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Shelter Medicine: Sick to Death

The false tension between providing care and saving lives

The false tension between providing care and saving lives

Success for animal care agencies should be measured not just in the reduction of euthanasia numbers, but in progressive comfort and care for sheltered animals.
"I am suggesting, then, that crowding is becoming one of the predominant social and ecological forces of our times, and that it will most certainly increase in the future. It behooves us to learn as much about it as we can."

These prophetic words appeared in “The Biology and Psychology of Crowding in Man and Animals,” an article by Charles Southwick that was published in the Ohio Journal of Science way back in 1971. From where I sit, it seems that these words hold profoundly true—not only for our environment, which has been pushed to the breaking point by the exploding human population, but, on a microcosmic level, in animal shelters in the United States here in the early part of the 21st century.

In spite of the issue’s importance, I haven’t written much about crowding directly, though I’ve mentioned it in past columns as a risk factor for disastrous disease outbreaks. Part of my hesitation to tackle this thorny problem stemmed from fear that my words would be misunderstood. As Lila Miller mentioned in the last column in this space, it’s common to equate a plea against crowding with a mandate to increase euthanasia.

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