by Esther Mechler
The so-called “NoKill” movement needs to be renamed the “Mission Accomplished” movement in honor of the “Mission Accomplished” speech delivered by U.S. President George W. Bush on May 1, 2003 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Bush stated in the speech that the war in Iraq was finished.
That was over twelve years ago. The vast majority of casualties, both military and civilian, occurred after that speech.
Casualties are now mounting in the sheltering world as a result of the unrealistic attitude that “there is no pet surplus” or that “more adoptions are the answer to ending euthanasias.”
When shelters slam their doors in the face of people needing to relinquish their pets, often due to circumstances beyond their control, including foreclosures, evictions, homelessness, old age, and terminal illness, where do they go?
Where do they go?
This is the big question that the “Mission Accomplished” folks refuse to answer or even acknowledge. Where do they go? To the streets? Dumped on rural roads? In the woods? On Craig’s List with fingers crossed? To the local hoarder?
It is convenient to say that would-be relinquishers “could do more” to rehome or keep their cats or dogs, but the animals’ guardians have usually already called everyone they know.
People in desperation are increasingly turning to hoarders to take their animal––a fate often worse than death.
We applaud the efforts that some shelter staff make to keep pets in homes. But dogs and cats may live 15 years or more, a long time for any shelter to subsidize food and vet care. And if any shelters are now giving animals to homes that cannot or will not care for them, they are complicit in seriously worsening the problem.
I see the problem as an unfinished war on homelessness for companion animals. That war is not over, no matter what people may wish to hear or think. That war will go on until the see-saw is balanced: one or two kittens or pups, cats or dogs for every good forever home. That balance is the true end to the war.
We were getting close: we went from 12 million shelter euthanasias in 1990 to fewer than three million in each year since 2011. But real progress has stalled, despite rising “live release rates,” as more animals are finding “no room at the inn.”
If we are brutally honest with ourselves and each other, we will not reduce shelter euthanasias by shutting doors, we will do so by reducing litters. That can be done––probably in three to five years by continuing pouring resources into spay/neuter programs. It can be done faster if people will spay or neuter all cats, mixed breed dogs and pit bulls by five months of age, before they can possibly produce litters.
Involved in animal advocacy since 1974, Esther Mechler either founded or helped to cofound nine organizations of national prominence, eight of which either still exist or have active descendants. Founding Spay/USA in 1990, Mechler retired as executive director in 2008. She now heads Marian’s Dream, an organization focused on getting dogs and cats sterilized by five months of age, located at P.O. Box 365, Brunswick, ME 04011; phone: 207-798-7955; <[email protected]>; <www.mariansdream.org>.