwhelming mental health problems for shelter workers. While it is essential to find practical approaches to animal overpopulation in the United States, clinging on to archaic policies that do more harm than good hinders progressive thinking and lowers public confidence in government programs.
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