The foundation of the “no-kill” movement is that no creature ever deserves to die. Regardless of past transgressions, errors in judgement, loose screws, or instincts acted upon inappropriately, no creature shall be purposefully put to the grave before nature has intended. A noble idea, and wishful thinking for sure, but still a very popular notion when it comes to animal welfare.
The idea that there is a home waiting for each and every animal is more than a reach, it’s a fallacy. Even the most experienced animal handlers admit that not every animal should be kept, saved, adopted, owned, or allowed outside of a 10’x10′ cage. Those of us that have witnessed the raw power, indifference, and aftermath of a severely unbalanced dog will easily attest to the fact that the world is a safer place without them. In situations where even the owner has decided to step back and give up, euthanasia is an option. When you are responsible for looking at the big picture, sometimes it’s the only option. Part of the big picture is the consideration of what the dog is going through, what we call quality of life. Most wouldn’t wish the existence that these animals are forced to endure, if they actually understood the struggle.
Dogs are pack animals. Regardless of who your favorite trainer is, this is a widely agreed upon concept. They are meant to be with their own kind. They develop their own communication consisting of subtle cues, body posture and unspoken language that humans have been both studying and attempting to deconstruct and emulate for decades. The pack, and their place in it, is of the utmost importance to a dog; it’s their identity, their purpose. To have a place in the pack. Freedom to express normal and natural social behavior is one of the five freedoms that should be afforded to a healthy and happy dog. This is best illustrated when we evaluate dogs that have limited, negative, or no exposure to other animals during the most crucial developmental periods of their life. Watching an animal that struggles in the realm of socialization can be very disturbing, and sometimes downright frightening.
Humans are actually similar in this way. They find comfort within their own species. Humans develop relationships with their own kind: some they learn to to rely and depend on, others they learn to steer clear from. Regardless of the ups and downs that human relationships put us through, it is rare to find a human that is content in complete solitude. The desire to interact and associate with others is natural, almost necessary to be considered happy and healthy. Let us be frank: a person who cannot stand the company of it’s own kind, under any circumstances, and would immediately resort to violence when presented with the opportunity would be considered an unstable and tortured soul.
But somehow many people, and many non-profit “no-kill” rescues, have determined that it is perfectly acceptable, almost celebrated, when a dog needs to live this way. They call it prey drive, they call it dominance. They state up front that the animal cannot be around it’s own kind; maybe it’s because they never learned how to communicate appropriately (which despite popular belief they are not born knowing), maybe it’s because they have had a bad experience with another animal. Maybe they are just wired wrong. With these cases, the mere sight of another animal that walks and talks and looks like them sends the dog into an almost uncontrollable rage that only the truly experienced and attentive owner can handle. So unless you lock the animal in a cage in your basement, (which unfortunately some people do, but that’s another blog), managing these tendencies requires constant vigilance, foresight, and preparation. There is huge liability and responsibility involved in not only taking on an animal that has demonstrated the propensity to kill other animals, but handing over such an animal to a new owner. It is not to be taken lightly. Although there is no shortage of opinions that it’s an easy behavior to manage, experience has proven that the percentage of competent beings standing upright on the other end of that leash is minimal. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find secure homes for these types of dogs. “Needs to be the only pet” doesn’t cut it anymore.
This is what leads to euthanasia in shelters; we are painfully aware that there aren’t enough people both willing and reliably able to manage these behaviors for the life of the animal. The risk of an accident is too great, and the price other animals and people would possibly pay is too high. Imagine passing the animal from home to home, crossing fingers in the hopes that it won’t escalate and the next adopters will take you seriously. It’s desperate and it’s dangerous; in an effort to avoid euthanasia, this exact scenario plays out every day across the country. How would one explain that to the couple who owned the cat that, while relaxing in it’s own yard, was attacked and killed by a dog… being walked on leash, with it’s new owner, a few hours after being adopted…into it’s third home…from a rescue that specializes in placing animals that cannot be around children, other dogs, or cats. But of course, no one is asking the rescue for that explanation. It seems to have been agreed upon by the rescue and their supporters that the cat was at fault and his life didn’t matter. The focus has been shoved on the shelter, for deciding that enough is enough, what this dog is being put through isn’t working, now other animals are dying, and it’s time to let him go. And that leads me to the screenshot at the top of the post.
Alive at all costs, they say. No killing is ever justified, excused, or accepted, they say. The same advocates for “no-kill” plaster the internet with death threats and explicit details of the torture they wish they could inflict on fellow human beings, with disturbing fluency. Over the life of one tortured soul, that was passed from rescue to rescue, owner to owner, that they all swear they know and loved as if he was their own, that before last week they didn’t even know existed.