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“The Stark Reality of Animal Euthanasia”

I was thrilled to see "X-ed Out: The Stark Reality of Animal Euthanasia," by Janis Fontaine in yesterday’s Palm Beach Post, which explains why and how of the 2,438 animals taken in in August by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, 954 cats and 380 dogs were euthanized (and the numbers are similar all year). Though 25 dogs and 35 cats arrive at Animal Control each day, there is a "daily surplus" of 16 dogs and 28 cats, who either aren’t reunited with their "owners," are ill, are aggressive, or there isn’t space for them, so they are killed. Sixteen dogs and 28 cats. Each day. (And 50% of the dogs at the local Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, which is also a kill shelter, are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, most of whom are also killed.)

What is most effective, for me, other than the numbers, are the photos. Fontaine takes the reader through each step in the euthanasia process, from the decision to kill the animal until inmates from the Palm Beach County Stockade cremate her (and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have inmates do that. Might that desensitize them? Might they already be in a delicate state of mind that could be negatively affected by burning animal carcasses all day?) Fontaine has pictures from various points in the process. And there is also a slideshow of "sheltered living" that I challenge you to complete without crying.

Finally, in the paper version of the story, there is a large, bold quote from an Animal Control employee: "People think we’re killers. (Euthanasia) is a necessary component, but the problem was created by people." Of course, the second half of that is true. The other quote, from the Director of Animal Care and Control, Dianne Suave, is: "I’m an absolute proponent of stopping breeding of animals, or at least issuing a moratorium on breeding until the situation is under control." Though that is impressive, I don’t think it can work unless there is also some kind of TNR program for feral animals as well as spaying and neutering for pets (Suave, of course, supports the latter).

TNR wasn’t mentioned at all in the article, and I wonder why. Any ideas? I want to write a letter, but I’d like to have a better idea about why anyone wouldn’t be interested in TNR.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ellie #

    Mary, Alley Cat Allies is probably the best source of information about TNR, including why it's opposed. Bird lovers often object to TNR because they claim cats will cause bird species to become extinct, but ACA responds to that and other objections.

    On the link you posted, the shelter worker who describes euthanasia as a good death is conveniently light on the facts. Because I've felt horribly about shelter killing, I've done a lot of reading on the subject. Euthanasia does mean "good death", but in ancient Greece (to which the worker refered) it did not mean killing at all.

    In the 16th century, Francis Bacon pulled "euthanasia" from antiquity on behalf of relieving pain in dying patients, which many doctors neglected. Again it was not about killing.

    Eventually, with the development of new medications, there was interest in the right to die, but that quickly morphed into the obligation to die for those "unfit" to live. "Euthanasia" was coopted from a benign beginning to apply to both. It was now regarded by many as a medical treatment for those who wanted help dying, as well as those who burdened society.

    As we know, Nazi Germany systematically killed millions of persons. Several historians note that calling labeling this murder as the T4 Euthanasia Program is what prompted German medical professsionals to cooperate– another example of how labels are important.

    After WWII, ethicists debated the meaning of euthanasia, but the dictionary defines it succintly, as "killing hopelessly sick or injured individuals, such as domestic animals".

    Now look at shelter killing– dogs and cats deemed "unfit" for adoption supposedly get "euthanized", but 99% have treatable conditions, and that includes behavior problems. Overcrowding is no excuse.

    People want to work as nice, sanitary euthanasia technicians. How many people would do it if they were known for what they are, kill technicians? These technicians enable the killing system, as do HSUS, the ASPCA, etc. If they stopped putting the blame on others, took responsiblity for their part in the killing, and reserved euthanasia for how it's defined, millions of homeless animals would not be killed!

    Spay/neuter is essential, but after a hundred years of blaming everything on people who breed by accident, it's time to put the blame where it begins– on selective breeders of "purebred" pets.

    October 22, 2007
  2. Thanks, Ellie.

    I have given to ACA in the past, and I do have their material. And I've received several e-mails today from people who support The Animal Spirit ( I haven't heard anything regarding any dog solutions, though, and frankly in my area I don't think I've ever seen a feral dog. We have a glut of pit bulls and of course there's the greyhound problem. It's amazing how appalled people get when you suggest breeding should be stopped. We have a lot of education before us . . .

    October 22, 2007

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