Question from a Reader

A reader posed an interesting question about whether one’s work in an animal related field affects one’s view of shelters and if so, in what ways.  So I thought I’d open this up to anyone who presently – or in the past – has held a job in a sanctuary, shelter, veterinary clinic, pet food plant, retailer or any other animal related business.  Please share your thoughts about how your line of work affects your perception of shelters.  Do you tend to give them a greater benefit of the doubt?  Do you hold them to a higher standard?  Did your opinion of shelters change after you began working in an animal related field?

Please tell us your job and your thoughts on the subject at hand.  You can remain anonymous if you wish.

31 thoughts on “Question from a Reader

  1. I have worked in a grooming shop, a pet shop, a vet clinic, and presently working for a cattle/dairy farmer. I have volunteered at an animal shelter and for different pet rescues.

    How has this past colored my views of animal shelters?

    Well I see animal abuse as people caused and have seen it in each and every one of the above jobs or volunteer work from both the people running or working in these and the people that caused the need for some of these jobs or services. People – many are self centered and see animals only as a means to an end — a job, food, and/or one-upmanship.

    It seems that the main mission of most animal shelters is to dispose of unwanted animals as fast and as cheaply as possible while at the same time trying to say what they do in a way that doesn’t make them sound like they are running a slaughter house. Until we demand that their main mission is life saving and re-homing the kill rates will remain high and many of the people that work in the shelters shall also be the ones that cause animal abuse.

  2. After being a dog groomer,working in a kennel,and volunteering for Humane Society, Yes I hold shelters MORE accountable. I have seen the pathetic way people treat animals. And its a shame!

  3. I believe a lot has to do with our own standard of moral and ethic. I work in an (No Kill) Shelter and we do have extremely high standards regarding moral and ethics. If you look closely at the Shelters where animal neglect and abuse is taking place, you also will find low standards of moral and ethic.
    Did my view or opinion change since I started all this? Yes, it did. I know now first hand what is possible in a Shelter with people that have the will, believe and high moral and ethical standard. If this four components are not there, you have a problem.

  4. I own a pet sitting and dog running business. I used to work at a boarding kennel. Since I see so many dogs from different backgrounds and so many different owners, I do think it’s influenced my opinion of shelters and rescues. I see that there are many acceptable ways to obtain a dog. Just because I want to get a “hand-me-down” dog doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for everyone.

    I volunteered with a dog rescue before I started my business, and I continue to volunteer now. Since I am now a business owner, I have really noticed how the rescues in my area do not operate as though they are a business. By that, I mean they do not view the potential adopters as their customers. They do not use the best customer service. This is the wrong way to go about it. Everyone who shows interest in the rescue should be treated with respect even if the person has slightly different opinions than the rescue on how a dog should be trained and so on.

  5. I volunteer for a local animal welfare group which rehomes animals and also operates a low-cost veterinary clinic. I think the main thing I’ve learned is that it’s essential to avoid getting into the “people suck” mindset because that means you close yourselves off from potential help.

    Something like 80-90% of the population look after their pets, neuter etc. and their animals only come into our hands as the results of unavoidable accidents. Of the 10-20% who cause most of our work the majority are genuinely short of money and aren’t digging themselves further into a hole by acquiring lots of animals or breeding.

    We need to avoid a situation where the irresponsible minority are encouraged to get more and more animals they can’t afford, but more importantly we need to keep the goodwill of the responsible majority because they are the ones who will help us fundraise and provide the homes where our rescued animals can go.

  6. As a professional trainer, I judge shelters and rescues in large part by how well they match and place animals. Much the same way I judge breeders, actually.

    There are some terrible mismatches, and the owners are trying to make it work, but no one at the shelter did an intervention to suggest that perhaps a 14-month-old spring-loaded pitbull x Lab with zero manners might be too much dog for a single mother with two preschoolers, full-time employment, and absolutely no dog experience. Pongo was CUTE, so they took him.

