More dogs in shelters will be euthanized during coronavirus outbreak, warns animal rights group

Social distancing and staffing problems at shelters may cause rise in animals being put down  

Richard Hall
New York
Thursday 19 March 2020 15:55 GMT
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A Beagle/ Pekingese dog stands on a bench in Central Park on March 17, 2020 in New York City. (There is no suggestion that this dog will be euthanized).
A Beagle/ Pekingese dog stands on a bench in Central Park on March 17, 2020 in New York City. (There is no suggestion that this dog will be euthanized).

The coronavirus outbreak may lead to an increase in the number of dogs being euthanized by shelters in New York, animal welfare advocates have warned.

With much of the city observing social distancing and staff being forced to stay home, fewer dogs will be successfully adopted in the coming months, which will mean more will have to be put down, according to Voices for Shelter Animals.

A number of adoption events have reportedly already been postponed since the coronavirus outbreak began.

It called on animal shelters in the city to “suspend all non-medical and non-dangerous animal euthanasia” in response to the “potential decline in volunteer and staff attendance”.

The group also called for a “suspension of all landlord actions that compel tenants to surrender animals” — a common reason people give up pets to shelters.

Katy Hansen, spokesperson for the Animal Care Centres of New York, which manages shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, told The Independent: “We are trying everything we can to ensure there is no increase in euthanasia. But, we can’t do it without the help of the community.”

"Even with appropriate social distancing, 2,000 New Yorkers have signed up to be a foster for a pet while they work from home [since the outbreak began]. We suspended all non-medical and dangerous animal euthanasia last week and to date have not euthanized any pets for reasons other than extreme medical reasons," she said.

Voices for Shelter Animals advocates for a “no-kill” policy for New York shelters, meaning no animals should be put down while in their care.

Despite decades of campaigning by animal welfare groups, many rescue shelters still euthanize animals for reasons of capacity, or if the animal is sick or dangerous.

Some shelters do have no-kill policies, but that too can cause suffering to animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), perhaps the most well-known animal rights group in the world, has actively campaigned against no-kill shelters.

“Animals at ‘no-kill’ shelters who have been deemed unadoptable may be ‘warehoused’ in cages for years. They become withdrawn, severely depressed, or aggressive, and this further decreases their chances for adoption,” it says on its website. “Cageless facilities avoid the cruelty of constant confinement but unintentionally encourage fighting and the spread of disease among animals.”

“These animals will still face untimely deaths—just not at these facilities.”

The rate of pet euthanasia has fallen by more than 75 percent over the last 10 years, according to a recent analysis by the New York Times. Much of that change is attributed to an increase in spaying and neutering.

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