Animal Euthanasia
Can every animal be saved?

A growing number of animals in the city receive little to no veterinary care and/or are victims of neglect, abuse, poor living conditions, socialization, dog-fighting or other forms of animal cruelty. In addition, the poor economic climate in the city has significantly affected the ability of many pet owners to care for animals.

MHS takes in more than six times the number of animals than the next largest organization in Michigan, and does not limit its admissions to only those animals which are deemed to be healthy/adoptable, as some other organizations do. Further, the challenges presented by being the primary animal welfare agency in the city of Detroit contribute to animals coming into our facilities with more severe health or temperament/behavioral issues than those seen in other communities.

MHS has implemented numerous programs and services targeted at improving animal health and welfare. These include low-cost sterilization services, humane education programs, discounted veterinary services for the indigent, a free pet food bank, low-cost vaccination clinics, cruelty investigation and rescue services, as well as our trap-neuter-release program for feral cats.

MHS’ legislative advocacy efforts have also resulted in the enactment of animal protection laws which are among the strictest in the country. In addition, MHS provides the state’s largest educational conference for animal welfare professionals, bringing in nationally renowned speakers on emerging issues within the industry.

Open-admission facilities like MHS will accept ANY animal, regardless of its condition, adoptability, geography, or available kennel space. MHS will not turn its back on an animal in need, even if it means that the most humane option for that animal is to provide a dignified and humane end.

Can every animal be saved?

Sadly, no. When animals are severely ill or injured, or whose temperament makes them dangerous to place into a home, MHS will not place these animals for adoption. As the primary animal welfare organization in the city of Detroit and the largest in the state of Michigan for the past 130 years, MHS feels that it has a responsibility to the community to not adopt out animals that could be dangerous, or prolong an animal’s suffering.

However, MHS spends nearly 83 cents of every dollar donated to the organization to save as many animals as possible, as well as working with partners in the animal welfare community, including other shelters and rescues, to find the proper home for as many animals as can.

As the state’s largest open admission animal welfare organization, MHS takes in more animals than any other organization in Michigan. Sadly, a growing percentage of these animals are unsavable, even by the same standards promoted by so-called “no-kill” organizations. MHS’ overall euthanasia rate has steadily declined over the past decade, and MHS will continue to strive to reduce the number of animals who must be humanely euthanized.

What does the phrase “no kill” mean and what does it take to become a “no-kill” organization?

Most importantly, “no-kill” does not mean “no euthanasia.” Even organizations who call themselves “no-kill” regularly euthanize animals found to be “severely sick or injured and whose prognosis for rehabilitation is poor or grave” or “vicious or dangerous dogs.”

The “No-Kill Equation” calls for organizations to operate programs including high-volume low-cost sterilization programs, foster care network, comprehensive adoption programs, medical and behavioral rehabilitation programs, pet retention programs, trap-neuter-release programs, allow rescue groups access to shelter animals, volunteer programs and compassionate leadership.

MHS employs all of these techniques to lower our euthanasia rates and find as many pets a loving home as possible. However, one thing MHS will not do in a misguided attempt to lower a “kill rate” is limit admissions. Many “no-kill organizations will limit their animal admissions to those animals who are adoptable, and turn other animals away. While enacting this policy would have an immediately positive effect on MHS’ statistics, it would have a far greater negative effect on the community.

MHS has implemented all of the programs called for under the “No-Kill Equation” and is working diligently to reduce the number of animals who are ultimately deemed to be untreatable. MHS’ strategic plan calls for guaranteed placement for 100% of all healthy and treatable animals within the next few years.  However, MHS has no intention to ever turn away an animal, and is committed to remaining an open-admission animal welfare organization.

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