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18 December 2010


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ah semantics.. what a world.. kill is the proper word.. put to sleep is a term used for children when they lose their pet.. and then later they find out about death..a softer approach that a family might use.. not a "shelter" .they should know better...however murder is a totally improper term to use.. murder is the willful killing of a human being by another. If killing healthy animals at a shelter were really murder most every shelter worker would be on trial for their lives and that is not what we want.. is it? so to recap:

Put to sleep.. no only for children if you choose

Put down.. not really

Euthanize.. NO NO NO.. no merciful about that..

so the only word to use is kill honest and truthful.. no beating anyone up.. no blaming anyone .. shelters or public.. when we say Stop the Killing that is what we mean.. we don't say stop the putting to sleep.. or stop the euthanasia..


Well said.

Doris Lucchesi

Thank you. I have long been bothered by the use of the word euthanasia to describe the killing of shelter animals but I could never really articulate why. It is exactly as you describe. The last great gift of love and compassion...I have been there often and it is never easy but it is always loving and compassionate and filled with grief and pain. Thank you for articulating what I knew was true in my heart.


All I can say is amen to that.

Liz Elias

I could not agree with you more! This is perpetuating a sick lie.

Everyone is so caught up in euphemisms for every unpleasant topic. It disgusts me, and in the case of so-called "shelters" killing healthy animals, it enrages and saddens me.

As a society, we must move past this! I placed my generic link to my various articles on many topics in the header, but the specific article that includes my opinion of this is here:

Thank you for your post. The more of us who speak up, the sooner we can end this travesty.

Tina Clark

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Christie for writing about this. I have tried so hard to get people to stop using that word in that way. I have blogged about it, and even sent out a plea to my rescue network, most of whom use the word when talking about killing animals in pounds. Or even worse, they shorten it to "euth" as in "he will be euth" or PTS. I am roundly ignored. It makes me crazy.

susie sansbury

Thats my wish too, Christie. When the H$U$ and PETA and the ASPCA do their thing raiding puppy mills and whatever else they do where there's a LOT of excess pets left over...or when animal shelters think they have to put down animals..THIS is NOT EUTHANASIA. IT'S OUTRIGHT KILLING! There is no other word for's killing. And I feel that if people would start telling it like it really is, maybe people would think twice about dumping their pet off at a shelter. Especially if they saw a sign in the building saying "We KILL dogs on Fridays" or "We kill cats on Saturdays." Because thats what it is. Barbaric KILLING.

Christie Keith

Laura wrote:

"Especially since most of these “shelters” use gas chambers or heartstick to commit the blatant murder of these animals. "

This isn't true. "Most" shelters do not use gas chambers or heartstick. If you have evidence to the contrary, post it.


Yes! I hate hearing that word used when the proper word is killing. To say that the homeless animals are given an easy death when they're dragged terrified and fighting to it -- and it is often to a gas chamber or a heart stick - is asinine!

Christie Keith

Susie, I really can't agree with you that we should use the term "killing" to beat the public over the head. But you gave me an idea for another post, so for that I thank you.


What about the instance of treatable animals for whom the money to cover treatment is simply not there?

I'm not talking about using weasel words to claim animals are "not healthy" because they've got sniffles or fleas but, for example, an owned dog with a shattered leg whose pain must be relieved either by effective treatment or by ending his life.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's not acceptable to focus only on ending killing of unwanted pets and ignore the unknown number who die because their owners can't or won't afford the cost of veterinary treatment.

Christie Keith

Rosemary asks:

"What about the instance of treatable animals for whom the money to cover treatment is simply not there?

"I’m not talking about using weasel words to claim animals are “not healthy” because they’ve got sniffles or fleas but, for example, an owned dog with a shattered leg whose pain must be relieved either by effective treatment or by ending his life."

"Treatable" is an inherently gray-area word, because even with unlimited financial resources, sometimes a medical mistake is made, the correct treatment or diagnosis is unclear, a good veterinarian doesn't join the case until too late, or other things happen that result in a treatable condition being fatal.

And most of the time, financial constraints do take heroic measures off the table, like transplants. And sometimes, even relatively modest veterinary expenses are unaffordable.

I have nothing but compassion for the loving pet owner who has to make the choice to end a pet's suffering because they lack the resources to relieve it any other way. That is heartbreaking.

Then you write:

"I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s not acceptable to focus only on ending killing of unwanted pets and ignore the unknown number who die because their owners can’t or won’t afford the cost of veterinary treatment."

While to an extent the same situation holds for animal control agencies and private shelters as with individual owners, there is a big difference: they are institutions, and we as taxpayers, citizens and donors need to demand that they not institutionalize a failed paradigm.

For example, many of the "untreatable" pets that are killed entered the shelter as treatable animals. There are lots of things shelters can do to keep them that way, and often, these things cost no more than their failed measures do. The difference is willingness and awareness.