    It is not paternalistic to prevent that placement and steer the family to a more compatible pet.

    I’ve even had clients who were pressured into a dog with a sales pitch and then the bum’s rush out the door, and it was an obviously inappropriate dog for them.

    There are some that do a MUCH better job without being jerks about adoptions, proof that it can be done.

    I also judge based on how sensible the shelter’s other programs are, especially training programs and referrals. Few offer adopters any options for a dog that may have severe issues (or inherently trivial issues with severe consequences if not addressed) beyond lame management and a head halter plus a bag of bait. Too many animals lose their second and subsequent homes because the shelters choose an official line of gormless PC over a flexible and effective range of programs.

    I’m not a cat expert, so don’t have much to say about cat adoptions, other than I think it’s unlikely that my intact bitch would have miscegenated with the neutered cat I was interested in adopting. (Found nice free kittens instead.)

  7. Forgive the length of this-

    I’m a certified veterinary technician and worked for a thriving veterinary hospital. I actually find this question very interesting, as our hospital evolved over the years in terms of policy regrading euthanasia in a way that mirrors the no kill movement in some respects.

    When I first started working at the hospital the previous owner was about to retire and a new owner was being groomed to replace him. The previous owner was in his late 60s and very old school in his thinking. Traditionally the hospital would euthanize any animal on demand- no questions were asked of the owner and no attempts were made to find alternative solutions if the problem was not medical. This meant someone could choose to kill their pet because they were moving and the hospital would perform that service, no questions asked. The justification was that the owner might opt to kill the animal in a cruel manner if refused, or leave the animal to roam free.

    We also had a policy that any stray animals would be turned over to animal control. They would receive the minimal treatment needed to keep them comfortable, but no surgeries or anything complex, and no attempt was made to find them homes.

    I found these policies very hard to cope with. However, as much as it tore at me, I couldn’t fully disagree with them. What if the owner DID kill the pet in some terrible fashion? How could we care for every stray that came in? We were a business, after all, and can’t afford to give away free service.

    But the longer I was there, the more strongly I felt that these were just excuses. When strays came in, particularly cats, I started networking to find them homes and would often pay for care out of my pocket. Other employees started to do the same and soon most strays never made it to animal control because we found ways around it (our local shelter is high-kill, so animal control was just a death sentence). There were times it was very frustrating and stressful, and the pressure was on us to move the animals out of the hospital as soon as possible so they didn’t take up cage space.

    I also became increasingly vocal about our euthanasia policy. We had many discussions, and finally the new head vet called for a staff meeting. We decided on a new policy together. Any animal coming in for euthanasia would need to be examined by a doctor first. The animal needed to have a true medical issue that would cause pain and suffering or had to present a danger due to aggression. The doctor would have the right to turn away any animal they did not feel comfortable euthanizing, and the staff had the right not to participate. We decided that we were no longer going to be emotionally blackmailed by what an owner MIGHT do. We also decided that you cannot commit an unethical act to stop a different unethical act.

    It was a great relief to know that now we would know WHY we were euthanizing a pet. We did have a few people make threats. We also had situations where we offered to sign the animal over instead of euthanizing him or her if the problem was treatable and then adopt them out. The one that sticks out in my mind was a young woman who wanted her cat euthanized for urinating outside the litterbox. No tests have been done to determine if there was a urinary tract infection/crystals, and the vet declined the euthanasia. The owner than burst into tears and told us that her husband told her that if she came back with the cat he would kill him in front of her. The cat was signed over to the hospital, successfully treated for an infection, and then adopted.

    The end result of all of this is that the whole culture of the hospital changed. We started becoming much more proactive and worked together to find solutions to difficult problems. We no longer felt helpless or blackmailed into things we knew in our hearts weren’t right.

