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George’s happy ending—and the real meaning of ‘no-kill’

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 10:48 PST, Thu January 21, 2021

For elderly dogs like George, who have several significant health issues, finding a loving home for their final years can be a challenge. Everyone loves a puppy (or a kitten) but the challenges associated with older dogs—and the inevitability that a final goodbye will happen sooner than one would hope—make it a very special family indeed who will adopt a senior pet.

Happily for George, a 15-year-old German shepherd-bull terrier cross with a heart condition and lingering nerve damage from being hit by a car, he found the perfect family.

When George first came to his moms Kelsy Orpen and Heather Rich three years ago, they didn’t think he’d be around very long. They thought they would make his final months the best they could be. But he keeps on plugging away and, along with his little “sister” Sophia, George has fit right in with the family.

“It’s just crazy how nice he is,” Kelsy says. “He gets along with anyone who comes in the house, kids, puppies, cats, rabbits.” 

The happy ending wouldn’t have been possible in many jurisdictions. Dogs that are difficult to adopt are far too often euthanized. If they have even the smallest of underlying health conditions, in many cases, euthanasia is almost inevitable at many shelters.

But the Regional Animal Protection Society is a uniquely defined no-kill organization. Since our founding more than 25 years ago, our overriding promise is that, under our care, no animal is ever euthanized due to lack of space, treatable illness, physical defect, age, behavioural or socialization issues.

Many organizations call themselves “no-kill,” but there is no legal or regulatory oversight for use of the term. What does no-kill truly mean? What some agencies mean when they use the term “no-kill” is that they do not euthanize healthy animals. We don’t think that is a true definition of no-kill. At RAPS, we don’t euthanize healthy or unhealthy animals. Our approach is similar to that of Canada’s medical assistance in dying regulations for human patients. Unless an animal is facing imminent death and is experiencing or likely to experience pain and suffering, we opt for palliative treatments. But even that is in the most extreme cases. Most of the animals we save have no insurmountable health issues. At the RAPS Cat Sanctuary, cats with diabetes or FIV find a wonderful forever home, for example. In too many other places, they might have been euthanized just because of a comparatively minor, manageable condition. 

The “RAPS Model” of no-kill animal care combines shelter (temporary homes for stray, surrendered or homeless animals), sanctuary (permanent homes for unadoptable animals), fostering (to prepare animals for the next phases of their lives), and our not-for-profit, community-owned animal hospital. Together, these components allow us to provide a full continuum of care for every animal who comes to us no matter their situation.

To us, that is true no-kill animal care and why, we believe, RAPS is leading the sector. And that is why George’s story has a happy ending.

Eyal Lichtmann is CEO and Executive Director of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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