Largest Shelter in Minnesota has Disturbingly High Kill Rate
From CityPages a disturbing report that Minnesotas largest animal shelter killed over 14,000 animals last year – a number representing almost 40% of those they took in. According to CityPages:
LAST YEAR, the Animal Humane Society, the largest animal welfare organization in Minnesota, accepted 36,378 living creatures into its shelters—and killed 14,610 of them.
AHS euthanizes about 40 percent of the animals it takes in. The vast majority of the dead animals—94 percent—are dogs and cats. They are brought to AHS for any number of reasons. They are found abandoned on the side of the road or roaming feral in empty fields. Their owners are relocating to a place where pets aren’t allowed. Family dynamics have changed—a new baby was born, there was a divorce—and the animal had to go. Lassie was too expensive to care for, and Puffball couldn’t be housebroken. Irresponsible owners and pet breeders ended up with litters of unwanted puppies and kittens.
AHS accepts every animal brought to its facility. Some owners bring animals there specifically to have them euthanized. Still – it’s difficult for me to believe that 14,610 cats and dogs were either surrendered for euthanasia or were too ill or aggressive to be adopted out. Shelter management states that their open door policy puts them in a position where a high kill rate is unavoidable but:
Critics, however, say that’s not true. While sympathetic to AHS’s situation, many animal welfare groups in the Twin Cities say AHS’s euthanasia rate is just too high. They say AHS does not invest enough in animal health care and training, which would put more animals on the adoption floor, and that it is too focused on self-preservation and fundraising to attack the biggest cause of homeless pets: animal overpopulation.
AHS’s policies have created a schism in the animal welfare community. Proponents of the so-called no-kill approach contend that the shelter should take much more aggressive steps to prevent animal deaths. In the Twin Cities, former AHS volunteers and employees now staff many of the no-kill rescue groups. Several say they left AHS because of the excessive killing, and each has stories about animals they would have saved.
For the last year, volunteers at AHS have formed discussion groups at each of AHS’s five locations, insisting on reform, says one volunteer who wishes to remain anonymous.
“If we don’t say anything, the animals suffer. If we do, we’ll be let go and they’ll suffer more. We took our ideas all the way to senior management and they blew us off. They said, ‘Great. We’ll look into it,’ and we never heard from them again.”
Nathan Winograd is a no-kill advocate and the author of “Redemption The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No-Kill Revolution in America.” On his NoKillBlog, Winograd writes about the problems many shelters have in collaborating with other rescue groups:
Collaboration does not work because lack of collaboration is not why animals are being killed. Because it never was about getting along or not getting along. Often, it isn’t even about the money. It’s about the No Kill Equation model and those whose job it is to implement the model, but refuse to do so. It is about the shelter directors. Because at the end of the day, what we are suffering from, what is truly killing animals in U.S. shelters is an overpopulation of shelter directors content with the status quo and mired in the failed philosophies of the past.
And indeed, it appears that AHS is mired in that past. Again from CityPages:
CRITICS OF AHS’S high kill rates say the organization has been reluctant to adopt new trends in animal welfare that have dramatically reduced euthanasia in other states. Several open-door shelters nationwide—starting in 1994 in San Francisco and most recently in Tompkins County, New York; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Reno, Nevada—have been able to reach save rates for dogs and cats in the high 80 and low 90 percentiles, using the no-kill model put forth by Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. Winograd’s formula for success includes increased community involvement, close partnerships between welfare agencies, and specific programs such as high-volume, low-cost spaying and neutering and a controversial trap, neuter, and release (TNR) effort targeting feral cats.
It is the responsibility of every animal welfare organization to use all the tools available to save animals, says Winograd, who refers to shelters with high kill rates as “assembly lines of death.” We are a nation obsessed with pets, the former criminal defense attorney and shelter director argues. Every year Americans spend $40 billion on their pets and millions more donating to animal welfare charities. Yet “the reality is that 70 percent of cats and 40 to 50 percent of dogs nationwide end up in landfills instead of in the loving home of a family,” he says . “It doesn’t make sense.”
No, it doesn’t make sense. I understand that shelters have limited capacity, overstressed and overworked staff, limited budgets and — as a trainer who works with problem dogs — I understand the importance of temperament testing and training. But with a kill rate of 40% I have to wonder why AHS seems to be out looking for “puppy mills” to close down and seize the animals from and why they aren’t working more cooperatively with other local rescue groups. And, according to the CityPages article, AHS is not interested in collaboration:
AHS detractors also complain that the organization doesn’t cooperate with other agencies to reduce the need for euthanasia. Many times, Salter says, she watched AHS turn down offers from other rescue groups willing to take animals scheduled to be put down. So far this year, AHS has placed only 43 dogs and four cats with other rescue groups, despite euthanasia rates in the thousands. “If they couldn’t place them, why not allow other willing groups to place them?” Salter asks.
In 2006, 14 animal welfare groups, including the Twin Cities’ municipal animal control facilities and Animal Ark, joined together to reduce kill rates and overpopulation by allowing rescue groups to take in animals scheduled for euthanasia at open-door shelters. AHS refused to join.
Do you live in the Twin Cities area? If you do, and you support the no-kill philosophy, we suggest you do careful research before you provide financial or volunteer support to a shelter group. I know that I’d prefer my hard-earned dollars go to a dedicated no-kill group like the Animal Ark than to a high kill facility like AHS.