The Myth I Hate The Most

What’s the shelter myth I hate the most?

That’s an easy one. “No one wants to kill.”

It’s so easy for people who are not deeply and personally involved with rescue to believe this. You want to believe that people who get involved in shelters are there for the right reason. You want to believe that they have good hearts. You want to believe that no one wants to kill.

And you’re wrong. Shelters kill because it’s the solution they’ve embraced. They kill because it’s become easy for them. They kill because they are so accustomed to the deaths that they have caused that – well, what’s one more? And sometimes, worst of all, they kill because they want to. Because it gives them power, control, authority. It keeps the rescue groups in line who are banging on their doors, desperate to save animals – you see what happens when you don’t toe the line?

This is a story about a shelter that wants to kill. And they’re not alone. They’re not even unusual.

I was proud to take part in Pets Alive’s most recent mass rescue, the Itty Bitty Kitty rescue. Over the course of two weeks, Pets Alive took in 108 cats (plus 4 dogs!), mostly kittens and nursing mothers from New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC) at the height of kitten season. I transported them all in my car – on one trip I took 44 cats and 2 dogs in a Honda CR-V. The cats and kittens were distributed between Pets Alive’s two New York locations and met with an outpouring of support and help from staff, volunteers, and fosters who stepped up to save some of the youngest bottle babies.

Many of the cats had issues we’ve come to expect when pulling from NYCACC, most of which relate to poor medical care and misdiagnosis – the sort of thing that has unfortunately become routine in their facilities which lack trained and caring personnel and suffer from a chronic shortage of qualified medical staff. But on the final transport, there were two very special – and unusual – cases.

This is Tiger as she broke out of her box during transport. A fun and feisty young cat of about one year old, she was the only one in all of the transports to chew through her box and poke her head out to take a look at the world.

Tiger came in to NYCACC pregnant on 5/22 – she was noted to be pregnant upon intake and the owners who surrendered her gave the reason as “cost”. Perhaps they didn’t think a cat so young could get pregnant and they couldn’t afford the litter, perhaps they thought they were doing the right thing by turning her in.

When Pets Alive was contacted about taking Tiger, her pregnancy was disclosed and Pets Alive said they would take her pregnant and give her a safe place to have her babies and stay with them until they were old enough to be adopted. They were very clear that she was to be released to them in her pregnant state.

Once Pets Alive had made the decision to pull her, NYCACC did a spay/abort on her and killed her litter.

Kerry, the Executive Director of Pets Alive, wrote a great blog about this, and I agree with her – and I think most No Kill people do. I really can’t support spaying a cat who is visibly pregnant, but that goes double when there is a No Kill rescue ready and waiting to take her and her kittens and provide a lifesaving alternative. There’s just no sense in that. If you don’t want to kill, you don’t kill.

When they decided to kill her litter they evidently faced a problem. Eternally short staffed, they apparently lacked the available staff to terminate Tiger’s kittens. Fortunately, they had assistance: they turned her over to the ASPCA’s mobile spay neuter unit in their parking lot who killed Tiger’s kittens for them. They were nice enough to not even charge for the service, the deaths paid for with donor money. NYCACC was so determined to kill that when they lacked the available resources to do so they reached out to an outside group to help them get the job done in the face of an easy alternative: all they had to do for the kittens to live was to box her up and put her in my car when I pulled into their parking lot. Tiger came in on the 22nd, had her spay/abort on the 23rd, and was picked up on the 24th.


This is how determined they are to kill. Most people who support No Kill would be shocked to know how common support for spay/abort is in some organizations like the ASPCA and other national orgs who claim to stand on the side of life. Among the old guard it’s not even an issue: they believe that even though they (mostly, sometimes) stand on the side of life for animals who are already here, it’s justified to kill animals even if they would be viable if born that day due to “pet overpopulation”. What claptrap. Puppies and kittens are by far the easiest animals to adopt out and command the highest adoption fees in most places. In most cases it’s simply an excuse to not have to do the work – puppies and kittens are quite labor intensive – justified by a lie.

