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  • Writer's pictureDavyd Smith

The OTHER Freedom - Allowing a Homeless Pet or Community Cat to Live should be a No Brainer

As animal lovers, we all want to see pets in shelters find loving homes and live out their days in comfort. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The issue of saving lives in animal shelters is a key concern that is often overlooked. While shelters may claim to make this their primary function, many do not, and there are almost no communities in the nation that make it their primary goal to protect animals from shelter killing.

Recently, the Five Freedoms has been touted by many regressive shelters as their answer to progressive sheltering. Although this list of 5 “rights” of animals is on the surface, innocuous, they fail by simply not protecting life itself.

No Freedom” can be given to a dead pet. The "Five Freedoms" of animal welfare were established in 1965 by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council. They were created specifically for animals that were bred to be killed.

They have some utility as standards for caring for live pets in shelters, but they do nothing to protect those lives unless a shelter deems them worth saving. The Five Freedoms are being promoted to the detriment of the primary objective shelters should have: saving lives. We need to shift the conversation to focus first on saving a life, and then administering good practices for a shelter's tenure. But we must first commit to not killing. Otherwise, we can simply kill any animal we don’t want to take care of and providing those with good care makes a shelter appear to be doing its job.

Recently, Kristen Hassen added to the freedoms with one that needs to be number one and the foundation of all the others: Freedom from death due to shelter capacity or lack of resources. This is the basic premise of No Kill. We should never kill a healthy or treatable homeless pet.

This is where the rift in animal sheltering begins. Some people believe that we have to take care of the ones we choose to take care of, but if we have to kill shelter overflow, so be it. No Kill disagrees. The myth of pet overpopulation has been debunked for years. Shelter population is a problem locally in specific areas and at specific times, but pet population nationwide is not. If we have hundreds of communities saving every healthy and treatable pet (and growing all the time, we know that we can be a No Kill nation.

Regressive shelters need to embrace this and stop resisting displacing saving lives with the Five Freedoms. The Five Freedoms are good policy for caring for shelter pets, but we cannot offer a single one of those freedoms if the animal is dead. We must continue the conversation to focus on saving lives first and foremost. Let's commit to never killing a healthy or treatable homeless pet and work towards a No Kill nation. And while we have them in our care, committing to good care after committing to protecting their Freedom to live.


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