Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The No Kill Myth

I wish I had a nickel for every person who wants to find a no-kill solution for their dog. We get letters and phone calls like this several times a month:
I believe that my dog is not happy living with me and she need more room to play around (a yard) and more attention. I'm gone over 10 hrs. a day at work. I looked around and many different organizations and shelters, and since you specialize in pitbulls, if you have any advice on where i could surrender her to a NON KILL location. I don't know if BAD RAP takes surrenders?
The answer? No. We can't take your dog.
No, there is no such thing as a No-Kill solution to a pit bull that falls out of its home.
No, SF is not a No Kill city. Not for pit bulls, anyway.
No, the private shelters in the area will not take your dog.
No, despite their best efforts to help pit bulls, your local public shelter cannot guarantee that your dog will be adopted.

The answer? Train your dog - again. (This home fell out of our Pit Ed classes)
Get up earlier and exercise her more. Consider a treadmill.
And keep trying to find a new home that can meet her needs.
Or - if this is all just too impossible - Please. Give your girl a week of love and then put her to sleep with the help of your vet.

What a horrible bit of advice to have to give. As you can imagine, this is not one of our happier jobs at BR.


Nancy said...

Breaks my heart. DO NOT take any pet, especially a Pit into your home unless you are bringing it into your family ... like a kid of your own. It is a commitment for the life of the dog, not the life of your whim. I'm sorry, but it irks me because as you said Donna, there aren't any No Kill zones for these animals.

Anonymous said...

Why do some people get dogs?
Have had dogs for over 50 years.
Different Breeds/types including 2 Pits.
They have never bitten anyone,they have never been a nuisance to anyone,they have all been loved and been members of the family and they have ALL lived out their entire lives in their forever home whether they came in as a pup or an adult.
Have they all been little angels ALL the time...NO.
They take time and a commitment but they have given back MORE that we EVER gave to them.
That family that wrote in doesn`t deserve that dog.
Why did they EVER adopt it.
You don`t just dump them whey they become inconvenient to your lifestyle!

Anonymous said...

Breaks my heart as well. I don't have a pibble, I'm just a fan. When you get a pibble, (especially a rescue!) you get additional reinforcement that you have something special - a responsibility to a very misunderstood creature, who will give his/her all to find someone who *will* understand and love it.

But why don't people understand that when you bring a dog (cat, animal, etc.) into your family, you are truly adopting them? They become a part of your family. Family means you take care of each other. Family means you make sacrifices to make each other happy. Family means sharing happiness with each other.

Having a dog is a privilege. A privilege to be woken up at the crack of dawn by a face and wagging tail that says, "Psst! It's morning! No one else has discovered it's morning yet! Just you and me!!! Let's go out and explore it together!" I'll never understand why the heck anyone would ever want to give that up.

Donna said...

I really don't want to dump on that home ... She may not have chosen that dog. Some dogs come to people as strays or when young family members dump them. Others get them as pups and they grow up to be more dog than they bargained for (the dog that inspired the home to write is admittedly, a LOT of dog. Yes, she could try harder, but some days you get worn down by a drivey dog with larger exercise needs.)

My biggest issue with her wanting to dump is that, in her heart, she truly believes there are places that will take her dog and adopt it out for her. Not so.

The word No Kill has created an unrealistic expectation in the minds of homes who can't take care of their pets anymore. No one wants to be responsible for their pets' deaths, but in a No Kill world, that's not necessary. SF for example is has been touted as the No Kill solution for the rest of the country. Living next door to this legacy has created a bit of a mind-f*ck for pet owners who've come to believe that this community has created a safety net for dogs that fall our of their homes. In many cases, it gives them license to give up.

We have to do better to help people - pit bull owners especially - understand the realities so they aren't lulled into believing that someone else will absorb their problem. Even if that means holding their hand while they euthanize their unwanted pet.

Anonymous said...

There isn't an easy cure-all solution. I'm still reticent to suggest people kill their healthy dogs versus a chance through shelter placement.

I'm not attempting to start an argument on this issue. It's way too complex and heart-aching and difficult. :(

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that "No Kill shelters" can, and do, give "problem" dogs to rescues who then PTS them after being unable to find an appropriate home (or finding behavior problems that couldn't be solved through better management).

The "No Kill shelter" gets to keep its sparkley reputation and the rescue takes the blame.

Anonymous said...

A hug,a smile,and a thank you are being sent your way. you inspire and educate so many people, more than you will ever know.

this world is lucky to have you in it.

Kirsten said...

