The No Kill Movement was started in the 80s with Best Friends Animal Society at the forefront, and has grown into the massive movement within the shelter/rescue industry over the past decade. More and more municipal animal shelters, as well as private shelters and rescues, are becoming low to no kill and the pressure is on for open admission shelters to convert over to no kill models.
Traditionally, No Kill was intended to not kill animals simply because of shelter space. Under no kill models, animals could still be humanely euthanized for serious health conditions and behavioral problems that posed a threat to public safety. But as the no kill movement continues to bloom, the values continue to shift to trying to save more and more animals, regardless of health or behavioral issues. Yet the real costs of the movement isn’t often discussed or is limited to only financial costs, while in reality, the no kill movement is costing us much more than just tax and donation dollars.
The Financial Costs
The actual financial costs of converting a municipal shelter to no kill isn’t readily apparent. While lobby organizations like Best Friends Animal Society will offer grants to help convert open admission shelters to no kill, it isn’t enough to fully cover the additional cost of converting a shelter, especially not in large municipalities. According to the Chicago Tribune, the city’s annual budget for the government ran Animal Care and Control is about $5.59 million dollars a year, with PAWS Chicago founder Paula Fasseas stating that even that large budget is “about $10 million short for a city our size” and that to reach no-kill status, the ACC budget would have to be doubled at least.
While it’s understood that for smaller municipalities the costs wouldn’t be nearly as high, with many municipalities grappling with budget issues and having to cut necessary functions, pouring more money into animal shelters might not be viable.
This doesn’t even take into account the shift in values from no kill advocates. While initially started as a noble means to prevent healthy, safe pets from being euthanized for space, many no kill advocates aim to try and get euthanasia rates as close to zero as possible, even if those animals were euthanized for allowable reasons under the no kill mindset.
Earlier this month, Kent County Animal Shelter was under fire for their euthanasia rate of 39%, even though none of the animals were euthanized for space reasons. According to the shelter supervisor Carly Luttmann, all of the dogs and cats that were euthanized were because of health or behavioral reasons. Dogs that come in with aggressive behaviors or a history of aggression aren’t evaluated, but are humanely euthanized. Still, for advocates that isn’t doing enough because they aren’t trying to “save” the dangerous dogs that come in.
Kent County’s annual budget is currently at $2.3 million dollars, and like Chicago, would likely need to be doubled in order to meet goals by no kill advocates.
What No Kill Costs the Animals
The financial costs of the no kill movement aren’t the only costs. Many rescues start out as well intentioned rescues, but quickly devolve into animal hoarding situations where the animals suffer horrendous abuse. Pittie Paw Rescue is one of the more recent cases of this. Started in 2016 as a pit bull rescue and sanctuary, it only took 2 years for the horror behind the 501(c)3 rescue to be exposed.
Joyce Meisenhelder and Kristin Beaupry, the mother-daughter duo that run Pittie Paw Rescue
The pair were accused of animal cruelty and abandonment after they left a trailer with 23 cats abandoned when they were evicted from their home. They still had 71 dogs in their custody at the time, until a visit from the dog warden removed 14 of them. As of today, the remaining dogs were seized, but glimpses inside the horror of that rescue are still surfacing.
Pittie Paw Rescue is one of the growing number of rescues that refuse to euthanize for behavioral reasons. While the current investigations have shown that they had over 20 dogs with bite records, only a handful were in the rescue as “sanctuary dogs”, meaning they were set to spend their lives in those horrific conditions. That also means they were set to try and adopt out known dangerous dogs that they pulled from municipal shelters or had surrendered to them. And had they not been caught and the dogs seized, they likely would have.
And while many will argue that the horrendous conditions and hoarding of Pittie Paws isn’t the norm, it’s not exactly uncommon either, especially in the world of no kill pit bull rescues. Earlier this year, Pit Stop for Change, who was mentored by Tia Torres of Villalobos rescue and star of Pit Bulls and Parolees, was exposed for animal hoarding as well, in which multiple dogs were found dead after they left their Luisiana facility to head to Michigan. Over the years, more and more rescue operations get busted for animal cruelty in hoarding situations.
The Cost to Public Safety
But for many shelters, instead of hoarding animals to the point of cruelty, they try desperately to adopt out or release as many animals as they can. This issue isn’t just found in private rescues, but in municipal shelters who adopted the “no kill” policy as well.
In December of 2016, a pit bull named Blue was surrendered to Animal Care Centers of New York – Manhattan, a municipal shelter that adopted the “no kill” policy. Blue had been surrendered by his owners for biting a child. Traditionally in shelters, that would slate a dog for humane euthanasia, as it poses a public safety risk to release a known dangerous dog. Instead of euthanizing him, they pulled him for rescue with their New Hope Adoption Program.
Photos courtesy of Dogsbite.org
After being shuffled through 5 different rescue programs in the course of 6 months, Blue made his way to the Virginia based rescue Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation Center. He was initially adopted out in late April of 2017, before being returned to the rescue two days later for aggressively biting the adopters nephew. The rescue, denying that it was aggression, adopted Blue to Linda Colvin Patterson on May 31st, 2017. Within hours, Blue fatally attacked Linda’s mother Margaret Colvin.
Blue is not the first recently adopted out pit bull to attack, and he certainly wasn’t the last. At the beginning of this month, Robin Conway was fatally mauled by the death row pit bull she adopted two weeks prior. In fact, the increase of fatal and serious attacks by adopted pit bulls has become so common over the past few years, that dogsbite.org has added it to one of the 33 parameters they report on for fatal dog attacks.
And not all of these adopters realize they’re adopting out known dangerous dogs. In an effort to increase live release rates, it’s not uncommon for a shelter to not report a dog bite incident against staff or disclose known bite incidents to adopters. FHRC never informed Linda of Blue’s previous bite record; if they had, her mother might have never been brutally mauled to death. Virginia has decided to write into law that a shelter or rescue must disclose bite record, but the penalty for not doing so is a mere $500, and it’s STILL legal to rehome a dangerous dog.
Is No Kill Worth It?
These types of practices and disregard for public safety can have long term damaging effects on the shelter/rescue industry. As these sorts of attacks become more common and shelters still aren’t held accountable for non disclosure of behavioral problems, people will start turning away from pet adoption and shelters all together. The risks of adopting don’t outweigh the benefits, and more people will either opt to not have a pet or turn to breeders.
Is life in a cage and a hoarding situation really better than a humane euthanasia? Is it really worth the risk adopting a dog when shelters and rescues will often not disclose bite records or behavior problems? The no kill movement has been on the rise for the past decade, and thanks to it we’re seeing more animal hoarding, more dangerous dogs who should be euthanized being adopted out, and an overabundance of pit bulls that no one wants flooding shelters across the country.
It’s time for us to truly evaluate if the all of the costs, financial and otherwise, are truly worth it and truly humane. Lives depend on it.