“Shelter Hating” – Where is the Love?

A reader writes (in part):

Sometimes I feel like people get so caught up in shelter-hating[…]

This got me thinking about the concept of “shelter-hating”, if people in general get caught up in it and specifically do I get caught up in it?

I think I probably fall in line with Joe Average – I love some things about shelters and hate some things about them.  To boil it down:  I love that the public can walk into a shelter and adopt a homeless pet.  I hate that most shelters needlessly kill some amount of healthy/treatable, friendly pets.

Perhaps where I veer off from Joe Average is that I have a love for a vision of animal shelters that I hope to one day see become reality.  And I’m working toward that goal.

My idea of a shelter is that it should serve as a safe haven for homeless pets.  Owners who must give up their pets should feel secure in knowing that their surrendered pets will be cared for until adopted.  Residents concerned about a pet abandoned at a vacant home or roaming the neighborhood should feel good about taking the pet to a shelter.

As things stand, many people are very worried about taking pets to shelters.  They don’t know if the pet will be fed, eaten by other starving shelter pets, left to suffer in sickness without veterinary care, left unattended over a holiday weekend in a pen with a number of other dogs who end up killing each other, forced into inhumane overcrowding conditions, or just killed outright by shelter staff because the pet might (or might not) have ringworm or because the dog “failed” a moronic test or because it’s close to closing time and the staff can’t be bothered to set up a kennel.

These things not only drive people inclined to help homeless pets away from shelters, they also drive away potential adopters.  Many shelters are not open when people are off work and who is going to take time off to go to a shelter with sick, neglected pets in dirty cages as is the case in some shelters?  On top of it all, some shelters use every media opportunity they get to point the finger of shame at the public for “forcing” them to kill pets because owners don’t neuter their pets or put tags on them or whatever the blame-du-jour happens to be.  Does this tactic attract help from the community?  Not that I’ve seen.  It seems to have the opposite effect which makes me wonder why shelters continue to do it.

I envision a shelter system in this country that takes care of pets.  One that engenders activism in the community in the form of volunteerism and donations.  One that makes the local shelter the go-to place for adopting and surrendering pets.

Just because I have a dream, it doesn’t mean I’m delusional.  I know there will always be irresponsible and cruel people in the world.  I know shelters are always scraping for pennies.  I know there is an entrenched opposition to the idea of no kill.  But even if we can’t wave a magic wand at this very moment, what’s wrong with trying to make things better?  Let’s see if we can adopt and volunteer our way out of killing – if not altogether then at least enough to put a big dent in the machine.

I don’t hate shelters – I hate the needless killing of friendly pets, abuse of pets at the hands of their protectors and the false wedge driven between shelters and the community.   What I really want is to love shelters as a refuge for pets in need.  I’m working towards love.

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9 Comments

  1. I think that shelters that do a poor job are more likely to be the ones who pass judgment on others and steal people’s pets and tell lies. They are also the ones who are more likely to ask for bad laws. I think that one indicates the other. If they’re doing a poor job, they’re going to mess with people and ask for laws. If they’re messing with people and asking for laws, they’re doing a poor job.

    It always works out that they mess with good, responsible owners because good responsible owners are almost all of their market. There is very little in growth opportunities in treating everyone fairly. They will always have to find some way to get money and animals away from responsible people.

    Reply
  2. Hear Hear! So very well stated!

    As the old saying goes, ‘its better to light a candle than to curse the dark’.

    Reply
  3. You started this off by wondering whether you are one of those who get caught up in, “shelter hating”. I’m glad to hear that you are doing some soul searching because in many of your posts I’ve detected a definite tendency to bash shelters.

    Now I admit I’m not an expert on shelters. I volunteer at one 4 days a week and I think they do a really good job with limited resources. Maybe they’re the exception but I suspect that most shelters do the best they can. There are always some bad operators and even the good operators make mistakes. That doesn’t make it reasonable to constantly deride shelters.

    Here is an example of a comment you made which seems to me to be really twisted. You said, “some shelters use every media opportunity they get to point the finger of shame at the public for “forcing” them to kill pets because owners don’t neuter their pets or put tags on them or whatever the blame-du-jour happens to be.”

    In order to reduce the number animals who end up in shelters and who may be euthenized shelters try to educate the public about the importance of neutering animals and using identity tags. That seems like a common sense approach to me. But you twist into some
    kind of “blame game”. Something like this could only come from someone who harbors a serious bias against shelters.

    I may be wrong, but I think shelters get blamed for a lot of things that are beyond their control.

    Reply
    • Citing a specific instance of a shelter acting badly, or pointing out well-known trends (with link examples!) isn’t the same as bashing all shelters.

      The shelter I volunteer at is also pretty excellent, and luckily has the leadership and community support to constantly look for ways to improve itself even further. Unfortunately we have ample evidence that not all shelters are like that. It’s our responsibility to point it out when they do act badly so they can improve, not to sweep it under the rug because “they’re just doing the best they can”.

      Reply
  4. This post is so inspiring and speaks to what our group is trying to encourage in Connecticut. I want to thank the reader who wrote in to speak so eloquently to the cause so many of us believe in. So many times, people with the best of intentions in working to improve the animal welfare community can get embittered by the fight. We are encouraging our supporters to read this post in order to remember to focus on what brought us all to the cause in the first place: “working towards love.”

    Reply
  5. Ed

     /  June 30, 2010

    “I know there is an entrenched opposition to the idea of no kill.” I’d like to see a post on what you mean by this, exactly.

    There are plenty of people who think it’s just stupid/silly/pointless to be concerned about animals and use the “we can’t find home for all of them” line, but I don’t know if they’re entrenched or apathetics who say that when pressed for an answer but really don’t give a rip one way or the other. And I know people who have pragmatic concerns – although they’re certainly not opposed to no kill.

    Because you’re in the trenches,it would be interesting to understand how you define this opposition.

    Reply
  6. I bookmarked this one so that I could come back to it over and over again. I too get stuck in the hate…here’s to more love. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Matt

     /  May 8, 2011

    Where is the Love?

    In No Kill Shelters.

    Every other ‘shelter’ cannot claim the same, for love doesnt kill, it loves, protects and saves.

    Reply

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