The tricky euthanasia question.
Bringing up euthanasia, and the question of kill shelters vs. no-kill shelters, is a surefire way to stoke controversy among animal lovers. It’s no wonder we get so worked up – euthanasia is as upsetting as it is complicated. In fact, this article was originally meant to be just a short section of our post about shelters. I quickly figured out that the topic merits its own article
Why does euthanasia happen?
Sometimes, animals are euthanized – killed in a controlled environment with the goal of causing no pain – because they’re simply too sick to live much longer. Many beloved pets reach the end of their lives and families agree to take them to the vet to be euthanized out of the hope to end the animals’ suffering.
But more animals are euthanized even though they’re healthy and adoptable simply because shelters can’t find them a home and don’t have the resources to care for them. Each year, about 860,000 cats are euthanized in shelters, according to statistics from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The policy of euthanizing animals is understandably controversial. One thing that’s important to remember is that animal welfare workers don’t want to euthanize. Shelters euthanize healthy animals because they don’t have the space, money, or manpower to care for the huge amount of homeless or surrendered animals that come through the door. Even no-kill shelters turn animals away rather than euthanizing, which means that those animals they don’t take in may well end up in a shelter that does euthanize.
How does euthanasia happen?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends euthanasia of shelter animals like cats and dogs by injection, but some shelters still use gas chambers. This is hotly debated in the shelter and veterinary community. Animal welfare workers in favor of gas chambers argue that overtaxed and overcrowded shelters may be better off using gas chambers because they don’t have staff who are trained to administer injections without causing pain. 7 states (AL, DE, GA, LA, PA, VA, and WV prohibit the use of gas chambers in shelters.
To learn more about euthanasia laws in your area, you can check out this chart from the AVMA. https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/StateAndLocal/Documents/Euthanasia_Laws.pdf
How can everyday cat-lovers take action to minimize euthanasia?
Regardless of your stance on euthanasia, we can all agree that in an ideal world, it would never have to happen. Especially not to healthy cats just because there’s no family for them and no room in the local shelter.
So, if we can all agree on the goal to minimize the number of cats who are euthanized, then we can all agree on a different question: How can we as cat lovers take action to minimize euthanasia?
- Spay and neuter your cats, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
- Support organizations like the ASPCA that run programs like the low-cost mobile spay and neuter clinic where I took Jade, or spay/neuter and release programs which offset the stray population without
- Volunteer at or donate to your local shelter so they have the resources to provide top-notch care to more animals.
- Foster a cat for the ASPCA [https://www.aspca.org/take-action/volunteer/fostering-aspca] or your local shelter. This frees up space for shelters to take in more animals without euthanizing.
It’s heartbreaking for us cat lovers to imagine our furry friends’ lives cut tragically short just because they can’t find a home. But, if we all do our part, we can make a huge difference.
Hannah and Jade