To kill or not to kill


Photo by Esa Oksman

St. John’s metro does not have a no-kill shelter, but one woman is determined to change that, and she’s reopening the controversial debate on animal euthanasia. Shawn Hayward looks at the issue from both sides.

Kelly Ann Molloy loves animals, and based on the response to the Facebook group she started, so do a lot of Newfoundlanders. More than 4,900 people have joined her group calling for a no-kill animal shelter in St. John’s.

Molloy wants to start a shelter that could hold 300-400 animals comfortably and would be supervised by volunteers 24 hours a day. She hopes to fundraise $500,000 to build the shelter, and she says she’s already gotten offers of money and land from people who have seen her group.

The first step, she says, is to be recognized as a non-profit organization by the City of St. John’s.

“If I can prove I can raise the money, I think that I can get the city’s support,” says Molloy, who is a business marketing student at College of the North Atlantic.

No-kill animal shelters have spread across North America since the City of San Francisco adopted the policy in 1994. Specifics vary depending on the shelter, but most shelters claiming to be no-kill don’t euthanize animals that are healthy and well-behaved enough to be adopted, while traditional shelters will only hold adoptable animals for a certain amount of time before putting them down.

“Any animal like that deserves a chance,” says Molloy.

The term “no-kill” can be misleading, because no-kill shelters do euthanize animals that are sick or have behavioural problems.

“It’s not rational to say you can keep every animal alive,” she says. “Any animal that is suffering, or has had such a hard time that they have temperament problems, if it costs so much to keep them alive and rehabilitate them where they can go back to a home healthy and safe, then a no-kill shelter has to step back.”

When the proposed no-kill shelter has to step back, the SPCA, along with Humane Services of the City of St. John’s, step in, being the two organizations that euthanize animals in the city. The SPCA alone euthanized 827 animals in 2008, providing homes for another 1061.

Debbie Powers, executive director of the St. John’s SPCA, says she supports anyone who cares about animals, but is sceptical about the no-kill policy.

“I’m sorry, but I think it’s unrealistic,” she says. “But that’s not to knock anybody that’s trying to do anything that’s good and well-run.”

In Powers’ mind, spaying and neutering is the answer to animal control. She told The Scope that in June the SPCA, in partnership with Humane Services, will unveil a new program for low-income families that will pay 25 per cent of the cost to spay or neuter cats, a procedure that can cost between $200 and $250.

In a telephone conversation, Powers advised Molloy to visit the province’s only no-kill animal shelter in Stephenville. The shelter has faced repeated court action from the provincial government and SPCA, claiming it’s overcrowded and run-down, and that animals are getting sick as a result.

In September, the Department of Natural Resources ordered the shelter to reduce its population of 23 dogs and 82 cats by half. In an interview with CBC’s Radio Noon on May 22, shelter manager Gwen Samms reported they now have 90 animals, a 15 per cent reduction.

Stephenville is typical of shelters that hold animals indefinitely, according to Powers.

Molloy says she’s been in contact with the manager and takes away a different lesson from Samms’ experience running the shelter.

“I learned that I’m going to have resistance,” she says. “I learned that there are people in this province that just don’t like the words ‘no-kill.’”

There are no-kill shelter success stories. The Tompkins County SPCA in New York State became no-kill in 2002 and achieved a 92 per cent adoption rate a year later. Powers says a no-kill shelter in St. John’s would only work if the animals were given lots of room. And more room costs more money.

“If it’s going to be that they’re going to have all the space in the world, how can you knock that?” she says. “But how can you keep an animal in a confined cage for the rest of its life? That is inhumane, as far as I’m concerned.”

Both Molloy and Powers feel another shelter would take the pressure off the SPCA and Humane Services, but Powers says she’d only consider releasing animals into the care of another shelter if it was large enough to ensure a good quality of life—something Molloy says she’d demand of her shelter.

“I wouldn’t want to build something too small,” she says. “If I’m going to have a building, I want to make sure we’ve got ample room.”

The SPCA gets $50,000 a year from the provincial government, a contribution the province only started making two years ago, and $12,000 from the City of St. John’s. With an annual budget of $350,000, the SPCA relies heavily on private donations, and another shelter could divert precious dollars from the organization.

While humans debate the ethics of animal euthanization, cats and dogs continue to end up abandoned on animal shelter doorsteps. Powers estimates the SPCA gets 15 to 20 cats a day from owners who can’t or don’t want to care for them, animals Molloy says deserve more time than is now being given to them.

“They’re more like an accessory than a part of the family for the most part,” she says. “I know some people consider animals as their children, but I’ve never seen people dispose of their children so quickly.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

12 comments

  1. Kelly Ann Molloy · November 3, 2010

    I just wanted to say that I think Shawn did a really great job on the interview “To Kill Or Not To Kill”. He has great skills with listening, was very personable and patient, and I am very happy with the outcome! THANK YOU so much for letting us express our opinions. Your time and attention was appreciated!
    Thanks once again,
    Kelly Ann Molloy

  2. Elling Lien · November 3, 2010

    Thanks Kelly, I agree. Shawn did a great job of laying out all the information in an interesting way.

