Where We Stand: Our Position Statements

As an animal welfare organization, Paws for Life responds to many animal-related issues. These position statements represent the opinions of the organization regarding animal welfare issues at the forefront of public interest. These statements are not policies. They serve as cohesive guidelines to represent the rescue's opinion regarding the humane and appropriate care of animals.

Animal Adoption Programs

Paws for Life believes that animal care and control agencies, humane societies, and all shelters and rescues should institute adoption programs that focus on matching pets with responsible owners. All adoption programs should require animals to be spayed/neutered. Paws for Life does not support adoption programs that make it incredibly difficult for animals to find homes, that charge incredibly high adoption fees, that have roadblock policies that create barriers to adoption and that require long, detailed adoption applications. We believe in open-ended conversation-based adoptions to match animal needs with human expectations.

Animal Contests / "Entertainment"

Paws for Life is opposed to animal contests and entertainment events that cause neglect, abuse or exploitation of animals, such as rodeos, circuses, animal fighting, dog racing, horse racing and greased pig contests, because the welfare of the animals is not a priority, nor a consideration. These events have a desensitizing effect, causing people to be unsympathetic to animal suffering and condoning animal abuse as an acceptable form of entertainment. Animal Fighting and Blood Events: Paws for Life condemns all types of combat involving animals. Animals suffer undue pain, stress, torture, injury and needless death during training and competition. Examples of animal combat are dog fighting, cockfighting and bullfighting. Paws for Life actively supports the passage and strict enforcement of felony laws dealing with animal fighting and blood sports.
Dog Racing: Paws for Life strongly opposes dog racing and the use of live lure training that often accompanies it. Neglect or cruelty is an unavoidable by-product of this so-called “sport.” The dogs suffer from a planned breeding, testing and rejection program that creates an unwanted overpopulation of racing dogs. This deliberate breeding adds to an already tragic pet homelessness problem. Despite some efforts to find homes for unwanted racing dogs, the majority of them are ultimately destroyed. Additionally, in some cases the dogs are allowed to chase, terrorize and rip apart the live animal lures. In recognizing that dog racing exists, Paws for Life believes that current state laws related to dog racing must be more strongly enforced and stricter criteria developed to ensure the health and welfare of all animals used in dog racing.
Horse Racing: Paws for Life strongly opposes horse racing because of the many abuses which occur. Horses may be trained and raced too young and too often, and on unconditioned track surfaces. Trainers use both legal and illegal drugs to mask pain and increase performance, thereby putting horses at risk for further injury or complete breakdown and subsequent euthanasia. In recognizing that horse racing events do exist, Paws for Life believes that current state laws related to horse racing must be more strongly enforced and stricter criteria developed to ensure the health and welfare of all horses used in racing.

Animal Giveaways

Paws for Life opposes the practice of giving away live animals for raffle, auction, lottery, promotional incentives or means of chance. Paws for Life believes that such giveaways produce a situation in which the animal’s well-being is not a priority and there is no knowledge or control of the people who will receive the animal, the conditions under which the animal will live or the intended use of the animal.

Animal Shows

Paws for Life is not opposed to the exhibition of healthy, well-cared-for animals when the purpose is to recognize superior quality and ability, such as agility, tracking and obedience. The pet show requirements must comply with humane standards. Owners and handlers of show animals must train and care for them in a humane way. Paws for Life encourages pet shows to broaden their requirements to allow animals that have not been cosmetically altered and have been spayed/neutered to be shown and judged equally with other animals. Paws for Life feels that breeders of purebred and show quality animals must be responsible to help solve the pet homelessness problem by decreasing the reproduction of the animals they breed. Breeders must be licensed and should strive to produce pet quality animals through selective breeding that results in animals with favorable temperament and physical characteristics. Paws for Life believes that backyard breeders are criminals and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Animals in Education

Paws for Life believes that when animals are used in education, their welfare must be paramount. Educational programs should be designed to instill in students an interest in, and respect for, all living things. Animal Use in Primary, Secondary and Post-Secondary Education: Paws for Life opposes the use of live animals in classroom experiments, lessons or projects that interfere with the normal health or development of the animals, constitute major manipulations of the animals’ behavior or environment, or cause pain, fear, anxiety or discomfort. Dissection is unnecessary and inconsistent with the development of a general appreciation and respect for living organisms and is, therefore, unacceptable. Advances in technology provide better and more feasible alternatives that in no way involve animals.

