The killing of an eight year old boy’s cat in Logan, Utah and his subsequent Letter to the Editor have captured the heart of animal lovers across the nation. I’ve  heard from many people who could not sleep at night when they read about what happened, and with good reason.

There are so many tragic things about this story, and they are made all the more heartbreaking by the little boy’s choice to name his cat Toothless. It is from the movie How to Train Your Dragon which is about a young man who dares to see the world differently, who chooses to embrace compassion and love towards animals rather than the violence and ignorance that defined his ancestors. In so doing, he changes everything for the better. It is a beautiful story about the importance of being kind, thoughtful, courageous and strong. Most of all, it is a story about a deep love between a boy and his animal companion.

In choosing to name his cat Toothless, it is obvious that Rayden felt the same way about his own cat. And now that cat’s life has been cruelly taken and a little boy is left behind to try to make sense out of what makes no sense at all: why adults casually and cavalierly killed his best friend, an animal he dearly loved, and who meant more to him than anything else in the world.

The family’s response has been gracious. And they appear to be kind, caring and thoughtful, turning the other cheek and forgiving those who lied, those who delivered Toothless to his death, even the shelter worker who “forgot” to leave a note. But this isn’t the first time the Cache Humane Society erroneously killed someone’s beloved pet and then offered inconceivable after the fact justifications that underscore how little they value life. And with a dismal save rate of only 37% for cats, it is clear that they don’t value it all.

It is tempting to see what happened to Toothless as a mistake. But it isn’t. “Accidental” killings of beloved pets happen every day in shelters in this country. Google “shelter mistakenly euthanized pet” and you’ll get “About 205,000 results (0.34 seconds).” It is not a mistake when it happens over and over again.

The killing of Toothless should not have happened. And it didn’t need to. And the bigger tragedy is that this isn’t about notes or uncaring neighbors. It is larger than that. Note or not, the humane society made the choice to intentionally kill Toothless. And that is what it is: a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs a shelter to take the easy, uncaring and inhumane way out. Not killing is also a choice. There is now a solution to the killing and it is neither difficult, expensive, nor beyond our ability to achieve. We want “shelters” to make the latter choice and give meaning to the very word: a refuge, a haven.

There are now hundreds of cities and towns across America where the shelters do not kill animals. If Rayden had lived in Austin, Texas, or Ivins City, Utah, or Reno, Nevada, or any of a number of other places, Toothless would still be alive.  But not in Logan, Utah. Not at the Cache Humane Society. Not under the leadership of the current director or her staff. Because of them, a cat is dead and an 8-year-old boy’s heart is broken. This is what happens when we allow the killing of animals. It is what happens when we look the other way because we believe the “experts” are in charge. And it is a gross bastardization of the mission of local humane societies, which were founded to protect animals from violence, not to relentlessly and systematically subject them to it.

While nothing can bring Toothless back, we must work to ensure that this kind of tragedy never happens to another boy, another family, another beloved cat again. And we do that by holding people accountable, regardless of whether their conduct was intentional, reckless, or even, as Cache Humane pretends, an “honest mistake.”  A lawsuit should be filed. The director and staff should be fired. The neighbor prosecuted for his crime. Only when people are held accountable can we hope to end these kinds of tragedies. If we do that, if we fight back, if we legislate away their power to kill, we’ll achieve the goal of a No Kill nation. And when we Google “shelter mistakenly euthanized pet,” we’ll get a result which will not break our hearts, but rather will make them swell with joy:

“Your search did not match any documents.”


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