Monday, December 14, 2009

Please Don't Call It Euthanasia!

Euthanasia: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. (Webster’s 10th Collegiate Dictionary).

The vast majority of animals killed in pounds are not hopelessly sick or injured, and yet so many of the e-mails I receive, articles and rescue posts I read, or people I hear speaking about animals in the pound who are about to be killed say that they are going to be “euthanized.” This is not euthanasia. Being killed when you are healthy or treatable and want very much to live is not a “good death” (the literal meaning of the word).

I would like to appeal to everyone involved in rescue and animal advocacy (and everyone else for that matter) to stop using the word euthanasia when describing an animal who is not terminally ill or irremediably suffering, but is being killed by the “shelter” only for ostensible lack of space. We must stop using euphemisms that hide the truth, even in an attempt to be “politically correct.” To use this word in this way is not only inaccurate, but it plays into the idea that killing is the best thing for the animal, even if he/she is healthy or treatable. It gives the killing an aura of legitimacy and kindness that it should not have, and it therefore helps to perpetuate the killing. Words are powerful, and the words we use, and hear used, affect our attitudes and world view in profound ways we often don’t even realize. (Look for more on this idea in a later post).

When I have made this appeal in the past, I have been asked what word I suggest be used instead. While there are a number of words that would be much more accurate than euthanasia, the most obvious, straightforward, and accurate choice is simply killing. There is no need for dramatics. I’m not advocating that people use inflammatory words like murder or slaughter (although some would argue that these words are even more accurate). I am simply advocating that we speak the truth and do not continue to use a word that is not only grossly inaccurate, but also does a great disservice to the animals.

So I ask you to please join with me and pledge not to use the word euthanasia when referring to killing healthy or treatable animals. And when you hear others using the word, please also remind them to do the same. If we all insist on this correct usage, we can change the way people talk about killing for space. Of course, this will not stop the killing, but it will put it in its true light, and that will go a long way to help people see it for what it really is, and that can only be a step forward.


  1. May I suggest convenience killed?

  2. Great article Tina and I just posted it on the No Kill San Diego facebook page :)!/pages/No-Kill-San-Diego/176149375733600

  3. Good for you for posting this in such a clear way. I have been using the word kill not Euthanasia for years now. At first the shelter people were upset until I explained to them why I use it that way what my true objective was in explaining the difference. I wish I had had your post as it is very well written.

  4. I will always call it euthanasia. Until the stupid people in the world stop needlessly breeding their animals, there will always be a need for kill shelters. When I euthanize an animal, I don't think about as the animal being ill, I think of what a mercy I'm doing for that animal. Euthanasia in a shelter is better than that animal living in the shelter for the rest of its life. Oh and by the way... I hate it, I'm not heartless, and I love animals enough to help them in anyway I can. If that mean holding and loving on a 10 yr old dog that someone had since a pup, then decided they couldn't keep anymore, that is the best thing! So... all my dogs have come from a kill shelter and all of us who have to do this "dirty deed" don't appreciate people who think that its as easy as shutting down kill shelters. Believe me, I would be happier than anyone else if there wasn't a need for my job.

    1. Not shut down kill shelters - convert them to no-kill shelters. It can be and has been done all over this country.
      Those who say it can't be done should not interrupt the ones who are doing it.

    2. @Wolfy -- respectfully, I am an animal advocate who feels differently than you do. I have volunteered at shelters & I have diligently worked my tail off to notify the various rescues weekly of the animals on death row that need pulling from the shelter.

      There are alternatives. I watch over my feral colonies & those animals have it tough, no question about that. But if we killed all the humans on the planet who were having it tough we wouldn't have a population problem. It is not our call to say that death is more humane that life, whether it be tough, good or parts in between.

      When I watch my own five rescue cats, three of which were pulled from death within 4 hours, I am more convinced than ever we have NO RIGHT to determine who lives & who dies. If you can justify your job that way, then I'm happy for you...I guess. But I watch the feral colonies playing together, the mothers looking after their kittens & the others basking in the sun or nestling together against the cold, I realize if we could ask them would they rather be dead, you'd get a resounding NO!!! We trap, vet, spay/neuter & release these kitties & they are happy. I know you probably don't want to hear that, but nevertheless it is true.