    All of that said, it wasn’t easy and there were times we failed. My own personal failure I still cry when I think of (I’m tearing up now as I type). He was a big cat with diabetes and frequent urinary blockages. When he was ten or eleven his owner wanted him euthanized because she was tried of caring for him. This was only a few weeks before I left that job. My mother was very ill and I was ‘fostering’ Jonas at the time, a blind feral kitten that had been brought in to be euthanized and flat out refused to die. He was a very expensive, very high-needs little guy and was demanding all of my time and attention.

    I could have offered to have the diabetic cat signed over so I could find him a home. I didn’t. I simply could not deal with one more thing at that point- I was burned out in a hundred ways. I bitterly regret this and feel shame and guilt over it to this day.

    So I do feel sympathy for how difficult it must be to work in a shelter environment and to know there will always be MORE. At the same time, I feel no sympathy at all for people who don’t even TRY.

  8. “We also decided that you cannot commit an unethical act to stop a different unethical act. ” No truer statement could have been made.

    1. It sounds so simple and logical, doesn’t it?

      Unfortunately, the reality is that most shelters are run with the mentality that the best that can be done is committing the lesser of two evils. It’s surprising just how difficult it is to not just recognize that mindset but to stand against it. When an owner stands in front of you and says “either kill Fluffy with a needle right now or I’m going to toss him out in the street to go hungry and eventually die in a much slower and more painful manner…”

      There isn’t a person in the world who wants to be responsible for some poor cat or dog being left outside to possibly starve or get hit by a car and die painfully in a gutter. It’s the same thing for shelter workers. It doesn’t feel like the choice is between no death/death…it feels like the choice is between quick death/painful death. And once you fall into that mindset, it gets a little easier everyday to reach for the needle because you’re SAVING those animals. You are the HERO in this scenario, and everyone else is the villain.

      And being the hero? It feels GOOD. It even feels good when people are coming down on you and telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing. It’s a martyr complex, and it all feeds into itself, especially when you have other martyrs to talk to and sympathize with (and who sympathize with you).

      What it really comes down to is responsibility. You are not responsible for killing those animals where you’re stuck in that mindset- everyone else is. But here’s the thing about responsibility (and I’m very fond of saying this)…it’s either all or nothing. You don’t get to be a little bit responsible, and no one else will ever be responsible for the actions you choose to take. So when you pick up the needle- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. When I opted not to take on that diabetic cat, I was just as responsible for his death as his owner was. I get to live with that. But denying my role in would mean I learned nothing from it, and that would be just compounding the denial of responsibility.

      I don’t think people with this mindset are bad people at all. Again, it’s a very strange thing and difficult to fight again. And you can’t fight against it when you don’t even realize it’s happening. Accepting your personal responsibility in your actions is a very frightening thing because you WILL fail. That doesn’t mean you get to give up.

      My best comparison is with my employees. With every group of new hires I go over the legal guidelines involved in the job and the consequences for breaking them. There is one in every group who starts offering scenarios. “Well, what if the customer interrupts me and I forget…” “What if I didn’t really mean to…” “What is my computer freezes and won’t let me read my material…” They do the same when we talk about the lateness policy. “What if my car breaks down…” “What if I’m sick…” “What if a meteor crashes through my roof…”

      You have a responsibility to adhere to the policies of that job. If you break a legal guideline or fail to show up on time…you failed. Period.

      And then you get to get yourself together again, dust yourself off, and try again.

      People think that failure means the end point, but that’s only if you don’t learn anything from it. So again with this mindset if you can’t go no kill tomorrow at noon, there’s just no point in trying or working toward that eventual goal. But if every single shelter just did ONE thing like increasing their hours or networking more or letting volunteers pull pets, we could probably have no kill within a year’s span. Every shelter doesn’t even have to do everything in the formula- they just have to all genuinely TRY.

  9. I’ve worked in pet supply retail, boarding, a rescue/sanctuary, grooming, and training. And the whole time I volunteered weekly at a rescue facility.

