Lately I've been seeing a number of distinct and similarly-worded objections to the No-Kill movement appearing with predictable regularity on public discussions. This is the first in a series of posts examining these messages for their underlying meanings.
Remember the old joke, "Why did you rob a bank?"
The answer is, "Because that's where the money is."
So the next time you see someone post on Facebook or a website about how the No-Kill movement should be targeting sources of shelter animals rather than shelters where the animals are killed, tell them this:
We pressure shelters to reform because that's where pets are being killed.
There is nothing wrong with developing a comprehensive analysis of how pets end up in shelters in the first place, nor a plan to reduce that intake. Indeed, without doing those two things, you create more work for your shelters and rescue groups and more stress and anxiety for the pets you want to help. That's why affordable and accessible spay/neuter, TNR for community cats, pet retention, and return-to-owner programs are all part of the No-Kill Equation.
But to draw a line in the sand and say that until all those efforts outside the shelter have been fully implemented and the entire community has been re-educated to treat their pets exactly how we'd like them to be treated, we're not going to reform our shelters and animal control agencies, is one of the most bizarre and unworkable forms of denial imaginable.
Animals are being killed by shelters, so that's where we must focus our most intense efforts. Those other efforts are important in the long run, but they will not save the lives of pets in shelters right this minute.
It's also a false choice. Can you find a single shelter in the country that does a great job of adoption, return-to-owner, and pet retention that doesn't also do a great job with intake-reduction programs? I can't.
That's because what we're really advocating for here is not to "trash shelters," as I hear all the time from kill-shelter apologists, but for good sheltering practices. All of them, from intake reduction to adoption to pet retention and more.
While some of the messages being wielded against the No-Kill movement are pretty convoluted, this one is both basic and well-worn. It's simply being re-framed a little to be, "Why are you blaming shelters when they're not causing the problem?" instead of some of its previous iterations about the irresponsible public.
Why did they re-frame? A few reasons. One, we've done a really good job pointing out that most members of the public are responsible.
Two, while blaming the irresponsible public plays well with shelter apologists and those who run bad shelters, it doesn't play well with the public itself. This is about public messaging, not insider enabling.
Three, they're feeling attacked and are getting defensive; in fact, I'd go so far as to say they're getting whiny. (By the way, that means we're winning.)
So the next time someone asks, "Why are you blaming the shelters?" tell them, "Because that's who's killing the animals."