An Open Letter to Kill Shelters Who Use Social Networking Sites

Dear Shelters Who Post on Facebook et al,

Do you recognize yourself in these postings?

The following dogs are being removed from Petfinder as today is euth day and none of you placed holds on any of them even though we put out several pleas:  Buffy, Fluffy, (etc.)

We can’t do adoption events because we don’t have enough volunteers.  We BEG for you guys to step up and volunteer and although there are some people who do come regularly, we never have enough.  Where are you people?  Come on!

We are out of space and have to kill pets to make room for more.  It’s sad but unavoidable.  As long as you people keep letting your pets have litters, we’ll have to keep killing.  It’s out of control in this county!  We need MSN NOW!

If you do recognize yourself here, please consider some unsolicited advice:

If you really want to reduce the number of pets killed at your shelter, quit blaming the public and threatening them with punitive laws aimed at increasing shelter killing.

In order to attract more volunteers, stop killing the pets.  You’ll be amazed at how generous the public can be when you ask for help saving lives.  You’ve already tried the other way and know it to be a failure so what the heck, give it a whirl.

Quit lying.  You don’t have to kill pets for space.  Irresponsible pet owners don’t force you to kill.  In fact, nobody “forces” you to kill.  That’s a choice you make.  If you feel unable to own that choice, perhaps it’s time to re-think your decisions regarding the needless killing of healthy, treatable pets.

Lastly, if you are sincere about wanting to increase adoptions and reduce killing, take a look at how UPAWS in MI turned things around.  They used to kill more pets than they saved.  Now they save more than 90% of everything that comes through their open admission shelter doors.  No need to re-invent the wheel, just follow the path laid out before you.


Just carry on as you have been – Blaming and killing and sharing HI-larious videos about how terrible people bring you their pets which you turn around and kill.  Take pictures of dogs in your shelter, put them on Petfinder, then kill them and go through your Petfinder listings to delete-delete-delete and get on Facebook to blame-blame-blame then take pictures of the new dogs, post them on Petfinder, etc.  Maybe some magical fairy dust will fall over you and things will change on their own!  And if that doesn’t happen, well – we know who to blame.  (Not naming names but it rhymes with schmirresponsible schmublic – nudge nudge, wink wink, Know what I mean?)

68 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Kill Shelters Who Use Social Networking Sites

  1. Ever see a child with jelly all over his face stand there and deny he ate all the jelly, except what’s all over the floor and himself?

    Ever hear a shelter director blame everyone else while desperately hiding everything that goes on in the back room?

    Who are they kidding? If the killing is the public’s fault, why do they work so hard to hide it from us? Wouldn’t you think they’d want us to see what we put them through? How are we uncaring and “irresponsible people” supposed to learn so we can do better?

    Maybe they really don’t want us to be part of the solution…

  2. Our shelter is kill. I consider it high kill. Nothing has changed in years other than some tidbits here and there which are essentially cosmetic. The stats remain the same and actually went up in 2009. I dread the 2010 stats and am sure they are pretty much in line with the status quo. A contact of mine told me a while back that the shelter director (a DVM) lamented that the community doesn’t know about all the good that goes on at her shelter and that people aren’t helping her do a better job.

    Here’s the thing, Dr. _____, people don’t want to know anything – anything – about what goes on in your building. They know about the death and so they won’t take their children there. They know you’re only open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when they’re at work so even if they could stomach knowing what you do behind closed doors, they can’t get there during the day anyway. If you want people to know about the good you do, to help you, to volunteer, you must stop the killing. People are afraid to go to your building and really don’t want to help you because to do so makes them complicit in the death. It is easier for people to look away and just try not to think about what you’re doing “down there” than it is to get involved when you will not make any effort to reform and make your facility what you call it – a shelter.

    “Killing in the face of alternatives of which are not aware, but should be, is unforgivable. . . Killing in the face of alternatives you simply refuse to implement, or about which you remain willfully ignorant, is nothing short of obscene.” – Nathan Winograd

  3. I cringe when I read those types of posts. Please to these shelters, promote in positive ways — write stories about your pets for adoption. Take them outside of the building with a great background, put a scarf on them, a silly hat, a ball near them to get great photos. Take videos…talk about the pets in a positive manner. UPAWS will never promote our UPAWS pets playing the ‘threat” card or take a photo of the pets behind cages or bars. UPAWS has many ideas of adoption promotions we have tried (some were better than others). Our Home 4 the Holidays Open House yesterday was a great day. We had 15 cats and 3 dogs adopted. We had a “Pick a Candy Cane from Santa’s Stocking” promotion. Pick a candy cane and an adopter received from 50-75% off their adoption rate. Also we have two kind supporters who donated the entire fee of 4 adoptions so there was the chance to draw a 100% paid for adoption too! Most of our cats have been sponsored (the people in the community donated the spay/neuter – vaccines or made a donation to help them). People love things like that — both the sponsors and the adopters. To these shelters — if you ask the public in a positive way to help, they will…the majority of people are kind and want to help. Follow the plan in “Redemption” …. think outside the box. Keep trying. Thank you

    1. Ann, you are a breath of fresh air in the midst of a vacuum. I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done and are doing. I read the earlier thread about your change in philosophy and how it has saved so many lives. You serve as an example to any shelter which is currently killing and your actions show that the status quo can indeed change.

