The State of the No Kill Nation - Falling Waters, WV

I wish I could say my local humane society even wants to go no-kill let alone that it’s heading in that direction. The old guard is entrenched. But I have hope reading the stories on your website that old guards can be turned out and new ones turned on. But then I used to be part of that old guard. Although I’ve never worked for a “humane” society, I used to volunteer with a few. I even assisted once or twice with euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals. I just thought—this is the way. This is how it’s done.

At some point, I had a change of heart. I guess I needed the message to strike closer to home. I had taken into foster care five kittens who when they were old enough I returned to the shelter to be adopted. Two were adopted right away. I spent time with the remaining three. Later that day, I returned to their cage and there were only two. I didn’t remember seeing anyone adopt the third so I asked. He had sneezed. He was already dead. I took the remaining two home. I didn’t stop volunteering at the shelter at that time. I continued to volunteer as an adoption counselor for a while but the killing got to me.

I tried with other shelters to promote foster programs and to have off-site adoptions. That was hard. Directors weren’t interested. I guess they feared loss of control over what was going on. I agree. It’s tough.  They are responsible for all the animals. But they can also be responsible for vetting employees and volunteers to know that they can be trusted to do the right job for the animals. That surely would, in the long run, be better for the animals. But it takes time to screen people. It takes so little time to euthanize an animal.

I thought when I first became involved in animal rescue that euthanasia was the norm. I really didn’t think much of it quite frankly, other than it was a sad by-product of the “industry.” I wondered why people got upset. But I’ve grown up. I realize that each life is so precious, so vital to the welfare of us all that to take a healthy, vibrant life is to take away a gift. I used to blame the people who didn’t get their animals s/n’d. And I still do. But ultimately it is the decision of the various organizations that take in abandoned animals whether to kill or not.

I’ve been involved with several unsheltered rescue groups who help take the load off shelters that are willing to participate. But even that was hard at first. Shelters didn’t want to give up their animals to just anyone. We had to prove ourselves. While we were, animals were dying. Eventually, we were able to help.

Something that I truly don’t understand, though, is how people can rescue one kind of animal yet kill another. I can’t imagine saving cats and dogs from euthanasia while cows, pigs, chickens, etc., are being tortured—just so we can eat. I know we compartmentalize our actions. But that’s one big heck of a compartment for me. Sitting at adoption shows, showing homeless animals in the hopes of getting them adopted, while eating a Big Mac—wow, that’s just plain odd. I’m vegan. Have been for years. It’s the only lifestyle that makes sense to me as an animal advocate. What’s even odder is that some of the rescue people buy their animals from breeders. So here they are at an adoption show with a homeless beagle while they get their beagle through a breeder. Another compartment too large for me to comprehend.

I’ve strayed from the topic. I tend to stray a lot. Maybe I need to be rescued.

Everyone says they are speaking for the animals. That they are their voices. If they are, then how can they kill them? Do the voices say, “Destroy me? Stick me? Gas me? End my life?” Even euthanizing a dying animal takes courage. There’s never a right answer. Would the animal want to live out a natural life even though he or she is in pain? I don’t know.

The local humane society used to have a candlelight service to honor the animals who had been euthanized that year. During the service, people pulled out a paper chain, each link representing a euthanized animal. They stopped doing that. Why? Because it was too depressing. Yet, they don’t do anything to stop the killing.

They won’t hold adoption off-sites; they won’t work with foster home providers; they won’t look for other venues for creating interest in their animals. They just won’t. They don’t s/n animals before adoption, so they are sent out with s/n certificates which, of course, are not always redeemed. They say it’s money. It’s always something. Our local legislator is married to the director of the shelter so getting laws changed locally won’t happen.

I have had a chance to speak to both of these individuals for articles I was writing and was disheartened. I suppose I should try to work within the system to change it, but instead I drive past the local shelter to a no-kill facility in another county. At least I know I’m among people who believe as I do.

I’m perplexed at why others think opposite. The only answer I got continually from the director was “liability.” They can’t take the animals out of the shelter to showcase in other areas because of liability issues.  They can’t have animals fostered because of liability issues. They can’t do this, they can’t do that, because of liability issues.

I don’t know how to overcome that as I’m simply not that knowledgeable. But I hope to become more aware of ways to counter the old guard’s intransigent ways. I’m not able to attend the conference in October but will attend the one next May in Washington, D.C.

Our community has seen a huge growth spurt recently of residents moving from the Washington, D.C., area to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. These newcomers, I’m one, bring new ideas. I would love to learn how to mobilize them to see that killing isn’t the answer. I was naïve but have learned. I hope I can help others learn too. Thank you. 

Ginnie R. Maurer
Falling Waters, WV

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