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Colorado proposes killing dogs for “defecation when engaged socially”
Part of nationwide trend in pounds to kill animals for “mental suffering”
In addition to closing shelter doors to animals in need, closing for adoption without an appointment, shelters breeding dogs while they kill rescued ones, and ending the enforcement of animal protection laws in deference to racist policies, killing animals by claiming they are “mentally suffering” now represents one of the most profound threats to animals in U.S. pounds.
The ASPCA succeeded in doing so in New York. And now Colorado’s regressive pound establishment is working on regulations to do the same.
PACFA, the agency that oversees shelters in the state, is proposing regulations related to House Bill 21-1160, which requires animal shelters and rescue groups to provide for the behavioral needs of dogs and cats in their care.
On behalf of The No Kill Advocacy Center, I objected to the regulations on several grounds:
They are broad, vague, and lack objectivity;
They allow for and expressly promote killing;
Staff lack adequate training, misinterpret dog behavior, and look for reasons to kill; and,
They are based on two flawed premises: that shelter staff cannot prevent or rectify stress in shelter animals and that shelter animals psychologically suffer so greatly that death is an appropriate remedy.
In fact, stress in shelter animals can be managed, but staff have to want to. And many don’t. For example, the regulations identify “defecation when engaged socially” and “stereotypic behavior” as indicators of an “Unacceptable quality of life.” The timing and frequency of defecation should not be a death sentence. Likewise, out-of-kennel and socialization opportunities remedy pacing and should be mandated. Pacing should not be a death sentence. These examples are illustrative (there are others).
In addition, the proposed rules are especially dangerous because numerous studies have found that the ability of shelter staff “to correctly identify canine behavior is poor,” even when those individuals rate “their understanding of dog behavior highly.” And because shelter staff generally does not understand dog behavior, they often falsely conclude that they have “behavior problems” or are acting “aggressively” and kill them.
Moreover, when veterinarians speak of irremediable physical suffering, they have objective measures:
The animal has received a confirmed diagnosis through rigorous testing;
Prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care has failed;
The condition is beyond medicine’s ability to care for or manage; and,
The animal is suffering severe unremitting pain.
Alleged “psychological suffering” fails on all these counts. The result is that there are simply no objective measures to determine the existence or degree of psychological suffering. And shelter personnel and the veterinary community, in general, are not qualified to do so without objective criteria. In no other sub-discipline does a veterinarian make a medical determination without data.
By contrast to the proposed regulations, as the director of an open-admission animal control shelter, I required all dogs to get out of their kennels for socialization and exercise a minimum of four times per day and all cats to get out of their cages at least two times per day. At least one of those periods was for an extended period of at least 30 minutes. Combined with rigorous medical, cleaning, and disinfection protocols, we reduced illness by 90 percent, killing by 75 percent, and placed over 95 percent. There is no reason why Colorado shelters cannot do the same. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that they can.
Over the last decade, the No Kill movement forced Colorado shelters to implement the No Kill Equation, a series of proactive programs and services which decrease birthrates, increase adoptions and redemptions, and keep animals with their responsible caretakers.
It also forced these agencies to jettison antiquated and disproven sheltering dogma that equated killing with kindness. That these new regulations would embrace this old dogma — including viewing killing as a “treatment option” under the guise of addressing the “behavioral needs” of animals — undermines this progress. We are urging PACFA to reject such an approach. The lives of dogs and cats depend on it.
Download our letter to PACFA:
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