“No-Kill” versus “Kill Shelters”

Let’s start with two disclaimers for this blog:

  1. For many years I was on the Board of Friends of San Francisco Animal Care and Control.  This non-profit organization raises money for San Francisco’s animal shelter to fund the things that the City’s budget doesn’t fund.  I watched for many years as the managers and staff at ACC struggled in an old building (not designed for animal care) with limited resources.
  2. About 18 months ago, Virginia Donohue, the founder of Pet Camp and my wife, took over as the Executive Director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control.  I know how smart she is and how hard she works and of course, without sounding misogynistic, couldn’t be more proud of the amazing work she is doing.

So with these disclaimers behind us, let me say I have always found these labels ridiculous.  When I hear people refer to certain shelters as “no kill” I have always wanted to say, “Sure, it’s easy to be “no kill” when all you accept is easily adoptable dogs and cute little kittens.”  Sadly, at least in San Francisco, because of the brand awareness and sway of some of these institutions I never said this too loudly.  And, of course, if someone is taking the adoptable dogs and the cute little kittens, someone else must be taking the hard-to-adopt dogs and the senior cats.  Are the places taking those animals thus the “kill shelters”?  If one is the no-kill shelter then the other must, almost by definition, be the kill shelter?

Nothing could be further from the truth and it is time to change the nomenclature in the discussion.  In a recent edition of Your Dog, a monthly newsletter from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Rob Halpin, the Director of Public Relations for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, opines that the correct term for shelters that must accept every animal brought to them is hardly “kill shelter” but more appropriately an “open door shelter” (which of course could mean that the shelters that only accept the easy to adopt animals are “closed door shelters”) and that many of the animals rejected by the closed door shelters end up at the open door shelters.  Accordingly if the closed door shelters were more open, the open door shelters would be under less stress!  So rather than simply asking why an open door couldn’t have done more to save a pet, perhaps we should start with the question why did the closed door shelter reject that pet?

Tell us about your experiences at both open door and closed door shelters.

Thanks for reading.