    Rescues need to be more careful about placing pets. It really hurts to see these people who do the right things and then end up having to make the difficult decisions because the rescue group didn’t do any evaluation of the dogs. Separation anxiety so severe the animal is hurting himself (and reactive, making daycare not an option during the SA treatment process). A dog so shy and fearful and placed in a home with enthusiastic young kids. And then the people who find a dog and the rescues promise to take it soon, the nice person takes the dog to training class to make it more adoptable…days, weeks, months go by and the rescue is still “full”. When checking referrals, they should check in with other animal care professionals, not just vets (at the groom shop we saw a lot of gross, matted, flea covered dogs….right before they were due to go into the vet). When you can see stress in animals, it’s really hard to work in boarding, rescue, sanctuary, grooming…. spending 8+ hours seeing that the health and care needs are met and exceeded, but not the behavioral needs. It’s inhumane to not address the behavior needs of dogs who are so fearful they hide in a foster home for years and years and years. Addressing and maintaining behavioral health doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, it just needs to happen and takes just a little extra training for staff or volunteers.

    And now I’m struggling to find my place in working with/volunteering when places are not interested in maintaining or improving the behavioral health of the animals. They’re, understandably, concerned about getting by until next week, next month, and really cannot see the deterioration or stress in the animals. And maybe I’m too optimistic and full of ideas that wouldn’t work. But doing nothing is not appropriate either.

  10. I have volunteered at a no-kill rescue shelter for almost eight years now, and I actually was employed by this shelter for one year. I also once held a job as a receptionist at a dog grooming facility, and I worked for about a month and a half at a kill shelter.

    What I learned while working at the kill shelter was that kill shelters are so very resigned to the idea of constant killing, and they are drenched in apathy. There was such needless death at this little place. It was a low-intake shelter, and very easily could have been no-kill had the manager wanted it to be. There was room on the adoption floor for both dogs and cats (sometimes there would only be one dog on the adoption floor) and there was a very good adoption rate for cats, but still animals were killed for no reason, and sometimes with no logic. For example, a little black dog was surrendered by an owner who was moving and couldn’t take him, and when he was put in a run he did become slightly fear aggressive. He wasn’t dangerous, just scared in this new situation. He was put down. Yet, there was a stray picked up, not sure of his mix, he was brindle and fluffy and perhaps had basenji in him somewhere. He was also fear aggressive in his run and even had a sign on his run that advised caution and declared him to have “an attitude”. They named him Dingo (I called him Ding, it seemed to suit him better) and he was allowed to live and eventually he was adopted, so I read in the paper (the Manassas Journal Messenger features a blurb in the paper each week about both the county and city shelter, and a couple pics of animals seeking a home). I wonder if the manager had something against black animals. Not only was a black dog killed yet Ding allowed to live (and he was really a cool dog), but there were very nice black cats who never made it to the adoption floor after their stray hold, while very shy and even aggressive cats of other colors were put up for adoption. I recall an orange tabby male who I called Satan’s Kitty that couldn’t be touched without attacking you (and he wasn’t feral, he was just a bastard, lol) that was put on the adoption floor.

    I also was not allowed to speak to potential adopters about animals. There was a dog surrendered once who may have had sheltie in him. He was a very nice dog, and very housebroken. A nice couple came in once to look at dogs, and I told them about this sheltie mix boy and how nice he was. I wanted this dog to get adopted because he was awesome. The manager yelled at me about it, saying I wasn’t supposed to do that, citing “liability reasons” (which I’m not sure wasn’t BS since I know that people who adopt sign a form saying that the shelter cannot be held liable for the dog’s behavior). Those people didn’t adopt that day, and I believe that very nice dog was put down even though, you know, we had room and stuff.

