The Big Island would be making a big mistake if it allows anti-euthanasia bullies to pressure the Hawaii Island Humane Society into adopting misguided and dangerous “no-kill” shelter policies, which usually translate into “no help” for the community’s most at-risk animals (“Big Island: Critics Say County Ignores Animal Shelters’ High Kill Rates”).

Open-admission animal shelters like HIHS provide an invaluable service by offering a refuge for every animal who shows up at its door — including the sick, injured, elderly, unsocialized and aggressive. As a result, open-admission shelters’ euthanasia rates are often higher than those of so-called “no-kill” (also know as “limited-admission” or “turn-away”) shelters and groups that cherry-pick the most adoptable animals.

No-kill proponents fixate on euthanasia and “live-release” statistics, but such figures only tell part of the story. For example, they don’t take into account dying animals who are taken to shelters specifically for end-of-life relief or those who don’t make it into the ledgers at all — the ones who are turned away because no-kill shelters are perennially “full.”

(One facility in Austin, Texas, has reportedly been full for nearly two years!)

Can shelters really be called “shelters” if they close their doors to the animals who need them the most?

Flickr: Tricia Hall

Slamming the door on animals in need may make statistics look good — look at those terrific “saved” rates! — but what about those who are stuck on the outside looking in? They may be cruelly killed, given away to irresponsible people, locked up in crates or on chains and forgotten, or simply abandoned on the streets to starve, contract deadly contagious diseases, get hit by cars, breed and produce more unwanted animals, and much more.

Last week, a woman allegedly abandoned a litter of kittens in a plastic tub at a Pennsylvania “no-kill” facility after being told it was full and had a waiting list (she reportedly had been rebuffed by several other agencies as well). Two litters of puppies were recently abandoned in containers outside a “no-kill” facility in Alabama, which had a sign on the door reading “We’re Sorry, We Are Unable To Accept Any Drop Offs At This Time.”

Most horrifying of all, a 6-week-old kitten was abandoned in a Florida shelter’s parking lot after being turned away at the door. He was hit by a car and died as a result of his injuries.

This poor kitten’s death may not have shown up on the shelter’s euthanasia report, but he certainly wasn’t “saved,” either. He was betrayed in the worst possible way.

Filthy Cages

Animal shelters have an enormous responsibility: They are charged not only with sheltering and finding homes for animals but also with keeping them safe. That doesn’t mean keeping them alive at any cost.

In hoarding facilities posing as rescues, some animals spend years slowly dying (you can’t call it “living”) in filthy cages, in condemned buildings or at the end of a chain without even the basic necessities of life.

Earlier this year, a man who kept dozens of dogs in appalling conditions at a self-described “no-kill” facility in Makaha was convicted of multiple counts of cruelty to animals. The judge summed it up perfectly: “When one says they are a no-kill shelter and then take steps to kill an animal, giving it no chance of survival, that to me is a kill shelter.”

Animals are extremely vulnerable to abuse and neglect, which is why responsible shelters know they must keep their doors open, no matter what, to prevent animals from suffering a fate far worse than being painlessly euthanized by trained, caring shelter personnel.

“Animals are extremely vulnerable to abuse and neglect.”

They accept all animals without charging absurd fees, requiring appointments, maintaining long waiting lists or limiting intake hours — all common no-kill tactics. And they impose commonsense safeguards, including carefully screening potential adopters and charging reasonable adoption fees in order to weed out dogfighters and other cruel people who are simply seeking victims to torture.

Those in the extreme anti-euthanasia camp want to toss those safeguards out the window and are pressuring shelters to turn away animals, farm them out to anyone who will take them without adequate screening, abandon cats to fend for themselves on the streets and more. But can shelters really be called “shelters” if they close their doors to the animals who need them the most?

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