      The killing has to stop, whatever you chose to call it, it is still death of an animal. Gas chambers are torture, heart sticks are worse. The crime for these babies is that they are homeless. Maybe we should think about scooping up all the homeless from the streets of large cities too?

  5. Thank you, Diva and Riaya.

    Wolfy, first of all, it is by definition an incorrect use of the word to call killing for space euthanasia - please check your dictionary. Second, you are mistaken to think there is a need for kill shelters. It is not "the stupid people in the world" who are causing animals to be killed, it is "shelter" directors who refuse to implement the strategies that have proven time and again to bring about an end to the killing.

  6. It is ridiculous, in my opinion, to construct discussion of a problem around the fact that "stupid people" exist in the world. Stupid people - by whatever definition one uses - have always existed and will always exist.

    In ANY field, the challenge and the charge is how to address a problem WHILE STUPID PEOPLE STILL EXIST and still act stupid. Anything else is a copout.

    Would we accept a psychiatrist who said, "My job would be easy were it not for all these annoying crazy people"? Or a doctor who refused to deal with "sick people"? Of course not.

    So, for an animal shelter, the issue might well be, "How are WE going to help all of these animals that 'stupid people' leave here?"

    OK. Fine. If the answer is, "Kill them," sorry, the onus has moved from the stupid people to the LAZY, thoughtless people who refuse to deal with the truth of the challenge set before them.

  7. Wonderfully written & great viewpoints.
    Please read the blog in response to yours @

  8. leeandher3, thank you. I have read your blog and left a comment for you there.

  9. Tina,
    Allow me the opportunity to Thank You, as well, for your understanding the pain those of us in the field have to go through even though it is nothing to compared to the terror the animal feels as it walks into the "blue room".

    Also, I apologize for any wording that implied I was accusing you, personally, of "pointing fingers". That is definitely not the intention for my blog. My intentions are only for others to see ALL the cards on the table here.
    However, I do want to clarify that not one of my co-workers, most especially myself, felt that the killing is "necessary" in any way, shape or form. I can only speak for myself (and with the permission from a few of my co-workers) when I say that I knew then and now that there simply had to be another way.
    What I was most awkwardly trying to say was that we, you and I, are most definitely on the same page and know that there are many working at "shelters" who feel the same way.
    My goal, as far as I can see it, is to put the actual meaning back into the word "shelter"
    Websters Dictionary: n. place, structure giving protection; protection; refuge; haven --vt. give protection to; screen --vi. take shelter

    I stand by my original conviction, though, that there isn't any one specific group of people to "blame" and only education and lobbying is the best way in the long run. I don't like the word "stupid". I think "uneducated" and "set in their ways" are likely to get people LIKE you and I much further in our cause if we leave name calling out of it. I emphasize the word LIKE so that it is clear I'm not including yourself or your commentators specifically. Let's face the reality that there are many out there in all phases of social status who still think that the dirty fighting and smear campaigns are the only way to go about things...sigh. This is a human issue, period.

    But, I digress..............

    I thank you for your suggestions of reading materials and I will definitely heed your advice. I am open to anymore suggestions you can point me to........
    Last, but not least, I look forward to more of your blogs and perhaps a healthy collaboration in "getting the truth out there"

  10. I have been saying this for years... People are finally catching on... Good article!!!

  11. Omg. This is ridiculous I ever heard worker people don't think there anyting wrong to kill. Ur no that is mass murder! I agree with tina stupid people work at the shelter is killing mass murder that is not necessary. So many sweet dogs and cats didn't do anything wrong . The killing mass murder to dogs and cats to stop now

  12. Thank you,Tina,I shared this.It needed said.I agree with Barbara,as well.In regards to Wolfy ~ you're justifying the wrong you do by blaming others lack of doing right. Two wrongs do not make a right...They abandoned,you kill. If kill shelters are removed,you lose your livelihood. So,not hard to see that the stupid/selfish are the ones perpetuating the killings. ~♥~ Ecclesiastes 3:19 & Proverbs 12:10

  13. Thank ~You Tina for sharing this with us. I will every chance I get to remind people. Also @ Toylasso I will share your Bible passages, and Thank~You for sharing with us.

    Ecclesiates 3:19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[a]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless.

    Proverbs 12:10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
    but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

    Also.. Psalm 36:6
    6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
    Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;..

