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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Kim

Save the Strays

By Stephanie Kim, Editor-in-Chief

Photo taken by Stephanie K.

Having too many workers might mean relocation or layoffs, having too many children might mean adoption. And when there are too many strays in shelters–it means euthanasia, “put to death humanely.”

Nationwide around 6.3 million animals are placed in shelters every year and 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports this, as well as that the euthanasia number has gone down from 2.6 million in 2011–over ten years ago. However, American Humane says, “National euthanasia statistics are difficult to pinpoint because animal care and control agencies are not uniformly required to keep statistics on the number of animals taken in, adopted, euthanized or reclaimed.”

I spoke with someone from Open Door Animal Sanctuary in House Springs, a no-kill organization, about euthanizing and ways to prevent it from happening.

The representative for Open Door says, “The term ‘no-kill’ means the organization euthanizes less than 10% of their intake per year.” Though it surprises me that “no-kill” does not actually mean no killing, I know I have to be realistic. The representative goes on to explain, “Sometimes putting an animal to sleep is the best thing for that animal. If they are sick (organ failure, old age, failure to thrive, FIP, distemper, parvo, etc...) to a point where saving them is impossible, putting them to sleep is the only humane thing to do. No one wants to do it but sometimes it has to be done.” They continue later on telling, “At Open Door we do not euthanize for space.”

Euthanizing is a difficult decision to make, especially for shelter workers. The Open Door Animal Sanctuary representative continues to explain the struggles of being a “no-kill” organization saying, “It is also hard to be no-kill because we can't take in every animal that needs us. All shelters have an amount of animals that they can care for. Unfortunately, there are more unwanted animals than there are shelters or homes.”

In regard to preventing euthanization and caring for animal well-being, the representative explains, “The only way to stop euthanasia is by spaying or neutering your pet. Open Door has a low-cost s/n program to help those who can't afford a regular veterinarian get their animals fixed but we have a 6 month waiting list. There are so many animals that need to be fixed and so few vets to do it. Luckily in St. Louis there is Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic that also does low-cost spay/neutering so people have other options.”

I also spoke with a representative from Stray Rescue of St. Louis, which is another no-kill organization. The representative describes, “Stray Rescue of St. Louis is not only a no-kill organization, but we spare no cost to save an injured dog, and give scared dogs all the time they need to come around. We only euthanize if they will not have a good quality of life. Even if they are diagnosed with a terminal cancer, we have a hospice program so they can go into a foster home to live out their final days with dignity. When the time comes that they are no longer thriving, we will then help them cross the rainbow bridge. We often have everyone that loves the dog or cat gather together - on nice days, we go outside in the yard. We lay them on a fluffy blanket in the sun and tell them they are beautiful and loved.”

The representative goes on to talk about specific issues they handle saying, “If a dog has a behavioral issue, they work with our training and enrichment team. Oftentimes dogs can be very scared at first which may cause them to growl or even lunge. But once they work through their fear and understand they are safe and we love them, they begin to blossom and show us their true selves. We work on their timeline rather than giving them one.”

Stray Rescue of St. Louis also works to expand knowledge of their organization. The representative tells me, “We attend and host many adoption events every year and focus on growing our foster network so we can continue to save more. By telling their stories on social media, having cute photoshoots, and making sure they are on the website, we can keep a steady flow of adoption applications coming in. Interested families work with our adoption team, who we refer to as match makers. A family may come in for a specific dog, but if we know that particular dog will not thrive in their household environment, we will direct them to a better fit and set them up for success. We also offer training classes, group walks, and free puppy socialization classes to provide resources to families who recently added a new member to their family.”

When it comes to preventing euthanasia, the Stray Rescue representative says, “The best way to help a shelter prevent euthanizing is to foster! Financial donations help them provide medical care and fostering opens a space in shelters so another can be given a chance. Spay and neuter your own pets to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis. To specifically help Stray Rescue, please visit to make a donation, sign up to foster and/or volunteer–and of course to adopt!”

American Humane agrees with both organizations' statements to get animal medical care, saying “American Humane believes that all dogs and cats adopted from public or private animal care and control agencies must be sterilized before being allowed to leave the shelter and supports passage of state laws mandating this practice.”

Though the euthanasia of shelter animals seems to be going down, as ASPCA reports, it can be hard to determine if that is actually true–as American Humane reports. As fellow mammals on this planet, we should help the animals around us. And as community members, we should help each other. Supporting organizations such as Open Door Animal Sanctuary and Stray Rescue of St. Louis does both at the same time. By supporting them you support the well-being of animals.

Photo by Stephanie K.

To donate, adopt, or learn more about Open Door Animal Sanctuary:

To donate, foster, adopt or learn more about Stray Rescue of St. Louis:

Adopt, donate, or learn more about ASPCA:

To donate or learn more about American Humane:


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