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Puppies, kittens, cats and dogs are killed daily in animal "shelters"-what you can do to stop it


What you are about to read is disturbing (but there is no graphic language or graphic images).  There are good shelters out there but it seems there are more terrible shelters.  (For ways to help prevent needless shelter killing (without having to read this article), scroll to the bottom!)

According to Cornell University the number one cause of death to our cats and dogs is shelter killing.  That's right, animal shelter workers kill more cats and dogs than any disease.  That is a sad and frustrating fact. 

(What you are about to read is a worst case scenario with some shelters being better than this but still killing too many animals for ridiculous reasons.)

Unfortunately, there are many shelters in our area (our whole country actually) who still kill for space.  They also kill shy or aggressive cats and dogs, animals with easily treatable illnesses, some black animals and animals who are relinquished by their owner.  They kill relinquished animals because some shelters do not have actual adoptions, they act as only an animal control.  These "shelters" are only there for people to find their lost animals.  If they are given up to the shelter by the owners, they aren't lost and there is no reason to keep them anymore.  So, they are killed.  Most animals have as little as 72 hours to be found.  Many shelters do not scan for a microchip and do not post pictures of animals they have found.  If not miraculously found by an owner-they are killed.

It seems that many shelters are not trying.  They do not see the animal as an individual.  They do not try to reunite pets with owners and in some instances, blame the owner for the death of the animal.

  • They kill shy or aggressive cats and dogs before they even have a chance to calm down.  These animals are away from their home, in a scary place being handled by strangers.  They have many reasons to be scared yet these shelters deem them unadoptable within minutes of arriving and they are put on the list to be killed.
  • They kill animals with easily treatable illnesses because it is cheaper to kill them than to treat them and if the treatment (even for serious wounds and broken legs) takes longer than 3 days or whatever the hold time is, it seems dumb (from their perspective) to treat them if they will be dead before the treatment is over.  So, some animals who are seriously injured are not treated (even for pain), then killed after the wait time is over.  (This happens because the mentality of the shelter staff is focusing on the death of the animal, not trying to save it.)
  • They kill black animals simply because they feel they are unadoptable because black animals are sometimes the last to be adopted, cats especially.
  • They kill relinquished animals because there is no reason to keep them until their owners can find them because the owners brought them in.  Since many animal controls don't have adoptions and exist simply to return animals to owners, the animal is killed.  Sometimes owners bring in their pets because of behavior problems that they don't want to work with.  An animal with a behavioral problem will definitely be killed because the animal is not ready for adoption and the shelter staff don't want to work with them to fix the problem.
  • They kill young puppies and kittens (those still needing to be bottle fed) because they require too much care.
  • They kill mama cats and dogs but keep the babies if they are old enough.  Mama cat is worthless to them, they just want the cute babies.  Sometimes they just kill all of them.
  • Unfortunately, there are many communities that have Breed Specific Legislation on the books.  What this means is that any dog that "looks" mean, they kill.  They kill Boxers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs and any mixes of those. 

Don't think that puppies and kittens are saved-because they aren't always saved.  Some places with no foster system in place kill the youngest animals because they need extra care such as bottle feeding.  Old animals are killed because they are deemed unadoptable.   

When they kill them, they sometimes don't use anesthesia because it is an added cost.  Some shelters use gas chambers, which I will spare you a description of-but I promise you-it's not pretty.  

There are three types of shelters, no kill, low kill, and kill.

No kill shelters have a 1%-2% kill rate and ONLY kill extremely aggressive dogs who do not respond to training, cats or dogs who have massive injuries (such as being hit by a car) where the injuries are so severe they could not survive even with treatment (such as massive head trauma), and animals who have reached the end of their illness which no longer responds to treatment.  They also partipate in Trap-Neuter-Release (they trap them, spay or neuter them, vaccinate them and release them after they have recovered) for feral cats.  They do not kill for space but they are a limited admission shelter.  Some people call these types of shelters warehouses because cats are in cages.  All shelters vary in quality, yes, sometimes cats are in cages all the time, some shelters have a rotation where cats get out for awhile then they go back in and another cat gets out.  If someone said to you, okay, for some reason you are not wanted at your home anymore.  I can kill you right now or you can spend 6 months in "jail", I will feed you, give you a blanket and things to do and then you will be released and can go on with your life-which would you choose?  I am partial to no kill shelters because I volunteer at one-and I agree with the no kill philosophy of saving every treatable animal and giving them a chance to be adopted.  Yes, I am comparing no kill shelters to jail.  Just like actual jails, some shelters are better than others.  Personally, I would rather be given a chance at life no matter how long I had to wait for a new home.  Some people say that it's better to kill a cat or dog rather than let them wait for their forever family-I say every living being wants to live even if life is rough for awhile.

Low kill shelters have around a 50% kill rate where they kill aggressive dogs and feral cats right away.  They also kill young kittens and puppies who require bottle feeding.  They do have adoptions so some animals get out alive but they do kill for space.  

Kill shelters have a kill rate of between 75%-100%.  They kill aggressive dogs and feral cats right away.  They also kill young kittens and puppies who require bottle feeding.  They kill after the hold time is up (in place so owners can find their animal) because they do not do adoptions. 