      I sometimes joke about strapping myself to the side of the Saturn V replica (which sits on the south side of a major interstate through our area) until 1) the shelter director is fired and 2) I have the attention of enough media outlets to give a short primer on no kill and to engage the public in helping us to “be the change.” I share my little vision which sometimes runs through my brain only to illustrate the point you have made: get the public involved and the change will come. Tell them the problem and ask for their help. People want to do the right thing and want to do something selfless to help creatures who need a second chance. You are giving people that opportunity and changing the course of your own history in the process.


      1. Thank you for the kind words. If you would of seen UPAWS (then Marquette County Humane Society) in the earlier years – before we changed 4 years ago, well it was in a sad state. The community for the majority didn’t trust us, felt judged when they came to our shelter, felt like they had to give up a arm to be able to adopt! The community would drive by our shelter and go 150 miles away to adopt. Why I’m writing this is to try and give encouragement to other shelters that may be where we were before. UPAWS still has more to do, more to learn, more programs to put in place…but we’ve come a long way. To these other shelters who may have high kill numbers…please take the first step. It may be rocky for awhile but the journey is sure worth it….one saved animal at a time!

  4. Excellent blog. Shelters are the only “business” in the world who keep doing things in the same manner that they have been decades —- and then they expect to see a different result. Every other business on the planet has changed and adapted so they can do better.
    For some really fantastic “marketing” ideas that do work to get all animals adopted out (and increase volunteers exponentially), check out Bonney Brown’s webinar.
    This woman is a marketing genius and it shows…her shelter’s adoptions rates are incredibly high!

  5. All of what was posted is well and good under the right circumstances. Without public participation, i.e. money and space to keep dogs for long periods of time, there simply are no other choices! Until people start spaying and neutering their pets to stop the flood of unwanted pets into ALL shelters, this will continue.

    1. Linda, you should do a little more research into the issue. No Kill is not about keeping dogs for long periods of time, it is about moving them quickly into foster care or better yet, into permanent homes. The difference between traditional (kill) sheltering is that the traditional shelters do little or nothing in the way of promoting their pets available for adoption and do not make it easy to adopt the animals in the shelter. Where I live there is an open admission shelter that is No Kill, there are several private No Kill shelters and one open admission traditional shelter. All of the other shelters get great support from the local community, but the traditional shelter does not and the director steadfastly refuses to change what he is doing.

      Every shelter that has implemented the No Kill Equation of proven methods of shelter management has substantially reduced or eliminated killing of savable animals.

    2. Linda,
      You know that sign some people have up in their offices that says “The beatings will continue until morale improves”? Did you know that people enjoy that sign and put it up because it’s FUNNY? Let me explain. You see, the idea that anyone could improve workers’ attitude by pummeling them is ridiculous. To put it another way, using physical violence as a tool to lift the spirits of employees is just plain silly. Are you still with me? Because this is exactly what you (and others who post similar comments) are doing when you say things like this. Perhaps we should get a sign for our local shelter that says “The killings will continue until public participation improves”. Do you get how utterly stupid that sounds? Talk about self-defeating…

      1. With over 15 years behind me operating a very busy rescue, I DO know what I’m talking about. I think it’s wonderful that some people in some communities care about the pets there and step up to foster.

        The very sad fact is that unless the community, SOME people in the community help (i.e. those wonderful fosters you allude to) the few people that are willing to devote their lives to saving discarded pets will not be able to do it alone.

        The analogy of that ridiculous sign doesn’t apply. Nice try tho! :)

        I’m happy that some communities step up to the plate. Those of us that live in smallish communities with people breeding to make money in these economic times, with military dumping their pets when they PCS, leaving an enormous number of pets to be placed/rescued/euthanized, and the general public sympathizing but not willing to step up to the plate and foster, and, despite many, many years of education about spay/neuter, and we’re still at ground zero.

        Our public animal control tries very hard to place every adoptable dog; seeks help from the community and the precious few rescues here and still has not enough backing to provide funding to enlarge the facility so that they can hold animals for an even longer period of time to get them adopted.

        We take dogs from villages that have no animal control facility so that their owners won’t have to shoot them because they can’t feed them. Do NOT tell me I don’t know whereof I speak.

        It’s all well and good to look at your community and its efforts towards the humane treatment of animals and applaud their efforts. But, not recognizing that all communities do not mimic yours is blind and your statements unproductive.

        Solve the problems with your own public shelter facility, but do not tell every community out there that they’re doing it wrong because the shelter is at fault. Look to your populous and the reasons that pets end up in the facilities that are available. Unless we stop the breeding of unwanted pets our public facilities will continue to have to make awful choices when they’re full!

      2. *head desk* Linda, If you’ve been trying to educate the people in your community for years about spay-neuter and trying to get them to foster but you are still at square one (or “ground zero” as you call it), are you willing to consider the possibility that your approach isn’t working? That perhaps trying something completely new could be worthwhile?

    3. Linda, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

      Animal “shelters” were theoretically developed to serve a public need. In fact, without the public, there would be no need for shelters, right? So really, the only participation there is–is PUBLIC.

      But if you belittle, accuse, hide from or otherwise bad mouth the very public you are hoping will give you money and participate as a volunteer in your shelter, well, you’re shooting yourself in the foot! The public is US. I am the public, YOU are the public. Oddly enough, you and I ARE participating. (So are a lot of other members of the public.)

      The flood of unwanted pets coming into shelters is not just caused by animals not being spayed or neutered. There are many intact animals that are in very happy homes.

      Some use creatures the same way some use children–as tools to manipulate the system, or as a loving support system. (And there are billions of options in between.)

