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Claims, rumors and myths about No Kill and the Lynchburg Humane Society

Dooley a 12 year old pitbull who is currently in a foster home

Recently a local reporter contacted us about being a part of an in depth look at euthanasia and what goes on at shelters.  This resulted in her speaking with other shelters in the region for her report.  She came back to me with questions and claims being said by other organizations and so I thought this might be a good blog topic.  Here are the questions and the information.  I have attempted to remove the names of the other shelters from this so it is neutral.  Our goal is not to turn anyone against other shelters/organizations but to educate and communicate the truth about these claims regarding the Lynchburg Humane Society and No Kill.

Question: Several of the shelters said that they end up taking in animals that had first gone to Lynchburg but were told to wait for their appointments, so they go to these other shelters and say “if you don’t take it I’m just going to shoot it or leave it on the side of the road” so they take them.  You had said you take them if they say they have to give up right away… but they’re claiming that’s not true?

So far this year, Jan – Oct., we have taken in 565 “walk-ins”.  Pet owners who didn’t have an appointment that needed our help right away.  We have also taken in 892 pets by appointment as well as 885 strays from the public.   If someone tells us they can’t wait or they might “shoot” or “dump” it, we take it in right away.  I am not saying the other shelters don’t take in those occasional pets from Lynchburg, there are some situations that people say certain things to get their way.

But anecdotal stories are just that.  We have found often that a few of the other organizations focus on the occasional problem that they then magnify to represent the whole.  We don’t set policy on the few bad situations, but rather, reward the bigger picture or good people.  We have stories too about the other shelters.  We take in pets from other counties all the time because they don’t want to take them to their shelter because of their euthanasia rates.  We took in an elderly cat from a nice older couple who lived in a city about 2 hours away this year because to quote them “They would euthanize it the minute they left.”   We work hard not to make assumptions about their operations based on a few people or situations. 

We make choices to take in pets from other counties to help good owners who want a better outcome for their pets.  We also choose to help local shelters that ask for help when they are full.  This year we have taken in a total of 59 from Amherst, 47 from Appomattox, 122 from Campbell County and 108 from Bedford.  These are strays, owned and transfers.

The other shelters have choices as well.  There will be a few times when people (owners) don’t communicate to us that they don’t like our appointment system and say one thing to us and then go to another facility and communicate something entirely different to them.  Most shelters call us when they get pets in from Lynchburg and we come get them.  One county recently chose not to call us but instead lamb basted us on social media.  Upon seeing the post we took it upon ourselves to call them in order to get the dog back and as a result they didn’t want us to take this particular dog so they said they would keep it.  This same group has in the past complained when pets came to their shelter that were originally adopted out by LHS.  Upon further investigation a few of the cases were residents of their county so surrendering to this county shelter made sense.

So far, this year, we have taken maybe 10 pets from other shelters that were from Lynchburg.  If the other shelters don’t call us when they get a pet in from Lynchburg, we don’t know and that is their choice not to contact us.  If they chose to euthanize for lack of space or because they can’t or don’t want to treat a medical condition that is their choice.   

If they are taking in animals from Lynchburg, I ask why they aren’t calling us to come get them if we are impacting them so much?

Intake numbers are down at all the other shelters last year. Click here for that information

Ours is the only shelter that increased in intake and that is partly because of our new building and our ability to hold more pets, but it is also because there is more demand for our services. Why? Not sure.  But I would guess it could have something to do with the fact that people know the pets are safe here and want to bring them to us.  I am hoping other shelters are not suggesting that we are the reason they are having to euthanize.

ON TNR- most everyone from the other shelters said it’s really cruel, that they’ve seen the consequences- the cats suffer long slow deaths by predators, or feline illnesses, hit by cars, “and wouldn’t you rather they have a warm place and full belly and just go to sleep vs the alternative of a long painful death?”  Some claim their lifespan out there at most is 2 years.   

That is simply not true.  We have fixed over 4,403 feral cats at our clinic and over 90% of them are healthy, well fed and in great shape.  Very few are declined for surgery or euthanized for illness.   In fact last month we did 162 at our clinic in one day. Of those we saw, all were very healthy and happy cats who just happen to live outdoors.  Feral cats usually have caretakers who feed and monitor their health.  If they are unhealthy they get treatment or if necessary, they are euthanized.  There is a feral cat colony at Kroger, you can find the caretaker there most evenings feeding the cats.  They know everyone one of them by name and know when there are problems.  I have been aware of this colony for over 7 years so they have many older cats living a good life, better than being dead. This concept that just “going to sleep” is better than being alive is one that I just don’t understand. Dead is dead.   But don’t believe me, see the links below.

