“No good comes from killing healthy animals, period,” said Lisa Edmondson, a long-time volunteer at Los Angeles Animal Services.
In her years as an animal rights activist, Lisa has seen great progress in Los Angeles, a city she believes is leading the way across the country to make “kill-shelters” a thing of the past.
During my interview with the passionate seventy-something activist
who houses eight rescued “bunnies” in her one-bedroom apartment, “three pairs and two singles” as she described them, she spoke of the horrors of the previous decades…
“Before most of the L.A. shelters adopted a ‘no-kill’ policy, they operated under a ‘sell-by date.’ That meant that the shelter had a short window of time to find a home for a pet before it was euthanized. I remember hearing about a woman from New York, who fell in love with a dog at one of our shelters. The woman was prepared to adopt the little guy on the spot — she had her checkbook out and everything… Well, they wouldn’t let her have him until she got her California driver’s license. And you know what it’s like down there at those DMV’s, by the time she had all the paper work done, the dog had already been put down. The woman was heartbroken and when we all heard about it we were outraged. Well, that type of thing doesn’t happen around here anymore. We’ve all made sure of that.”
I told Lisa that the argument in favor of “kill” shelters, or “open admission” shelters, as they preferred to be called (so as not to be demonized, while “no-kill” shelters are deified) is that there simply aren’t enough volunteers or funding for “no-kill” organizations to help each animal find a home. Eventually, animals who are unfit to be adopted, due to health conditions or aggressive behavior, are released onto the streets, where they will likely die a far more painful death of disease or hunger. I also voiced my concern that the adopters needed to be screened too, just like the animals, for their mental health or suitability to adopt a pet.
“No, it’s true,” Lisa said. “You can’t just give a pet away to anyone who walks in the door. An eighty-five-year-old man can’t adopt a Pitbull, because, you know, the dog will take him for a walk.”
Having spoken to Lisa, and consulted the heart on the matter, I decided I better consult the head as well…
I spoke to Daniel Jung, a law professor at Abraham Lincoln University, about legislation he thought could help curb the overpopulation issue at rescue shelters. He said he believes that creating a nationwide foster-care system, where pets can be housed temporarily until a suitable long-term family is located, would greatly benefit the system.
“Many adopters take a pet home and then have ‘buyer’s remorse’ and bring the animal back to the shelter after only a few weeks,” Professor Jung said. “It’s a little-known problem, but a big one. With a cyclic system, a family could care for the pet for a couple weeks, but not have the burden of providing it with a permanent home. You could have 200 proven and trustworthy families in a foster-care rotation. I know some animal rights people may protest — only wanting permanent homes for the pets — but that’s not always feasible.”
Like Professor Jung, others are also thinking outside-the-box.
The “no-kill” community in Los Angeles is gathering momentum for legal action that would force landlords to allow pets in every apartment. Statistics show that 23 percent of dog owners and 19 percent of cat owners cite apartment restrictions for the reason they turn over their pets. And in an AAGLA (Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles) survey of 300 landlords, they found that 42 percent don’t allow pets at all. A reversal of these restrictions would significantly lower the number of animals that end up in shelters.
According to the Humane Society of America: 150 animal shelters operate in the United States, taking in some six to eight million abandoned dogs and cats every year. Of those animals, three to four million, or about half, are euthanized. In Los Angeles, however, that number has dropped by over 50 percent in the past 5 years. Grinning with pride, Lisa told me that because of the California law stating that all new pets must be spayed or neutered, the overpopulation of domestic animals has decreased rapidly. She also credited the success of Maddie’s Fund, a rescue organization providing research, education, innovation, and most importantly 300 million dollars to date in funding to find healthy homes for those eight million cats and dogs in rescue organizations every year.
“Yeah, Maggie’s Fund is wonderful,” Lisa said. “If you give them thirty bucks, they’ll pay the rest for the operation to get your animal fixed. A couple years ago, after I got too old to compete, I left the shelter and took all the bunnies there with me. Maggie’s helped me get all of them fixed. You see, we all have to do our part to save these animals.”
Yes, we do. Unfortunately, not all of us have a heart as big as Lisa’s.