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One day last June, a Pennsylvania man tried to turn his dog over to a “no-kill” shelter—one that chooses not to euthanize animals. He was told to come back two weeks later when the shelter might have room. The man grabbed his dog, got in his pick-up truck, and left. At the first intersection, he threw the dog out of the truck and ran over him, crushing the dog beneath the tires. Shelter workers, who wouldn’t help the dog before he died, collected his remains.

‘No-Kill’ or ‘No-Clue’?

“No-kill” animal shelters should really be called “leave-the-killing-to-someone-else” shelters. Even though the people who run these places are usually well meaning, they can never build enough cages and kennels to house the 6 to 8 million dogs and cats who need homes each year. When “no-kill” shelters turn animals away because their facilities are already bursting at the seams—what happens to these animals? If they aren’t abandoned or killed by their owners, they go to the shelters that never turn away an animal in need, shelters that have made the difficult choice to take in every single animal brought to them, including those who are diseased, badly injured, aggressive, elderly, or unsocialized after spending their lives at the end of a chain—animals who have little chance of being adopted. They take them all in, even if all they can offer the animals are a meal, kind words, a loving touch, and a painless release from an uncaring world.

For example, after the SPCA in Norfolk, Virginia, implemented a “no-kill” policy, the SPCA just 20 minutes away in Virginia Beach became inundated with animals turned away by the Norfolk SPCA. Virginia Beach SPCA Director Sharon Adams reports that in July 2005, her shelter, which accepts all animals and does not charge a drop-off fee, took in 71 animals from Norfolk in one month alone. “There’s not a ‘no-kill’ shelter in this country that does not turn animals away every single day,” says Adams. “It’s a sham and a scam as far as we’re concerned.”

“Open-admission” shelters are the true heroes, for they don’t slam the door in the faces of unwanted animals, and they refuse to warehouse them for years on end. They have also taken over the heartbreaking task of euthanasia from pounds that are little more than shacks where animals are shot or gassed.

If we are to achieve the goal we all share—an eventual end to the killing—we must face the fact that “no-kill” is not “no-kill” at all—it merely leaves the killing to someone else. What’s needed is a commitment to preventing the births of unwanted animals.

Every dollar used to build a “no-kill” shelter may help a few animals, but it puts us further away from eliminating the overpopulation problem by siphoning money away from spay and neuter programs.

PETA has chosen to address the very roots of the tragic overpopulation problem by using our resources to help stem the tide of unwanted animals. Here’s how we are doing it:

  • Sterilizing animals in our own mobile spay/neuter clinic, SNIP (Spay and Neuter Immediately, Please), which has sterilized more than 25,000 animals at reduced or no cost to their guardians in the last four years alone, and paying veterinarians to spay and neuter even more animals in various communities
  • Promoting, through legal initiatives, the mandatory sterilization of all animals who are adopted from shelters
  • Informing prospective guardians that every time they buy an animal from a pet store or a breeder, they are encouraging the breeding of even more animals while animals in shelters are literally dying for good homes
  • Helping underfunded, overwhelmed rural shelters implement painless euthanasia methods, responsible adoptions, pre-release sterilizations, vaccinations, and spay/neuter programs
  • Campaigning against pet shops and working to abolish them from shopping malls
  • Exposing the cruelty of puppy mills so people will adopt animals at shelters instead of going to pet shops or breeders

We can win the battle against overpopulation, but it won’t be easy, and it won’t be won by building more cages and kennels to warehouse unwanted animals. Our only hope is to spend our time and money in effective, long-lasting ways (see sidebar). Please join us today.

Friend of the Few

One of the most popular “no-kill” shelters in the United States spent approximately $9 million last year just to house approximately 1,500 animals, mostly dogs and cats. That $9 million could have sterilized as many as 200,000 dogs and cats, preventing hundreds of thousands of unwanted births. And what happens to the animals this shelter turns away? A few years ago, PETA desperately tried to persuade a community pound located near this “no-kill” shelter to stop using unfiltered truck exhaust fumes to kill animals and to instead humanely euthanize them with the injection of a barbiturate—it’s the difference between giving animals a painless, peaceful release in a matter of seconds and subjecting them to a hideously slow and stressful death in a makeshift gas chamber. The “no-kill” sanctuary’s “solution” was to remove a few of the animals from the pound. That left the rest to die miserably from the burning fumes of carbon monoxide.

The Dollars and Nonsense of "No-kill" Sheltering

Trying to build enough shelters to keep up with the endless stream of homeless animals is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.To stop the killing, we must use our resources in the most effective and efficient ways.
Consider the following numbers:

  • 6 to 8 million—the number of dogs and cats who end up in shelters each year

  • $45—the cost of caring for one dog in a “no-kill” shelter for approximately three days

  • $45—the approximate cost of sterilizing one animal, preventing the births of at least eight animals from this animal and her offspring in just one year and preventing the births of as many as 67,000 dogs in six years and 420,000 cats in seven years—an enormous number of animals who will never suffer, be killed, or need sanctuary

  • $2 billion—the annual cost of capturing, caring for, and euthanizing the dogs and cats in shelters

  • $2 billion—the approximate cost of sterilizing 40 million animals

Save More Lives by Preventing Future Births

You can take the following steps to help in the fight against animal overpopulation:

  1. Lobby your city council to implement a spay/neuter ordinance that includes a pre-adoption sterilization requirement for shelters and/or a low-cost spay/neuter program (visit for more information).

  2. Urge your local humane society to implement a lowcost spay/neuter program if it doesn’t already have one.

  3. Order PETA’s spay/neuter leaflets (available at to distribute in your neighborhood. Attach a card with local low-cost spay/neuter information or your name and phone number and an offer to provide assistance with transportation and/or financing.

  4. Make a donation to SNIP, PETA’s low-cost mobile spay/neuter clinic.

  5. Contribute to PETA’s SNIP2 Fund. SNIP mobile clinic operates seven days a week and travels hundreds of miles each month but still can’t need its services.The cost of purchasing and operating a mobile clinic we can establish a second mobile clinicands of additional animals each year.

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