Paws for Life recognizes that animal labs are currently taught in post-secondary education. We believe that current laws governing this use of animals must be strongly enforced. Stricter criteria must be developed to ensure the animals’ health and welfare with the ultimate goal of totally eliminating the use of animals in post-secondary education.

All animal studies should be carried out under the direct supervision of a competent instructor, and it is the responsibility of that instructor to ensure that the fewest number of animals are used and that every effort is made to eliminate suffering and death. The student must have the necessary comprehension of the procedure or study being conducted. Live animals must be maintained in a sanitary environment and receive humane care and socialization suitable to their species before, during and after any procedure. We strongly believe that classroom studies should use prior research and/or technological advances, rather than live animals.
Classroom Pets: Paws for Life believes that having a pet in the classroom requires a commitment for as long as the pet lives and should not be undertaken lightly. However, pets can be an enriching experience for students if they are integrated into the daily routine, instruction and educational goals of the class.

Animals must be maintained in a sanitary environment and receive humane care and socialization suitable to their species. Each animal chosen must be appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students and adaptable to the classroom environment. The teacher must ultimately be responsible for, and carefully supervise, the care and handling of the classroom pet, as well as provide the pet a lifelong home, beyond its classroom involvement.

Animals in Entertainment: Advertising, Rodeos, Circuses

Paws for Life is dedicated to the prevention of abuse, neglect, cruelty and exploitation of animals and opposes gratuitous violence toward animals for entertainment or advertising purposes. Paws for Life recognizes that animals are often used in the entertainment industry. We do not support the use of drugs or the alteration of the animal’s natural defenses, such as de-fanging or declawing. We are committed to the establishment and enforcement of laws and a strong set of standards and procedures to ensure the humane treatment of all animals used for entertainment, including advertisements and television, digital and movie productions. Proper veterinary care, safe transportation, socialization, food, water and shelter must be provided for the animals by trained and experienced professionals. Humane methods must be used to train the animals and the trainer must be present at all times when the animal is performing. Circuses: Paws for Life opposes the use of animals in circuses because of the neglect and cruelty inherent in their treatment, confinement, transport and training and the risk to public safety that their abuse poses. Although many believe that circuses provide harmless entertainment, the use of performing animals not only creates a dangerous atmosphere, but also desensitizes individuals to animal suffering. The elephants, big cats, bears, primates and other animals that are used in circuses endure physical discipline, abuse and constant stress. When not performing, they spend the majority of their time confined in small, barren cages or chained in one position. Often their diets are not adequate or suitable for their species. The animals endure the stress of being transported long distances in small spaces for countless hours with little or no rest stops. Under these conditions, they cannot express their full range of natural behaviors or socialize with other members of their species.
Rodeos: Paws for Life opposes rodeos because they inflict injury, pain, fear and possible death upon participating animals. Animals may respond violently to the use of electric prods, spurs, flank straps and other rodeo tack. Paws for Life believes that rodeos do not accurately portray today’s ranching skills and, therefore, are archaic and obsolete. Rodeos display and encourage an insensitivity to, and acceptance of, unnecessary exploitation of animals in the name of sport.

Even though Paws for Life does not approve of circuses or rodeos, we do acknowledge their existence, and are committed to the establishment and enforcement of laws and a strong set of standards and procedures to ensure the humane treatment of all animals, with the ultimate goal of ending their use of live animals entirely.

Breed Labeling

Visual breed identification of dogs is unreliable and usually inaccurate. So, for most of PFL’s adoptable dogs, the Rescue is only guessing at predominant breed or breed mix. Rescue volunteers get to know each dog as an individual and will do their best to describe each dog based on personality, not by breed label. Why is labeling a dog such a big deal? A label will stick with a dog for the rest of its life. A label can mean discrimination, losing its home or even death. Labels are a problem for the dogs when animal welfare professionals, as the local experts on animals, allow adopters, politicians and community members to think that the label assigned to a dog can predict who that dog is or will be.

