Let's talk about words today. More specifically, let's talk about one word: euthanasia. We read a number of media reports late last week about the fact that our shelter planned to euthanize animals for space if people did not come to adopt them. We fully understand that the shelter needs to communicate with the public about placing animals when the shelter is near capacity. In that regard, we encourage Huntsville Animal Services to be completely transparent about what is happening. We find improper use of The E Word related to population reduction to be both offensive and irresponsible.
The dictionary definition of euthanasia is simple: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
When we destroy animals who are suffering or are irremediably ill, that is, in fact, euthanasia. Destroying healthy and treatable animals is not euthanasia. It is not merciful, it is not beautiful and it is not necessary. It is not "putting them down" or "putting them to sleep" or preventing "a fate worse than death." We use those phrases - and many use the word euthanasia - to sugar coat the reality of the act. And because we have allowed ourselves to become callous to, or complacent about, killing of shelter animals, we accept that word because it makes us feel better somehow, as if we did a good thing.
When we destroy healthy and treatable animals we are doing just that. We are destroying them and we are killing them. If you have ever made the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize a beloved pet which was genuinely suffering or so ill that any treatment would likely causer more pain or suffering, you know exactly what euthanasia means. To compare the euthanasia of your companion to the destruction of a healthy or treatable animal for space or convenience serves only to devalue both of those lives. And any person who ever lost a beloved pet to an "oops" killing at an animal shelter would not say their dog or cat was euthanized.
In No Kill communities, healthy and treatable animals are not destroyed. Period. They are saved. And words are used for what they mean.
Let's stop calling this anything but what it is. Once we do that, we can have a realistic conversation about what takes place in our shelter and we can take a look at why population control killing is still an option here even though many people believe that Huntsville is already a No Kill Community. It is not. When we met with a city official in early June to ask the city to commit to no longer destroy healthy and treatable animals, the answer we received was, "no. The city will not commit to that." We later wrote a letter to the Mayor and City Council to ask for a commitment. Our letter has gone unanswered.
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image courtesy of Terrah Johnson