      My dad used to say, spare the rod, spoil the child. But isn’t yogurt a spoiled food, and that’s good for us, right? It gets confusing.

  6. Linda, I am sure that you will not have any better results than you are having now, since you have already decided that you can do no better than you are doing now. That thinking tends to be self fulfilling. If No Kill shelters are thriving in Shelby, KY; Reno, NV; Tompkins County, NY; and almost the entire nation of New Zealand, clearly the program works when there is someone in charge who is determined to save the animals and not use the actions of others as an excuse to kill.

    1. I’m very happy for the communities that make it work. We’re trying hard here. If you think you can do better, come on up!

      It’s very easy to point at a handful of people that are willing to step up to the plate and DO something. It’s all our fault, after all, isn’t it?

      I’m very glad that those of you that spend a little time surfing the web and volunteering for a few hours once in a while so that you can feel good about your contributions are here to tell those of us that dedicate our lives to this where we’re going wrong.

      1. That would be a hell of a commute for me, but you might contact Bill Bruce of Calgary, Canada. He has presided over a city that takes in about 5000 dogs a year into their shelters and they do not kill one to make space. Here is a website that tells a bit more:“the-best-animal-control-program-in-north-america”/

        Here is a link to the 11 proven practices that lead to an end to the killing:

        Just so you know, I have given thousands of hours of my time and thousands of dollars of my money to the cause of helping place dogs in new homes. I don’t just fiddle around on the internet or walk a few dogs here or there.

        You can complain all you want about the people who demand better. That isn’t going to make them go away. First, shelter directors must stop thinking of homeless pets as needing to get killed. It shows a basic lack of respect for the value of those animals. Instead of throwing your hands up in the air, find better ways. Find out how others are making it work and try what is working for others. No Kill is being implemented in poor communities, wealthy communities, heavily populated communities and rural communities. If you, or the director of the shelter where you work or volunteer has not put all eleven practices into effect, then that means that pets will be killed, just because someone chose not to do what has been proven to work. Yes, we hold your feet to the fire, because that is what is needed to make changes.

      2. Happy to look at the links you provided Marguerite. No one knows everything. I’ll get back with you after I read them.

      3. Marguerite, of the 11 practices, our local animal control practices 10. #1 is inapplicable because feral cats are dead cats at -30, -40, -50, etc.

        Re Calgary, well, it sounds wonderful, but we’d have to take the conversation off list so as not to bore the nice people that still think this works everywhere ;)

        If you’d like to discuss the particulars, I’m happy to give you a better idea of the situation and welcome suggestions.

        fairydogmother @ acsalaska . net

      4. Please share with us the name of your shelter that practices 10 of the 11 points in the No Kill Equation. I am interested in the truth. If your shelter is doing this and still failing to save lives, I sincerely want to know about it. We can help. Who is the director and how do we contact him/her?

  7. Something that is under my skin these days are when kill shelters have one of “our” dogs, being a GWP-German wirehaired pointer, and we are the only licensed in “three states” 501c3 organization in the country, well known with references out the wazzoo…an they would rather keep the dog in this environment then turn the over to a licensed Animal care facility that specializes in the breed specifically!

    Great post! How many dogs will die when these shelters refuse to turn over pure bred dogs to their pure bred rescue groups? Isn’t the idea to make a space for all of those dogs coming in?

  8. OK, here is what I don’t understand. You bash shelters that do euthanize, but do you honestly expect them to have open admission AND not euthanize at all? HOW?

    I used to volunteer (and later work for) a shelter that euthanized. We were small and had 50 cat cages, and 50 dog cages, plus 5 runs for bigger dogs.

    Let’s say every cage is full, and someone brings in yet another litter of kittens or puppies, and then others bring in dogs and cats who are full grown.

    Where do you expect them to put the overflow animals?

  9. Anna, Bring them to my house, find a pet shop willing to take them, advertise in the paper for adoption, put an extra cage in the foyer, let them stay with a friend, your relatives, a volunteer with an extra bathroom; anything but kill them.

  10. Garry Says:

    “”December 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm
    Anna, Bring them to my house, find a pet shop willing to take them, advertise in the paper for adoption, put an extra cage in the foyer, let them stay with a friend, your relatives, a volunteer with an extra bathroom; anything but kill them.””

    Ok, ok, I totally agree. But what do we do with the overflow when we have exausted all of those above named options???

    1. Gila and Anna,
      The lesson I have learned from UPAWS (and other open admission shelters that have stopped the unnecessary killing) is that if you STOP the killing, then the public becomes willing to step up and help. The chicken comes before the egg. Can you blame people for not wanting to volunteer to foster or fund-raise when they know that they have no control over “the powers that be” in terms of who lives and who dies? These social media posts that threaten to kill or that blame the public, they just turn away those very people who are your hope and your power. No shelter can operate without the public! We need them as much as they need us.
      If you stop killing and embrace the public, instead of bad-mouthing them and shaming them, then your half full pound becomes a half empty shelter pretty quick!

      1. It’s like talking to a brick wall here.

        We don’t bash the public and are well aware they they are the hands that feeds us. We know that the public is what keeps our doors open. We don’t point fingers at people who don’t spay an neuter but instead try to educate them on the benefits of it and hope they see the light.

        But I have never see a time that our shelter has been only half full. It is completely full on a daily basis.

        I believe volunteers would be easier to keep if they didn’t have to deal with what goes on in the back room, but even if the euthanasia stopped right now the “public” will not immediately step up and start fostering, volunteering, or anything else. What happens until the lightbulb goes off?