Breed Specific Legistlation

Paws for Life is strongly opposed to legislation aimed at banning or restricting ownership of dogs based solely on their breed, perceived breed and/or appearance for a number of reasons. Dog breeds cannot be properly identified based solely on physical characteristics, resulting in many dogs being incorrectly identified. A dog's physical characteristics are not a predictor of behavior in any way. While breed is one factor that contributes to a dog’s temperament, it alone cannot be used to predict whether or not a dog may pose a danger to the community. Rather a dog’s temperament is a product of several factors, including but not limited to:

  • Early socialization
  • Sound obedience training
  • Genetic makeup
  • Quality of care and supervision by the owner
  • Current levels of socialization of the dog with his or her human family
  • Behavior of the victim
  • Whether the dog has been spayed or neutered
There is no scientific (based on DNA or other tests) or objective method of determining a dog’s actual breed and breed-specific laws assume that all dogs of a certain breed are likely to bite, instead of acknowledging that most dogs are not a problem.

Chaining or Tethering

Paws for Life strongly opposes long-term chaining or tethering of pets. This intolerable practice isolates pets and subjects them to extreme weather conditions and the risk of being stolen, poisoned or lost. Chaining creates an unnatural frustration for pets, which can lead to severe behavior problems. Dogs are social creatures that belong with their family or pack. Restricting their movement not only prevents them from being a part of their family, it is also never in the animal’s best interest.

Collaboration, Partnerships and Networking

Paws for Life supports animal welfare alliances and partnerships that improve the care of animals, increase live outcomes and decrease the number of homeless animals through information exchange, pet transfer programs, spay/neuter clinics, education and legislation. By sharing resources, we can expand the benefits of established programs and services to more under-served areas and thereby benefit more animals.

Dog / Cat License Fee Differential

Paws for Life supports a license fee differential for pets that have been spayed/neutered. The ratio established should be great enough to encourage spay/neuter to help reduce pet homelessness.

Dog / Cat Licensing Program

Paws for Life encourages a properly developed and administered dog/cat licensing program that will assist communities in controlling stray animals. Licensing fees should be spent on the animal community for which they are required. Paws for Life encourages the use of properly constructed, sized and identification-tagged collars to insure the safety of the pet.

Elective / Cosmetic Surgery

Paws for Life strongly opposes any form of elective, cosmetic or other unnecessary surgical procedures, which are painful, stressful or restrictive to the function of a body part and are performed for the benefit of the animal owner and not the animal. Examples of cosmetic/elective surgeries are declawing, debarking, defanging, ear cropping and tail docking. This does not include spay/neuter procedures.

Endangered Species

Paws for Life supports the protection of endangered species and humane methods that prevent extinction.

Euthanasia vs Killing

Euthanasia is an act of mercy to end the irreparable suffering of an animal. Killing is ending a life for any other reason or in an inhumane manner. Thus, the term No-Kill, which represents a movement throughout animal welfare to end the killing of companion animals. Euthanasia is acceptable to end an animals's suffering. Paws for Life considers quality of life paramount. We do not believe indefinite confinement, isolation or indiscriminate placement is in the best interest of companion animals. For animals that are suffering from untreatable disease, untreatable traumatic injury or other untreatable infirmities, euthanasia is the most humane alternative. Paws for Life does not believe that euthanasia is a solution to the pet homelessness crisis. We do not believe that euthanasia is a financial solution to medical or behavior issues. We do not believe that euthanasia is a solution to shelter crowding or lack of space. Humane euthanasia can only be performed by administering sodium pentobarbital or a sodium pentobarbital derivative by a trained, licensed veterinarian or a licensed or registered veterinary technician under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Paws for Life strongly opposes the use gassing and all other forms of ending life.

Factory Farming

Paws for Life is strongly opposed to the exploitation of animals inherent in the factory farming method of livestock management. Pursuit of economy at any cost has resulted in intensive-confinement systems that do not provide for the animals’ basic and behavioral needs. Because of the crowded and unnatural conditions, and in order to boost production, factory farms commonly use antibiotics and hormones, which are not only harmful to the animals, but also compromise human health. Additionally, we oppose their use of adaptive surgery, such as debeaking chickens, and unnatural husbandry practices. Animals must be provided with quality veterinary care, exercise, adequate temperature controls, ventilation and light. They should have sufficient freedom of movement for their individual species and housing should support their natural social behaviors. Paws for Life supports the enforcement and strengthening of current laws and the implementation of humane standards for animals in every phase of animal-based food production. Paws for Life proudly promotes “certified humane,” a program of Humane Farm Animal Care, a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections and certifying their humane treatment. Find certified humane products in your area and more information at certifiedhumane.org.