There certainly is no perfect solution, and not everyone seems to realize there is a homeless pet crisis and shelters are an absolute last resort, not the first place to turn!

"No kill" is a tricky one, too. I worked in a no kill shelter. It was run by a woman who collected dogs from death row in shelters, regardless of their health and temperament, and crammed them into overcrowded yards and pens. I was often the only person on site, looking after what grew from 70 something to 100+ dogs (while my boss handled the press and tallies of how many dogs she'd "saved").I begged her to take less, so we could look after their individual issues. They were sick, scared, learning bad habits from each other, barking incessantly, fighting... Nothing changed. I resigned, tipped off animal welfare groups, and her landlord. Now she runs a collective of foster homes, and continues to flaunt the positive "no kill" image.

On the surface, "no kill' sounds nicer, and there are some wonderful sanctuaries, however,ALL responsible shelters and rescues have a cap on how many animals they can reasonably care for. Suffice to say life is hard for most homeless pets, there are WAY too many of them, and finding the best solutions for them can be tough. I think the quality of life on offer is the main issue, and primary goal. If the avenues for achieving this for a dog have been exhausted, he/she should not be made to suffer. A humane death would have certainly been preferable to the hell on earth scenario described above.

Anonymous said...


Clare said...

You can make it work if you just try. Perhaps the dog won't have the best home in the world but so what? Even a less good home is better than being put to death. Our home is not the perfect home. We work ourselves to death to afford our mortgage so as to give a home to quite a few abused, handicapped, and too old animals (including 1 adorable pit). We're gone too much and when we're home we're often too tired to give them the exercise they ideally should have. Their life isn't perfect. Mine isn't either! Our animals all have names, they get a pat on the head and a kind word as I rush around, they are loved and cherished, well-fed, and have as much outside room as we can manage. Keep your dog; no life is perfect. Try harder. You can do it. A life depends on it!

Anonymous said...

Clare wrote:
Even a less good home is better than being put to death.

I completely disagree. QUALITY of life is far more important than quantity. I see far too many dogs forgotten in the backyard because their owners have 'No time, but don't want to kill them.' THAT in itself IS A DEATH SENTENCE. It is the same as putting a man in solitary confinement for the rest of his life: prison.

If you can't offer a home that keeps the dog happy/healthy and, more importantly keeps their SOUL alive, why even have a dog? You'd just be providing a prison for a creature that did no crime but to fall into your ownership.

Some bleeding hearts look at the short term outcomes prior to THINKING about the long term results. NO KILL is not a solution.

The Foster Lady said...

From what I have observed in several 'no-kill' shelters, one in a rural area in PA and one in downtown Philadelphia, no-kill really means low-kill and no one wants to really grasp that fact.

Sure you can return a pet to a shelter, but I agree with Donna; if I could no longer keep my pibbles I would go the gentle route and instead of the harsher way of a shelter, where no sedative is given prior to a needle in a limb, I'd rather take the responsibility of holding them as they went gently into the night....

Boris said...


These 'gray area' conversations often distract and disable action by looking for blame. Please Donna and gang don't loose your positive focus.

The reality remains that there is enough compassion in our society to allow healthy, sane dogs to have a home. This doesn't mean hording or just pasturing. This requires shelters to see themselves as only a PART of the solution. In other words, it is only rhetoric for a shelter to consider THEMSELVES 'no-kill'.

So acting as a society of concerned pibble lovers, we can continue to share the vision while treating the individual.

Better we ask, why are so many 'pets' especially around a year old showing up in shelters and focus on how we can help keep them in their current home. It could be as I fear in this case that the poor pup has turned into a symptom of a person in quiet desperation, surrendering to a problem that a dog empty house won't solve. Probably, they got the dog in the first place in hope of masking that same problem. Better the blame be the landlord or $$$ pet deposit (Buck's case).

Our Sheena showed up as a 3 mos.old pup tied to a fence post at the neighborhood kennel on Mother's day - her name stiched on her collar, food bag and water bowl at her side. Her sweet eyes repeating a story her soft ears heard:
"... give me a Mother's day gift by getting rid of the pup ... those folks at the kennel will find IT a home..."
The kennel knew a sucker (as Donna calls-us), we are since 11 years blessed!

So to have a breakthrough like 'no-kill' requires constructive conversations towards that concept. Remember nothing happens without a conversation, yet words make nothing happen without hard work. Still, it does help to find a community of 'loving suckers'.

Makes me even more determined to find Dixie her forever home .. any suckers?

Boris' OEL and loving husband of Sheena's OEL

Clare said...