        And while we are waiting and encouraging the public, you tell me what to do with the average 13 or so animals we take in daily when the kennels are all filled up. We can only double them up so much before they start killing each other or illness becomes so bad it’s unmanagable.

        Shall we hang them from the ceiling, store them in the shed, or what? Seriously, WHAT DO WE DO WITH THEM? Please tell me.

        We will continue to work towards a higher adoption and rescue rate no matter what. But some of the people in this thread are living in a fantasy world.

        The whole theory of “just stop the killing and everything will just magically fall into place” is a crock and quite frankly just pisses me off. As long as we are an “open door shelter” with no space we really do not have a choice.

        I guess we could change from open to door to no kill and just stop taking anything else in like the other area no kills do. Then people can just dump their dogs and cats on the back roads to fend for themselves or worse, shoot them out behind the barn. But hey, that’s ok right? Because we won’t be the ones to put them to sleep and we can say we are NO KILL.

        No one in this world would like any more than me to see every animal we take get a home of their own. I fight tirelessly 7 days a week to do everything I can for every single pet that comes in the door.

        Pet over population is a reality and will not stop. And I have yet to be given a reasonable suggestion to deal with it in any way other than what we already do.

      2. Gila,

        How many rescues pull dogs and cats regularly from your shelter? Do you have a network of reliable, reputable rescues that you can contact when the shelter begins to fill up? Do you contact breed rescues about any purebred dogs or cats who come in? Do you have any kind of alternative space set up, however basic and minimal, to handle overflow while you arrange a media blitz for help and a special public adoption event? Do you ever participate in mass adoption events organized according to the model developed and promoted by Best Friends? Did you know they will help you organize such an event?

      3. Gila-

        No one who has been involved in the transition from killing to No Kill would consider describing it as a passive process in which you “just stop the killing and everything will just magically fall into place”. It is a very active and deliberate process and a whole lot of work, but because it is work that leads to lives being saved, it doesn’t drain or destroy you. When Tompkins made the leap, it embarked on a media campaign, had frequent offsite adoptions and actively recruited volunteers and fosters and donations on a constant basis. Because it stopped the killing, the main reason that people became demoralized or were repelled from volunteering or donating was removed, and the number of volunteers and fosters increased several-fold. By hiring staff committed to saving lives and treating the public like human beings, this process was further facilitated. A positive mission carried out by positive people attracts more positive and committed people. The same old, same old just continues to repel. Tompkins was and is open-door, and achieved No Kill while still housed in a cramped and poorly designed building, albeit with a lot of foster homes. The No Kill movement is about creating No Kill communities, and that hinges on No Kill shelters remaining open-door. It is not impossible. It has been done repeatedly.

        No Kill is in fact a choice. ‘Pet overpopulation’ is both a myth and an excuse, and reliance on it will not get you to No Kill.

  11. It would be lovely to have all no kill shelters going across the country, and no more puppy mills. I’ve worked with Linda as a foster parent, and we trained and educated. She took care of unadoptable dogs till the end of their lives, so as not to ever give up on a dog. As for the pure breed rescues? give me a break. You’ll take only the pure bred of a species, while their prodigy (mixed) sit and die or rot in shelters. Linda runs a very successful (90% success on placements) all breed home for dogs. The shelter works with her and many other rescues in the area to keep as many alive as possible. I not only fostered for Linda for years, but also volunteered at the shelter, the workers there hated to euthanize. They hold fund raisers, adoption days, and participate in community events and parades to get the dogs seen and adopted. Maybe those of you in these wonderful communities can ride your unicorns up to Linda and the local shelter in her town and show em how its done. Either put up or shut up as the saying goes.

    1. Jeri,

      I understand your frustration, but wish you and the others who mock no kill, and are calling the successful no kill shelters liars or dishonst, would instead demonstrate some knowledge of how their programs work before you mock them.

      Are people like you, Gila, Anna, and so many others so sure that you are doing it right, and failing nonetheless, that you are unwilling to even try to learn how others are doing it, with better results?

    2. As for the pure breed rescues? give me a break. You’ll take only the pure bred of a species, while their prodigy (mixed) sit and die or rot in shelters.

      All the breed rescues in my breed (Chinese Crested) take purebreds, mixes, dogs of other “hairless” breeds, and dogs that turn out to be hairless for other reasons, as long as they can find a foster home. And if they don’t have an open foster home, they get out on the forums and email lists, beating the bushes for someone to be an emergency foster home, or an adopter, or another group that has space.

      And the communities that have gone No Kill did not wait for someone to ride up on a unicorn and wave a magic wand. They looked at how other communities had done it, committed to getting it done, and DID IT.

      Such as, for instance, UPAWS

      1. I’ve had two cresteds for a very long time – bonded pair. No crested rescue would help. Refused to keep them together and had no room.

        Truly, there are only a handful of breed rescues that I have encountered that will shoehorn in one of their own if they have to. I just don’t even contact breed rescues anymore.. too frustrating and just mostly a waste of time.

        As figures in other areas may vary, a great number of the dogs that we get are actually purebreds.

      2. Linda, what’s your shelter name? Alaska may be less accessible than we’d really like, but if I knew where you were, I could at least try to point people at your two Cresteds And see if anyone can pull or adopt them.

