Yesterday I wrote about Valerie, a dog adopted during a no-fee adoption event in Southern California. The initial report indicated she was sexually abused and died of blunt force trauma. Some well-meaning, but in my view misguided, advocates claimed they would protest this weekend’s Clear the Shelters events, where over 7,000 agencies are expected to place 50,000 animals who otherwise face the very real threat of death.

Some less well-meaning people, looking to exploit Valerie’s death, wrote OpEds blaming Valerie’s death on No Kill initiatives, claiming that No Kill equals abuse and that no-fee adoptions lead to death. By peddling the “fates worse than death” card, they argued for a return to mass killing as an act of kindness.

My original post was lengthy and explained why those were not the lessons to draw—or the outcomes to seek—from what happened to Valerie. I explained how Valerie was an aberration but shelter neglect, abuse, and killing are not and that if we want to reduce the amount of animal cruelty that occurs—which includes poisoning them to death with barbiturates, inducing a heart attack by heartsticking, or gassing them in a chamber as shelters across the country do—we need to get them out of killing pounds. I included studies which show that no-fee adoptions triple the number of animals who find homes, without putting those animals at risk. In other words, quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive.

Now, there is even more reason to stand by my conclusions. It seems that the initial claims made about Valerie may not have been correct. According to the L.A.P.D., although they have not been able to determine the cause of death, the treating veterinarian and the forensic veterinarian did not find evidence of either sexual abuse or blunt force trauma. They also indicate that witnesses say Valerie was not thrown from a car as initially reported. And the person who adopted the dog did not provide false information at the time of adoption as also initially reported.

It doesn’t change the sad and tragic outcome: Valerie is dead. But it does not lend itself to protests against adoption events or claims that No Kill harms animals. As I said, those would not be the lessons to draw at any rate. As I wrote in the original piece, the first time many animals experience neglect and abuse is at the very shelter that is supposed to protect them from it. And adoption, including no-fee adoption, protects animals from the single biggest cause of death of healthy dogs and cats in the U.S.: the local animal shelter.

Whatever happened to Valerie, the prime directive remains the same: if we care about animals, we must either reform the institutions of killing or get the animals out of there. And every metric leads to the same conclusion: the public is far more trustworthy with animals than those who have been hired to kill them. And even more to the point: those who claim animals are better off dead are not sincere advocates for the best interests of animals, for in so doing, they are advocating for that which they would never advocate for themselves and which leads to the same, ultimate harm that we know for certain Valerie did endure: death.

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