Here's the thing about euthanizing animals in pet shelters: nobody wants to do it. It's simply a consequence of an imbalance between supply and demand. More unwanted animals wind up in increasingly overcrowded shelters than are adopted out.
The root of the problem is a welfare tradeoff. Is it better to house fewer animals at a reasonable density, or more animals in overcrowded conditions? Which is more important: quality of life or length of life? It's a similar trade-off as the one at the heart of the recent conflict over Marius, the Copenhagen Zoo's late juvenile giraffe.
Building more and bigger shelters is perhaps one way to deal with the overcrowding problem, but that only moves the goalposts slightly, and may not be feasible given the 25,000 animals that LA County had to euthanize in 2013. A better solution might be to provide better incentives for folks to adopt from shelters rather than to purchase their pets from breeders, and perhaps to offer mechanisms for providing lower-cost healthcare, including contraception or sterilization, for pets. Which is a tall order, to be sure.
Still, according to reporter Sarah Sax who produced this story for the University of Southern California's Annenberg TV News, LA's rate of euthanasia is down nearly 50% compared to 2012, which could be a promising sign if the trend continues.
Header image: FEMA/Public domain.