    3. Linda and Jeri, please do not malign breed rescue when you clearly don’t understand how it’s done everywhere. The five pure bred breed rescues that I do behavior evaluations for take pure breds, and anything that looks even remotely like the pure bred. Because so many of the rescues are running at or near capacity we have great working relationships with our local pounds and shelters and often leave the dogs “sheltered” and available for public adoption until they run out of time. Then we scoop them up. In this partnership we do fund raising, food and supply drives, pay for vetting, and other volunteer work.

      1. Before my post above, I said nothing about breed rescue. Please allow me to take credit for my own statements ;)

        However, I’m happy that those 5 breed rescues you are associated with are actively rescuing their own.

        I’ve contacted breed rescues all over the United States for help and that was not my experience.

    4. Jeri, I miss you! Come home, at least for a visit, eh?

      To Eric and others here:

      Jeri did work with us for many years. The few people that can take this long enough not to run off screaming end up staunch supporters and defenders.

      To place the onus back on rescue and shelters is understandable, considering your mindset and experiences. I grew up in California and could never have envisioned the challenges we have here.

      Honestly, I don’t have time to continue to discuss this. I have a lot of kids to care for and have Pet Pictures with Santa today for fundraising.

      I have about 30 dogs here. Two people caring for them; no volunteers at this time; 2 foster homes. Obviously, in your world I’m messed up and can’t get people to help because I’m doing something wrong. If that makes you feel good, fine. I have yet to receive any emails wishing to discuss this further, so I’m outa here.

      I have limited time and resources, and as with education, I continue, even though, as here, I beat my head against a wall, because, after all, everyone knows everything ;)

      Best wishes to you all.

      1. Best wishes to you Linda!

        I do hope you privately encourage Jeri and others to stop publicly slamming well run shelters. What a shame!

      2. I too am tired of people who want to point fingers, accuse, and belittle those of us trying to find a better way but are hitting a brick wall. Now employed with a shelter I have volunteered with for years, I work hard to implement 10 of those 11 no kill practices (we do not have the money for feral cat spay and neuter)and yet we are constantly faced with overflow.

        We take in about 5000 pets a year and although we are at about a 60 percentile for adoptions, we try daily to find ways to make that percentage higher. A 40% death rate is still too much in my book.
        People are quick to say, do this, and do that, and it will work. But after years of our shelter implementing these practices, and seeing them fall short time and again, it’s disheartening at best. There is never enough room, enough funding, or enough community participation.

        We have adoption mobiles, we have fundraisers, we have memberships, we use social networking (not to announce a pets demise but to promote the pets we have in house)but it is never enough.

        We have fosters, we work with any reputable rescue that will help us out, we have a weekly newsletter, run ads in the local paper, we have volunteers (although a rare few are consistant),we even have a decent website(, we do education programs with local groups, schools and churches, and we look constantly for new avenues to change our stats.

        I work an average of 70 or more hours per week consistantly, and am not paid by the hour. I would do it all for free except I have these things called a mortgage, utilities, food, vet bills, and 8 pets of my own, and being the only human in this household, must to make a living and pay for it on my own.

        You will have to forgive me if I feel a little bitter towards the people who say we don’t do enough or we are not doing it right.

        We are trying to raise funds to build a larger and updated shelter but find ourselves falling short. We will be borrowing money to build that new shelter so that we will have a facility large enough to house all that we take in from the 8 communites we serve, two of which are from out of state across the river from us. We have no idea where we will get the money to repay such a note but a larger facility is the only way we can see to reduce our euthansia rates. We are looking at a payment of thousands per month on top of our already small budget.

        In my experience a no kill shelter is a myth. We have a couple in the area that claim to be no-kill and while they may not euthanize their own, they send them to us to do it for them. When they are full and close their doors and stop taking anything in, those animals come to us. When they have old, sick, or poor natured animals, they send them to us. We do everything we can to find them homes but sometimes our best effort is not enough.

        If anyone out there can offer a few positive thoughts and constructive ideas please email me at

        I see in this thread what I have seen everywhere else. A bunch of finger pointing and critisism and like many folks working in rescue, I haven’t the time in my day to deal with any more useless yammering.

  12. I am troubled by the persistence of the false belief that the breeding of purebred dogs is the cause of shelter killing. I have been inside many shelters over the years. There are always some purebred dogs in shelters and they are always in the very small minority. In fact, the vast majority of purebred dogs I see in shelters around here are large rambunctious young males that turned out to be more than the owners can handle. Most of them do quite well with new owners that actually train them.

    Breeders very rarely send puppies to shelters. Mostly those would be the ones who had no clue about the lack of quick and easy sales for a litter they decided to have for the fun of it, or to pay for the upcoming vacation or whatever. You know, the proverbial backyard breeder. Those puppies get snatched up very quickly around here, on the rare occasions that they make it to a shelter.

    Down in the southeastern US, there are more “pounds” than shelters. Those places take in dogs as part of animal control, hold them for the state mandated minimum, then kill the ones not claimed or adopted. Those pounds do get a fair number of puppies, since many are located in economically depressed areas and there are no low cost or free spay/neuter services available to the majority of residents. What happens is that some area rescues are partnering with those facilities and removing puppies and the more adoptable adults and sending them to the northeastern US, where they are eagerly awaited. Many shelters in the northeast have waiting lists for puppies, since there are so few unplanned litters up here. Not that they don’t happen, but there are very few.

    Can your shelter in Alaska partner with some other rescues in other parts of the country to move dogs to places where there are more homes looking for those dogs? If the continental US can import about a quarter of a million dogs and puppies a year from out of the country (not sure if I am remembering that number right), then it seems to me that there should be resources down here for your homeless dogs as well.