If an individual animal enters a shelter and, as happens to any living creature, becomes untreatably or unexpectedly ill with a painful condition such as cancer, that is expensive to treat, then -- again, just as with an owned pet -- sometimes euthanasia is the best decision.

But there's nothing "unexpected" about upper respiratory infections or parvo or ringworm or the thousand other common illnesses and conditions that pets are killed for every day. Yeah, one puppy might be so sick with parvo that he can't be saved -- that can happen to any owned puppy, too. But to wholesale kill all exposed puppies and dogs as your instititutional response to parvo? That's killing, not euthanasia.


Christie - Strong, to the point, and yet touching and beautifully written -- well done!

I've been using the word "killed" for a while, and believe that telling the truth will help force the needed reforms.

Bonnie in WI

I have to say that many shelters I post for are staffed by caring people. They keep animals for as long as they can and "killing" them causes grief to staff...and then while they are depressed about it, people call and vent at them for being killers. I hear this from rescues who pull dogs and cats from these shelters.

I post for shelters where staff has adopted as many animals as their houses can hold and then get their friends and relatives to take more. They "euthanize" only when they cannot fit one more dog or cat in.

Many of them are in poor rural less educated areas of the country where people do not spay and neuter and let their dogs and cats run free. The counties are mostly poor and cannot build larger shelters or hire more staff. Some county commissioners will only pay for the cheapest methods of killing which is often a gas chamber and an antiquated one at that.

We should not assume all shelters are bad - this is a problem with many sides - word needs to get out to the communities REPEATEDLY.

MaryBeth Cipriano

Thank you so much for addressing this. I just posted a status on my FB page last week giving the definition of euthanasia and how that they're doing doesn't fit that definition. It's good to realize that I'm not imagining things and people do see it the way I do.

Rob McMillin

I believe Heather has suggested "euphemized", a locution I wholeheartedly approve of. Unfortunately that is a real word in actual use.


In addition to calling it what it is, killing, every shelter should be required to post a copy of "open Letter from a shelter manager" listed here:


George, I think you have rather missed the point--which is in part that shelters are blaming the Bad Public for their own failure, and patting themselves on the back for doing what's wrong.

Wendy Williams-Case

VERY well said. Euthanasia and Shelter are SO abused. Unless the shelter is like Best Friends in Kanab, UT. Or the many others that love and look after their charges till their last breath. I SO respect them. To so call EUTHANASIA in a facility (high kill facilities are what hey ARE!) Is despicably named. The article choked me up, I have been in that situation, I know what euthanasia is. Wonderful article, well said. God Bless you my friend.

Laura Lodygowski

Also the euphemism PTS (put to sleep) needs to stop being used also. Especially since most of these "shelters" use gas chambers or heartstick to commit the blatant murder of these animals. This article is extremely well written and on the mark, kudos to you. I know if offends some to use kill and murder in these situations but it is time to be honest about what's being done

Wendy Williams-Case

Carmen Conklin, I LOVED your comment, I couldn't think of the word 'sanctuary' when I wrote my comment above. Bless you for taking your wonderful med tech out of the appalling situation before brainwashing occurred. KILLING FACILITIES should do EXACTLY what Susie Sansbury suggested.... Post their KILLING DAYS right on the entry doors and at the front counter!

Alexandra fiona dixon

Thank you for writing this. I have been seemingly on a one-person crusade among my animal rescue friends on Facebook to stamp out the use of the word euthanasia when referring to the killing of homeless unwanted pets in this country. Words have power - power to outrage, or conversely, power to dull the effect of an idea. What goes on in shelters is killing, plain and simple. And soemtimes it is also murder.

Carmen Conklin

I am the director of a sanctuary for special needs animals and we work with many humane societies, giving a 'chance at a lifetime' for animals deemed 'adoption challenged' at their facilities. We offer a cage free homey and cozy environment for nearly 400 cats that would not have been alive if a refuge had not been found. They are the lucky ones. My med tech worked at a 'kill' (high) facility as their certified "euthanasia" technician. No euthanasia there. Just kill, kill, kill. I wholeheartedly agree. My med tech is so grateful to work for us as we only 'euthanize' when the animal is suffering at an end of life issue such as cancer, etc. Humane euthanization here. And the word KILL should always be used when so many kittens and puppies are simply killed because of 'habit' in shelters that should take up the 'no kill nation' philosphy and learn how to become NO KILL facilities.

Nancy Freedman-Smith

word *reaches for tissues*


Exactly! By definition... the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme Medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful, disease or condition.

Homelessness is NOT incurable!

Judy Singer

Why don't just say what it really is....murder!


I volunteer at the spca in lakeland fl and it breaks my heart when a perfectly healthy dog or cat is"murdered"

Marianne Lappas

I always say killed and the Shelter Director in Babylon always gets upset. It is what it is animals are not going to sleep if they were we could wake them up. What idiots. They are killing they don't like to hear it too bad then try to make your shelter a no kill it can be done but you have to work at it.