I am not talking about leaving your dog in the back yard for months on end. A Less Good Home means a home in which people have to go to work and can't spend every moment with their dog. Why does it have to be one extreme or the other? Our dogs are in our home, they have dog companionship during the day and the outside to exercise in and soak up the sun if they wish. When we're home, they're with us. We do not have the ideal home where we are retired and can be with our dogs all the time. There is this Perfection myth where people feel if they can't do it perfectly they won't do it at all. And in the meantime thousands of dogs get no chance to have a life at all. How many kids have the perfect home - and yet these people will get rid of their dog because they can't give it a better home. I don't see them trying to get rid of their children for the same reason and yet you can see from our society that many kids do not have a perfect home.

Anonymous said...

People think Berkeley is a no-kill shelter, too. The reality is that really hard decisions have to be made sometimes because there are limits to our facility, space-wise, and to our ability to provide excellent care for the dogs who ARE there. There are also dogs (not always pits) who are too ill, mentally or physically to adopt out. We do our very, very best to find everyone a home, but the truth is, as a volunteer, one of the most common questions I get from members of the public is "why are there so many pit bulls?" Why, indeed.

Anonymous said...

I volunteer at a shelter and people bring their old, behaviorally challenged dogs in and think we will be able to find them a home. It especially breaks my heart to see pit bulls since so many people have such a stigma with them. I want to scream when people say "I work too many hours" or "I don't have a yard". Let me tell you, I have 2 dogs (one a pit mix) and we manage in an apartment and with me working full time. It's called exercise and doggie daycare. I guess I must be some kind of superhero to be able to do all that...

Jon Low said...

While it may have been irresponsible to adopt a dog without fully considering it's needs beforehand, at least these people still want to do right by it. At least they're not like one of those horrible people they show on "Animal Precinct" that just abandons their dogs.
I knew a lady that had a Pit leap into her car. She had no collar and apparently wasn't chipped either. She took the dog in but couldn't keep her and couldn't find anyone else willing to take her in. It was really too bad, cuz she was a real sweetheart. Anyway, I lost touch with the lady and never knew what became of the dog. But I think that writing a letter to BADRAP like the one in this post would have been a logical thing to do.
I think it's unfair to assume someone writing a letter such this is lazy and irresponsible as the poster seems to imply.

Anonymous said...

I have a question ; you say your pit bull isn't happy living in your home because you are gone 10 hours a day, how much happier would he be living in a cage in a shelter 24 hours a day for months on end until he finds a home maybe? I have worked at an animal shelter and this was the one excuse for getting rid of a dog that really got me mad.It's what you do with the time you have with him that will make him a happier pup.

Anonymous said...

Horrible advice to have to give, but advice that needs to be given nonetheless. It's too easy for some owners to dump their dogs off at the local shelter as they tell themselves that Fido will find a good home in the country with huge, grassy fields to run and play in, with a family who will lavish him with adoration for the rest of his happy life.

What a sorry way to justify laziness. God forbid taking the time to walk the dog once a day, or teaching it some basic manners, or placing a few "Free To Good Home" ads here and there.

No, these people need to be slapped upside the head with Reality: The reality of the dog spending its last days alone in a cage, or packed in with other dogs, fighting over food until it's eventually taken by leash, tail wagging happily because the dog's thrilled to finally be getting some human attention, and led to a room where its life is taken away and its body stuffed in a black plastic bag before being hauled to a landfill or chucked into an incinerator...Yeah, THAT reality.

Jon Low said...

Maybe Donna was right after all. Here's a follow-up to my little anecdote. I asked around about this lady, the one with the Pit that jumped into her car. It turns out she worked something out with her landlord. She still has the dog! Happy endings are possible after all!
Props to you, Donna!

Donna said...

Nice report. Viva open-minded landlords!

Thanks Jon.

dreameyce said...

Ya know, I'm SO glad to hear the treadmill recommendation! I hear often, when I say my dogs (4 dogs, only one Pitty) love the treadmill, or suggest a mill for conditioning and general exercise, have people say "Aren't those only used for fighting dogs?", even in dog circles!

It scares me that in some counties, and states, owning a treadmill is evidence towards dog fighting charges!

For conditioning, and when an owner is ill/unable to do full walks, or runs a mill comes in handy. Also the long-term cardiovascular workout is GREAT for longterm heart health. The only exercise that is better, and lower impact than a treadmill, is swimming (And less owners could have a dog pool, and a treadmill for their pups)

THANK YOU for being not only so helpful for the Pittys, but also pro-treadmills, and efficient exercising for pups. I'm thrilled to see the treadmill recommendation coming from this blog!