From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2011:
I am responding to the letter by Doug Fakkema in the
September 2011 edition of Animal People concerning “euthanasia.”
Without in any way impugning Fakkema’s motives and sincerity, he is
either in denial or is unaware of the definition of the word. I do
not argue that the death must be “good,” as stated by Fakkema, but
his definition leaves out the most important aspect: the death
should be in the interests of the individual dying. Of necessity,
this means that the individual dying would benefit from death by
ending a situation that is causing intractable suffering. Ideally,
the individual would be able to indicate that he or she prefers death
to continued life. In the case of cats, dogs or other nonhuman
animals, this may not be feasible because of our inability to
communicate with the individual. In these situations, it becomes
especially important that the person ending life must be clear on her
or his motives which must derive only from a sincere belief that
ending the life will end suffering that cannot be relieved otherwise.
Using a defense that one is somehow preventing future suffering does
not even warrant consideration, being patently absurd.
In the vast majority of cases, killing cats, dogs and other
animals for reasons of “overpopulation” fails to meet the “best
interests” test. Handling an animal gently and using a method such
as an intravenous overdose is not sufficient for the killing to
qualify as euthanasia. Even if a dog is “unadoptable” for reasons of
aggression, for example, this still does not qualify as euthanasia.
One could not argue coherently that this particular dog would choose
death over life. If one does not believe this, imagine killing a
healthy human being, even one who is ostracized by others due to
obnoxious behavior, in such a manner that he or she is unaware of
impending death and feels no pain when it occurs. No rational person
could consider this to be euthanasia. Taking the lives of animals
for reasons of benefit to society or because funds are not available
to provide care is not euthanasia, no matter how carefully and
compassionately it is done, nor how fervently one wants to believe
that it is. Such taking of life is killing, regardless of the
rationalizations and justifications underlying it.
–Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine
University of California
I was sorry to read of Maggie Houlihan’s death. I knew
Maggie, a wonderful animal activist. I think I saw her last at a
vegetarian event. Maggie is a big loss.
San Diego, California
An estimated 445,000 dogs roam the Navajo Nation, animal
control manager Kevin Gleason recently told Associated Press. Please
help these U.S. animals!
The semi-autonomous Navajo Nation and contiguous Hopi and Ute
territories include 27,425 square miles in Arizona, Utah, and New
Mexico, with 180,000 human residents. Also bordering Colorado, the
region is usually called the Four Corners. Associated Press appears
to have misreported the estimated dog population of about 44,500.
More than a dozen agencies hold local animal control authority in
parts of the Four Corners. The Four Corners has had the highest rate
of animal control killing per 1,000 people in the U.S. for as long as
ANIMAL PEOPLE has tracked the numbers, but a variety of
sterilization projects–many of them described in ANIMAL PEOPLE
coverage–have gradually cut the toll from 136 per 1,000 circa ten
years ago to about 50 per 1,000 now.
HFA & HSUS
It always concerns me when I see animal advocacy groups
bashing each other. I am referring in this instance to the full page
ads by the Humane Farming Association in recent editions attacking
the Humane Society of the United States. What a waste of time
energy and money. We should be supporting each other. HSUS with
Wayne Pacelle’s leadership has an outstanding record of achievements
for animal protection.
I have long felt that one of the reasons we have not made
more significant advancements in the battle for animals is because
too many animal groups are at odds with each other. What a powerful
force we would be if we spoke with one voice.
The historical record shows, as ANIMAL PEOPLE has often
editorially pointed out, that causes most often grow through
division and public debate of the issues, not through an enforced
unity which limits the perspective of a cause by repressing dissent.
The several substantive points of disagreement between HSUS and HFA
are the the topic of the November/December 2011 ANIMAL PEOPLE
editorial, starting on page 3, concluding above.
Adoptions, pit bulls, & “live release”
Concerning the October 2011 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial “More
adoptions will not end shelter killing of pit bulls,” I agree that
adoptions alone do not necessarily increase life saving. In our case
70% of the animals we take in are cats. We are constantly finding
new ways to promote cat adoption. But adoption alone is not going to
solve our cat overpopulation problem, nor will it solve any pet
population issues. What we are doing with the cats and dogs we adopt
out is replacing animals who might be sourced elsewhere with animals
who are spayed or neutered.
In addition to adoption, we have to engage in education and
spay/neuter, and create better legislation. Meanwhile, for us 60%
of stray dogs and 20% of owner-surrendered dogs are pit bulls, and I
have no intention of killing 30% of the dogs who come in because of
their breed, so we have to find them homes while working to reduce
I think New York state’s newly reformed Animal Population
Control Fund will be a big help. The fund had been around a while,
but was poorly conceived, underused, and literally went broke. The
fund is now modeled after Colorado’s similar fund and will be
administered by the American SPCA at no charge to distribute
spay/neuter funds to nonprofits. We are applying for funds that will
be used solely to spay/neuter cats and pit bulls.
One way animal welfare agencies contributed to the pit bull
problem that I don’t think you noted is that early anti-dog fighting
campaigns often talked about how big, strong and dangerous pit bulls
are, not thinking that many people think that having a big, strong,
dangerous dog is actually a good thing.
It seems that your argument is at odds with the concept that
a 90% save rate is possible or desirable. Since many shelters
receive pit bulls in even larger percentages than we do, and if we
should not be adopting them out, then by your argument a save rate
of 90% would not only be impossible, but would be a danger to the
A growing aversion in some animal welfare circles to
temperament assessment may contribute to the spread of dangerous dogs
that you refer to.
I think we can absolutely agree that “save rate” or “live
release rate” statistics are not helpful or productive to animal
sheltering. These measures are too easily manipulated and do harm by
failing to reflect the individuality of the community.
Mohawk Hudson Humane Society
3 Oakland Avenue
Menands, NY 12204