The Animal Doctor

Beware of "no-Kill" and "quick-Kill" Animal Shelters

DEAR READERS: For several years there has been a "no-kill" animal shelter movement that, in principle, is exemplary, but in truth is unrealistic and impractical.

What if terminally ill or injured animals with no chance of recovery are found and taken to a no-kill shelter? Would they be turned away? What if some of the healthy animals who are brought in by people who found them as strays or who can no longer keep them as companion animals prove to be unadoptable because they are not appealing to would-be adopters, or they have behavioral problems, which often develop in the animal shelter environment?

Such animals often remain caged or crated for months and even years. Is such a life worth living, especially when there is no attempt to develop facilities to keep such animals in enriched environments with others of their own kind? In the absence of such compatible group-housing for dogs and cats, as I have seen across Europe while consulting on shelter care with Pro Animale, the no-kill movement could be a formula for more animal suffering. Though people feel good about not having to engage in euthanasia, they instead incarcerate animals in solitary confinement for life, or take in only the most adoptable animals and send others elsewhere.

Worse, some no-kill shelters have engaged in "dumping" cats rather than euthanizing because of the numbers coming in and lack of space for them. It's called trap, neuter, release (TNR), and it's considered humane, though it often puts wildlife at risk.

In an email to me, noted Vermont veterinarian Dr. Peggy Larson wrote, "I am very much against the 'no kill' movement. For many reasons. Unsuitable and dangerous animals are being released to the public. Animals in these 'no kill' shelters pile up and live horrible lives in tiny cages for long periods of time. Some of these places turn into hoarding situations. Unwanted cats and dogs are being shipped to Vermont from the south, not that we need any more dogs and cats here. They come in without health certificates and carry diseases like hookworms and heartworm that are not problems here."

In contrast, "quick-kill" animal shelters -- some still using outmoded and inhumane methods of euthanasia -- often have to kill many animals every week because of a lack of funding to expand their quarantine and holding facilities, employ and train dedicated staff and do public outreach to increase adoption rates and donations. This is a tremendous emotional burden on most involved, who soon suffer burnout. Many of these shelters employ behavioral assessments and temperament tests to determine animals' adoptability, rather than developing the skills of behavioral rehabilitation (from post-traumatic stress disorder and human abuse/neglect) and resocialization. After being quarantined, many fearful cats and dogs who would fail these tests and be killed (or caged for life in the no-kill setting) soon come around when housed in groups and see their group-mates interacting with humans without fear.

DEAR DR. FOX: Can you give me your thoughts regarding rawhide products for dogs, specifically items like Dingo treats? Are they dangerous? I have heard that a dog can choke on them or they can be bad for dogs' stomachs. I also heard that some manufacturers use chemicals when manufacturing these products. -- R.P., Oakton, Virginia

DEAR R.P.: Dogs do like to chew things, which is generally good for the gums and teeth. Cooked bones are harder than raw, and dogs can crack their teeth on them, especially cooked beef bones but also on raw ones. Give your dog raw beef shank bones for a 10-minute chew twice daily. Avoid all other bones unless ground up as a mineral supplement, since they can splinter and cause internal damage.

Buy only beef rawhide chew strips processed in the United States. Those with knots can lead to choking. Many imported hides are bleached and loaded with potentially harmful chemicals, including arsenic and pesticides (from cattle dips). They can also be contaminated with bacteria; ditto pigs' ears and feet on sale in many pet stores, which could make dogs -- and other household members -- sick.


After many years of delay, Petco and PetSmart pet supply chains will be removing all chews and treats made in China, bowing to consumer concerns and the thousands of dogs reported sick or dying from poisons in these treats.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox's website at

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