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“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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