Kerry makes reference to the second case in her blog, to the three kittens that Pets Alive had spoken for but were euthanized by NYCACC instead. We now know what happened to them. They came in with a litter of five and a mother cat, but the mother developed mastitis – an inflammation/infection in the breast tissue. She could not nurse her kittens. We don’t know why three were slated for euthanasia – perhaps two made it out somehow, or perhaps the infection left two available nipples for nursing. What we do know is that three of her kittens who were only a few days old were killed for convenience, the euth code being “no mother” (“no mother” by the way, is considered an untreatable illness there – NYCACC claims to have zero healthy deaths). This isn’t a particularly difficult problem to solve, especially during kitten season. You have lots of nursing mothers in house and many will accept and raise a kitten from another litter. You have bottle feeding. You can turn the kittens over to a bottle baby foster program. Or you could reach out to Pets Alive, the rescue that already had a rescue hold placed on these kittens and was coming to get them, and you could explain that you were in a bind and didn’t know what to do and Pets Alive would have transported them out immediately and had them in foster care being bottle-fed that very day.

But all of these options would require a commitment to saving lives, and that’s hard. It’s work. It’s stuff to do. And an easy solution was already there.

These three kittens were killed instead, even though they had a place to go. They were killed by NYCACC because it was the easiest option for them. They were killed because they wanted to.

There is a bill being voted on this Thursday, May 31 in the New York State Assembly called CAARA. Among many other improvements in shelter conditions it would make it illegal to kill animals without giving them every possible opportunity for life, guaranteeing the access of qualified rescues to shelter animals in danger. Please help us pass it and end conduct like this in New York State forever.

This entry was posted in ASPCA, Cats, New York City, NYCACC, Pets Alive, Shelter Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.
  • meredith

    Thank you, Pets Alive for rescuing these animals and for your advocating for the animals. Both elements are important. Most rescue groups keep quiet in fear of being blacklisted. Who will ever expose this rotten system?

  • larry g

    Shame on you NYACC!!!. , You earned it, now wear it on you forever.

  • Alana

    Thank you for your continued work to expose the corruption and lies of the AC&C. The group I work with was blacklisted several years ago for arguing with the incompetent shelter staff during a pull over lack of medical records for a group of kittens who were all sick with bad eye infections but had no records of being seen by the vet. They are vindictive incompetent fools who revel in the power they hold over the rescue community especially during kitten season.

  • Just when you brace yourself against tearing up because if you started crying for every heart wrenching story you couldn’t stem the tears for the millions needlessly and cruelly slaughtered by our “shelters” and you would fill an ocean, and it would detract from stoically continuing to bitterly fight for No Kill,;you empathize with each tiny life stolen and cry anyway. We cry because we love animals and actually care about their lives. That is the difference. We couldn’t imagine taking a life in face of an alternative. Those that don’t well up with emotion, those that rationalize this monstrous behavior and worse are physically doing the killing and working in the kill shelters, despite their protests and hogwash, DON’T LOVE ANIMALS. (They don’t even like them ) It could not be more clear. ( We are no longer fooled by the greek chorus showcasing the rare incident of individual pet abuse to detract from the mass murders and abuse by the millions occurring in our nations clearing houses for pets aka the misnomer “shelters”.) The message from every kill shelter to all pets is “pets we just aren’t that into you”. Every citizen can and should demand shelter reform and No Kill solutions – they work! Thank you John for your elucidation as always.

  • mikken

    I think some of them enjoy the power…where else in their lives do they get to make life and death decisions? And I think some of them enjoy the drama – rescue groups working hard to pull animals, to get information, to give information and now these people who have no other power in their lives get to stir the pot as much as they want.

    For these, the welfare of individual animals never enters into their minds, never is a factor in their behavior.

