Animal Shelters

Posted by barb on Aug 15, 2005 in Random Thoughts |

I was recently involved in a discussion (or, rather, a heated comment exchange) on another blog relating to animal shelters. This is one of those topics where its hard to get any real information out of people because they have such strong feelings about shelters. Buried in the comments on the blog post, there were a few useful nuggets of information, but there were so many hate messages that any opportunity for education was lost in the noise. To prevent that the discussion from going to waste, I’m going to summarize some of the useful bits here.

Where to get help

I’ve been fortunate enough to never have had a pet that I felt I couldn’t control or needed to give away. I have one cat who is quite trying at times, but it’s never entered my mind to give him up or have him put down for his behavior. I do realize, though, that there are pets out there who have emotional problems, and there are times when current owners feel that they just cannot cope any more.

There are a lot of bad reasons to get rid of a pet, and only a few good reasons. If you feel that your family is in danger from your pet, either because he or she has gotten very aggressive, has started growling at family members, or has even bitten a family member, that might be a good reason (though, if you can, you might want to consult a professional animal trainer while keeping the pet separated from the family).

For other problems, your first resource should be your veterinarian — they have a lot of experience with animals, and may have some very specific advice for how to handle behavioral problems. There are also a lot of on-line resources, such as Can We Help You Keep Your Pet?, NOVA Animal Hospital, and Humane Society of Missouri Helpline. Don’t give up quickly on your furry friend – you chose to have them in your life, and made a commitment to their well-being when you took them into your home.

Alternatives to Shelters

There are alternatives to the municiple or humane-society shelters. One of the best resources you might have are animal rescues. These are oraganizations who take in dogs and/or cats, often of a specific breed, and place them in foster homes until permanent housing can be found. By contacting a rescue organization, you know that your pet will not be put-down, and will find a loving home, as most of them (all of them?) require potential new pet-owners to go through an interview and home-visit before placing a pet in their home. They strive to match households with to the animals’ personalities, such as those who would do well with children or those who need to be the only pet in the house.

Animal rescue resources:

  • Petfinder – this page is a national registry with available pets from all over the country and a listing of local shelters
  • Pets 911
  • Dog Rescues
  • There are a lot of local rescues, so a good way to locate one is to do a web search for “breed your-state rescue”

In addition to rescue organizations, there are a few no-kill shelters around. These are places that will not put down any animals left in their care. However, since there are more stray animals and unwanted pets than these no-kill shelters can house, many of them are full to capacity.

Some no-kill shelter resources:

  • Petfinder – this page is a national registry with available pets from all over the country and a listing of local shelters
  • Hearts United for Animals – this is a national no-kill organization
  • There are many no-kill shelters around, so to find one in your area, check the phone book or do a web-search for “your-city/state no-kill shelter”

If you have to use a shelter

There are some cases where you need to get the pet out of the house and other resources have failed or are too slow. If you must use a shelter (and please, please, please explore the other alternatives first), keep in mind a few things.

  • When a government-owned shelter takes in a stray animal, there is usually a set amount of time that they are required to keep those animals so that owners are able to track down their lost pets. However, when an owner brings in a pet, there is not required waiting period. If the shelter is full, your pet might be put down that night. Make your pet as attractive as you can, so he or she has the best shot of finding a home.
  • Bring along the veterinary records of your pet
  • Bring along your pet’s favorite toy. Note that some shelters will not let you leave anything with your animal (I even heard of one place that would not let a dog keep his flea collar), but it’s worth a shot. Also, bring along a box of treats, and ask them to share them with the other animals. Again, they might not allow you to do that, but it’s worth a try.
  • Make a donation to the shelter; it’s the least you can do.

Donate, donate, donate!

This advice goes for everyone, not just those thinking about leaving their pet at a shelter. Rescue organizations and no-kill shelters usually run on donations, so every few dollars you donate will buy another bag of food or perhaps another place for an animal to live.

Post Comments

I’d like to invite anyone to share either a success story about a shelter animal you’ve taken in or to advertise your favorite rescue organization in the comments.

I know that this topic elicits strong emotions – I don’t like shelters, either. However, I will be monitoring the comments closely, and any abusive or hate-filled posts will be deleted and the IPs from which those comments originated will be banned from leaving any future comments on this site. This is my playground, and I get to set the rules.


1 Comment

Aug 15, 2005 at 8:12 pm

I’ll start out the comments by advertising my favorite breed, the English Springer Spaniel. There is a local rescue group, Mid-Atlantic English Springer Spaniel Rescue, though we don’t yet have room for a dog in our house. I’m hoping to adopt a dog after I finish my PhD, and we move into a house with more yard.


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