Did you know? The responsible, but tough decisions of a ”no-kill”/lifesaving shelter.

"Did you know" Lynchburg Humane Society logo, a green dog icon that has a confused head tilt

Back in January, I wrote a blog about what it means to be a no-kill shelter.  That blog was an overview about the meaning of no-kill, and how it doesn’t mean that we are able to save every pet that comes to us.  While I wish we could save everyone, it’s not feasible, realistic, or responsible. But…let’s dig into that a little more.

We save a lot of lives here. We give it our all to try to save all of the pets that come to us in need.   While it is sad and difficult to make the decision to euthanize a pet when it is terminally sick or severely injured, it is, of course, the right thing to do. We never want a pet to suffer.  

But when it comes to pets (usually these are dogs) that have behavior issues and could be a risk to the community – that’s when things get real tough.  They aren’t physically sick and they aren’t suffering from injuries…but they are not safe to be adopted, so what do we do?  

We work hard – that’s what we do! We give the pet everything we can to try to make them adoptable, we look for rescues, we evaluate their behavior, we contact veterinary behaviorists, we talk with professional trainers, but sometimes none of that works and a very tough decision has to be made.  When that happens, we know we have done everything we can to save that pet, and that euthanasia may be the only safe decision.  Even though we are able to save many pets that have some behavior issues, the truth is that we are not a behavior rehabilitation facility, and so we must do what is right not only for the pet, but also for the safety of the community.  These are the decisions that are often the toughest for our staff and volunteers because these are usually pets that have been with us the longest since we take the time to do everything we can, and in that time our staff becomes very close with these pets. So when a tough decision has to be made, it can be devastating.

Because of our community, we have an amazing shelter but it is no place for a pet to stay long term.  Some pets can handle this stressful environment, and others can’t.  And if a pet is not ready for adoption or has special needs that make them harder to adopt, their stay here can be life threatening.  We do everything possible to make them comfortable during their stay, but inevitably some pets start to mentally decline. Their quality of life begins to deteriorate and if we can’t get them out of the shelter, we must make the decision to euthanize – because again, we never want a pet to suffer.  

We are fortunate that with the thousands of pets we save, the ones that are too sick, too injured, or too unsafe for the community only make up about 7% of the pets we see each year. 

Our hope is that in the future, humanity will be kinder to pets and fewer will come into shelters and when they do come into the shelters, more will be able to be saved.  But for now, we know we are doing everything possible for our community and the pets. Thank you to our staff, our volunteers, our fosters, and our community for helping us continue to save every pet we can.