A kitten at the Madison County pound. Over half of the cats who enter the front door go out the back door in garbage bags.

The Madison County, VA, pound kills over half the cats it takes in. And yet it calls itself a “No Kill” shelter, assuring people that cats they bring in will be guaranteed a home. And when it kills their cats, it lies to them by claiming they were adopted. Now Virginia Police and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), which oversees pounds in the state, are investigating.

“I had a stray show up at my house. I called the shelter and was assured it’s a no-kill shelter, that emphatically they would not put this animal down, they would send it to rescue, they would go to all means to make sure this animal found a home, and again it’s a no-kill shelter, within 10 days the animal was killed,” said one woman.

Another woman who rescued eight abandoned cats says “shelter officials told her they were adopted. ‘I saw the intake sheets. They were killed the next day after I brought them in, some of those were really nice cats.’”

Claiming to be No Kill while still killing is not just dishonest; it leads to catastrophic consequences for animals when people falsely believe it is safe to surrender to a pound.

Tragically, Madison County is not unique. A Salt Lake City pound’s duplicity caused the death of a mother cat and immense heartbreak for the woman who thought she had rescued her by taking her there.

Michigan Pet Fund Alliance officials are also guilty of this. They falsely claimed Michigan is a No Kill state by not counting tens of thousands of animals in a state where some counties kill more than seven out of 10 cats.

Not to be outdone in terms of rank dishonesty, Best Friends and the Brandywine Valley SPCA conspired to falsely claim Delaware is a No Kill state even though the BVSPCA, which acts as the state contracted “shelter,” referred people wanting to surrender animals to a “community clinic” that killed them (and then did not count them in statistics).

The conclusion to be drawn is not that No Kill is impossible. It is. There are a number of legitimate communities with honestly calculated placement rates of 99%+. There are millions of people and scores of animals currently living in and served by municipal shelters placing 98-99% of the animals. In fact, there’s been a 90% drop in the killing of dogs and cats in U.S. “shelters” since the 1970s. Its been called “the single biggest success of the modern animal protection movement.” We are making tremendous progress. More to the point, we can end the killing of all animals in pounds who are not irremediably suffering, rigorously defined.

In Redemption, my first book, however, I described the co-option of the No Kill movement by unscrupulous officials: “With the pressure for change mounting,” I wrote, pound directors and their enablers at large, national organizations “began to say one thing, while they did something else. In short, they learned the art of political double-speak… The real race was not to save lives, but to end public scrutiny and criticism by co-opting the No Kill movement. Business would continue as usual, but it would come with new terminology…”

That is what these groups are doing. And it is costing animals their lives.

In 2018, while calling itself a “No Kill shelter,” 240 out of 474 cats were killed by the Madison County pound, a death rate of 51%. It also killed all 63 non-dog and cat species, a death rate of 100%.

But expect VDACS to do absolutely nothing about it. As they have proven time and again, they are typically bureaucratic, tragically indifferent, fundamentally uncaring, and as is so typical of oversight agencies, willing to overlook criminal conduct by bending over backward for the entities they are supposed to be regulating. They even turn a blind eye to abuse and torture of animals in Virginia pounds.

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