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“No-Kill” Shelters Are Not Enough

Sometimes pet owners hit a rough patch and may have no option but to give up their pets, but if a helping hand were available, perhaps more pets could stay in loving homes © Can Stock Photo / Amaviael

An article I read recently in the New York Times (online) talked about a downside of a heavy emphasis on no-kill policies at shelters: By focusing on getting dogs and cats into new homes, the shelters might be neglecting the reasons many of those animals are in the shelter in the first place.

Many people abandon their pets because they cannot afford to feed them or house them or provide needed veterinary care.

I don’t for a minute think that that is the only reason animals end up in shelters, but I do think that some attention to those issues could reduce the number of pets who are abandoned by families who love them but cannot keep them.

Here in Missoula, Montana, an organization called Animeals (which also has a cat shelter and cat adoption, foster, and hospice care programs) addresses some of these issues. Animeals runs a pet-food bank and delivers food to homebound, disabled, and senior pet owners, often providing the help that allows them to keep their pets. It feeds homeless animals as well, delivering food to volunteers who feed feral cats and dogs. Animeals covers the entire (quite large) state of Montana. In other states, some Meals on Wheels programs deliver donated pet food along with the humans’ meals. Animeals also has programs to help families in crisis and to assist impoverished pet owners with vet bills.

It’s easy to say, well, people who can’t afford to have a pet shouldn’t have one … until you hit a rough patch, have a medical crisis, lose a job. Maybe the people could afford their pets until trouble hit. Maybe they made a poor choice in getting one. Regardless of how they got there, many, many pet owners could benefit from a helping hand once in a while. It makes more sense to me to keep pets with loving families, if all that’s needed is some dog food or money for a vet bill. That’s certainly preferable to seeing more dogs and cats languishing in shelters — or worse.

While it’s not going to completely solve the problem of overcrowded shelters and the killing of millions of dogs and cats each year, it’s an easy way to make a difference. See if there’s an Animeals-like program in your area. If so, support it. If not, consider working your dog-connected network to get something started.

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