Editor Speaks Out: Shelter animals need homes, too

By on April 2, 2008

The street, narrow and unpaved, instills trepidation in any bypasser, especially me. Police vehicles crowd the parking lot. Barbed wire fences, barely standing, surround the run-down building. Is this a neglected jail facility? A small sign in front offers the answer: “Animal Shelter: City of New Haven.”

The shelter’s motto is a quote by Mohandas Gandhi: “You can judge the moral stature of a nation by the way it treats its animals.”

But this shelter does not have a no-kill policy. This means that it is upon the discretion of the shelter to decide if and when the animals need to be euthanized.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”

Animal-shelters that are not no-kill have different explanations for this. The vice president of the volunteer group of New Haven’s shelter says, “Municipal shelters in general are not no-kill. They have to put animals down. If we get a dog that is a fighting dog or is critically injured, they have to be put down.” But there are many shelters in the south that practice euthanasia due to overcrowding.

According to www.peta.org, every day in the United States, tens of thousands of puppies and kittens are born, and there will never be enough homes for all these animals. Shelters are stuck with the heart-wrenching job of dealing with unwanted animals.

Many people, including myself, wonder why “surplus” animals can’t simply live in shelters instead of being killed. The truth is that government-sponsored and private shelters do not have the resources to house the millions of homeless animals born in the United States each year.

So what about the shelters that stand by a no-kill policy?

The Animal Haven, right up the road in North Haven, is in fact a private no-kill shelter. This shelter is different from the City of New Haven Animal Shelter, in policy and appearance. It is located on a residential street. The driveway into the facility is long and welcoming, with open grass fields on all sides. The building, with light-blue vinyl siding, looks more like a house than a shelter.

A kennel assistant explains to me that the Animal Haven is a no-kill facility, meaning the animals can stay there as long as they need, but it also means that they have to be selective as far as what comes in. They’re not allowed to take in animals that are feral or real old. Their leukemia test must be negative.

Though they are scarce in number, there are other no-kill shelters in the state. Some include the Meriden Humane Society, Westport Humane Society, Waterford Humane Society, Berlin Animal Control, Animal Friends of Connecticut in West Hartford, Vernon Pound Volunteers, Helping Paws in Colchester, New Leash on Life in Stratford and others.

But do no-kill animal shelters offer an answer to the problem? I find comfort in knowing the animals can stay as long as they need – dogs and cats that might not be adopted at least have a home in these shelters. But the sheer fact that they can turn away animals – and often do – is disheartening. Since there are surpluses of dogs and cats in the country, the problem will be around for a while. More animal shelters would help, but perhaps for now all that can be done is to encourage adoption and animal sterilization.

The City of New Haven Animal Shelter does about 1,600 adoptions per year, resulting in an 85% adoption rate – one of the best adoption rates in the state.

The Animal Haven recently had its best year of adoptions. In 2007 they totaled more than 300 adoptions.

Aside from the approximately 1,900 adoptions, I wonder how many dogs didn’t survive at the City of New Haven shelter? And how many were turned away from Animal Haven?

All I can hope for is people to realize that the dogs and cats at animal shelters, whether they are no-kill or not, deserve a loving home just as much as the puppies and kittens in pet stores. So the next time you are about to spend hundreds of dollars on a new pet – at least consider visiting your local animal shelter. You can save an innocent animal’s life.


About Melissa Moller