A No Kill California? ‘Bah, humbug!,’ say some

No sooner does the Governor of California announce he wants to end the killing of homeless dogs and cats in pounds throughout the state, than curmudgeons blast the Governor for wanting pounds “to not kill animals:” Several news outlets and special interest groups criticized the Governor for arguing that “animals should be protected as if they were human beings” because they believe that animals are not worthy of such attention, it is hypocritical to do so, and the state should focus on solving human problems. Such a view is small-minded and hard-hearted. It’s also factually wrong.

The Governor’s budget called for spending on public schools, homelessness, climate action, consumer protection, affordable health care, affordable housing, a tax cut for small business owners, and even “proposals to pay down debt and pension obligations and build budget reserves.” By contrast, the $50,000,000 line-item for animals is only a fraction — 2/10th of 1% — of the $222 billion budget proposal. In addition, the money is to be spent over five years, while other budget priorities are annual, making its relative budgetary allocation even smaller.

More importantly, the argument being made is that a concern about ending the killing of dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals in shelters somehow detracts from our concern about people. This is a misanthropic view of humanity which suggests that compassion and empathy are in limited supply and must be doled out in a miserly fashion rather than felt as need demands. It also suggests a myopic view of how change in the world occurs.

There is not a victory in the moral enlightenment of humanity in which some people who did not share the newer, more encompassing ethic did not lament the amount of attention that was paid to that issue because they regarded it as less important than others. If some people do not want the plight of animals at the hands of some humans to be of such public concern, then they should wish for a world where such outcomes are no longer permitted.

As for me, I find the fact that people are bemoaning expressions of empathy and compassion entirely counterproductive to the cause not just of animals, but of people, too. Love, however it manifests itself, should always be welcomed as it can only make our world a kinder, gentler place filled with people who are intolerant of suffering.

Moreover, a No Kill initiative is not just good for animals, it is good for people. Animals in our homes not only improve cardiovascular health and reduce feelings of loneliness, but a University of Denver study found broader impacts on public health and social cohesion, including increased civic engagement and “perceptions of neighborhood friendliness.”

That study also found that No Kill initiatives increase the amount of spending on animal companions benefiting local merchants, increasing sales tax revenues, and improving the overall economy to allow for additional spending on other programs, such as employment, housing, healthcare, and more.

Americans spent $72 billion on their animals companions last year, making it the seventh largest sector of the retail economy (a rate that grew 50% faster than the overall retail economy). That means this is an area they care deeply about. As such, the Governor’s No Kill initiative reflects America’s, and certainly California’s, humane values. Moreover, his call to end killing, if successful, would certainly increase spending here in California. His policy is therefore not only good politics, popular with voters and reflective of their values, and good ethics, it’s good business.


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