The New York Times Ethicist & Animal Shelters

May 9, 2017

In a recent edition of the Sunday New York Times, the Ethicist was asked if someone should adopt a cat from a “no-kill” shelter or at a shelter that “euthanizes animals if there are too many.” The potential pet parent was torn between saving a cat at the kill shelter vs. supporting the policy of the no-kill shelter.

The Ethicist points out there are widely divergent views on the issue of “kill” vs. “no kill” shelters and that people are very emotional about their views. The Ethicist notes that People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) is critical of no-kill as such policies can result in animals with no realistic chance of being adopted being warehoused for extended periods of times and this is cruel. The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals support the “noble aspiration” of a no-kill shelter but note that this is often impracticable. The Ethicist, at a personal level, concludes that it is ok to kill when the animal is not going to be adopted and notes that even shelters that are “no-kill” may end up killing animals if the practice of no-kill results in overcrowding and increased stress and disease.

So where do you come out on this? Do you support the efforts of a “kill” shelter, the efforts of a “no-kill” shelter, or both? Do you think that it matters if the shelter is an open-door shelter (one that must accept every animal brought to it) or a limited admission shelter (one that goes to other shelters and takes animals to be adopted)? Do you think that there can ever truly be a no-kill, open-door shelter? In San Francisco we have both an open-door (the San Francisco Animal Care & Control) and a limited admission (the San Francisco SPCA); how would you suggest that the public be educated on the complex issues facing both these institutions?

Thanks for reading.

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