Animals abandoned, rejected, and hoarded … by ‘no-kill’ shelters

Photo credit: PETA

Last month, the Portsmouth Humane Society (PHS) in Virginia—a shelter touting its “no-kill” goals—was busted for “adopting” some 300 feral cats and then quietly abandoning them in the woods and on the streets. One employee who released six cats in her neighborhood at her boss’s urging later found two of the cats dead, hit by cars. The areas where many cats were dumped border a busy highway and working railroad tracks. Of the more than 90 cats who were abandoned there, staffers could only account for about 20. It’s anyone’s guess what has become of the rest of the cats.

These cats depend on humans for shelter, food, water, and veterinary care. When left to “fend for themselves,” feral cats suffer and die from exposure, untreated broken bones, infections, parasite infestations, and contagious diseases (including rabies, which is no longer rare in outdoor cats). They are routinely poisoned, shot by cruel people who don’t want them on their property, hit by cars, attacked by dogs, injured in car engines, and worse.

PHS’ abandonment of these defenseless cats is a chilling example of how, in the quest to become “no-kill” at any cost, many shelters fail the very animals who should have been able to count on them for help. As PETA president Ingrid Newkirk points out in a new video, this is a growing—and troubling—trend.

Many “no-kill” shelters simply shut their doors when their cages fill up, leaving animals on the streets or in the hands of people who don’t want them. Since becoming “no-kill,” the only local animal shelter in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, is “chronically overcrowded” and is essentially closed to animals in need. The county’s sheriff described “policemen spending entire shifts trying to locate dog owners and driving [dogs] to shelters that will take them, in some cases a couple of counties away.”  As of September, the “no-kill” Nova Scotia SPCA in Canada had more than 1,000 cats on a waiting list to be admitted. Shelters across the U.S. face similar situations.

On the other end of the spectrum, some “no-kill” facilities avoid euthanasia by hoarding animals or sending them out to bad homes and abusive “foster” homes without checking them first. In September, authorities found more than 200 dogs in deplorable conditions at Mission Desert Hills Dog Sanctuary in Chaparral, New Mexico. Several of the dogs had severe internal injuries indicating that they had been sexually assaulted. One volunteer said that she had to step over dead dogs to get to live ones who were “living in hell, in their own feces, no water, no food, [and] emaciated.” Dozens of similar cases have made headlines.

Every caring person wants an end to the cat and dog homelessness crisis and animal euthanasia. But simply implementing “no-kill” policies without stemming the flow of animals puts cats and dogs in danger of fates far worse than a painless death. We need to stop the problem at its source, by spaying and neutering every animal we can reach (helping our friends, family, neighbors, and community get their animals spayed or neutered) and working to stop puppy mills and animal breeders from bringing more puppies and kittens into a world that already has too many animals and too few good homes. Once we become a “no-birth” nation, “no-kill” will follow as a matter of course, without putting animals in danger.

Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post


  1. Thank you, You said what needed to be said. Be prepared for the name-calling, As soon as the NK crew hear that someone’s brave enough to call them out for the mess they’re making, you will become a target of their hatred and irrationality.

  2. We have come a long way since 1975 when shelters euthanized 13.5 million animals. Because of aggressive spay & neuter promotions we have reduced euthanasia by 75% during the last 40 years. This massive reduction in euthanasia has little or nothing to do with Nathan Winograd. Mr. Winograd appeared on the scene less than 7 years ago. Here are the facts: There are only 70 no-kill shelters approved by Mr.Winograd. According to the ASPCA there are 5,000 independent animal shelters overall, meaning only 1.2 % of all total shelters. The reality is…only 200 no-kill communities out of 21,585 communities…That means a total of .9 % communities approved by Mr.Winograd. Despite their good intentions many of these no-kill shelters are failing miserably by refusing to accept…by turning away… cats and dogs to unknown fates. 3-4 million animals per year are euthanized in shelters. The majority of these dogs and cats the hardest to find appropriate homes for. 2.3 million adult cats & 900,000 dogs (characterized as ‘pit bull types’) lose their lives each year in shelters. You cannot force the public to adopt these animals…you cannot force a dog-lover to adopt a cat. You cannot convince someone who wants a small young dog to adopt a senior 50 pound Pit Bull. Yet Mr. Winograd continues to blame shelters for the preferences …and for the irresponsibility…of the general public, regardless of the overwhelming evidence otherwise. According to ASPCA: it’s estimated there are 90 million un-owned cats in America, about 2 percent are sterilized. In ONE DAY & EVERYDAY over 733,000 puppies are advertised online by breeders. How is it possible that adult cats and pit-bull type dogs can EVER compete with such odds stacked against them. It isn’t, that’s how. Everyone wants an answer. Limit breeding. Spay & neuter. There are no other answers…only accusations.

    Nathan Winograd’s accusatory and thoughtless rhetoric is dangerous. He has put shelter animals at grave risk by denying pet overpopulation. This gives the general public the impression that it’s not necessary to fix their pets. It encourages people to overlook shelter pets & buy from a breeder instead. Mr. Winograd claims there is an adopter for every stray animal….therefore there is no need to decrease the population of cats & dogs being born. This is a symptom of the no kill movement: 25% of all animal hoarding investigations in the US involve companion animal “rescues.” Approximately 1,500 animal rescues are investigated for abuse and neglect in the US every year, and according to experts, the phenomenon is on the rise. Mr. Winograd disparages and maligns every national animal protection group in the United States, asking people to instead, send their money to HIM. Long-time no-kill leader Peter Marsh has an effective plan which been proven to work in New Hampshire . Because of the tireless and rational spay & neuter efforts of Mr. Marsh, New Hampshire is considered a no-kill state. Peter Marsh has faced this country’s overwhelming pet overpopulation crisis head-on. Mr. Marsh’s number one solution? We must actively seek out the people who cannot afford to spay & neuter their pets ….the cause of 80% of the pet overpopulation. This is top priority of rational proven no-kill solutions. We must STOP , as best we can, the overwhelming number of cats and dogs born every minute of every day. So fewer animals end up in shelters in the first place:

    Caught on camera, 4 no-kill shelters that are following the no-kill equation turning away animals:

    1.Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, Charlottesville, VA
    2. Fluvanna SPCA, Troy, VA
    3. Humane Society of Williamson County, Leander, Texas
    4. Tompkins County SPCA, Ithaca, NY

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