    Animals were never treated, nor vaccinated, nor spayed or neutered unless they had an adopter. If they had an adopter, then they would be transported to a vet and they would be spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and cats could receive an optional declaw (shudder). After that they would be transported back to the shelter whereupon the adopter would take them home. I guess that’s more than a lot of shelters do though. Prince William County Animal Control adopts out intact animals with whatever questionable vaccination history they came in with. They do give the adopters a spay/neuter voucher to get some percentage of money off the surgery at participating veterinarians, and they say they must be sent proof of the surgery from the vet in a certain amount of time, but they don’t follow up on this.

    And, you want to know why shelters often mismatch animals to adopters? Because they don’t try to match them at all. For both the city and the county, when animals come in, they receive a SAR number (I believe it stands for Shelter Animal Record, but I’m not positive). This number restarts at 0001 every year, and if you walk in and see number 1034 hanging from a dog’s tag, that means that is dog number 1,034 to enter the shelter that year. The shelters keep track of number of animals using the SAR. The little city shelter I worked at was unique in that their animals all receive names (courtesy of the shelter manager’s daughter most of the time). PWC does not name the animals, and unless you tell them the SAR number, they won’t know what dog you are talking about. You can say “the husky mix third cage from the right” and they won’t have a clue. They don’t know what they have, and they don’t try to get to know the animals. You basically walk in, pick out one that’s cute, flash your ID proving you are 18 or older (per the law, only people 18+ can be held legally responsible for the care of a pet), sign the little form saying you’ll be responsible and that you won’t sue the county if the pet bites, and walk out with your new pet.

    It makes sense that shelter workers wouldn’t get to know animals at a kill facility. Imagine loving an animal and then coming to work the next day and finding out that animal was killed. A good person would have great difficulty bearing that pain every day. Thus you have good people who’ve learnt to be apathetic, you have people who genuinely don’t care about animals and view them as things, objects, and you have even downright evil people who enjoy pain and death. The killing needs to stop.

  11. I have worked with animals since I was 10 – I actually had a paying job at a little hobby ‘animal farm’ that had ponies to ride, chicks that were sold as raising birds (or sadly, as pets around Easter) and offered fishing to kids in the pond. Nearly 40 years after, I’ve worked at 3 vet clinics, a wildlife education center (w/a bit of rehabbing), and most recently, as a pet sitter/dog walker. I’ve had animals all my life, and truly enjoy caring for them, being friends with them, and discussing them with others. I love helping teach people with new dogs how to train them to ring a bell to go outside (it’s my little specialty, lol), and giving them pointers about different training, boarding, food, and even vet options in my area.

    I’ve always read as much as I could about animals in general, and dogs in particular, for my own enjoyment, but as time went on, to make sure I was giving the best information I knew – at the time – to others. I realize that several older training techniques are still perfectly sensible, but I’ve tried to learn newer techniques if they were less physical, because, well, being nicer is a good thing (although I do occasionally yell and push my own dogs when I get frustrated). What has interested me a little, but saddened me more is trying to have a discussion with someone who learned something from their parents (or worse, their grandparents), such as shoving a puppy’s nose into an accident, and no matter how much you talk to them, they don’t get that that’s just cruel, let alone stupid. I meet a LOT of people who just don’t want to learn anything other than what they think is okay, even if the new way would be easier, safer, and nicer.

    I also have changed my opinions on shelters and rescues as I learned more. I’ve volunteered with a breed rescue and met lots of other people involved in different groups, and while some people are helpful and prepared to work with adopters for the animal’s benefit, there’s two factions that I just don’t understand. The types that will take in animals they don’t have resources for, don’t do much, if any, vetting, and just run the group like their own little ego boost “I saved lots of animals, aren’t I special!” when sick animals go to adopters who are treated badly if they come back for help, or worse, mad because the pet died. Some of these rescues even use donation/adoption monies to support the director’s mortgage and other bills, which really sucks. There’s a smaller subset of this kind that make adopting not a priority as no one is good enough, the “I don’t trust people – I can tell they won’t do as good a job as I do” that really are just hoarders in disguise. What’s the worse thing about these groups is that they all call themselves “no-kill” and end up tarnishing the groups who are doing things ethically and in the best interest of the animals they have and really getting the principles of no-kill.

