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‘No-kill’ plan admirable, but sadly it’s not realistic

As a veterinarian and vice president of the New York State Humane Association, an umbrella organization representing shelters and animal advocates statewide, I empathize with the heart-breaking overcrowding problem facing the Niagara SPCA. The Nov. 27 article addressing the shelter’s plight offers some history: two years ago the shelter (originally open-access) was pressured to become a “no-kill” facility by well-intended but unrealistic advocates. The SPCA became overcrowded, as happens in 100 percent of situations like this one, resulting in an untenable situation in which animals being relinquished far outnumbered those adopted into loving homes. Where are those advocates who pressured this facility to adopt this policy, without having a realistic grasp of the tragedy of animal overpopulation?

No one likes the idea of euthanizing healthy animals deserving a future as beloved family members. I had that agonizing job with an excellent shelter in Cortland County 33 years ago. However, the alternative – warehousing abandoned animals in a facility too small for its vast numbers – is a far worse fate for the victims than a painless death at the hands of loving professionals.

The New York State Humane Association has documented countless situations in which traditional open-access shelters deteriorate rapidly into grim hoarder cases, with animals overcrowded and under-cared for as free space disappears and medical expenses far exceed the budget.

The “no-kill” movement is an admirable aspiration, but realistically, its time has not yet come. We euthanize 6 million animals in shelters nationwide, and we abandon uncounted millions of cats in “trap-neuter-return” programs, lacking the appropriate guardians and facilities to ensure that they have protection from starvation, the elements, predators, cars and cruel humans. Every advocate who pressured the Niagara SPCA to become “no-kill” needs to take on the personal responsibility of finding homes for these animals, and not impose a philosophy that, sadly, cannot succeed given the current numbers of homeless animals.

Holly Cheever, D.V.M.

Vice President

NYS Humane Association