    Then we have the others. The true believers. The ones who embrace killing as some kind of “answer”. It’s an answer to overpopulation, abuse, neglect, and any other imagined future of an animal. It is a final solution that will make that animal “safe” and also save the world from pet overpopulation at the same time. Ingrid Newkirk is a true believer in the extreme, but there are others working the shelter systems all over the country. That euthanasia tech who has told himself that “it’s better this way” so often that he believes it. That tech who has so burnt out on the human race that she sees every potential adopter as a potential abuser or miller. These were people who started working in a shelter because they cared about animals and they became killers of animals. The failed shelter system failed them, too. It destroyed a piece of their soul and made them into a form of monster. They became people who gladly kill the animals that they cared about.

    Something of these people is lost and I do not know if it can ever be regained. But I do know that the system that creates them needs to change.

    • jbsibley

      Indeed, those people are the scariest. They’ve lost a piece of their humanity.

  • Cherie Huntington

    I find that it’s pretty common practice that shelters like this think they know better than rescue groups; kind of a “PETA mentality”: We’re smarter and more rational about this stuff than you pitiful, sentimental guys. And they will still blame all their killing on the public and its failure to spay/neuter etc. An animal control officer actually told me one time, “I believe I’m sending the animals to a better place.” A better place? DEAD is a better place than a HOME? I agree with Nathan Winograd: Killing is killing.

  • Karen F

    The New York Times today (Wed. 5/30) gave front-page placement to Bloomberg’s forthcoming measure to ban large-sized sugary drinks. The ban will be approved by the health commissioner, who oversees NYACC. So I had to comment about the unfeeling attitude of Bloomberg, Quinn, and the health department regarding the shelters . . . my point, obviously, being that Bloomberg and his health-department shill clearly care more about controlling city residents’ access to sugar than they do about saving the lives of shelter animals.

    Non-subscribers can read 10 NYT stories per month free, and if you want to comment, it’s free to register even if you don’t subscribe, so just about any of us can access the story and comment on it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/nyregion/bloomberg-plans-a-ban-on-large-sugared-drinks.html?_r=1&hp

  • Cheryl S.

    I read stories like this and thank God for the REAL rescuers. Six months ago, a very pregnant female pit bull entered the animal shelter in Arlington, TX. The plan was to abort the puppies the next day, then euthanize the mama dog. God stepped in and the puppies were born before shelter personnel arrived the morning of December 12th. Then a a couple of angels from Cherry Heart Rescue drove from Wichita Falls to take the mama and her pups off the shelter’s hands. Now, six months later, I look down at my perfect, beautiful, smart little Jersey lying at my feet, and wonder what I would do without her. It does not matter that I have three other dogs that I love dearly. Jersey is special. You see, she was born on my birthday, and God knew I would need her. I lost my beloved Jasper in February and my heart was broken, but God knew there was a special little girl just waiting for me. Like I said, REAL RESCUES don’t kill and they don’t just “happen.” It takes everyone doing their part, even if it’s only in donating money or adopting. If you are not doing “something” then you are not a part of the solution, but a part of the problem. Thank you rescuers for my three adopted 4-legged kids.

  • Karen D. Mitchell

    John, have any of your blog posts focused on the spaying of pregnant feral cats and aborting their unborn kittens? What is your stand on that debate? Thanks very much!

    • John Sibley

      I haven’t blogged that specifically, no. I’m against killing in all forms. I have an easier time with it earlier in the pregnancy but I still think that it should be avoided.

  • db

    Since today is the 1st, I’m wondering how the vote went yesterday.
    Obviously, with a rescue waiting, the decision to kill these cats and kittens was purely spiteful – in my opinion, a huge fawk you from ACC. I think mikken said it best – they have lost a piece of their soul.
    RIP all of the victims of “shelters” everywhere – you deserved so much better than you got.

    HOW DO WE STOP THE KILLING?????

  • Matthew DeLuca

    Because of the pet murderers in the ASPCA, the CAARA Bill, which would have SAVED PETS, was NOT passed, because the ASPCA have political connections who killed the Bill, and tens of thousands of pets will be murdered because of it.

    As to the question of “How do we stop the killing?”

    Here is the answer:

    http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/guides/

  • zyx

    Thank you very much for affirming my decision not to give money to the ASPCA.

    As an aside, I had mastitis when I was nursing my children. So glad the NYC ACC wasn’t around to advise me.