    The other faction is shelters run by city or county governments, that don’t put much effort into doing more than the minimum to care for any animals that fall into their hands. Some of them spend more effort on keeping the public away than on working with them, and usually keep animals in sub to sub-sub-sub-standard places and don’t see a problem with it. They don’t spend money to do anything other than pay salaries to a couple or more people who either don’t do much because they have no supervision and no personal ethics, or are actually part of another city/county work group and are only given a minimum number of hours to do a job that requires many more to be done right. What they all have in common is the excuse of lack of money in the budget. When it’s pointed out to them that by changing the way they do things, to bring in volunteers, fosters, and with them improved animal care, and a better public image (which would bring in $), there are some that actually make an effort and start to change, but there are so many more that just slam the door and lock the gate to keep everyone else out.

    What I’m most shocked by, however, is the numbers of people in the veterinary field who defend city/county shelters. A lot of them, who make rude judgements about individual owners who can’t afford to do much for their animals, even saying they shouldn’t be allowed to have them, don’t understand, and don’t want to understand, how that should apply to shelters as well. I think the reason for this lies in the fact that they know that the quality of veterinary care varies all over, yet they won’t ‘tell’ on a crummy vet. They are too scared someone might make nasty comments about their clinic, because even the very best of places loses sick patients, and there are crazy, litigious people out there. It’s not a good reason, IMO, to stand up for crummy shelters, yet they do.

  12. We are a new animal welfare group, formed in September 2011.

    What has most surprised me is the level of interest from people who are not taking care of their own pets. We perform a vet reference on all volunteer applicants and adopters. 75% of the volunteer applicants, including foster homes, already have multiple pets, and the veterinary reference does not have a record of all the pets. We also perform a basic background check, and several applicants have a long criminal record.

    The second biggest surprise is the lack of professionalism among animal welfare groups. Groups which ask for the $100 Kuranda dog bed instead of the just as good $20 Coolio beds or the $15 Animal Rescue Aid beds. Groups which implant their pets with 24PetWatch pet chips which cost the group $6 but will cost the new adopters $50 in a year to update the adopter contact information, when AKC CAR and Home Again charge under $15 for lifetime updates. The people who don’t know the legal requirements, and fail to contact the regulator to ask simple questions.

    Overall what surprises me is the lack of information to help people who want to start an effective animal welfare group. The famous No Kill Equation may be a fine set of principles for people who do not want to kill stray family pets, but actually coming up with an application, performing background checks, creating an intake protocol to assess and treat pets has to be done from scratch with very little assistance from established groups.

    Overall, operating a responsible, outgoing, efficient animal welfare group takes a great deal of time and money, and while the public may claim to care about pets, actually getting involved in a helpful way is less common.

  13. I went from volunteering with one rescue to a different, offshoot group (who ‘broke away’ from the original for some good reasons), thinking that they would be different – and they were, but not in all good ways. They are far more controlling of access to fostering, even going so far as to insist that if you want to foster, you must not give the dog extra attention and that you must distance yourself from the dog so it doesn’t think you are it’s real owner. When I said I thought that was nuts, because dogs can love lots of people and are smart enough to be able to form new attachments very successfully, I was told my input wasn’t welcome. After heated disagreements about allowing dogs to be adopted into homes with ANY intact animal (a cop wanted to adopt a dog, but because his dog wasn’t neutered, even though it had impeccable training and was kenneled when owners weren’t home, and they wanted to adopt the most laid back senior dog of the same sex, and another family had just adopted a female rabbit that wasn’t spayed because she was rather old at 7, and had no other rabbit, so who cares?), I withdrew almost all time to volunteer with them. Oddly enough, most of the people in the group think every shelter is a horrible place, even when about half of the ones in the county are more supportive of no-kill polices (although none of them want to use the words) than not, and have pretty low kill stats.