“Cats cared for through Trap-Neuter-Return have healthy life spans. In 2003, a long-term study of a Trap-Neuter-Return program noted that 83% of the cats present at the end of the observation period had been there for more than six years.”
Follow the links for more information.

Questions: As no kill- how long do animals stay in cages? Do you have a maximum amount of time before you do something else with them? (so they don’t go cage crazy?) (people are saying that’s cruel)

Our average length of stay for dogs is 18 days and for cats it is 40 days.  We do everything possible to try and move pets into good homes as quickly as possible.  There are a few cats that have been at the shelter for longer than 38 days and you can come and visit them and see how they are for yourself.  They are living in one of our group cat rooms and seem to be just fine.   The reason the length of stay is longer for cats is because of the number of kittens we receive.  We don’t just euthanize unweaned kittens or kittens under 2 months like the some of the higher euthanizing shelters might do. We put them into foster homes or keep them until they are older and can be adopted out.  That makes for a longer length of stay.

As for dogs, we have two that have been in and out of the shelter environment and one that isn’t doing well currently.  We have foster homes that we rely on to help give them a break and we have over 200 volunteers who walk the dogs, some multiple times a day to give them attention and exercise.  We have 4 play areas for fun activity too and encourage volunteers to take dogs out for Doggie Day outs, where they spend the day offsite in the community.  But length of stay doesn’t dictate if a dog or cat is thriving and getting their needs met.  I have seen one dog in the old building live there over 8 months and he was very happy until the day he went home.  You have to look at each individual case as just that.   Those dogs that we feel need extra attention have staff members dedicated to their behavior training and exercise and emotional needs.  Our Staff Trainer is responsible for all of that.  We meet once a week to go over our behavior cases and that is when we discuss other options that might include euthanasia, foster homes or rescue.

The claim was made that if an animal has been there too long and doesn't seem it will be adopted LHS transfers it to a kill shelter instead to let them deal with it.

This is not the first time I have heard this claim about no kill shelters and I honestly don’t know a single no kill shelter that sends their pets to high euthanizing facilities so they don’t have them show up on their numbers.  We have transferred out 3 dogs so far this year, one went back to Charlottesville SPCA, a no kill organization who originally adopted the dog out, and two went to breed specific rescues.  We then have transferred out 8 cats, one back to the Roanoke SPCA, a no kill shelter, who originally adopted it out and 7 went to a sanctuary who deals with FIV/Felv positive and feral cats. 

With most of the rescues, if we have a behavior problem that might be caused by being in shelter or because of a breed specific trait the rescues will take them into foster homes and work on the problems. If they can’t take them we will euthanize if we feel we can’t place them safely. In some cases, the rescues learn we have a dog they might like and we allow them to take them for adoption.   

In 2016 we have euthanized 29 dogs and 66 cats.  We have a few dogs right now that we are evaluating for possible euthanasia or behavior training/modification and one we are working on finding rescue for. 

Some are claiming no kill is just a numbers game/manipulation/ fundraising ploy. We are all about the numbers. That is all we care about.

I honestly don’t know how to answer this question.  We believe in saving healthy and treatable pets. We are not manipulating or playing any games.  

 I will say that people give financially to solutions to problems and will give to organizations who they feel are making a difference.  Do we promote the positive things happening at our organization and what this community has done? Yes.  Doesn’t every nonprofit promote what they feel is positive about their organization?  96% of the pets make it to homes from our organization.  That is all the pets that come in, from the old and sick, to the young and healthy. That is statistically factual.  Not sure how to manipulate that and am open to answering this question if I understood what they are referring to. 

The idea that we are all about the numbers.  Well yes.  Those numbers represent lives. Each and every one of them.  Like the dog, Grace, that was surrendered to us with a fungal infection, that in the end will probably lose both her eyes and need major surgery on her legs after spending a couple of months on treatment. We chose to treat because she is such a sweet affection young adoptable dog.  I could tell you about the 12 year old pitbull, Dooley, which we chose to surgically remove a mass and then place into foster rather than euthanize because he still had some good quality time left to his life.  I would tell you about the 4 day old kitten, Monkey, which a staff member took home for months, bottle feeding her every 3-4 hours until she was old enough to survive.  Each one of these pets represents the 96% save rate we have right now.  That is 2,846 pets in total, all of them have names. 

Yes, we are about the numbers.  Proudly so.

Note: We have always welcomed the public or other rescue organizations to call us if they have concerns or questions.  We are a transparent organization and if we mess up or need to change something we will openly do that.  We are always changing to do things better.  We also ask politely that if you hear a rumor that doesn’t make sense to pick up the phone and ask.  We want to make sure our policies and procedures are correctly communicated.  Our contact information is on our website.


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