  3. susan gosse · November 3, 2010

    HI KELLY, I HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOU, IT IS SHOCKING THE AMOUNT OF ANIMALS, BEING PUT DOWN EACH YEAR. BUT I ALSO UNDERSTAND THE SPCA, THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH ROOM, AND SO MUCH MONEY.

    I LIVE IN SPANIARDS BAY TILTON, AT THE BINGO HALL I SAVE ALL THE PENNIES FOR THE SPCA, AND I BRING IN STRAY CATS, AND I HAVE EVEN HAD A FEW PUT DOWN, IF THEY WERE SICK, THE SPCA PAY FOR IT.

    I HAVE ONE DOG AND FOUR CATS AND TWO STRAY CATS THAT COME IN OUT OF MY HOUSE, THEY BOTH HAD KITTENS NOT TO LONG AGO, I HAD TO BRING TWO INTO THE SPCA, I COULD NOT FIND HOMES FOR THEM, IT BROKE MY HEART. I HAVE THREE MORE READY NEXT WEEK FOR HOMES, SO I AM HOPING TO FIND HOMES FOR THEM. THERE ARE THREE OTHER CATS I FEED, THEY ARE WILD. IT GETS VERY EXPENSE OF I AM NOT SURE HOW MUCH LONGER I WILL BEABLE TO KEEP IT UP.

    THERE IS A LADY IN CARBONEAR NAME JULIA, SHE TAKES ANIMALS IN AND GETS THEM DONE, SO THEY WILL BE EASIER TO FIND HOMES FOR. HER SHELTER IS CALLED A TAIL OR TWO.

    YOUR INTERVIEW WAS VERY GOOD, AND STRAIGHT TO THE POINT, I HOPE YOU GET MORE FED BACK, AND I WILL DO WHAT I CAN FOR YOU.

    SUSAN GOSSE

  4. Frank Blackwood · November 3, 2010

    I just completed an article titled “pets have the same Rights as people when it comes to Rehabilation.I met an artist at Gore’s landing, Shari Seymour, who has opened up a Centre for Therapy for pets. She is an anmazing lady.
    Shari can be contacted at her E. mail address
    sharis.quest@yahoo.ca
    Tel# 905..373-5800

    **Will forward a copy of my latest article to you.

    Frank Blackwood
    Newfoundland Artist

  5. Deborah Jackman · November 3, 2010

    i posted a comment here and wheni sent it it said i had to add my email etc, i lost the entire comment.. sorry Kelly i will try later.. you are doing a great thing !
    Deborah

  6. Elling Lien · November 3, 2010

    I believe animals should *always* be treated with respect, and given the best life possible, whether they are pets, or if they are raised for food, or if they’re in the wild. And so, like Debbie Powers, I believe the idea of a no-kill shelter for pets is beautiful in the abstract… If there’s enough money, if there are enough people, if there’s enough land… etc.

    A few questions to ask though: Are we trying to make the world better for everything, or for people? Where is the line? How much is too much to spend on providing food and shelter for unwanted animals? Shouldn’t we concentrate on feeding and sheltering humans who need it?

  7. Ken O'Brien · November 3, 2010

    It’s great to see people who care for animals and devote their time and money to the cause. I don’t support the idea of a no-kill shelter, however. I believe that we need to get serious about reducing the population of unwanted animals by spaying and neutering. The people who volunteer at the SPCA or who are municipal animal-care officers have their hearts in the right place. I’m sure it’s hard for them, and for the vets involved, to euthanize animals, but there is only so much time and money to go around.

    We need to work toward the day when there are a lower number of animals around, and all those are cared for in homes, with little or no demand for the services of the SPCA or other organizations. We can dream!

  8. Mary Shaw · November 3, 2010

    I read the article of Frank Blackwood who has put the reality of growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador fishing village where domestic animals were as important as any family member. They all ate from the same table, enjoyed the same family comforts around the home, and got a pat on the back for good behaviour, and praise after a hard days work.
    Domestic animals and pets all suffered pain and discomforts like human beings. There were old fashion remedies to help cure the pains, but broken bones often met the end for many pets. it is very interesting to see how Frank puts the pets in a reality sense of feeling unwanted because of their handicaps. He senses that therapist Shari Seymour can be a pet’s best friend towards survial in having the right to Rehabilation like any human being, who has that right.

    Mary Shaw

  9. Dave · November 3, 2010

    I have seen the work Shari Seymour does…and the amazing love that the dogs give back in a way,, to say thank you for helping to ease their pain.

    We all have the right to decided to help or not help any living thing. I choose to help.

    Dave Brown

  10. Dave · November 3, 2010

    Well,,,there too is a choice.

    I feel if you choose to help animals, help aninmals…if you choose to help people…help people.

    This is a personal decision. There is now “line”.

    The dedication of people who choose to help animals like, Shari Seymour does, is no less commendable than those who choose to help people.

  11. Dave · November 3, 2010

    Education and responsibility is the key to less unwanted or uncared for animals in the world.

    Shari Seymour and other animal lovers are working to educate animal guardians and to work with vets to make the cost of spay/neuter more affordable.