DeKalb considering end to no-kill shelter policy as animal rights groups debate its effectivenessA kennel at the DeKalb County animal shelter. Photo provided to Decaturish
DeKalb County, GA — Big changes may be coming to DeKalb County’s animal shelter as questions mount about the effectiveness of the shelter’s no-kill policies.
Generally, a no-kill shelter is one that only euthanizes 10 percent of its animals. But that policy is creating hard choices in DeKalb County as the conditions of the shelter have come under scrutiny. Now PETA is advocating an end to this policy, deeming it cruel to animals, while the No Kill Advocacy Center is urging the county to stay the course.
DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond has publicly expressed an interest in ending the no-kill policy, according to WSB-TV.
The DeKalb County Animal Services Advisory Committee received a bleak report about the status of the county’s animal shelter at their meeting Sept. 21. Animal intakes have increased year over year since 2020, while adoptions have dropped off.
Despite LifeLine’s goals and record of preserving the lives of animals in their care, LifeLine Founder and CEO Rebecca Guinn said that the overcrowded conditions contribute to the spread of disease and create hard choices.
“Animals are sick in the shelter due to overpopulation. We are pulling out all of the stops, including euthanasia, to get the population down,” Guinn said.
An investigation by the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed that DeKalb’s shelter has been inspected more often than neighboring shelters due to unsanitary conditions.
PETA sent a letter to Thurmond thanking him “for your compassion for animals and for considering rescinding dangerous and inhumane ‘no-kill’ policies.”
The letter calls the policies “disastrous for both animals and residents.”
“As you noted in a recent interview, preventing animals from ending up homeless is the only humane and sustainable solution to this crisis,” the letter says. “Your community isn’t alone—others across the country are grappling with the same issues, created by irresponsible owners and those who breed animals for profit. Exasperated with pouring more tax dollars into collecting, housing, and transferring or euthanizing the huge number of animals who are born unwanted, many communities have passed laws that require residents to have dogs and cats sterilized or to purchase breeding permits that can help offset the cost of animal control. Elected officials in Gadsden, Alabama, recently passed emergency legislation that requires residents to have their animal companions spayed or neutered to reduce the number of neglected and homeless animals who suffer alone outdoors and endanger residents. Floyd County, Georgia, recently passed a similar measure. We urge DeKalb County to take equally meaningful legislative action.”
To read the letter from PETA, click here.
But the No Kill Advocacy Center sent a letter to commissioners saying PETA has an ulterior motive for wanting to end the county’s no-kill policy.
“While PETA’s opposition to No Kill still surprises some, it shouldn’t,” No Kill Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan J. Winograd told commissioners. “PETA historically kills roughly 90% of the animals it takes in, despite over $80 million in annual revenues. Why? PETA officials believe that sharing one’s home subjects animals to bondage and oppression: ‘Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles — from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.’ As PETA believes people are incapable of caring for animals and that those animals likewise cannot live on the street, animals are damned either way, and thus killing them is a ‘gift.'”
Commissioner Ted Terry forwarded along his response to the letter, saying commissioners were taken aback by Thurmond’s recent announcement that he was reconsidering the no-kill policy.
“The unilateral announcement of this policy change has not been heard by the Board of Commissioners,” Terry wrote. “And before any major policy change is implemented, the Commissioners, animal advisory board and relevant stakeholders must be engaged to develop a strategy and plan of action. And we must reach consensus.”
Below is the letter from the No Kill Advocacy Center and Commissioner Terry’s response:
On behalf of the Georgia members of The No Kill Advocacy Center and our DeKalb County members specifically, we thank you for your leadership in making local shelters a place where animals find a new beginning instead of what they find elsewhere — the end of the line. We write because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has gone public, opposing your effort to save lives and encouraging you to kill animals again.
PETA contends that a shelter faces three extreme choices: kill animals, turn them away, or warehouse them for months. There’s another option: the No Kill Equation — a series of cost-effective programs that include marketing, pet retention, volunteers, and robust adoption campaigns.
These programs are humane, readily available, affordable, and — when comprehensively implemented to the point that they replace killing entirely — effective. Communities across the country that embrace the No Kill Equation place 95%- 99% of animals without turning animals away, putting public safety at risk, or warehousing animals. Collectively, the No Kill Equation has resulted in a nationwide shelter death rate decline of 95%, fewer people buying animals, more people adopting, and 30% fewer puppy mills.
While PETA’s opposition to No Kill still surprises some, it shouldn’t. PETA historically kills roughly 90% of the animals it takes in, despite over $80 million in annual revenues. Why? PETA officials believe that sharing one’s home subjects animals to bondage and oppression: “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles — from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.” As PETA believes people are incapable of caring for animals and that those animals likewise cannot live on the street, animals are damned either way, and thus killing them is a “gift.”
Given that PETA runs a facility that historically has been the functional equivalent of a slaughterhouse, it begs the question: why should anyone listen to PETA on how to run a shelter?
Very truly yours,
Nathan J. Winograd
Thank you for reaching out.
Many have been surprised by the pronouncement of this policy change being considered, including myself as the Super District 6 Commissioner, because the CEO said nothing to the Board of Commissioners or animal advisory board members about it. We learned about it when he spoke to the media …
The severe issues at our DeKalb Animal Shelter have been present for at least 3 years now, and we heard basically nothing from the CEO on these issues, until just these last few days. Apparently he visited the shelter yesterday, which in my recollection is the 2nd time he has personally visited, since the place opened
The unilateral announcement of this policy change has not been heard by the Board of Commissioners. And before any major policy change is implemented, the Commissioners, animal advisory board and relevant stakeholders must be engaged to develop a strategy and plan of action. And we must reach consensus.
We operate in a form of government where some believe the CEO is the King… but with the voice of the people represented by the Commissioners and our relevant citizen boards, we can reign in the oversteps of a heady monarch ruling from on high.
I welcome the input from all parties, including the CEO, to work together towards a common sense consensus driven approach. Now is the not the time to add fuel to the fires burning throughout our animal services system. This is not the time for politicians to pick what’s best for them, too many lives are at stake to seek or think there is an easy route to solving the multitude of challenges we face.
My office welcomes your input and hope that we can schedule time to discuss what you and your organization have been working on around the USA to help DeKalb County reach or exceed the model standard of an animal services system.
— Ted Terry
Writer Sara Amis contributed to this story.
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