Worker emotional toll in pounds that kill

The dog stiffened as we approached the kill-room. Fear flooded his big brown eyes and his hind legs started trembling while he sniffed the air. I forced him through the door [this is my job after all] and choked down my feelings at seeing his distress [overriding my instincts to stop].

I chained him to a wall with worn-down hooks from the countless others who had come before. The walls with their old, flaked paint told of past [failed] attempts at brightening the space, maybe in attempts to de-stigmatise and comfort us tasked with the killing. I found a frozen bone for him, actively ignoring body-bags crowding the freezer. ‘My’ dog looked sadly at the bone (not touching it), then at me, betrayed, wordlessly pleading for me to help him, while he shivered on the cold concrete floor. Some would soil themselves in fear, but most got very still like they knew what was coming.

I wish I could take him home, make him feel wanted, that he mattered . . . and not all humans wanted him gone. My colleague ‘finished’ with the dog before us on today’s kill-list, she lay dead, eyes rolled into her head, tongue flopped out. He got the fluorescent syringe ready as I looked away, holding my dog still for the injection. A perfect paw in my hand, vein filling with poison. My supervisor had tried to construct this as an act of ‘kindness’, explaining that death is better than the alternative – being unwanted, caged . . . but I wonder if he’d agree?

Stifling sadness, anger and helplessness, trying to keep calm for the sake of the dog now living his last moments, his body going limp. My dog would now wait for the weekly garbage pickup, as they were dumped into a landfill, as our societal throwaways.

A new study in the Journal of Work, Employment and Society looked at how staff members of kill pounds navigate the “tensions” of working at a place that is supposed to “care” for animals but instead kills them. This contradiction is what the authors call “care-based animal dirty work” or “the caring-killing paradox.” I call it evil.

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