Since the February opening of Jersey City’s Liberty Animal Shelter, the Animal Shelter Coalition (advisor to the shelter) has been asked whether the shelter will be a “kill” or “no kill” facility. It seems like a simple question, and maybe two years ago we would have been able to answer it with a simple “yes” or “no.” But this is not a simple question, and there are no simple answers.
The question “kill or no kill?” supposes the following: kill = bad shelter, no-kill = good shelter. Two years ago the Coalition would have thought so, too. Now we know better. A year and a half ago, the Hudson County SPCA, aka Assisi Center, decided to go no–kill. The result? When the SPCA reached capacity, the only way it could avoid euthanizing was to turn animals away. Animal Control was left with no place to turn with strays, because at the time there was no other animal shelter in Hudson County. Hundreds of homeless dogs and cats were left with no place to go. We saw a terrible increase in animal cruelty, with dogs being shot, and battered for fun by sick individuals. Cats also suffered, as kittens and adults slowly starved to death on the streets. Our rescue groups were bombarded by requests for assistance, and our vet bills skyrocketed. We simply couldn’t handle the tremendous need to house homeless animals in Hudson County.
The SPCA went “no-kill” but it didn’t stop animals from suffering. It just gave the SPCA an advantage in the public relations arena. We learned a lot from this experience and now think we should take these lessons and use them to more adequately and humanely address the challenging questions facing Jersey City’s animals and the people who care about them. Now that we know better, we must do better.
The fact is, there are way too many animals in Hudson County, and there aren’t homes for them all. Every homeless animal should be guaranteed a safe refuge from the streets. Instead of asking “kill or no-kill,” we think the better question now is, “What would it take to stop euthanizing animals and find homes for every one?” And the inquiry shouldn’t stop there. “In which communities? What’s the time frame? What’s the starting point? How many are being euthanized now, and for what reasons? For behavioral reasons? Because they pose a danger to the public? Overpopulation? And what are we doing to ensure the end of suffering as well as the end of euthanasia?” It may come as a surprise to you that the No-Kill Movement itself says euthanasia has a place at every shelter, even a no-kill shelter. At the No-Kill’s 2000 Conference, a controversial workshop entitled “No-Kill Doesn’t Mean No Euthanasia,” had everyone talking. The leader of this workshop told story after story about no-kill shelters that quickly became overwhelmed, turning into hoarders and collectors that neglect the animals in their care. Or the no-kill shelter that kept a dangerous dog with a serious biting history in a cage for seven years until the animal went cage-crazy. Or the place that keeps unadoptable animals alive in cages for years, spending valuable resources on a handful of animals that could have been applied to many other adoptable animals. We abhor euthanasia. But we want to come up with a plan, a smart plan that will guarantee that every homeless animal has a place to go and that every adoptable animal finds a permanent, loving home.
We are pleased to tell you that on May 9, Tammy Kirkpatrick, the new leader of Doing Things For Animals, the national No-Kill organization, will be coming to Jersey City to lead a discussion and create a plan on how we can go no-kill in this City. This plan will include all the elements that are needed in order to reduce the numbers of euthanasias: affordable, accessible, low-cost spay/neuter services; a humane and reliable animal control facility; a quick and reliable animal control response and the possibility one day of opening a private, limited admissions facility.
We hope that those of you who are concerned about this matter will join us on May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Pershing Field Community Center. We also hope that once you realize the commitment of the City and the Coalition to the Liberty Animal Shelter you will sign up to volunteer at the shelter. This is the first time in Jersey City’s history that we have a humane refuge to take stray animals. The quality of this facility will depend on what each of us is willing to give to it. The animals are counting on us.
Animal Shelter Coalition
Joan Mackiewicz, Coalition Secretary