Newsweek’s got an article up on PETA (an organization I usually use only for a good laugh) and their stance on the euthanasia of animals in shelters; it brought to mind an article on “rescue” agencies I read a couple years ago, which argued (fairly successfully) that “breed rescue” agencies and people obsessed with “rescuing” animals are responsible for leaving far more adoptable and less-badly-behaved pets to be euthanized by public animal shelters.
The theory goes as follows: these agencies get caught up in being “no-kill” and extolling the virtues of only “their” breed, as well as pride in “rescuing” abused animals… and as such try to adopt out animals with poor socialization and bad habits, sometimes even “food-bowl aggression” (a BIG no-no for any reputable shelter, since it’s the primary way for a human to get bitten). They believe that since their personal animals are delightful, all animals of the breed are like that. Somewhat in reverse, misguided animal control laws occasionally pop up to try to “ban” breeds commonly used in fighting, and most shelters have “automatic euthanize” procedures when these breeds are turned in for fear that they were from fighting rings.
In the process, dogs or cats that ought to be 100% adoptable languish at public shelters (which euthanize after a set period of time), while animals with no business being adopted (or at least not to a registered trainer/breeder with experience in such situations) sit in a “no-kill rescue” custody and eventually wind up being adopted by people who really don’t know what they’re getting into.
Of course, the definition of “no-kill” leaves a heck of a lot of weasel room as well.
Given the whole situation, I actually lean towards seeing PETA as correct on this one. Proponents of “no-kill” shelters insist that an inordinate number of adoptable animals are euthanized every year, but with variance in what you call “adoptable”, there are issues. There are also plenty of humans who are, alas, too irresponsible or immature to responsibly own and train and care for their pets. I know for a fact that every “no-kill” shelter has a set limit of animals they will hold, meaning that if they’re holding on to a less-than-stellar choice, multiple stellar animals may very well wind up in an overcrowded public pound up against a 2-week or less “adopt or euthanize” deadline.
To make matters worse, “rescue” agencies and the idea that a dog is “rescued” are often used as excuses for people to ignore their responsibility to train and discipline their dogs. Irresponsible owner + badly behaved dog + little to no training = recipe for disaster.
For reference’s sake: My two cats, Victor and Chihiro, are from a rescue agency (generic) and local pound, respectively. Both are as reasonably trained as a cat can be and know their place in terms of things like nipping or stealing human food (though part of that also involves “removing temptation”, such as not leaving known attractants like wet food packaging or chicken bones in accessible trash areas). Fustle’s dog came as a puppy from the local SPCA. About the only issue we have with them is the occasional miscommunication between Chihiro and Fustle’s dog, categorized with Chihiro interpreting boisterous dog-speak for “let’s play” as cat-speak for “I’m going to eat you.”