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April 25, 2012 at 10:15 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Are Public Shelters an Animal Lover's WORST Enemy?

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

I don't believe so, but hold on. Before you start getting after me and thinking how anyone can be in support of a public shelter that euthanizes animals, let me first disclose that there are good and bad in both public and private Shelters.

First, let's take a look at private shelters;

Private Shelters (aka No Kill Shelters)

A "No Kill" shelter is an organization that does not euthanize any animal that can be adopted. If an animal is deemed dangerous or terminally ill, then euthanization will be performed, although there are no written guidelines or policies for these shelters to go by. These determinations are left to each individual private shelter's discretion. Don't let this determination confuse you with animals that are considered non-adoptable, but not necessarily deemed for euthanization. The fact that they aren't adoptable doesn't mean they are euthanized, instead the unadoptable pets live out their lives at these no kill facilities.

Some private shelters have been compared to an animal hoarder for the following reasons:

  • Not providing adequate space
  • Not having the funds for medical treatment
  • Interaction with other animals and humans are not being met

These wonderful adoptable pets can suffer from depression, act out in aggression, or they withdraw, making once adoptable pets now more difficult to deal with. So the question stands: Does a no kill shelter provide the best scenario for pets that are adoptable, or is the clock ticking against them, altering their adoptability?

Because many of these facilities are trying to save every life, they are often forced to refuse drop offs and have the right to turn away animals. Although the fate of death doesn't lie at these no kill shelters, these animals are often brought to the public shelters and euthanized or worse yet, cast off somewhere to die a more horrendous death. So the question stands: Because a no kill shelter can refuse to take an animal, does that make a death by injection more humane or a person making a conscious decision to disregard their pet along the side of a road letting fate take its course the better option (yes, people do this)?

The act of saving an animal and keeping it alive because it is regarded as unadoptable doesn't necessarily give these pets the optimum lifestyle. There was documentation of an unadoptable pit bull that had lived at private shelter for 12 years. Unfortunately, this pit bull had suffered mental anguish from his many years of confinement and would thrash himself against the walls of its kennel to the point that volunteers and workers were unable to handle him. So the question stands: Does this constitute an exemplary lifestyle for this pit bull or would have euthanizing this dog been more humane?

Is There Good in a Private Shelter?

ABSOLUTELY, private shelters work extremely hard trying to place a majority of their animals, helping families reconnect with lost pets, as well as providing a refuge for many pets that otherwise would be euthanized and not have a chance at life.

12-20 million animals were euthanized in the 1970's at public shelters. However, since private shelters came about in the 90's, this number has significantly dropped to 4 million per year.

Now, let's take a look at public shelters;

Public Shelters

A public/animal shelter provides housing or shelter for injured, lost, and abandoned animals, as well as voluntarily surrender - mainly for dogs and cats. We all know what the hard facts are when it comes to public shelters. Yes, they euthanize animals, too many in my opinion. But let's take an objective look at the reasons why and what we can do to help put an end to this unnecessary euthanization:

  • Public shelters have come a long ways from the days of the dog catcher with the net, picking up strays, dragging them to the "pound," and then euthanizing them. They work just as hard as a no kill shelter in finding permanent adoptive homes for these animals.
  • Sadly, some public shelters euthanize animals within a set point of time (typically between 7 to 14 days), while others have no set time. Factors that play into the euthanization decisions include age, illnesses, discretionary temperament test, and lack of availability for housing.
  • It is believed that approximately 6-8 million pets/animals enter a public shelter each year; unfortunately, 60% of them are euthanized.
  • Although public shelters use volunteers, they do not depend on them for their day to day operations.
  • Unlike a private shelter that has the right to refuse an animal, public shelters are often mandated to take in all animals. This makes euthanization inevitable for a majority of these animals. Unless negative feelings towards public shelters are changed, sadly they will continue to have an uphill battle, and the fate of these animals is unavoidable.
  • Lack of funds can cause many public shelters to neglect and abuse these animals, which is absolutely no excuse. To make sure your public shelter doesn't fall into this type of dismay, it is important they have community support, funding, and volunteers.

Is There Good in a Public Shelter?

ABSOLUTELY, they offer an alternative for people that otherwise have no where else to turn for a pet they no longer want or can keep.

  • They typically are not allowed to turn away any animal brought to them.
  • Their cost for adoption is lower then a majority of private shelters (no kill) for example: $65 for a dog at a public shelter vs. $200 for a dog at a no kill shelter.
  • They are just as passionate about their job as other facilities.
  • They DO NOT want to euthanize, but, sadly, they don't have the means to keep every animal that enters their doors.

They Are NOT the Enemy in Animal Rescue Organizations

Private and public shelters work toward changing the value of how pet ownership is perceived through educating, training, and assisting low income families financially.

  • Spaying and Neutering - The forefront of making the difference, both private and public shelters promote this.
  • Adoption Programs - Both promote and encourage adoption, which, in turn, opens up space for other incoming animals.
  • Training and Education Programs - Both promote obedience training and education for adoptive pet-parents, working hard to assure that the newly adopted pet is going to stay in their new home forever.

No Kill Shelters - Extra Services

  • Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinics and Veterinary Care - Helping to assist families in need of financial help to get their pets spayed or neutered, as well as other medical care.
  • Volunteers - Private shelters rely heavily on their volunteers to help run their facility, programs, adoptions, training, and socialization with other animals.
  • Partnerships - Private facilities work hard on building community support with veterinarians, local businesses, donations/sponsorships, and legislation to assist in making a difference
  • To locate a private shelter (No Kill) near you, please click here
  • Not all shelters, private or public, are alike in their day to day operations and decision making. However, until all humans are taught responsible pet ownership, the difficult decisions on the fate of these animals will continue to remain with the private and public shelters.

I encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this hot topic.


PETA - No Kill Shelters

Humane Society - Animal Community Resources

What is The HSUS Role In Relation to Shelters

Wikipedia - No Kill Shelter

Wikipedia - Animal Shelter

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