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'No Kill' Doesn't Work, We Can't Rescue Our Way to a Solution

Cheryl Watts of the Halifax County Humane Society told Halifax County Board of Supervisors on March 6, 2013, “We cannot rescue our way to a solution” during the board’s regular monthly meeting.

“The biggest problem Halifax County is facing continues to be stray and homeless animals,” she said.

Her honest admission of why “no kill” doesn’t work should be heeded by every shelter manager who tries to ignore the truth and, for political or other reasons, misleads those who hire them and those who hound them with constant complaints.

The mythical, elusive goal of “no kill” is not just a few transports or adoption programs away. “No kill” is always a five-year plan, which comes and goes in a plethora of excuses and is commemorated only by the hiring a new, idealistic manager with another five-year plan.


In a current example, a media release on Oct. 29 by the City of Austin, Texas, announced:

Adoptions and rescues continue to lag behind animal intakes. The shelter is short 70 kennels with no room for incoming dogs.

To help with the overcrowded situation, the Austin Animal Center is having an adoption special for Halloween. Adoption fees will be waived through Sunday, Nov. 3, with the goal of 150 adoptions.

More than 1,200 stray animals have entered the shelter in the last 30 days. Of those, 736 were stray dogs. Of those, only 164 have been returned to their owners. The shelter’s biggest challenge is housing large- and medium-sized dogs and there isn’t any room for incoming strays.

In addition to strays, 294 owner-surrendered dogs have entered the shelter since Oct. 1.


Trying to “adopt our way” out of the overpopulation problem is easily predicted as a failure by just looking at the statistic Ms. Watt of Hallifax County Humane provided.

“A single pair of animals could ultimately result in 9.8 million in only nine years,” Ms. Watt said. Whether or not that particular figure is exactly accurate, the geometric explosion possible from each new litter of puppies or kittens born renders it in the realm of possibility.

When we look at the pet overpopulation problem in that context, we realize that the faucet must be turned off. As Cheryl Watt said, we cannot adopt our way to a solution.

(1) More effort and money must put into low-cost, early-age spay/neuter (before the first litter is born), and not into merely warehousing and transporting animals;

(2) Breeding must be curtailed by requiring that anyone breeding or allowing a dog/cat in their possession to breed must purchase a permit for each litter (no free pass on a first litter every year), whether the pups/kittens are sold or given away; and

3) The lucrative, largely tax-evading, cottage industry of “hobby” or professional breeding must be made subject to the same business/taxation/licensing and zoning requirements as any in-home business.


The self-serving, egocentric leaders of the no-kill movement must admit that humane euthanasia is necessary to keep unadopted animals from living a fate worse than death in cramped cages or concrete kennels where they beat themselves against the walls or self-mutilate until they must be put to sleep or eventually die from the painful infections in their damaged bodies.

“No kill” is a syndrome that garners huge donations for many who exploit the pathos of the animals rather than supporting solutions to stop pet overpopulation and irresponsibility.


The other component of stopping shelter overcrowding is enforcing the laws that serve as an educational tool on how to care for an animal and as a penalty/punishment for not doing so. Failure to provide proper care and attention or abandoning a pet must result in administrative fines and/or criminal prosecution — not issuing repeated warnings or ignoring violations. If someone does not wish to properly care for an animal, there is no obligation to have one.

The number of available homes cannot catch up to the number of homeless animals born without intervention at the source on behalf of the large number that will die. Once they have been dumped in the street or have entered the shelter and are not reclaimed, we have already failed. We cannot then “rescue our way to a solution.”

Sources:, YouGV


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