Overheard in Quora: “in America they seem to like to exterminate perfectly healthy animals”

Then “Who is “they”? PeTa? ASPCA? Americans in general don’t do that.”

My response:

While I don’t know if this question is serious, but it’s worth getting out there perhaps. Americans in general don’t kill their pets, but many American pets are killed who are healthy – most might happen in institutions, but it’s not just the fault of the institution.

There are also many pets killed for temperament reasons who are perfectly healthy. But I will set that aside as it’s truly unique case-by-case (whether the animal could be rehabilitated, how bad is the problem, and so on).

So considering healthy pets (mentally and physically) only:
Most American shelters will “kill for space” (this exclusively means healthy animals). Shelters who kill for space as opposed to just for humane reasons (untreatable animals in pain) are referred to as “kill shelters”. Some non-kill shelters are selective on who they let in (are not “open admission”), so they won’t take in hard-to-adopt pets which then need to find another spot to go – often one who will kill for space. Open admission no-kill shelters are out there (who take all animals and do not kill healthy adoptable pets), but they are diamonds in the rough. So it’s quite common in the USA for healthy animals to get killed, if those animals are in a shelter at least.

As for PETA and ASPCA, they are a small percentage of the total number of shelter animals, but they would be a “they”. PETA has a long history of killing healthy animals that’s well accepted as true (PETA’s Virginia shelter killed 88% of rescued pets last year, up 30%: report). These are largely healthy animals. PETA’s leadership has been said to believe that animals should not be kept as pets, and has been said to kill them for this reason. The ASPCA, at least in the past, has been known to transport pets to kill shelters to avoid having to do so themselves (This is from 2011, but from a trustworthy source and if not relevant today – I don’t know – it most likely happened then: ASPCA “Saves” Dogs By Transporting Them To Kill Shelters).

Less common, but also an issue, are breeders (usually backyard breeders and other breeders who are not responsible) who will take their “unsellable” dogs to kill shelters, or dump them on the side of the road for shelters to pick up. Many of these puppies, perhaps most, are young and healthy but just too “old” to be sold by the breeder. Most of the shelters who pick up dogs in this country are “open admission” kill shelters, so these puppies will possibly get killed for space not health and really the fault lies on the person who bred them.

And why are so many shelter animals killed? About 4 million healthy pets are killed in shelters, but 17 million are purchased. So a lot of the problem is in marketing, getting people to shelters, making the shelters a place people will actually go. And can find. And know about the good dogs in there.

So while not the general American public directly killing animals, it is actually quite common in this country and indirectly/inadvertently supported by a greater number of people (those who support/purchase from backyard breeders, puppy mills, those breeders who create more dogs than they can sell and dump them, and so on).

You also have a small number of Americans who will “euthanize” a pet that becomes too expensive. While not healthy at the time, the pet is treatable and could be brought back to health, but the human does not want to spend the money to do so or re-home or shelter the animal. While I do not have statistics, I’ve heard this story more than once.

Your turn

Sure, this isn’t complete. I know. And you might have updated and recent information! Please share and add your 2 cents below!

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • I agree with you on this, but one thing that I can never wrap my head around is trying to figure out what the ‘supply & demand’ numbers are when it comes to dogs in shelters versus dogs that are bought, so thank you for those numbers. I’d love to know how many puppies are bought online these days as well, since many pet stores have been getting shut down. I was reading part of the complaint the aspsa filed against an online pet retailer and apparently this company/puppy mill had 800 domains bought up and created a bunch of legitimate looking breeder sites. That way when you go to buy a puppy online you think ‘oh hey this place is local & has a nice site with testimonials…’ It’s just insane the amount of puppies still being churned out that way, and the amount that those in that business will go to to keep it going.

    • Juell Mabry Brandt

      This issue has really bothered me for a long time. For some reason, many people REFUSE to get their pets neutered. It cost $35 if they apply through a certain organization, which as far as I can tell would help anyone. We don’t have the free spay/neuter vans here in the country. But they will allow their pet to produce litter after litter and won’t neuter them. Or they assume they can find homes but when they can’t, cats especially, are turned loose. I have tried to educate for years and it just is incredible how people do not know they are contributing to this issue. It is horrifying to think how many animals are killed. Internet puppies are around $800 or more, so it might be people buy very expensive puppies online and assume that they can also raise puppies and sell them for outrageous prices. Not sure but the puppy mills are not helping this at all. However, if everyone neutered their pets, the problem would certainly be reduced.