“[T]he inner workings of a shelter are more complex than they may appear from the outside.” – Excerpt from a 2012 statement released by the HSUS Companion Animal Division defending the widespread practice among shelters of killing animals even when there are empty, available cages.
For many decades, shelters and their allies at national organizations made bold claims about the necessity of shelter killing without providing any hard evidence to back up their assertions. Why? They didn’t need to. Their successful portrayal of sheltering as an industry beyond the laymen’s understanding and requiring special “expertise” meant that few dared to challenge their authority or the validity of their claims. Animal lovers, adverse to working in facilities that kill animals and therefore lacking firsthand experience to the contrary, were misled into believing these rationalizations because they falsely believed these groups were trustworthy, knowledgeable of the most up-to-date sheltering protocols, dedicated to innovation, and committed to the cause of animal protection. As a result, shelters directors and their allies at national organizations were, until very recently, never asked to provide evidence beyond the anecdotal and circular logic (shelter killing is necessary because otherwise shelters wouldn’t be killing) to prove the authenticity of their claims. Tragically, as the No Kill movement increasingly exposes the facile nature of their self-professed expertise, in some cases the audacity of their claims have become even more pronounced, not less, with some shelters and shelter killing apologists making claims about pet overpopulation that even quick back of an envelope calculations reveal to be not just false, but utterly absurd.
Under continued scrutiny for its high rates of killing, leadership at the Houston pound has repeatedly claimed that they must kill animals due to an overpopulation problem so severe, that there are 1.2 million stray animals wandering the streets of Houston. Putting aside the fact that the number of dogs and cats on the streets doesn’t mean the shelter has to kill animals in the shelter, how can that possibly be true? If it was, that would be one stray animal for every two people in Houston or 2,000 per square mile, an absurdity. Such a claim defies experience and credulity, but that hasn’t stopped the city from making it or newspapers from printing it.
After the city made the claim, this figure has been reprinted over and over in the Houston media with jaw dropping headlines: “Houston’s 1.2 million stray dog problem,” “One million stray dogs in Houston,” and “Houston’s dirty, furry secret.” But a reporter finally did the math and called the figure “ridiculous” in an article, “Houston’s problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs”: “if Houston really had 1.2 million stray dogs, many neighborhoods would look like the migration scene from ‘Lion King’. There would be an army of dogs, 100 across and 100 deep, pouring down…”
So if millions of animals roaming the streets aren’t Houston’s problem because there aren’t that many, what is? The problem with Houston is Houston leadership. By pessimistically portraying the problem of shelter killing as inevitable and insurmountable, lies such as these have historically enabled the atrocity of shelter killing in Houston and other communities across the nation whose shelters are staffed by leadership more interested in excuse making than embracing solutions to bring the killing to an end. Thankfully, this article pokes holes in that thinking. And that is a step toward public realization that Houston is not “unique” or beyond the same sort of transformation that has allowed community after community to save the vast majority of animals once the leadership at their shelters commits to change: www.saving90.org
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