  14. I’ve loved animals my whole life. I did better with non-human animals the first 20 years or so! My dad was(is) allergic to nearly everything, and my mom had a horrid fear of mice. And yet, the only pet I was allowed to have was a pair of gerbils given to me by a cousin. (My mom must have gone crazy every day having Sammy and Whiskers living in an glass cage in the kitchen…) I think they told my parents that gerbils only live a couple of years, but Sammy and Whiskers made it to seven and nine.
    As an adult I rebounded and have collected pets/animals extensively. I have owned sheep, goats, pigs, horses, cows, cats, dogs, birds, guinea pigs and fish. We bred pigs, the cow, the horse, and the herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. Currently, we just have cats, dogs, birds, guinea pig and fish. Oh, and I’m boarding a horse for a neighbor. All cats and dogs are spayed/neutered. I think the birds are both males, the guinea pig is a solo male. The horse is only seven months old and too young to reproduce, and her owner did finally geld the stallion so she’s pretty safe even when she grows up.
    I volunteer at a holistic vet clinic. I used to volunteer at Animal Control (I’m still officially on the list of volunteers, although they haven’t called me in YEARS.) I do mobile grooming, and I am a lifetime member of the Alaska Dog Mushers Association.
    I’ve seen and explored the sheltering and rescue world from several angles. It makes me crazy that we can’t just all get along and work together to help the critters.
    Breeders have a vested interest in their *stock*…but I’ve found that sometimes that interest is self-serving more than a desire to help the individual animals. (WHY breed high-drive, hyper-active, super-athletes, and then get rid of the one(s) you can’t figure out in two weeks or ten miles?) So many people think of animals in terms of *what can you do for me?* Which is an honest and human reaction, but, well, sometimes, it really sucks for the animal.
    I’ve also seen *rescue* folks that won’t let an animal go into a viable home for silly, petty, or even false reasons. Playing God and making life and death decisions is a real turn-on in our industry. I wish I knew how to stop that…
    I know that shelter workers and volunteers see the scum of the earth. I understand how the job is depressing and difficult. I also get reactive when I hear stories about Animal Control *doing their job* because for every time they move or act aggressively, I’ve seen another time where they dropped the ball, or bullied somebody beyond what I thought was appropriate.
    A few years ago the big debate going on at Animal Control was should the ACO’s be allowed to carry tazers! I mean, really. Some of those folks are just wanna-be cops. They like being in charge and bossing people around.
    Recent story: Gal was complaining. Military couple was written up in the paper, recently sent here to Alaska from Afgahnistan. They *love* their dog, so they brought it here from the desert. HooRah. Except that this gal knew the guy who lived next door to this couple, and the hairless desert dog was left outside, unattended, every day, for HOURS! So he complained to Animal Control. And they came out and cited the couple. (Oh, bad press! But did THAT make the papers? Nope.) Still kept the dog outside. Did I mention it’s like 40 below here today?! When Animal Control went to cite them again, they relinquished the dog. Who is the bad guy? The neighbor for seeing a cold critter and calling it in? The military couple for loving their desert dog inappropriately? The military for shipping them all here? Or Animal Control for doing it’s job? Oh, but they still had a couple other dogs, one of which jumped the fence and attacked the elderly dog owned by the neighbor…who, of course, complained AGAIN. The gal who told me this story said: “People like that shouldn’t be ALLOWED to have pets!” Yeah. Right. And without people just like this, we’ll never make it to no kill…because we need EVERYBODY to pitch in and help!
    I don’t have the answers. I just see a lot of stuff that makes me sad or angry. So I’ll do my best to care of my own, and share my opinions and support wherever I can. If we each do that, I think we can make a positive difference.
    Thanks, I like this thread…

    1. How can you blame anyone but the family you describe, which kept a dog out in bad weather and did not control their other dogs?

