Animal Welfare

Reading Series: Dogland – Death-Row Dogs

This is a continuation of my Reading Series for the non-fiction book, Dogland, where I blog my thoughts and reactions to each chapter as I read through the book. Please feel free to read along or comment on the topics below!

I love this chapter’s discussion on animal shelters: their history, euthanasia and its tolls on shelter works; the tense relationship between “no-kill” and kill shelters; and the controversial phase “no-kill” itself.

This chapter reminded me of my introduction to animal activism. As I’ve written before in my blog, I began my animal welfare/rights activism with animal shelter issues. In fact, there’s a photo of me in a group shot protesting the New York City animal shelter system, in Nathan Winograd’s book, Friendly Fire! I don’t want to say that I’m embarrassed by my early days of activism, but I do think I was misguided a bit. I don’t think it was (or is) right to demonize shelter workers, as many activists do. As Dogland’s author Jacki Skole points out in this chapter, a 2005 study found that shelter employees who have to euthanize animals suffer many psychological effects. (As an aside, I want to say that I feel similarly toward slaughterhouse workers, who should not be demonized, either.)

I liked how in the beginning of the chapter, Jacki described the location and architecture of the Gaston shelter, and then at the end of the chapter, reflected on her own local shelter back home. Animal advocates should look critically at their local shelter (or shelters) and think about things like: Where is the shelter located? Is it easy to get to? What are the hours? How long, at a minimum, can the shelter legally be required to hold onto an animal? What does the shelter look like — e.g., is there a fence surrounding it? Are there windows? Is it nice to look at from the outside? What do the kennels look like? What kind of first impression does the shelter give you? I think the answer to these questions can help improve the impact our animal shelters have on our communities. After all, the lives of innocent animals are at stake. Without clean, easily accessible facilities available to the public, the animals will suffer. I picked those two photos above because they look like welcoming animal shelters in stark contrast to the Gaston County shelter that Jacki visits in the chapter.

Shelters have certainly come along way, as evidenced from the chapter’s brief discussion of their history in this country. I personally had no idea that animals were clubbed and drowned to death in the early shelters; this was something I learned from reading the chapter. Such inhumane practices may not occur anymore, but many shelters still use the gas chamber. Gaston County shelter, for example, which is one that Jacki visited in this chapter actually used the gas chamber up until relatively recently. For further reference on the use of gas chambers in animal shelters, please see: And as an aside, please know that many factory farms use the gas chamber to kill pigs and tout the practice as “humane.” For more information on the gassing of pigs, please see:

…Actually, reflecting on this issue some more — I think our relationship with farm animals can inform our relationship with companion animals like dogs. An interesting conversation highlighted in the chapter between Jacki and Ms. Mona Triplett, a humane investigator in North Carolina, speaks to this issue. Triplett lives in a town where there is a desensitization to the plight of animals; it’s farm country, where “animals are used for food, for our needs” and this leads to an attitude where people don’t value animals or see them as other than property.

What do you think? My readers have been so quiet… would genuinely love to hear your thoughts!

Previous Posts:

Dogland: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem can be purchased directly through Ashland Creek Press. Interested in a preview? A book excerpt is available here.



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