Fur Industry

Paws for Life is strongly opposed to the fur industry. The pitiless fur industry mistreats and kills more than 50 million animals a year. The true scale of suffering wild animals endure for the fur trade is enormous. Buying fur or fur trim supports an industry that also kills millions of domestic dogs and cats each year. Many, perhaps half, of these animals are killed by fur factory operators and trappers specifically for fur trim. With many warm, fashionable alternatives available, there’s no reason to wear animal fur. Paws for Life specifically opposes Canada's cruel seal slaughter and promotes the boycott of Canadian seafood until the slaughter is stopped.

Hunting / Animal Capture

Paws for Life is opposed to the killing or capture of any animal for trophy or sport and any inhumane method of predator control.
Hunting: Paws for Life is opposed to the hunting of any animal for sport. We support legislation to abolish the killing of animals that are confined or otherwise immobilized, such as Internet hunting and shooting preserves where captured or captive-bred wildlife are killed while caged, staked or otherwise confined or baited.
Nuisance Animal and Predator Control: Paws for Life opposes inhumane methods of controlling nuisance animals and predators. We believe that any removal of nuisance or predatory animals should be accomplished, if feasible, by non-lethal methods, such as repellents, lights, sound agents, chemo-sterilants or learned aversion.
Trapping: Paws for Life opposes any trapping method that is inhumane for the animal, such as the use of the steel-jaw leg hold traps, the conibear trap or drowning sets. Trapping results in the needless suffering and death of non-target wild and domestic animals, as well as of those whose pelts are prized. Humane live trapping and relocation is a viable alternative in those instances when animals must be relocated.
Wild Horses and Burros: Paws for Life supports the protection and management of wild horses and burros to ensure their continued survival. In areas where biological information has indicated that herd reduction is warranted and has been proven in environmental impact statements, we believe humane methods of capturing and managing wild horses and burros must be used.

Kosher Slaughter

Paws for Life believes that federal and state humane slaughter laws should be amended to no longer exempt the preparation of animals ritually slaughtered for food. While recognizing that different religious practices do exist, Paws for Life contends that the present pre-slaughter method of shackling and hoisting live, conscious animals for ritual slaughter is cruel and inhumane, and should be illegal.


Paws for Life is not opposed to the training and use of domestic animals as mascots provided there is no cruelty involved and the animals are provided with proper veterinary care, transportation, food, water, shelter and rest periods. Paws for Life does not oppose identifying with symbolic wild and exotic animal mascots, but does object to the use of live wild and exotic animal mascots.

Outdoor Pets

Paws for Life strongly opposes allowing owned cats and dogs to roam freely outdoors. Most local laws in Michigan state that all animals must be confined to the owner’s property unless under the physical control of the owner, such as by leash or harness. Allowing pets to roam freely outdoors is illegal, irresponsible and is not in the pet’s best interest. Cats are safest when allowed in confined outdoor spaces, such as catios, or taken for a walk in a cat stroller or trained to willingly walk on a cat harness. The majority of dogs and cats are social creatures who prefer to live inside the home with their people. They should not live exclusively outside, with an exception for community cats.

Pets in Housing

Paws for Life believes that companion animals enhance the lives of owners and that responsible owners make a lifetime commitment to their pets. We encourage rental property managers to make provisions for pets and not to restrict pets based purely on their size, breed or species, none of which indicate a pet’s temperament. Pets and their owners should be evaluated individually on their own merits.

