I walked for the first time in to the Allegany County Animal Shelter by the end of 2010. There were about 15 dogs sitting in kennels in the first kennel room and in another room a handful of cats. The majority of the dog kennels was empty and so was the second kennel room located in the back. I already knew, before I even entered the shelter, that many animals were killed on a daily basis. However, hearing this and then actually seeing the results of the daily mass killing was a haunting experience. As I walked through the shelter I also entered a small room in the back of the shelter. The room contained nothing but a large silver metal table in the middle and a collection of ropes and muzzles. It was the kill room. A second door was leading me outside, where a large walk-in Freezer was located. I opened the door. The freezer was filled with large black garbage bags, containing the dead bodies of dogs and cats that had been surrendered to the shelter or picked up by animal control as a stray animal.
Until then, the shelter killed more than 85% of all the animals they took in. Often owner surrendered animals were directly dragged from the front lobby to the kill room, injected with sodium pentobarbital and then discarded like garbage in the walk-in freezer.
The practice of the mass killing in the Allegany County Animal Shelter was largely supported by the local animal welfare and rescue community which also was heavily involved in the Animal Shelter Control Board to oversee shelter operations. Of course, this very same people were and still are very vocal against our No Kill efforts in Allegany County. In the almost 4 years of being the only Open Admission No Kill Shelter in the State of Maryland, the Allegany County Animal Shelter saved roughly 6000 animals resulting in a constant live release rate of 94% and higher.
The Allegany County Animal Shelter is not perfect, mistakes are being made and the failure of Animal Control to respond in a timely manner was partially the reason for the death of 9 dogs. I talked about our failure on Animal Wise Radio, a nation wide broadcasted radio show and also in a open letter to the Allegany County community.
In yesterdays Animal Shelter Control Board meeting, the animal welfare voices from the past of course came forward again trying to derail our No Kill efforts and to re-establish the killing of healthy and treatable companion animals.
Killing is the ultimate form of violence. While cruelty and suffering are abhorrent, while cruelty and suffering are painful, while cruelty and suffering should be condemned and rooted out, there is nothing worse than death, because death is final. An animal subjected to pain and suffering can be rescued. An animal subjected to savage cruelty can even become a therapy dog, bringing comfort to cancer patients, as the dog fighting case against football player Michael Vick shows. There is still hope, but death is hope’s total antithesis. It is the eclipse of hope because the animals never wake up, ever. It is the worst of the worst—a fact each and every one of us would recognize if we were the ones being threatened with death.
During the meeting, even references to PETA were made. It is hard to believe that anybody wants the advice or even support from a group like PETA. PETA believes animals should be killed, even if they are not suffering. In the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 animals, including those they themselves have called “healthy,” “adoptable,” “adorable,” and “perfect” and even after promising that they would find the animals a home. They do not have adoption hours, they do not have an adoption floor, they do not market their animals, and most are killed within 24 hours. They have called for the automatic killing of all dogs who look like “pit bulls” in shelters. They have called for the round up and killing of even healthy feral cats. They have defended poorly performing and even violently abusive shelters. And they fight shelter reform legislation to mandate the common sense programs of the No Kill Equation, such as TNR and rescue rights. Whatever methods PETA uses to justify shelter killing should be approached with the understanding that PETA is motivated by a very different set of priorities than the vast majority of people, and a set of priorities that are in fact the opposite of that which is generally ascribed to them given their name and reputation. Although they try to obscure their true agenda by working to convince their supporters and animal lovers that they believe killing is a regrettable necessity, in truth, their more candid statements and most significantly, their actions, reveal that those who work at PETA believe that life is suffering, the living want to die and killing them is, as Ingrid Newkirk herself stated, a “gift.”
Is that really what the majority of people in Allegany County would like to see happen? I don’t think so. I believe in people and I believe people love animals.
The Allegany County Animal Shelter is work in progress and always will be. Improvements are being made to ensure care and safety for the animals and the public.
Nobody is satisfied with failure. I’m not.