I'm the furthest (farthest?) thing from a wordsmith - the most developed part of my vocabulary is of the four letter variety. But I use:


As in throw away; discard. Or better yet, as defined in Webster's: systematic destruction, esp. of garbage.


You're right. They should call it what it is: murder


"Pets arent being killed because of the pet overpopulation myth. Pets are being killed for one reason and one reason only: Because 'shelters' kill them."

Nathan Winograd, No Kill Expert

Mary Eisenhart

Thank you.


Thank you, Christie, and thank you Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino (and others) for the no-kill movement, which is growing into a no-kill tsunami. Yay!

One thing I wish is that shelter workers at kill shelters would stop patting themselves on the back and saying "WE are the ones who have the courage to do what YOU or the public don't want to do." I'm not saying "OMG YOU KILLER!" especially to the staff workers who don't have much say in things, but please stop with the self-righteous "SOMEONE's gotta do the dirty work." If shelters were run correctly, no-one would.

Susan Fox

I think "kill" and "killing" pretty much covers it.

Karen V. Stefanini

I haven't read all the prior comments and wonder whether anyone suggested the word execute as being appropriate for the slaughter routinely performed in so-called shelters. They are death camps and disgusting.

David S. Greene

Mister Pedantic Language Person here....execution isn't a good term for the killing of shelter animals. Execution implies a judicial sentence as punishment for a crime. Someone has to have said in essence, "you did this wrong, therefore by the power vested in me by (insert municipality here), I order that you be executed."

That's not close to the situation wrongly called euthanasia.


I really, really HOPE that all of you who have commented on this wonderful article are somehow involved in the no-kill movement. Here in San Francisco our group/movement is I urge you all to check out our website, watch our video, sign up for our email list, come to our meetings and help in any way you can to get San Francisco to become a no-kill city. Thank you!

Susan Fox

Make that "about" the No Kill movement.

Susan Fox

Are you kidding? Probably over half the regular commenters here, including me, are or have been involved in rescue and shelter volunteering. There are lots of reasons why "pets wind up in pounds", many of them legitimate.

From the 30 seconds of the video that I could stand to watch, it looks like you think that terrible, stupid owners are to blame.

I think that maybe you are not only new to this blog, but might want to educate yourself out the No Kill movement.

Bonnie in WI

I think some people here should volunteer at their local shelters or a rescue before making any more comments -

Rescue have a lot of contacts with pounds and can tell you about the good and the bad ones. Some who comment here seem to have the same attitude about shelters, i.e. they are all bad, that I did before I got involved in rescue.

They should ask themselves or shelter staff "why do pets wind up in pounds?".


No offense Susan, but sometimes terrible, stupid owners are to blame. Having volunteered at one of the "good" shelters for the past 8 years I know some of the stupid reasons people give up their pets - got too big (Really? You didn't know a Great Dane was a big dog?), new baby, too active (Yeah. Labs are "active" dogs), sheds too much (Gee. Did you research your dog?), etc.

Our shelter never "killed" a dog because of space issues. We had one of the highest adoption rates in our state. But, when a dog was sick and dying and an owner dropped them off because they couldn't stand to "euthanize" the pet themselves, our shelter workers did "euthanize" them.

I am a big supporter of no-kill shelters and rescues - without them more animals would be dying every day, but let's not kid ourselves, using the term "kill" won't stop some people from dropping their pets off at a "kill" shelter. However, if it does start to change the mindset of most people than I am for using the word "kill". Euthanize is what I prefer to use when describing what Christie did above.

Bonnie in WI

I think people should put their money where their mouths are and do something - how about starting a local fund raiser or voting in higher taxes to:

1) building bigger shelters and hire more staff.

2) start a fund to help people pay for spaying and neutering, routine vet care, and maybe even to build fences on their property to keep pets in.

3)have mandatory pet ownership/guardianship classes

I wonder how many people have been in areas of this country, especially in the rural south, where one sees loose dogs, even packs of them, running loose or dead on the highway. In some shelters, nine-tenths of the dogs were picked up running loose and their owners are not known. Sometimes they get in around 20 dogs a day.

Animal lovers in those areas have an uphill battle working relentlessly to get the dogs out to rescues.

Even in those areas, most shelters only kill a dog when they cannot physically cram one more stray dog in.

I do not work for a shelter but voluntarily spend hours online every day alerting rescues to dogs in kill shelters - that is something that most people can do. Just go to and pick your shelters. Pick one with a high kill rate - like Miami-Dade or Los Angeles or rural shelters in Georgia or Texas or Louisiana. There are many Yahoo rescue lists where those dogs or kitties can be posted.

Some times a rescue will alert you and thank you for telling them about a dog. And then, you often find yourself contributing money to the rescues which are mostly break-even labors of love.

There are rescues listed on petfinder also and one can Google them too. Once you start, you in turn will get up to 200 emails a day asking you to pass along (cross-post) notices of pets needing rescue from the shelter before anymore come in.

I think people should volunteer at their local shelter to get an idea of what is or can be done and go from there - don't just complain if you haven't been there.

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