NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Philosophical giant Immanuel Kant once wrote, "Cruelty to animals is contrary to man's duty to himself, because it deadens in him the feeling of sympathy for their sufferings, and thus a natural tendency that is very useful to morality in relation to other human beings is weakened."
Based on Kant's view of the world, it seems that some U.S. animal shelters are weakening our morality, specifically, by way of five controversial practices still in use today.
It doesn't require a deep dive into Western philosophy, though, for the average person to have a suspicion that we aren't always as kind as we should be to all creatures great and small, and we aren't always as honest with ourselves as we should be when it comes to animal rights. If your parents ever told you that your pet “went to a farm upstate” when you were a kid, chances are your parents may have taken it to a shelter.
Animal shelters often offer anything but shelter to our nation’s homeless and unwanted pets. In too many areas of the country, municipal and privately run shelters are cold, stark places that are overcrowded with animals and are managed by overwhelmed humans.
According to petfinder.com, there are approximately 5,000 shelters nationwide and 8 million to 12 million animals end up in shelters every year.
Many communities have come a long way in dealing with unwanted pets, but some have a long way to go.
It’s unknown how many shelters engage in the following practices -- there is no nationwide reporting system -- but if you are thinking of leaving your pet at an animal shelter or want to ensure your local shelters are doing the right thing -- not even to mention checking up on man's morality -- you need to enquire as to whether the following five practices are still in use at your local shelter.
1. Kill Shelters
The term is enough in itself to make any animal lover squirm and while the “No Kill Movement” has gained a lot of traction in recent years, many shelters, especially municipal shelters that operate with tax payer money, kills unwanted pets or those they deem as unadoptable. Petfinder estimates that 5 million to 9 million animals are killed in shelters each year. Many people who realize this think trained professionals at shelters administer an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital to pets on the “kill list.” This is the same method used by private veterinarians in their office to relieve the suffering of a sick or dying pet.
While this is the case in many shelters, other shelters use what are now considered cruel and inhumane methods. According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, some shelters still use gassing chambers, in which animals suffer a terrible deaths in a crowded gas chamber. Still others use decompression chambers, electrocution and in some rural areas, unwanted animals are shot with guns. Many states have banned the use of gas and decompression chambers and a bill was recently introduced in Congress to stop the practice nationwide. Some shelters use a method referred to as “heart stick,” in which a needle containing heart stopping medicines are jabbed into the heart. Miami Dade Animal Control in Florida was recently one of the shelters picketed by animal lovers for using this practice. Even shelters that administer a shot of pentobarbital, the dead bodies of pets are thrown into 55 gallon trash barrels, awaiting the incinerator.
2. The No Adoption Rule
While many shelters have a private adoption policy, through which the general public may take an unwanted pet home -- after a certain waiting period to see if the pet is claimed by its’ owner -- many shelters do not allow for public adoptions. Petfinder estimates that less than 2% of cats and 15% to 20% of dogs that enter shelters are returned to owners. Some animal control facilities do not feel they have the space or the staff to craft and implement a public adoption policy, so if you lose your pet and do not claim it, your pet may automatically be put down unless it is saved by a U.S.D.A. licensed non-profit rescue organization.
City shelters, such as the Springfield Animal Control facility in Springfield, Mo., often have a no-public adoption policy due to space issues in an often-overcrowded, outdated facility. In the case of Springfield, a network of regional rescue groups has organized to save the animals, and they report that in the past 12 months no healthy, adoptable animal has been killed at the shelter.