Sale of Animals

Paws for Life believes that pet shops, which support and finance inhumane commercial breeding operations, and related industries are directly responsible for pet homelessness and animal suffering. These industries exploit the novelty appeal of various animals at the expense of their well-being. They often encourage impulse purchases without insuring that the buyer is well equipped and knowledgeable to provide proper and humane care. Paws for Life opposes the animal procurement practices used in the majority of the pet shop industry and encourages the public to realize that breed registries are not a guarantee of quality. We support legislation restricting or banning mass-producing breeding facilities, commercial breeders and backyard breeders, and requiring inspection and licensure. In recognizing that commercial breeding exists, Paws for Life believes that current state laws relating to mass production and breeding must be more strongly enforced and stricter criteria developed to ensure the health and welfare of all animals used in these facilities. Puppy Mills: Paws for Life believes that puppy mills are a cruel exploitation of dogs. The female dogs are little more than breeding machines and are usually condemned to a life of isolation in a dirty, cramped cage with inadequate food, exercise, socialization and veterinary care. Even if the living conditions are adequate, the indiscriminate breeding of dogs adds significantly to the pet homelessness problem and causes suffering, torment, fear, pain, disease and early death.

Puppies produced in puppy mills are more prone to disease due to poor nutrition, inadequate medical care and the stress of being shipped long distances at a young age. Many puppies die during transportation. Puppy mill breeders generally ignore the behavior traits or physical problems of the parents. Through irresponsible breeding practices, congenital disorders or undesirable, and sometimes even dangerous, behaviors are passed on to the puppies.
Pet Shops: Paws for Life is opposed to the sale of animals, including birds and small mammals, through pet shops and similar outlets. Supplies of animals are often obtained from mass-producing breeding facilities or are inhumanely captured from the wild. Animals are considered a commodity and the welfare of the individual animal is not a priority. Most pet shops provide no education about the required care or special needs of each animal, nor do they offer any health guarantees or follow-up after the sale.
Novelty Pets: Paws for Life opposes the sale or purchase of novelty pets, such as chicks, ducks, reptiles, hedgehogs or sugar gliders. The majority of these animals are acquired on impulse by people who may be unprepared to meet the animal’s special needs. As a result, many such animals suffer immediately from lack of proper care, while others suffer as their short-lived novelty value diminishes.
Animals as Gifts: Paws for Life, in most circumstances, opposes giving animals as gifts, such as rabbits at Easter or kittens and puppies at Christmas. We believe that animals should be placed as lifetime companions. Pets should be chosen according to the expectations and lifestyle of the new family, as well as the animal’s individual needs. Recent research shows that most gifted animals are highly valued by the recipients and each case should be considered and evaluated individually.
Wild or Exotic Animals as Pets: Paws for Life opposes the ownership of wild or exotic animals, including hybrid canines and felines. In many cases, state and local ordinances prohibit ownership of wild animals. When wild or exotic animals are kept as pets, the result can be tragic for the animal and for the owner. Lack of knowledge about behavioral traits, social needs and proper nutrition, and the inability to provide a natural habitat leads to inadvertent abuse.

Exotic animals sold or kept as pets may suffer cruel treatment during the process of capture, shipping and confinement. An animal cared for in a domestic situation from birth and released into the wild, most likely will not survive because it has not been taught natural survival behavior. Additionally, if these animals are released into the wild, they can alter the natural food chain causing potential extinction of native species. It is our firm conviction that wild or exotic animals are unsuitable as pets and cannot be properly and humanely maintained in a home environment.


Paws for Life supports the sterilization of pets and believes that not only does it have an impact on stemming pet homelessness, but that altered pets live longer, healthier lives and make better companions. We endorse pediatric (8 weeks of age) spay/neuter of dogs and cats, the development of alternative methods of sterilization and legislation that mandates sterilization when appropriate. We support the establishment of spay/neuter clinics that meet accepted veterinary practice standards and provide programs for the underserved in our communities.

Training Methods for Dogs

Paws for Life believes that dogs learn best through force-free, fear-free, positive reinforcement and rewards. We strongly disagree with and oppose the use of physical or psychological punishment for behavior modification. This includes use of electric shock collars, pinch collars, prong collars and physical correction, such as hanging dogs, alpha rolls or any physical challenge. Correction of aggression problems requires specialized one-on-one counseling by a trained professional.

