Oreo was abused and then thrown off a six story building. She was rescued and then killed by her rescuers.
“We have done everything humanly possible to save Oreo’s life; yet, as a result of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr. Henderson, or for other reasons we may never know, she has come to a place where she can no longer be around people or other animals. We make this decision—and others like it– with a heavy heart and a complete understanding that had she been treated with love and respect, Oreo’s fate would be much different.” – The official ASPCA statement about Oreo’s death
I appreciate the ASPCA’s emphasis on how Oreo’s abuser is far more to blame for her death than any other individual or organization, but I think the APSCA made the wrong choice. Here’s why the ASPCA’s decision to kill Oreo bothers me…
We cannot predict the future. So we shouldn’t act like we can.
Even people who disagree about whether there are “fates worse than death” can agree that we cannot predict the future with certainty. We can make reasonable guesses about the future, but we can’t know for certain if a shelter animal is better off being euthanized than being “warehoused.” Even if there are fates worse than death, we can’t always be certain that offering a painless death is truly mercy unless the animal is currently in pain.
The ASPCA “played God” by acting like they knew for certain what Oreo’s future looked like. They chose a course of action based on their limited vantage point. From their view, Oreo’s only options were isolation or death.
The reason so many animal advocates are angry about Oreo’s death is that they see hope where the ASPCA did not.
From the perspective of people who embrace a “no-kill philosophy,” there is hope for the future. Shelters can reduce or eliminate their kill rates. Healthy, adoptable animals don’t need to die. Even aggressive dogs like Oreo have a chance at rehabilitation.
In the world of foster-care for children, it’s said that a child needs twice as long to recover from neglect or abuse as the time the child spent being abused or neglected. Might it be similar with dogs? Might Oreo have required more than a few months to recover from her injuries?
It’s possible, some even argue that it’s likely, Oreo was not destined to isolation. After a year or two at a no-kill shelter with affection and boundaries, who knows what she might have been like?
Shelter killing is an expression of pessimism.
The animal movement is already fraught with so much sadness and grief that we’re desperate for hope. Burn-out in the movement is common. Stagnation and wheel-spinning is even more common. We need extraordinary stories of survival, heroic rescue efforts, and a “never give up” mentality in order to move forward. We need hope and optimism.
But shelter killing is giving up. It’s pessimistic and depressing, stemming from a viewpoint that has no hope in humanity’s ability for redemption. It’s giving up on animals and giving up on people at the same time.
The animal movement requires hope and optimism.
Killing animals will never produce hope and optimism. When animal organizations like the ASPCA, PETA, and the HSUS defend killing animals, it sucks the life out of our movement. Literally.
But the past is in the past. People can change. Animal shelters can change. Animal organizations can change. There is hope. The organizations and people who currently defend shelter killing may one day sing another tune. We shouldn’t lose our hope in their ability to adapt and change.
Let’s not let our hope and optimism die with the animals killed in shelters.
Let’s keep our hope alive by proving that shelter animals have a chance in our homes and our hearts. If you have the room, time, and money, please adopt a shelter animal. If you don’t have the room, the time, or the money, please encourage your friends and family to adopt a shelter animal. Visit Petfinder or AdoptAPet to find a shelter animal near you.