We can’t save ’em all

By isak, April 14, 2010


I am not at all comfortable with that statement. I feel it gives us permission to not try as hard as we might. It gives our heart an “excuse” when things don’t work out. And for some, it gives reason to not even get involved in the first place because “we can’t save ’em all.”

With that logic in mind, who CAN we save? Which animal will we wave our magic wand over and rescue?

Do we pick the one that just needs to be brushed off and will likely be easy to place, say a healthy, cute one…. or do we pick the one with immediate and perhaps long-term needs? The one that may never look quite “normal;” the one whose life may not be as long because of it’s physical maladies?

In a kill-shelter where animals are routinely culled, the animal with serious injuries is often the first to be eliminated. Her life is deemed not worthy of the chance. She is too much bother, so put her on the kill list. And within hours of coming through the front door as living, breathing, feeling sentient beings, animals like this go out the back door dead — they are waste to be disposed of as you would trash, often to be sent to landfills.

But what if the answer doesn’t seem so obvious? What if from the outside both candidates look like they have good potential to be selected by a loving family?

In this case, the dog on the right, Jerome, is dead. A seven month old dog originally adopted from the ASPCA, the richest humane society in the US, was euthanized by a New York city pound who claimed that Jerome guarded his food, a condition which should never result in a dog being killed because the prognosis for rehabilitation is always good.

Who are the people making these life and death decisions? Are they even trained behaviorists/veterinarians?

I looked at the stats for a Canadian SPCA. The number of cats and dogs in the “euthanized for space” column seemed low with regards to their overall numbers, but the numbers for animals killed because they were sick/behavioral (yes, the two were lumped into one column) seemed high. They certainly seem to have a lot of very sick and/or very ill-mannered cats: 1844 killed in 2009 alone! And of the 316 dogs killed that year, 311 had medical/behavioral problems.

Wow! Maybe they need to re-evaluate the way they assess animals in their “care.”

NS SPCA 2009 stats

I think we need to take a closer look at the statement, “We can’t save ’em all.” We should change the word “can’t” to “won’t” — because that is what the original statement actually implies.

Then maybe we can add a few words at the end of the sentence so it reads something like —

We won’t save ’em all — if we don’t try.

I am much more comfortable with that statement. It leaves me infinitely more positive that we WILL affect change.

With regards to the animals used in this post today:

Top left: Mika — found on the street with a broken leg. Adopted.

Top right: Gülümser (one who always smiles) — a four week old kitten almost completely devoured by worms. The vets treating her decided that if she wanted to fight back, she would be given all chances to survive. Adopted.

Bottom left: Kent
— about 1 year old; available for foster/adoption. If interested, contact v.larkhill@googlemail.com.

Bottom right: Jeromedead because the ASPCA refused to pick Jerome up from the pound even though his microchip was registered to them..


  1. Skye Eitelberg says:

    Finally someone who understands! I’m 17 about to quit my first job at an animal hospital because they all hate me for wanting to save the found pets that come in. They ALL tell me “you can’t save them all” and I tell them “I know I can’t but I can try” and they get even more angry with me. When we do receive a found dog, our boss immediately calls animal control and because they’re busy they may not pick it up for a week. One dog came in with a huge tumor on the side of his face and they all looked at him like he was on display while I tried to feed his skinny body. Planning on going home to talk to my dad about giving this dog a chance, animal control came surprisingly the same day. I walked with him in sadness as 10 others were with me still in awe excited they got to see such a gross dog to them. As we were walking, one of my co workers was singing “your off to die your off to die bye puppy” and I told him to shut the fuck up in front of all my other co workers and no one said a thing to protest what I or he had done. The next day my coworkers told me that I would get fired if my manager found out I told him that no matter the circumstance so I apologized to him for not being adult like and taking him to the side instead. He didn’t care and said no worries, knowing he shouldn’t have done that. When I did see my manager she told me that all my coworkers are being assholes to me and are bullying me and to ignore them, all except for the one boy my age. Later on I thanked him, and he told me he hates them all too. A few days later I was talking to him personally outside of work (he’s the only one I do this with and he has never given me any reason to distrust him) and I asked him if he remembered the dog that left with a tumor. I told him a short sentence that I looked for him on the shelter the animal control lady said she’d taken him to and I couldn’t find him, so I called the shelter and they said that they get 80-90 dogs PER DAY and that if I didn’t have his ID number I would have to come look for him myself (even if you couldn’t miss him). This conversation with the shelter took place a couple days after the dog was sent there because I had to wait for them to return my calls. I then did my research and found that the dogs get 72 hours before being euthanized but are likely immediately euthanized with any type of medical issue. Now I didn’t get the chance to tell him any of this, and he immediately starts yelling at me that there would be nothing I could do for him. His tumor could be cancerous, could be in his home, he could maybe die tomorrow, that I could spend 3 million dollars on him and the tumor would grow back, etc. I was calm, and I said “but we don’t know, that’s the point” and he flipped out that I wanted to try and save this dog. Flipped out. I cried, only working there because at least he accepted me. Now I’m about to call my manager and give her a 2 week notice. I’ve had enough of this, and have come to aggremement with myself that I cannot work in a vet hospital again unless I’m the boss.

    • isak says:

      It’s very hard work, but your heart is in the right place. One’s life is all one truly has and sometimes others make decisions about that life. That’s the case with many homeless pets. Someone decides they are inconvenient and so they are killed. Don’t give up and don’t give in because the animals in the shelters need you helping them. Spread the word about them, share their stories, be their voice. For many, that’s their best chance. Best to you.

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