Transportation of Animals

Paws for Life believes that animals must be transported in such a way that is not harmful or life threatening to the animal. We support the development, implementation, strengthening and enforcement of laws, humane standards and procedures for the safe transportation of animals on commercial carriers, especially airplanes. Livestock that are being transported must be moved humanely in vehicles that are properly designed for the particular species and maintained for this purpose. We oppose the transportation of animals in vehicles that cause them to experience suffering and injury, such as horses in potbelly trailers. Humane care must also be provided for “downer” animals (animals, usually livestock, that cannot stand on its own). Paws for Life believes that pet owners are responsible for transporting their pets in a safe and secure manner. Dogs must never ride in the back of an open vehicle, like a pick-up truck. Cats should be confined in a carrier when being transported in any vehicle. Pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle.

Use of Animals in Research

Paws for Life believes that the use of animals for experimentation is inhumane and unnecessary. Technological advances eliminate the need for animal use in research. Paws for Life recognizes that animals are currently used in this way. We strongly believe that feasible alternatives exist; however, in the current environment, we believe that animals should only be used when the experiment is believed likely to produce new and substantial information. In such instances the experiments must be carefully designed to use the smallest number of the most suitable species. Under supervision of a veterinarian the animals should be maintained in a sanitary environment and should receive humane care before, during and after any experimental procedure. Every effort must be made to eliminate pain, stress and suffering and to provide for the animals’ biological and behavioral needs. In regard to genetic engineering, Paws for Life does not believe that the potential benefits to society outweigh the potential for pain and suffering by the animals involved. New and better ways to prevent the suffering of animals and relieve the pain of those born with debilitating diseases as a result of experimentation must be mandatory. The implications of disease transmission from one species to another, the lack of genetic diversity and the potential loss of individual worth that accompanies the production of genetically engineered animals must be carefully evaluated, and appropriate regulations and guidelines need to be developed. We are opposed to any testing of commercial products on animals. Scientists must give priority to the development and use of alternatives to animal-based research with the ultimate goal being the elimination of research on animals altogether. Animal welfare organizations and individuals who advocate humane treatment of animals must be represented during the decision-making process undertaken by institutions that utilize animals for research. We are strongly opposed to the release of animals, living or dead, by animal shelters for the purpose of research.

Use of Assitance Animals

Paws for Life supports animal assistance programs that provide positive benefits to both animals and humans. The use of assistance animals for people with special needs can foster bonds beneficial to both people and animals, including sight, hearing and service animals. Training of these special animals must be positive and correction must not employ physical or psychological punishment. We encourage public establishments and transportation to welcome these animals and their owners, and to make accommodation for their special needs. Paws for Life believes all animals should be provided quality care and treated as a member of the family, regardless of the owner’s disability or physical challenges.

Victimized Dogs

Paws for Life strongly supports evaluating dogs seized from fighting busts. Research and experience have consistently proven that dogs who have been victims of the cruel act of dog fighting can exhibit tremendous resilience and are not defined by the traumas of their past. Thousands of dogs seized from active dog-fighting busts have been saved because forward-thinking, educated communities allowed them to be evaluated as individuals. These dogs, evaluated by behaviorists and certified trainers, have gone on to serve as therapy dogs, family pets and ambassadors of their species. All dogs are individuals deserving of a chance to find loving homes of their own.

Zoos and Aquariums

Paws for Life believes that under most circumstances wild animals should be permitted to exist undisturbed in their natural environments. We oppose the capture and confinement of animals from the wild for use in zoos and aquariums, except when necessary for the propagation of endangered species. We acknowledge that some accredited zoos and aquariums benefit animals through the preservation and restoration of endangered or threatened species and by education about the needs of wild animals and their role in ecosystems. However, to a certain extent, zoos and aquariums cause the abuse, neglect, suffering and death of animals by taking them out of their natural environments. When these animals are bred indiscriminately or are no longer marketable, they are often discarded through sales to research facilities, circuses or roadside zoos. Zoos and aquariums must maintain all animals in conditions simulating their natural habitats as closely as possible and must meet their behavioral needs.


Paws for Life Rescue strongly opposes declawing as an elective procedure. Declawing can cause lasting physical problems for cats, as well as behavior problems, including biting, litter box avoidance and urine marking. Many countries have banned declawing and Paws for Life supports enacting a declaw ban nationally and at local levels of government.