Tag Archive: no-kill animal shelters


Most people react like I did before I started working and volunteering in animal shelters, I’d hear the name “Pit Bull” and I would cringe. Yes, see!  You just did.  Don’t change the channel, please!!  Don’t you want to learn??!!  Please read on for the sake of all dogs because the Pit Bull issues involve all dogs.

The Pit Bull population in the U.S. is growing rapidly. And so is Pit Bull euthanasia (actually, euthanasia is not the right word – killing is more accurate), for the shelters are bulging with them. Few people are aware of this fact unless you work for a shelter or are involved in the animal rescue world.

Animal shelters in the U.S. kill millions of animals every year.  There is a “no-kill” movement which is thankfully gaining momentum to reduce the number of pets killed in shelters. Some of the solutions to advance the no-kill movement are: education about and access to low cost spay and neuter, regulations on breeding and selling puppies, trap-neuter-release programs for cats, access to training and behavior resources, and development of large foster home networks.

While these solutions provide hope to reduce pet overpopulation, the no-kill movement doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance at success until the proliferation of Pit Bulls is confronted. Pit Bulls are overwhelming most shelters. As a result, the shelters need to euthanize dogs to make space. Yes, the Pits are usually the first to die but other dogs have to go too – the ones who are deemed less adoptable: older dogs, large black dogs (stay tuned for a future post about this issue), unruly untrained dogs, and very shy dogs. 

So, where are the Pits coming from and why do they end up in shelters? Here are the bare facts based on experience from working and volunteering at shelters:

–          Pits are desirable possessions by certain cultural groups. They can be a symbol of toughness or just “the dog” to have.

–          Pits are bred by people in their backyards and basements and the pups are either sold or given away, usually at very young ages – 2-4 weeks –  which is illegal. Teenaged and young adult males are most often the perpetrators. 

–          The Pits’ owners rarely train the dogs. Because the pups have been taken away from their moms and littermates at such a young age, they do not learn bite inhibition and are often not properly socialized with other dogs. They consequently can be quite nippy and will become dog aggressive due to the lack of socialization. Many people who get Pits also have children. Nippy puppies grow up to be larger Pits with big teeth and even bigger jaws which can hurt children, even if it’s just playful nipping. The dogs end up chained in the yard to keep them away from the children.  Or they go to the shelter.  Untrained Pits are difficult to adopt out, and dog aggressive ones immediately get euthanized.

–          If the dogs’ owners fail to understand proper training methods, they will do things that cause aggression. To try to stop the nipping, they will hit the dog to correct it. An Animal Control Officer recently told me that she witnessed a man slapping an 8-week-old Pit pup across the face when he was jumping and nipping. When the dog didn’t stop, the man picked up a stick and was going to hit the dog – until the officer stepped in and stopped him.  Predictably, that dog will eventually get tired of being beaten and will become aggressive to defend itself. But if it is a submissive personality, the dog will get very fearful and may bite from fear.

This discussion has not even broached the subject of dog fighting which is another complicated subject altogether. The question remains: What can we do about this problem? I’m hoping that shelters are reaching out with humane education to children in these cultural groups. But shelter budgets are so tight that many of them have eliminated their humane educator positions. As concerned animal welfare advocates, all we can do is raise awareness of the problem and remind people that Pit Bulls can be such nice dogs. I don’t know the answer to the Pit overpopulation issue but I hope that someone, somewhere is working on a solution and that I stumble upon it soon so that I can share it with all of you.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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No-Kill Animal Shelters

Coincidentally, this past week two people have told me that they would only adopt a pet at a no-kill animal shelter, not wanting to support any shelter that euthanizes animals.  I was thrilled that they want to adopt from a shelter instead of buying because, this same week, a friend asked me where she could find a breeder to get a specific breed of puppy.  I was disappointed that she wouldn’t consider adopting and also dumbfounded that she would think I would know this information, given my deep commitment with rescuing homeless pets and… she knows about the book I’m publishing on puppy mills.  But that’s a different topic.  Let’s return to the facts about no-kill shelters. (For clarification, I’m talking about shelters, not rescue organizations which are entirely different – yet another topic for another time!)

On the surface, no-kill shelters sound wonderful.  Pets are rarely euthanized at these shelters.  What the unsuspecting public does not know is that these shelters turn away pets.  They can only house a limited number of pets and when they are full, they must refuse to accept any more.  So where do these unwanted, turned-away pets go?  To the “kill shelters,” the shelters that some people criticize and want to avoid because they are killing animals. But the huge number of unwanted pets needs to go somewhere.

In my humble opinion, the kill shelters need our help as much, if not more, as the no-kills.  Why?

  1. No-kills will generally keep pets forever once they are admitted.  Some never leave because they may be unadoptable for certain reasons. They’re safe forever.
  2. No-kills tend to receive more donations because people perceive them as being more humane and better than kill shelters. People judge kill shelters as cruel and may be less likely to support them as a result. Rachael Ray held a contest last year to give a grant to a shelter and she excluded kill shelters from qualification.
  3. The kill shelters are doing the dirty work; most of them hold the animal control contracts for their areas which means that they are picking up strays, taking in owner surrenders and responding to cases such as animal hoarding, dog fighting and illegal kennels.
  4. The kill shelters see the worst of the worst of mankind’s inhumanity to our fellow creatures. The employees are over-worked, under-paid and often angry and depressed from continually dealing with people who hurt or discard animals that the staff so dearly loves.

The bottom line: Both kill shelters and no-kill shelters need our support because they are all trying to help animals.  One is not better than the other.  Remember to adopt, volunteer and donate locally.