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Animal Welfare : SPCA Positions
Running A Shelter: Some Hard Truths

The following is a statement from SPCA on the current position, in relation to euthanasia.

The SPCA is working towards a society in which animals are respected and pets are responsibly taken care of.  The objectives of the SPCA are to promote kindness and prevent cruelty to animals.  These concepts, historically, have come to embody and encompass not only public education, and fighting animal cruelty, but getting down to the grass-root level of physically looking out for and taking care of abandoned pets and abused animals.

In the 1990s it was the norm for SPCA to receive over 1,000 stray and unwanted pet animals a month – 600 cats and kittens (mostly strays due to uncontrolled breeding), 400 dogs (up to 30 per cent being pedigrees) and up to 100 rabbits and other domestic pets.  With so many animals flooding the Society’s doors daily, coping with the physical dilemma of crowded cages brought with it other problems - fighting and disease to name two. Space constraints were a major issue in taking care of abandoned pets and abused animals (and not just one species) when no other like-minded organisations existed.

In the past 16 years, the scene changed dramatically, with more animal welfare groups and informal shelters being established, to help stray animals – providing rehoming/fostering services for stray cats and dogs.  ‘No-kill’ became the policy for some.

The term ‘no-kill’ implies that under no circumstances will an animal be put down. Achieving this ideal however, usually involves, turning away animals at the door (to avoid an over-crowded shelter where tough choices have to be made) in the hope that the person can take the animal somewhere else. The SPCA, on the other hand, has practiced accommodating countless animals, sometimes to its detriment, in that homes could not be found fast enough to keep up with the influx. Choosing not to continue having a shelter or saying yes to a limited number (and turning most away), would have been the easy way out. Abandonment of the animals on the street (by desperate owners), where they could face a worse fate, was an option worse than humanely ending their lives.

Currently, the SPCA sees an average of 200 animals brought in every month. These include stray animals, abandoned pets found on the street or surrendered by their owners. Due to the considerable number accepted, our adoption criteria remains in place to ensure that the animals selected have a strong chance of getting adopted i.e. those that are healthy and with reasonably stable temperaments. Public safety too is a necessary consideration. SPCA does rehabilitate sick and injured animals, but there are limits as to what can be achieved,  As much as euthanasia is viewed as unacceptable and SPCA should become ‘no-kill’, what are the alternatives out there that others would advocate in achieving it?  Keeping in mind that every animal deserves to have a home – pets and strays alike – how many dogs and cats are being housed at farms or shelters in a cage, or small confined space on a long-term basis? Is this a viable alternative? Does this offer quality of life for the animal?  Pet owners simply walk away after surrendering / abandoning their pets, leaving SPCA to take responsibility for their actions.  Space will inevitably run out and rejecting homeless animals will become the norm, in the hope that someone else will take them (but rarely does). This is not in line with SPCA’s mission – to deny animals entry into our shelter.  For the staff and veterinarians involved in euthanasia – it is a dreaded task undertaken with a heavy heart. The SPCA wants to achieve ‘no kill’ but what are the options when others are turning animals away? 

Euthanasia figures at the SPCA have been considerably reduced in recent years due to SPCA’s continued education efforts (both internal and external), sterilization voucher programme for community animals, sterilization of strays in-house, more foster homes being found and online adoption posting for people’s pets on our website. Animal welfare groups and individuals joining the cause to save more animals has also helped.

Euthanasia is a societal problem and needs to be addressed at every level, and that is something SPCA will continue doing (e.g. appealing to the authorities for a curb on numbers bred and sold commercially, educating the public about adopting rather than buying, promoting responsible pet ownership in its outreach efforts, promoting sterilization).  It may be a challenge to find a solution, but SPCA for one, will not shirk from the duty.