    Have you tried getting grant money from some of the major dog charities that are working to promote the No Kill philosophy? Such a grant might make it possible to open a low cost spay/neuter clinic in your area that would encourage people to bring in their pets for this surgery, which will reduce the number of animals you get in the shelter. One that particularly comes to mind is Maddie’s Fund, which gives grants to shelters that are working to create No Kill communities. If you already have such a service, take a critical look at all aspects of your operation and compare what you are doing to what other successful directors are doing and see if you would benefit from their experiences in some way and see if you need a grant to implement some other program that will help you to reduce the number of animals that come to the shelter or which help move them out more quickly. Some things that might help would be an owner retention counseling program to help people overcome behavior problems that might lead to relinquishing their dog or having free training classes for all adopters of pets from your shelter.

    Lastly, now that you have the link to the No Kill Advocacy Center, try sending them an email and explain your situation and ask for their suggestions.

    What you do is not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but you are obviously saving many more lives than would be saved if you were not doing what you are already doing. I hope that you find something in this thread that will help you save even more dogs.

    1. I am not sure most people can identify a purebred dog from a non purebred dog by apperance, but the only stat I have read about the portion of shelter dogs which are purebred is around 25%.

      HSUS cites it and I think it comes from here.

      It seems odd that only mutts would become homeless but perhaps these facts are wrong and that is the case.

      1. Mutts are more likely to have been acquired free and consequently with less thought ad preparation. They are also a greater risk for turning out to be a different size, coat type, energy level, etc.

        Also, a far greater percentage of purebreds than mixed breeds will come from the kind of responsible breeder who has a takeback clause, so that if the owner can’t or won’t keep it, it has home to go back to and is much less likely to wind up in a shelter.

      2. Stats are tricky!

        I reckon the inverse is also true.

        Perhaps the reason so many purebreds end up in shelters is because people have unrealistic expectations, find out the purebreds have greater likelihood for genetic illness, they are overproduced to provide an income.

        Without knowing whether the 25% of shelter dogs which are purebreds compares to the overall population, it is impossible to know whether they make up a disproportionately greater or smaller percentage of shelter population.

      3. I have never personally visited a shelter (kill or no kill) that has 25% purebreds. That’s just one person’s experience and obviously not necessarily indicative of anything. But it does make it hard for me to picture the many purebreds at shelters who claim they have 25% (or more) purebreds on average.

      4. 25% purebreds in shelters is a national average, and includes places where there are lots of BYBs and puppy mills dumping their old breeders or their unmarketable pups on a regular basis, where the local average is much higher.

    2. No matter where a shelter is on the continuum–from well-funded with a number of life-saving programs and good pr skills already in place to the worst of the worst–say, a pound like the one in Kaplan, LA that has no adoption program and gasses every dog and cat that comes through the door after 4 days–having a good relationship with a network of reputable rescues can tip the scales in favor of saving many more lives. And I don’t mean only local rescues or breed rescues.

      Don’t wait for rescues to come to you–start a campaign to let them know you need help. Make it easy for them to arrange quarantine, vetting and transport to other areas. Put a process in place to check them out just as you do potential adopters. Keep in touch; follow up on the dogs you place with them. Send out a regular newsletter, start a facebook page–whatever it takes to build a roster of reliable rescues that can pull regularly from your shelter.

      My perspective is from the Southeast where shelters depend on rescues (as well as private adopters) to move puppies and adult dogs to safety. But networking with rescues works in all parts of the country.

      1. It might even be worth considering trying to attract volunteers to set up a separate, but associated “companion” shelter which would only take animals from the public shelter.

        That way you’d produce a setting which would be tolerable for the volunteers and adopters and possibly more likely to attract donations – in any case it’s very often sadly true that donors will give to shiny new projects rather than help with running costs at existing ones.

        It would need to be understood that the companion shelter must not fall into the trap of being unduly restrictive about qualifications for adopters and that everyone would have to be adult about the need to put down animals with serious behavioural or medical problems if no suitable foster care was available.

  13. Okay Folks
    I have been in rescue here in the Midwest puppy mill capital of the world…MO
    the numbers here for purebreds in shelters in the 20 years I have been involved are closer to 30%.
    1) I have been involved with two puppy mill busts in a year, 28 purebred puppies, and one mother

    2) I have dogs here now from one of the largest busts in the Midwest, 179 purebred hunting dogs, 37 of which were pregnant at the time of the seizure.

    (in our breed)only a handful of breeders take their dogs back folks…and I know them personally, work with them and their are big names in our breed. Then there are some big name breeders that do not take their dogs back….we have had them over and over.

    I have a dog here now that is a tattooed VDD from Germany…a performance breeding, and from a shelter. Her tattoo allowed us to trace her lineage and breeder. He and I both felt it would be best for her to stay with me. The others, well they were turned into shelters with their papers….and we called the breeders. They did not have room to take them back, or puppies on the ground.

    Shelter’s should have a Breed ID book such as the breed encyclopedia as I had when I did the breed ID’s. It is not difficult and then I contacted breed rescue organizations to move them out as quickly as possible to make room for others that were mixed breeds. Then we organized lists of reputable rescue organizations for all breed, held weekly adoption events.

    If an individual cannot look at photos in a book to identify a possible breed, send out photos to groups…then they should not be in that position.

