This is Peanut Butter, a healthy orphaned kitten, who was killed by the New York City pound with a rescuer minutes away.

According to her would-be rescuer, Peanut Butter was of good weight, “observed to be ‘active, crawling and vocal’… Her lungs were clear, no eye or ear discharge was noted and her skin was free of parasites.” At 4:30 pm “She was told the kitty was ‘prepped and ready to go” and the rescuer texted back that she was already en route.

She “was just 15 minutes away” when “she received a text message saying, ‘They just killed her.’” The shelter claims the kitten was not doing well, despite prior reports.

Since 2010, the No Kill Advocacy Center, my organization, has been working with boots on the ground rescuers and advocates in New York City to pass shelter reform legislation that would make it illegal for the pound, and others like it across the state, to kill animals such as Peanut Butter when there are qualified rescuers willing to save them.

Such a bill would cost virtually nothing to implement, but it would save countless lives. A similar law in California saves over 85,000 animals a year — an increase of over 700%. It also saves taxpayers $3,497,283 for killing and destruction of remains (these savings do not include additional savings related to cost of care). In addition to direct cost savings, a study found additional positive economic impact to businesses, as well as increased sales tax revenues due to subsequent spending by adopters on those animals.

But every time it is introduced in New York, the bill is opposed — and defeated — by the ASPCA, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals (which has nothing to do with the Mayor and, in my opinion, isn’t really “for” NYC animals), underperforming shelters, and even Best Friends which do not want to be held accountable and do not want limits to their own privileged position and power. As a result, animals like Peanut Butter (and an estimated tens of thousands of others like her every year) end up in garbage bags, where their lifeless bodies are discarded in a landfill.

It doesn’t have to — it shouldn’t — be this way.

When “shelters” partner with rescuers to ensure that animals are not put to death, more lives are saved, wasteful taxpayer expenditures are reduced, and economic and social benefits ensue to the community. But there is an additional benefit that is also of importance, even if it can’t be quantified: Rescue rights laws foster fairness, respect, and consideration for people who both need and deserve it.

As a society, we owe a particular debt of gratitude to people who voluntarily offer a helping hand to the needy and that includes our nation’s homeless animals. Animal rescuers open their hearts and homes to provide a safety-net for animals others may have abandoned and whom our dysfunctional “shelters” betray even further by killing. When a particular animal a rescuer has requested is needlessly killed, it can take a heavy toll, leading to feelings of anger, helplessness, and despair.

Animal rescuers are already donating their time, their energy, their resources, and their love to make our world a better place. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their emotional well-being, too.

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