Nothing – not politics, not religion, nothing – seems to get
Americans as riled up as issues involving animals, especially pets.
Stories about unusual, missing, or heroic dogs and cats – or about animals that
are abused – produce broad smiles, copious tears, or intense debate.
example is the kill rate – or conversely, the save rate – at the nation's
animal shelters: how many rescued strays or donated animals find homes, and how
many are euthanized because they're too sick, too dangerous, too old, too wild,
or weren't quite cute enough to get adopted.
handful of shelters profess to employ a no-kill policy. Even feral cats
are neutered and returned to the wild. That makes for good public
relations; people like to donate to shelters with high save rates. And
they like to volunteer there, too.
saving a high percentage of animals is not always easy. Some shelters
don't have room or cannot afford, to keep large numbers of critters
around. Rural shelters take in lots of wildlife that can't be placed in
homes; shelters in some poor areas must put down vicious dogs that have been
trained to fight.
2004, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-welfare groups
agreed on uniform standards for describing the condition of sheltered animals –
such as treatable, unhealthy, and untreatable – as well how to report the
save-kill rate. But lots of shelters don't subscribe to these
guidelines. And some refuse to make their euthanasia rates public.
is serious business in a field in which statistics take on the real and
adorable face of a playful kitten, a cuddly puppy, a sassy bird, or a sad-eyed