    We have our once rare breed running out our ears just now. It never stops. The reason they are turned in is that those “buying” the puppies from BYB’s or reputable do not do their homework, the dogs energy level is not matches realistically to the new home…
    Our dogs have not been over bred and relatively new to the USA…

  14. Dear all,
    I am not slamming well run shelters, no kill shelters or rescues in any way or form, i am however, criticizing those that want to jump in and say how others that have been active and trying to make positive changes are doing something wrong. I took offense to those who say to try it a new way, when we have been open to any positive changes, have done leg work at local, community, district and statewide arena’s to make the positive changes we all need. We only have the experiences we have to go on, so while i am absolutely positive that others have been able to make things better, other area’s have not been able to change the mindset or practices in our communities. Also, if breeders practiced more responsible breeding, and more people believed in spay/neuter practices, for all species and breeds, we would have much less overpopulation of animals. I cry when i go to our local shelter, the place is grossly underfunded, cramped, and extremely stressful on the animals. I have picked up strays on the verge of starvation, helped many rehome, and helped shut down one rescue that was doing more harm than good. All of this i do because i truly care about animals. I’m sorry that i offended some of you, and others – look at what is going on in so many areas of the country. There is not a well managed shelter or rescue in every community. thanks

    1. Jeri, the spay/neuter rate for owned pets in the US, nationwide, is 75%. It’s higher where incomes are middle class and above–and lower where incomes are near the poverty level, and people don’t own cars. Why do cars matter? Because without transportation, you can’t get your dog or cat to the low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Some pets are owned by responsible breeders. Some owned animals are working animals who may be spayed or neutered eventually, but not before it’s determined, by actual work, whether they are suitable to be the parents of the next generation of working K9s, assistance dogs, SAR dogs, cattle dogs.

      So, how high do you want the spay/neuter rate to be?

      Also, you’re lumping “breeders” together as if they were an undifferentiated mass. Puppy millers and the greedy, wanna-be-millers backyard breeders, are not going to respond to your demands for responsible breeding. The higher-end BYBs, who love their dogs and already do many but not all of the things responsible breeders do might–but not if you approach them as the Enemy, to be subdued.

      The responsible breeders really seriously don’t need to be lectured by someone who can’t distinguish between a puppy miller and a responsible breeder, or between a person who hasn’t neutered their dog because they don’t care, has’t neutered their dog because they DO care and they have a large or giant breed who shouldn’t be neutered till later, and someone who hasn’t neutered their dog because they’re some of those working dogs I mentioned.

  15. YesBiscuit Says:

    “”December 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm
    Gila, Do you find any useful information in the experiences of those who have changed from open door kill shelters to open door no kill shelters such as these folks?“”

    While my heart swelled up and tears fill my eyes reading these testimonials, words that could very well be my own, I did not find them useful.

    Not one answered the single question I ask time and again.

    When you are taking in twice what you can find homes for. When all your fosters are full and you have exausted your rescue list. When adoption rates have been cut to almost nothing. When the kennels are overcrowded…and they are still coming in. When the killing has stopped…..

    What. Do. You. Do . With. Them.?

    It’s a simple question. And if someone will answer that one question, I WILL SEE IT GET’S DONE.

    1. I think the answer to your question is to avoid allowing your shelter to become filled to the point you describe. Before you near capacity is the time to reach out to the community, network online, and do all the things previously suggested. Other open admission shelters face the same challenges that you do. Some handle the “surplus” by killing. Others, like the people at UPAWS, manage things by getting pets into homes. It can be done. It’s being done. But I understand that perhaps you remain skeptical. Even so, what would you have to lose by trying some new things since you know the current system is failing?

      1. If someone could tell me how to stop it from being filled I would do it. I swear.

        I don’t mean to appear skeptical, and really I’m not. I just want to know if we am missing an option we aren’t already covering. So far I can’t see that we are missing anything.

        We have nothing to lose by trying any idea we are not already implementing. I am just not being offered anything that we are not already hammering away on.

        Space. Our thing is space. We have the food, the staff to care for them, vets who step up when needed, just no s.p.a.c.e. for them all. And we are certainly working on that.

      2. Gila, Tompkins County and UPAWS and Reno and all the others were not “half empty” when they decided they were going No Kill. They were FULL.

        Look again at their stories of how they did it. Bearing in mind the fact that they were full and killing pets when they made that decision.

      1. Thanks. I certainly will read it. Something, someday, is bound to come up that we have missed.
        Btw…I am an examiner too:-) I just don’t get to write much like I used to.

      2. I follow Mr. Winograd’s writings. He is one of my facebook “friends” as well. I am serious when I say I read everything I can get my hands on.

    2. A new post in this blog shows what the UPAWS shelter did to turn around a dismal situation. A new director, for starters, and volunteers who refused to give up. From reading the various letters though, it seems to me the biggest contributor to success was non stop publicity. Someone was put in charge of public relations. Press releases and PSAs were just the start. They successfully partnered with local media outlets to showcase pets and shelter activities on a very frequent basis. By constantly keeping the shelter and its animals in the forefront of the community’s various media outlets, they kept the shelter and its animals in the front of people’s minds.

