InNorth America, the number of animals, which mainly comprises of catsand dogs, held in shelters is alarmingly high. Being an animal loverand self-appointed activist, I have always disliked two practicescarried out in shelters where stray and other animals with healthproblems or unbecoming habits are held. First, some are controlled incages denying them a chance to interact with the rest. Secondly, as astrategy to control the population to meet the recommended numberthat a shelter can conveniently accommodate, a large proportion iseuthanized using different physical and chemical means. In myopinion, I believe that animals should be allowed to enjoy freedomboth of movement in the shelters and to interact with members oftheir species. Furthermore, the only permissible cause of deathshould be a natural one. However, as much as I still advocate fornon-controlled movement of animals and non-termination of their livesunder any circumstance, there are a number of matters that I havenever put into consideration which might explain why animal sheltersmanagement authorize these two practices.
Tobegin with, most caged animals have illnesses some of which aretransmittable to others if allowed to interact (Shelagh,Turner & Berry 9).When cats and dogs develop terminal illnesses, many owners find itmore convenient to take them to shelters where they can accessmedical care to ease their pain. Most stray animals that arecollected in the streets are abandoned by their owners for similarreasons. If the condition is contagious, the most logical thing to dois to isolate the animals from the rest and control their movement(10).The authors indicate that although the animals are confined, theyhave a program to allow physical workout to maintain their health.This exercise need staff personnel as their movement have to becontrolled while some are too weak and require to be supported.
However,most shelters suffer financial constraints, over population, and lackof adequate personnel to offer personalized special care. As such,the animals have to remain under confinements until their fate isdetermined. Additionally, the confinements for animals such as catsmay be enhanced with toys that they play with which may reduceloneliness, a move that has been observed to be fruitful in speedingup the recovery process for conditions that are treatable (Shelagh,Turner & Berry 11). Again, the cages are enriched in such a waythat they appear friendlier to animals creating a favorableenvironment that is less likely to cause stress or any psychologicalproblems.
Everyyear, the number of stray cats and dogs that are brought to sheltersare approximately 300,000 in Canada and between 6 and 8 million inthe United States (Shelagh,Turner & Berry 2). On top of that, due to infirmity, unacceptablebehaviors, and illnesses, more animals are relinquished into the sameshelters by their owners. Needless to say, most shelters areovercrowded making management of both floor space and feeding programan uphill task. The cost of medication and hiring veterinarianspossess significant challenges to the under-funded shelters. Moststray cats and dogs are rehabilitated with the intention of makingthem adoptable and friendly. Unfortunately, not all homeless animalsare lucky to find an interested person to adopt while others neverbecame suitable for adoption due to various factors (11). To controlthe population, management is left with only one option euthanasia.Long-term maintenance of unwanted dogs and cats is exorbitantlyexpensive. The cost becomes even more unbearable when the animals areconfined due to serious health problems that are expensive to treator take care of. Allowing all the animals to remain in the sheltersleads to overcrowding and limitation of resources this, in the longrun, lowers the quality of life of all cats and dogs, including thosethat are healthy and ready for adoption. Again, intake of new animalsbecomes impossible.
Asfar as I am concerned, the difference between euthanasia and killingis almost in existent. Mercy killing, which is associated to beingsympathetic, still leads to the same death. My belief is that lifeshould only be lost through natural means including suffering fromsickness till the body is unable to take it anymore. Perhaps, thisideology is strengthened by a number of instances where a very sickanimal or person has fully recovered against all hopes of the lovedones and medical predictions of the practitioners. Shelagh, Turnerand Berry (12) state that when conducting euthanasia, veterinariansand other trained staff involved have to follow certain protocol andstandard procedures to ensure that the animal’s death is as humanas possible and only minimum pain is suffered. Sadly, performingeuthanasia is not a very attractive exercise to the veterinarians asthey undergo some emotional distress. The authors report that someanimal health workers resign from their employment to avoid takingpart in the procedure.
However,the long term emotional toll on staff working in shelters, theunpleasant environment due to crowding and extremely sick animals,abuse that may result from animals with unacceptable behaviors andpossible predation when adequate control is not possible makes theveterinarian consider the implementation of the unpleasant exercisemore justifiable (Shelagh, Turner & Berry 13). To mitigate theemotional turmoil of the veterinarians (although there is no evidenceto suggest that this works), some shelters have designated roomsspecifically for euthanasia and have separate facilities for animalswhich are destined to undergo the process. Surprisingly, suchshelters have reported less staff replacement rates. When the rate ofemployees turn over is low, the efficiency of the shelter is enhancedbecause the learning curve associated to hiring new personnel isavoided. Furthermore, cats and dogs forms fondness and bonds withcare givers which improve their wellbeing. Regular replacement ofpractitioners imply that such bonds are not allowed time to mushroom,slowing the welfare process of the animal.
Whentoo many animals are allowed to remain in a shelter designed for acertain number only, the overall welfare is reduced. Even when theovercrowded animals are of the same species, it leads to adversestress and increases susceptibility to diseases and infections. Thisleads to concentration of infection particles raising the chances oftransmitting diseases such as respiratory complexes to debilitate andnaive animals (Shelagh, Turner & Berry 14). In some instances,the facilities for accommodating animals becomes too strained thatproper separation of animals becomes a challenge. In worse scenarios,it is likely to find predators such as cats and dogs, and preyspecies such as rabbits and mouse, mixed in the same room. Moreover,sanitization of floors, hallways, storage compartments, and carpetsis rendered impractical. Although one may perceive these aspects aspurely short term, they have a long term repercussion on the healthand behavioral development of the animals.
Myknowledge of procedure of carrying out euthanasia is limited to abelief that it should be as quick as possible and cause as littlepain. In my own opinion, the exercise is a matter of common sense andanyone with willingness and ability can easily execute the proceduresuccessfully. However, experts hold that only specializedveterinarians should carry out the procedure due to adherence ofcertain protocols requirements (Shelagh, Turner & Berry 14). Although only few shelters are able to employ full time animal healthpractitioners to oversee all euthanasia exercises, the authors statethat it is imperative to have appropriate training of staff and thatwhenever new personnel are assigned the role, the level of technicalcompetence should be assessed. To ensure a peaceful death to animalsthat fall subject to the exercise, some states have introduced aformal certification and issued policies making it mandatory for allpractitioners to undergo training. For instance, while many sheltersare still using T-61, the method is being discouraged for applicationin cats and dogs especially if conducted without a healthtechnologist involvement. The most recommended approach for companionanimals is use of intravenous barbiturate injection (15).
Inconclusion, with a deep understanding of the rationalization of thepractice of animal control through use of cages by the shelter staff,I tend to concur that under such circumstances they are justified.Additionally, wearing the shoes of the veterinarian and homelessanimal shelter staff, I am able to visualize the reason why theysupport the idea of euthanizing animals. As much I appreciate theirside of story, natural death should be allowed to play its role.
MacDonald,Shelagh, Patricia, Turner, and Jim Berry. "Animal Shelters andAnimal Welfare: Raising the Bar". TheCanadian Veterinary Journal53.8 (2012): 893 -896. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.