I think that we can take it as a given that we all want to see fewer dogs killed, especially in shelters. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that we’re big advocates of people adopting from shelters instead of buying a dog from the local pet store or breeder. We especially love groups that help rescue and adopt out the dogs that usually get passed over, such as our beloved Muttville.
The name says it all: Animals Vote has assembled a list of 2,500 shelters across the country that euthanize animals, and are asking them to pledge that every Monday from now on will be a no-kill day. At first glance, that looks great. How could anyone who cares for animals be against shelters promising not to kill them?
The thing is that I've gone over Animals Vote's press release several times with a careful (albeit slightly jaded), and I can't see how No Kill Mondays does anything beyond providing some empty symbolism while allowing Animals Vote to posture righteously.
While it might be great that shelters wouldn't be euthanizing animals on Monday, they can (and will) take up the slack on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In other words, committing to the No Kill Monday program is actually a promise to do some bureaucratic shuffling, rather than to make any actual change in policy. Dogs and cats would still die, but they'd do it a day or two later.
I think it would be great to see no-kill shelters to become the rule, rather than the exception. But to do that requires a lot of changes. It requires that shelters get the material support they need in order to house, feed, and humanely care for large numbers of animals without killing them. It requires that the public start thinking of shelters as a primary source for a new pet, rather than the place you go when you can't afford to drop cash at a breeder or a pet store. It requires that owners themselves become a lot more educated about how to take care of their pet so that they don't wind up lingering in a shelter to begin with.
One big first step towards reducing shelter populations would be if microchips were to become a holy sacrament of all pet owners. And it would help a lot, too, if people were willing to adopt older or disabled dogs, rather than thinking of cute, adorable puppies as the gold standard. Once again, this brings me back to the fantastic work that Muttville does.
To their credit, Animals Vote admits that this is only the first step of a solution. Their press release calls ending euthanasia "a complex issue," and claims "the initiative will bring forth a national conversation around peaceful methods of managing homeless pets." However, they also claim that "AnimalsVote.org has put forth a multi-stage program enumerated in a series of articles, titled 'The Three Laws.' In combination, the changes espoused will end killing with minimal budgetary impact."
What are The Three Laws? I have no idea. You see, you're not allowed to read articles or comments on their site unless you register on the site. That brings me to another reason that my spidey-sense tingles like a four-alarm fire around the No Kill Mondays program. In order to find out what Animals Vote's ideas for practical action are, or to read their agenda in depth, I have to give them my personal info.
It's one thing when a for-profit site like The New York Times demands you sign up to read their articles. Their content is there primarily to make money. But when you're a nonprofit, getting the ideas in those articles out into the real world is pretty much your reason for existing. Making your potential readers turn over their info just seems shady. At this point, I know little about about Animals Vote beyond what I could glean from their About page, their press release, and Twitter.
In the last few decades, there have been some remarkable steps made in reducing the number of animals killed in shelters. No-kill shelters, while not quite the default, are no longer considered an oddity. And an increasing number of cities are officially banning the sale of dogs from puppy mills. Even so, there are still far too many dogs and cats who are put down every year. When we take action to reduce those numbers, we have to make sure that what we do counts in the long run, instead of giving animals a 24-hour reprieve.
What do you think? Would the No Kill Mondays program achieve anything real? Or is it just good public relations for shelters who keep on euthanizing?