Some examples of needless shelter killing:

FL Shelter receives visit from TV news crew, kills puppy while they are there. (If the shelter cared about this puppy, they could have put a little bandana on this puppy and had the news crew film him playing, cuddling, whatever and that puppy would have been adopted that day!  But the shelter director, probably being passive aggressive and very entrenched in the archaic belief that the public is responsible for that puppy's death, decided to kill him.)

FL shelter kills "lost" dog even though owner called to claim him, shelter blames owner for dog's death

Shelter accused of killing animals people want to adopt

Animal control officer steals puppy from backyard and kills him

Dallas animal shelter lets cat die in the wall of the shelter

How to help prevent needless shelter killing:

  • Donate-money and supplies (cat litter, food, blankets, toys, newspaper, paper towels, leashes, etc)
  • Donate your time!  Spend just one hour a week to walk a few dogs.  How does this help?  A less stressed dog is more adoptable.  Can you train dogs? Work with one that has a need.  Bring your children to come in a play with cats and kittens. Again, less stressed cats get adopted.
  • Foster an animal-have an extra room in your house? Foster a litter of kittens who would have been killed if they couldn't go to your foster home.  Foster an animal while they are healing from an injury or illness who would have been killed instead of treated. ***If there are foster homes, a shelter can save more animals!!***
  • Offer to help with adoptions-the more people who can work at adoptions, the more animals can get adopted!
  • Help with fundraisers- shelters need money, the more money they have, the more animals they can save.  Donate a small amount of money every month or buy an extra bag of food or litter when you buy some for your own pets and bring it by the shelter. 
  • Are you a photographer?  Offer to take pictures of adoptable animals, make flyers and post them everywhere!  Put their pictures on
  • Offer to take animals to the vet-the more help a shelter has, the more likely they are to save an animal.
  • Adopt your own animal from a shelter.  Don't go to breeders or pet stores, although the cats you see at Petsmart are from rescues.
  • Be a responsible pet parent and instead of bringing your "old" cat or dog to the shelter, let them live out their life at your own home.  Dont "exchange" an old pet for a new one. If they have behavior problems deal with them-don't bring them to a shelter.  Bringing animals with a known behavioral problem is a death sentence.
  • Take your pets with you when you move.  It's so ridiculous the amount of cats I see brought into the shelter because the owners are moving and don't want to deal with them or move to a place where pets aren't allowed.  You wouldn't dump your two year old because you are moving...why dump your pet?!  Take the extra time to find a place to live that does allow pets!

***Don't wait for someone else to do something!  If you care, do something.  There are animals out there that are waiting for you to help them.

 If you are in the Kansas City Area:

Get involved with No More Homeless Pets KC, Spay Neuter Kansas City, The Parkville Animal Shelter, Animal Haven, The Pet Connection, and HELP Humane Society.  All of these organizations are advocates of the No Kill Philosophy.  


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  • Lynne Levandowski - Wichita Biblical Perspectives 5 years ago

    This is so horrible, but what can one do. I actually adopted a beautiful long-haired domestic - black - cat a few years ago that has the most wonderful personality. There are strays all over the place here in Kansas. Two litters have just arrived but no one has the heart to kill them...fortunately. Great and informative article.

  • Kristy, KC Pet Examiner 5 years ago

    Lynne, there are *many* things one can do. Re-read the article and see if there is something on the list that you can do. Good for you for adopting a cat!

  • Lisa, Logan county,IL. 2010 5 years ago

    I am very sorry to say, I wish I would have read your article last week. We fostered 2 kittens in our home until they were 10 months old. They were healthy and happy, socialized, great with kids and other animals. They were all black , one with long fur and 1 with short fur. We decided to take them to the animal shelter to see if they would have a better chance at getting adopted. I was totally wrong. We didn't realize that our shelter is just a legal killing machine for animals. I called to check on them after 9 days and talked to the warden, she said they were gone. She told me that "she" had decided they needed to die because they were black. We are so upset, cant stop crying. I asked her why she didn't call me and I would have come and adopted them back. She said they don't do that. I wish I could undo this.I think it is so racist to kill black animals because of their color. Thats all it is , a color, not their personality.These places should be closed down!!

  • Kitten lover 4 years ago

    I just fostered two multicolored kittens.
    one boy one girl. Anyways she went on a trip and I took care of them. They lived in my barn. After a few days after she got back they died alone. Not together... apart. They died in the cold alone one on my back doors steps (mouthopen) as if screaming to let him in. The other died in the barn with her liitle blue blanket wrapped around herself curled up. There was a rain storm that night so I assume they died of hypothermia this all happened four days ago. I dont no when but some time at night. I ask is there anything I could have done? They werent even a month old! Please if someones out there please understand. They were so innocent and lonely! The quote on quote owner told me that there mother had left.
    had she really left or had I takken them away from there mother to die. I feel so horrible.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    help the animles

  • Cory 2 years ago

    This whole article is stupid. Kill shelters aren't the enemy. Its the breeders, and people who don't spay and neuder their animals. Do you even know how many animals don't have homes? It's really quite sad, but the fact is there is nothing you can do to stop it. There isn't a person for every animal without a home. I love animals to death, adopted two cats adn a dog from a no kill shelter. But seriously, its the breeders who are the bad guys, not the kill shelters. They don't want to put the animals down, trust me.

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