      It is axiomatic in the world of advertising. The more you tell, the more you sell. A website that is updated constantly with good photos and appealing stories of adoptions and new intakes makes a website appealing to people who will revisit it more frequently if it is updated frequently. From a marketing point of view, keeping a blog and inviting guest posters, putting up photos of dogs available on line and in bricks and mortar shops, being on facebook and twitter will all make your shelter pets more visible to people and increase the numbers that get adopted. By projecting a positive image, you will also get more donations as people will feel that they are giving to a good cause. If there are local scout troops or schools that like to get involved with community projects, have them do a collection of items the shelter needs, like laundry detergent, paper towels and such things that are inexpensive and easily donated. See if the local vets will let you set up Toys for Tots type boxes to collect donations for your shelter. See if the local dog clubs will fund raise for you or offer you booth space at their dog shows so that you can showcase the positive things you do for your community and solicit donations and applications for pet adoptions. Maybe you can create a partnership with some local trainers to offer reduced prices to people who adopt from your shelter or maybe even get some of them to volunteer as counselors who might be able to intervene and prevent an owner relinquishment when a behavior issue seems insurmountable to one who doesn’t know how to fix it.

      This may sound like it is coming from left field, but get an artist involved with your efforts. Not so much for the artwork, although that is certainly a plus, but because creatives tend to think WAY outside of the box and may come up with ways of appealing to people that regular people might not think of.

  16. ANSWERS to what Jeanne Says:
    December 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm
    How many rescues pull dogs and cats regularly from your shelter?

    ***Not sure of the exact number as one of the board members handles rescue specifically, and she has a list as long as my leg. I do know the breeds we have no rescues for are labs Labradores, St. Bernards, and bird dogs like pointers, etc. BUT, we do have a puppy rescue that isn’t particular about the breed, they re-home puppies of any breed, even mixed. The rescues we work with are wonderful. We even have a really super rabbit rescue that will take dozens at a time in case of emergencies. They recent took 40 at one time that we ended up with through a seizure.

    Do you have a network of reliable, reputable rescues that you can contact when the shelter begins to fill up?

    ***Yes, see above.

    Do you contact breed rescues about any purebred dogs or cats who come in?

    ***Yes, Absoultely. The board member I mentioned previously is on them with a check up and a camera as soon as we get one in.

    Do you have any kind of alternative space set up, however basic and minimal, to handle overflow while you arrange a media blitz for help and a special public adoption event?

    ***Yes. Our kennels are set up that each have indoor and outdoor space. Around the outdoor runs is an outer fence that encompasses the entire kennel area. We have set up portable kennels in case of emergency and overflow pets we have had.

    Our local media is very supportive btw. There are there anytime they know something is going on. We even do a weekly pet segment with the local television station and the newspapers give us plenty of leadway as well.

    Do you ever participate in mass adoption events organized according to the model developed and promoted by Best Friends?

    ***I am not sure what you mean by mass adoption events, but this is what we have done for adoption events since Septemeber 1st.

    We have an adoption event at the local petco at least once per month.
    We also hold events at the shelter as well. We had an after hours sale with half price adoptions just this past week.

    We attend a massive Christmas Craft show here locally every year the week after Thanksgiving.

    A few months ago our pets were in a fashion show for Maurices Clothing Stores which generated several adoptions.

    In September we were out in front of the local WalMart with Purina Pet Foods and a litter of pups, all of which ended up adopted.

    We have an event with a local bank around Halloween each year that generated several adoptions as well.

    We did a “social” in front of a local antique shop and adoptions stemmed from that.

    So yes, we do adoption events.

    We will set up and promote our pets anywhere we are allowed.

    Did you know they will help you organize such an event?

    ***We are short on manpower for what we do now but still always on the scout for new places to show our face.

    1. Maybe step up the pace of local adoption events to once a week instead of once a month. Where are you located? Here’s some infofrom Best Friends on Super Adoption Events (mass adoption events) and how to organize them–this is something you might be able to pursue with other rescues and shelters in your area–

      Labs and pointers are hard to place in the Southeast, too. But there are actually parts of the country where these dogs don’t show up in shelters very often and are very much in demand, for example CT. You might consider partnering with rescues in other parts of the country for breeds that are harder to place in your area.
      Do you crosspost your pets on the Internet as well as putting them on Petfinder? Do you post your available labs on the national lab board?
      It just takes a few minutes to post them there–and is a great way to place them either with rescues or adopters.

    2. Analyzing the parameters can help with formulating some new approaches to the problem.

      What proportion of your intake falls into each of several categories that you can put animals into, such as feral cats, kittens, large-breed puppies, small-breed puppies, adult cats, large-breed dogs, small-breed dogs, intact adult animals, neutered animals, animals surrendered due to behavior, due to financial reasons, etc, etc?

      What proportion of each category is killed? Are the proportions the same or are some categories more at-risk?

      Do you have a TNR program? How comprehensive is your low cost/free s-n program?

      Are your shelter hours compatible with the work schedules of people who might want to adopt?

    3. Without having access to your stats, it’s hard to suggest specifics but if you will post your shelter’s website, Facebook page, Petfinder page, etc., I’ll look at everything and see if I can offer some ideas. Also please direct me to the page on your website containing links to all the media appearances your shelter has done in the past year as I’d like to look at those too. There are ideas to be had, no doubt! I’m sure others here would love to help too.

  17. What about programs to keep the animals out of the shelter in the first place, behavioral assessment, outreach to owners before they bring them to the shelter? Food Bank?
    Usually we can work with owners with a 90% success rate to come up with solutions to keeping their pointers/GWP’s.

    If you have pointers, Please contact me…I only do German Wirehaired Pointers, but have friends and resources all over the country for the breeds. We fly or transport our dogs into our licensed Shelter Home Facility.

    1. Your fist paragraph is spot on.

      And my first dog is a wirehair pointer. Wonderful dog who I can not imagine in a shelter. Thank you for all you do.

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