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  • Writer's pictureDavyd Smith

The Freedom to Kill

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

A dog named Linda
Photo: a dog named Linda before and after being killed by the Larimer Humane Society, even though she belonged to a rescue group that wanted her back. Larimer Humane Society is one of the shelters promoting "Socially Conscious Sheltering" in Colorado

In a bold attempt to cast a shadow on the No Kill movement, the large shelters in Colorado (including the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, Denver Dumb Friends League and Larimer Humane Society) have tried to misrepresent the No Kill movement through the vilification of a small hard-working shelter in southern Colorado. Granted, the Humane Society of Fremont County (HSFC) has had some admitted challenges that they have vowed and have worked to address. For the record: Killing healthy and treatable pets is not one of their challenges.

Those casting shade on No Kill are large, powerful Colorado organizations and are actually doing even more than that: they are fighting for the “Freedom to Kill” any animal in their care. Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL), one of the largest and wealthiest shelters in Colorado, recently decided to renege on the inter-organizational agreement they have held with HSFC to help save animals. DDFL recently wrote that a stipulation in the agreement, which requires DDFL to return any animals to HSFC rather than killing them, was “unduly restrictive,” indicating they would only be willing to “rescue” animals from HSFC if they were given the freedom to kill them at will. (Note: DDFL maintains one of the highest kill rates for shelters in the state.)

Specifically, DDFL wrote:

Over the years, we have partnered with HSFC to transfer cats and dogs to the front range where adopters are waiting for them.
HSFC would only consent to the partnership, however, under the following terms: if a veterinarian or behavior expert determined that the animal was suffering and could not be helped, or if the animal was so dangerous that it was likely to severely maim or kill another animal or a person, the animal was required to be transferred back to HSFC.
Although we found these terms unduly restrictive, we agreed to them because we were anxious to help alleviate the suffering of the animals at HSFC and save whatever animals we could.

To be clear: HSFC has not been transferring animals that have been either seriously dangerous or medically untreatable and beyond help. This statement can only be interpreted, therefore, to mean that DDFL is only willing to “rescue” animals if they are allowed to kill them.

DDFL and other large and powerful kill-oriented organizations, like Larimer Humane Society, want more freedom to kill any animal for any reason with no one having the ability to question them. To help them accomplish this, these organizations are creating a false narrative around a new terminology that they have recently been throwing around. The term is “Socially Conscious Sheltering,” which has a nice ring to it, until you look a little deeper. When you do, you realize it is not really new. It is about 50 years old and derived from the livestock industry – you know, animals brought into the world specifically to be killed. It suggests that animals should have 5 basic freedoms, like freedom from thirst, hunger, pain, suffering, fear and distress, which, again, all sound nice, but, as many have pointed out, is missing one crucial freedom: the freedom to live.

I have to wonder how a philosophy articulated by an industry designed to kill every animal in their care could provide the foundation for how you run a shelter for homeless pets?

So, as you watch the large well-funded, machines in Colorado try to take the control of the animal welfare conversation by interjecting this “Socially Conscious Sheltering” mantra (while, at the same time, bad-mouthing people who are advocating for saving every healthy or treatable pet) remember, their words come from the slaughter industry.

We do not believe that animal shelters should have the freedom to kill any animal for any reason. We also believe the five freedoms they promote are great, but only if a 6th freedom is added: The freedom to live. Without that freedom, the others mean absolutely nothing, after all.

For all of these reasons, we believe that “Socially Conscious Sheltering” to be a distraction. It is simply the way to promote their “Freedom to Kill” any homeless pet in our shelter system.

Davyd Smith is the President of No Kill Colorado

Note: Davyd Smith recently talked about this topic with others during a panel discussion with No Kill Learning and others. Watch the video here:



No Kill Learning
No Kill Learning
Jun 15, 2019

What is particularly noteworthy about the "5 freedoms" is that they are things animal shelters actually cannot keep animals free from. While it is a worthy goal to hope to keep animals free of fear and distress, for example, animal shelters are - by their nature, design and operation, generally stressful, frightening places. It is impossible to keep animals that enter shelters free from those things. Furthermore, in our experience, shelters that promote these freedoms often do a poor job of even minimizing distress and fear. Even worse, some organizations, like PETA, us language similar to the "5-freedoms" as excuses for killing, with the rationale that they are "ending suffering" by killing animals. So, rather than starting a robust playgroup…


Unknown member
Jun 15, 2019

Great blog Davyd. The ways in which animal shelters try to turn killing into some sort of twisted "kindness" are simply mind-boggling.

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