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Does Padlocking Your Shelter Make the Staff More Approachable?

There are several reasons why people might bring their pets to a shelter after-hours.  They may not be able to get to the shelter during regular hours due to work or transportation issues.  They may not want to deal with whatever guilt trip the shelter puts on surrendering parties (e.g. “We’re going to kill your pet if you leave her here so are you really sure you want to do this?”).  And of course there are some people in the world who are scoundrels – too lazy, dishonest, and/or pathetic to do right by their pets.

Shelters can do something about the first two reasons.  The last one is a main reason we need – and always will need – shelters.  Just as we will always need child protective services and laws to regulate polluters, we will always need animal shelters.  Most people are trying to do the right thing but some are either unable or unwilling to do so and that’s where the safety net becomes invaluable.

The Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach, FL recently announced plans to remove its overnight drop-off cages and put up a gate in front of the parking lot to prevent people from accessing the shelter after-hours:

“The initial intent (of the drop-off cages) was to provide a safe haven for injured and stray animals found after hours,” [Executive Director Miguel] Abi-hassan said. Instead, he said they are seeing owners, not wanting to face shelter staff or hear about sterilization programs, waiting until after the shelter is closed to bring in unwanted animals.

Since the shelter is open 7 days a week (although there are no evening hours), chances are that the director is correct is his assessment as to why so many people are utilizing the drop-off cages:  they don’t want to deal with shelter staff.  That is the issue I would like to see addressed here.  The removal of the cages does nothing to make people feel more welcome to bring pets in need to the shelter during the day.  To my mind, all it does is put pets at further risk.  After all, no reasonable person would expect that putting up a gate at night is going to suddenly change how the public views the shelter staff.  And those pets are going to end up somewhere.

You know what happens at shelters that don’t have drop-off cages at night?  In MS, a woman was seen on surveillance video tying 11 puppies to the Southern Pines Animal Shelter’s fence after-hours with zip ties and baling wire.  (Warning:  the surveillance video at the link may be too disturbing for sensitive viewers.)

Shelter employee Elizabeth Swann said one of the puppies hanged itself during the night, and the other 10 had to be euthanized because of the injuries sustained from being tied to the fence.

“(They) had their collars embedded so far into their necks that they weren’t savable,” she said.

The woman was convicted last week of 11 counts of animal cruelty.  Her 11 month jail sentence was suspended but she was ordered to pay $1100 to the shelter and to have her remaining pets neutered.

At the Walker Co Humane Society in AL, the director reported that people left pets at the shelter after-hours almost daily.  And yet the shelter did nothing to address the issue.  (The Walker Co HS has apparently closed recently.)

The bottom line:  If people either can’t get to your shelter because of your hours of operation or don’t want to deal with your staff’s standard guilt tripping of anyone surrendering a pet, you will find your after-hours cages heavily utilized.  The way to change that is not by removing the cages.  What will people in Daytona Beach who would have utilized the overnight drop-off cages at the Halifax shelter do with their pets in need now?  Will they leave them loose near the shelter’s locked gate, tie them to the gate with baling wire, drop them off in a wooded area and drive away or perhaps something even worse?  If the Halifax shelter won’t take responsibility for the community’s pets in need, who do they expect will?

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