    Kings 8:5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.
    Also I am not sure many people are aware that all animals and creatures and birds and even the fish of the waters praise God!
    I will give the entire verse..

    Psalm 148 1 Praise the LORD!

    Praise the LORD from the heavens;
    Praise Him in the heights!
    2 Praise Him, all His angels;
    Praise Him, all His hosts!
    3 Praise Him, sun and moon;
    Praise Him, all you stars of light!
    4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
    And you waters above the heavens!

    5 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
    For He commanded and they were created.
    6 He also established them forever and ever;
    He made a decree which shall not pass away.

    7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
    You great sea creatures and all the depths;
    8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
    Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
    9 Mountains and all hills;
    Fruitful trees and all cedars;
    10 Beasts and all cattle;
    Creeping things and flying fowl;
    11 Kings of the earth and all peoples;
    Princes and all judges of the earth;
    12 Both young men and maidens;
    Old men and children.

    13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
    For His name alone is exalted;
    His glory is above the earth and heaven.
    14 And He has exalted the horn of His people,
    The praise of all His saints—
    Of the children of Israel,
    A people near to Him.

    Praise the LORD
    I hope it was ok to share this. I am an animal lover and respecter of animals and I try to fight for there very rights inside Gods Laws. I just wish people would recognize the truth about animal care. Thank~You for taking the time to read my input.

  14. Amen.

    'PTS' is a euphemism but at least there's no value element about it being a good thing.

    I would also add something I realized while in the trenches at a city pound, which No Kill Nation also says- many municipal animal control impoundment facilities are not "shelters" at all, so I am careful to call a pound a pound.

  15. Mercy? Wolfy? Mercy? Convenience, laziness, lack of for-site and will, lack of respect for life, easy easy easy do - kill and dispose, problem gone. eh? Mercy.....?

  16. Totally against killing of any nature, but I have a question. If almost 10, 000 a day are Killed, in the U.S. and our shelters are still Full, how could they take in anymore, what then ?!?! I believe people having pets not getting them spayed/neutered, are the beginning of the problem, there is so many issues that create this. I pray to see a resolution to this in my life time! I have rescues, I have fostered many times, had to stop fostering because I ended up having to adopt my fosters because after months, no one would adopt them.

  17. Asicit, approximately four million animals are killed in pounds each year, but also each year, about 17 million people are looking to bring a new pet into their home and are undecided as to where to get that animal. The idea of "pet overpopulation" is a false one that has been perpetuated by the kill pounds. It is not a question of numbers, but of more innovative adoption and other programs by the shelters.

  18. Put to Sleep and Euthanize are just sugar-coated words for killing.

  19. DOWNLOAD THE BROCHURE, Do the right thing in your area, support conversion of your shelters from kill to no-kill. Find out how.

    1. tkdyer, you posted two comments, and I published both, but only the above showed up. I apologize, I don't know what went wrong. If you can repost the other one, I will try again to publish it.

  20. I agree with this 100%, there are so many healthy puppies, kittens being killed, for no reason. =/


  22. The term "shelter" is most often a euphamism as well. These temporary holding/killing facilities are BUSINESSES which get paid by local municipalities (i.e. taxpayers) PER CAPITA for every animal killed.

  23. Many advocates for the no-kill movement still eat animals and are unaware that over 99% of cruelty to animals in the United States occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries - which confine, torture, mutilate, and slaughter 9 billion animals each year. Does your Soul approve of this:

  24. julieveggie, you are correct, many No Kill advocates do eat animals. However, many of us do not. I personally am vegan. We are all at our own stage in our journey of compassion. On the other hand, many vegan advocates also promote continued killing in so-called "shelters," including some large organizations such as PETA. I find this even more distresing than No Kill advocates eating meat.

  25. Our own "pound" is rife with graft, greed and an amazing ability to pay the Director a 6 figure salary while "putting down" 98% of the cats/ kittens that come in and over 50% of the dogs/puppies! I was charged $70.00 a piece, for 2 kittens that I helped Foster that were diagnosed with CH and were deemed "unadoptable" by the staff! I couldn't let them die.. so I paid. I have an animal sanctuary that has taken in many,many domestic animals that were on Death Row due to being Fiscally "Inconvenient"! Bless You for printing this and God Bless!

  26. Thank you, Badger, and bless YOU for helping so many animals.