Caring in Non-Ideal Conditions: Animal Rescue Organizations and Morally Justified Killing

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Shelter staff in cash-strapped open-admission shelters are locked into a tragedy that is not of their own making: they are routinely and unavoidably confronted with the tragic choice of either killing animals or failing to care for the animals they are tasked with protecting. Consequently, open-admission shelters regularly kill animals who could, but for the want of more time, money, or a suitable home, have led reasonably good lives. This chapter explains how sometimes shelter workers have a full moral justification to kill an animal for non-euthanasia reasons and yet the animal killed is nonetheless wronged. The author argues that this wrong is perpetrated by the state, which is responsible for the distributive injustice that makes it impossible for shelter workers to rescue and care for all animals in need. Moreover, when shelter workers have justification for non-euthanasia killing, all individuals within the political community are responsible for the wrong done.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Animal Shelters
EditorsAngie Pepper, Valery Giroux, Kristin Voigt
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Electronic)9780197678671, 9780197678633
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023


  • Ethics of killing
  • animal rights
  • euthanasia
  • animal shelters
  • tragic choice
  • distributive justice
  • political responsibility

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