Embedded negligence can sometimes cause mistaken killings of animals at shelters in America

Nathan Winograd is right. He reports on at least 12 dogs being “mistakenly” killed “without approval” at the Wichita Animal Shelter run by the Wichita police department. The police department called the event regrettable and said that they were launching an investigation. It’s the usual kind of response but the important point that Winograd makes is that when dogs and cats are killed at animal shelters it might not be down to an accident or a mistake but more about a negligent attitude towards animal welfare.

Dog leads at the Wichita Animal Shelter.
Dog leads at the Wichita Animal Shelter. Screenshot.

The point is we have to go back to the root cause. The public can accept the odd accident or mistake but the public can’t accept ongoing mistakes because they can no longer be described as mistakes.

If mistaken animal shelter killings occur often in American shelters – and they do because a Google search for “shelter mistakenly euthanised pet” produces pages and pages of results from different shelters – the killings can no longer be called mistaken or accidental. They must be the result of a culture or an attitude in the shelters which predisposes them to carelessly killing healthy animals who should have been cared for and rehomed. That is the argument.

And you can’t keep on saying sorry for a mistake that resulted in the death of an animal who should have lived in a nice home. An apology does not wash if it’s a constant problem.

Winograd says that the mistakes can sometimes be put down to a bad attitude and a lack of commitment to saving lives and rehomed the animals. He says that shelters can achieve much lower kill rates with good managers who have the right objectives and the commitment to attain those objectives. He calls them “No-Kill” shelters. These are not totally no kill shelters as dogs and cats are killed in them but the killing is minimised to a very low level thanks to, as mentioned, a good attitude.

If you want to test what Winograd says then please apply the test he recommends which is to google “shelter mistakenly euthanised pet”. You will see what I mean and what he means.

The Wichita Animal Shelter tragedy was caused, according to the shelter, by a breakdown in communication and they are taking steps to prevent it happening again. The manager of the shelter in a video explains why the dogs were euthanised. He says that seven had to be euthanised because five of them were classified as dangerous and the other two had kennel cough and he had no space for them. As to the remaining 12, I can’t understand what he’s talking about. He appears to say that the staffers who organised the euthanasia of the dogs made a mistake on the threshold at which dogs are euthanised based upon the occupancy rate of the shelter. I might be wrong on that but that would seem to be what they are saying.

The manager admits a ‘mistake’ was made.

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