This is an open letter from the Board of Directors of the Pike County Humane Society to our volunteers and members, regarding the very difficult subject of euthanasia.
The PCHS is NOT a no-kill shelter.
The PCHS does however, follow no-kill charter, meaning: we do not euthanize any adoptable pet.
We do not euthanize for time or space, and we do not euthanize anything upon entrance as some organizations do, like Pit Bulls. We are extremely lucky that we are able to follow the no-kill charter. Not all shelters can.
If someone makes a comment about how a shelter put a dog down too fast, CONCENTRATE ON THE REAL PROBLEM, not on the shelter trying to solve the problem the best it can. The real problem is that some dog owners don't understand the full responsibility they take on by having a dog. It is hard to be in a shelter that takes in 100 dogs a day. We really sympathize with that shelter for having to make such a hard decision.
There are two types of shelters - Closed-Door Policy Shelters, and Open-Door Policy shelters. An Open-Door Shelter addresses the entire problem of unwanted discarded pets. A Closed-Door shelter addresses only the small part of the problem that they feel like dealing with, subsequently contributing to the problem as a whole.
The Pike County Humane Society is an Open-Door shelter. We take in every animal. We don't pick and choose.
A Closed-Door or No Kill shelter greatly limits the number of animals they are willing to help, and the types of animals they are willing to help. By law and logistics, they can only accept a fixed number of dogs at time, all other needy dogs are turned away. Many will only accept "adoptable dogs," seeking out the young, the healthy, the obedient, the cute.
An Open-Door shelter accepts all animals. The young and the old, the sick and the tired, the healthy and the medically needy, the obedient and the disobedient, the cute ones, and the not-so cute ones. Any animal that is unwanted, is accepted.
No one at the PCHS wants to euthanize an animal. No one at the PCHS thinks it's an easy decision. Everyone at the PCHS wishes we had the funds, laws, facility, room, time, number of qualified volunteers and miracles to save every animal. But the realistic situation is that it isn’t possible. The hard truth is merciful euthanasia is the best we can do for many dogs that are contagious, suffering, or aggressive.
Some dogs that are unwanted are not currently vaccinated, not neutered, not trained correctly, have a problem like anxiety or excessive barking and chewing, are older, are sick, or are not as "cute" as they were when they were puppies. What do you think happens to that huge number of unwanted animals turned away from no kill shelters? The dogs that a no-kill shelter refused to help, has few alternatives.
Sometimes they wind up at an Open-Door Policy shelter, like ours. Sometimes they are brought back home where they are neglected or abused. And most times, they are abandoned. They are strays. Alone, cold, starving, lost. The no-kill shelter is directly responsible for that.
Aside from the crime against the pet, think about what stray dogs and cats do to a community. The perpetuation of diseases like parvo virus, lepto spirosis, FELV, FIV, Corona Virus, even rabies. The perpetuation of lyme disease and other tick-bourne pathogens. The perpetuation of parasites, like fleas, coccidia, whipworms, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. The perpetuation of funguses like ringworm. The anger of a community and its law enforcement as garbage cans are torn apart, rabid animals are seen, feral cat colonies are formed, stray unneutered cats and dogs break down fences, fight, and contribute again and again to the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats of an area.
That is what comes from a closed-door policy shelter. Yes, they may have saved 20 perfectly adoptable dogs and found them loving homes. But for that 20, how many did they refuse to take? The 50 to 100 dogs they turned their backs on, the ones that really needed help, were condemned. Ethereally, there is no such thing as a no kill shelter, because that no kill shelter "killed" every dog, every cat, every unwanted litter, etc, that they turned away.
An open door policy shelter like the PCHS accepts all animals. Many pets that come to us are old and sick, and should have been humanely euthanized by their owners. We accept them, and do the job their owners neglected to do. Most everyone can see that a sick, contagious, or suffering dog needs to be mercifully put out of its misery.
The harder decisions involve behavior and mental health. Many pets that come to us have been badly abused, or have been strayed or kenneled for so long that their quality of life is minimal. They have been caged for too long, and are deteriorating mentally. They aren't happy. Keeping an animal like that caged to sooth your conscience because someone can't do the responsible thing, with no thought to the realistic well being of that animal, is ignorant.
The PCHS makes evaluations on all pets in our care. If the evaluation has been made that an animal's mental health is such that the animal has no quality of life potential, that animal may be merciful euthanized, in lieu of living a miserable life, suffering mentally and emotionally.
The PCHS can not in good conscience place an animal in a home when the pet is suspect of dangerous behavior. Aside from the legal ramifications, there is a severe ethical responsibility to act where need be.
As agreed by the Articles of Incorporation, ALL euthanasia decisions are made with full agreement between the shelter manager, and the shelter veterinarian. These difficult decisions are wholly supported by the board of directions, because of the faith we have in the people that make them.
The PCHS realizes that many people have their heart in the right place, but do not have the experience or education to see to it that their heads follow. It takes a lot to be a committed shelter person; a love of animals is not enough. The reality of the problem is often too big and too much for some people to handle.
The PCHS is a wonderful ethical organization that makes a difference in the fight to champion unwanted animals through education, and acting responsibly to the whole situation in a realistic way. We welcome like-minded people to join us in our organization. While we are open minded to new ideas, and to educating novice shelter volunteers, we are very committed to our policies and our way of working, which we truly believe is the best way to approach the epidemic of unwanted animals. It took a lot of experience, a lot of education and information, and a lot of time, care and effort to come to the cerebral place where we are now. We will not be turning back.