      If you really want to solve the problem, talk to the family about the right way to raise a pet.

      1. Right you are…but I don’t know ANY of the parties involved. I didn’t read the article in the paper, I don’t know the neighbor, I don’t even know the ACO(s) involved.

        There are many of YOU who would, perhaps, like to talk to ME about the right way to raise a pet.

        And if one of my neighbors filed regular complaints with Animal Control, I’d be sorely tempted to relinquish some of my problem animals too. And, by definition of the unwashed masses, that makes ME an irresponsible pet owner too…right?

        Already you’re not interested in letting me adopt from you. (S’okay, I can get more dogs for free than I could ever hope to care for.)

        I guess the part that is the big crazy-maker for me is my friend, who told me this story, and her comment that: “People like that shouldn’t be ALLOWED to have pets!” I just get reactive. HOW is disallowing somebody from having a pet going to fix ANYTHING? (whoa…and I was pretty committed to the idea of refusing Sick Vick on his desire to get a pet for his daughters.)

        My friend spends thousands of dollars on her host of critters. She helps others financially, physically, and emotionally with their pets and their pet issues. She’s an awesome person.(She’s friends with the neighbor.) So should I be mad at HER because she didn’t go next door and talk to this military couple? Or should I berate myself because I didn’t butt MY nose into the situation?

        Whose job is it to fix this?! (Hint: borough ordinance—Title 6—says it is Animal Control’s job.) And do we wonder why they have a warped image of our community’s love of pets?

    2. Lynn – that was a great story…and one hell of a way to make a point about who’s job is what. It really does bring to light that Animal Control is SUPPOSED to do a whole hell of a lot more than they do…and we LET them get away with it!

      One of my local ACO’s absolutely hates pit bull dogs and every time he’s in the neighborhood we ultimately buttheads. One day I was talking to a kid who lived across the street about a pit his brother had gotten (long story) – ultimately the ACO stopped and informed the kid that “by law” the dog had to be taken to the pound. I took one look in the truck, saw who it was, and said plain as day that it is in NO WAY the law for any such thing. I also said – right in front of the ACO – that IF that dog got taken to the shelter he would be killed and NEVER get a chance at life. The poor kid didn’t know what to do and looked so confused! I felt horrible for him and just took the leash and told him I’d talk to him later and walked in the house with the dog. Took that ACO less than 5 minutes to park his truck and come banging on my door – at which point the kids took off for home!

      I was ready for the encounter. I had already secured the dog in my garage – so I walked outside with my camera (just took a photo to upload on the lost/found area of the ‘pounds’ website) and politely asked the ACO what I could do to help him. (Is it mean that I enjoyed his red puffy face?) He was tripping all over himself about the pit. I could tell – he could barely get one word out..and really all I could distinguish was some words like ‘illegal’, ‘jail’, and ‘get dog’. I finally just told him flat out..I am not a dumbass – I have rescued a dog that I am getting ready to post on the lost/found section of the website – I have no use for his services as I never called – and as kindly as I could that he’d get that dog over my dead body. I then went inside and shut (and locked) the door. I went directly to the phone and called his supervisor to inform them of what happened. But can you imagine what the outcome would have been had I not known that he was a fan of killing pits AND full of shit on his ‘laws’?!?!?

      Too often we have ACO’s that don’t do their job – at all, or some half assed. Sadly, for the animals, this leads to nothing but more and more problems. We end up with people that don’t know the law being bullied, and animals that could be helped with just some advice end up dead. I wish more than ANYTHING that all the ACO’s out there would just get TRAINED properly on how to do their jobs! I think about how many animals/families would be better off if things ran the way they are supposed to….I bet the shelters would be darn near empty too!

  15. I worked at an animal control facility. I love animals-of all kinds. While it became evident early on that this job would be emotionally hard, a lot changed about my views of these places. I heard comments constantly about how you cannot love animals & work in a place like this. After seeing the lack of ability & sheer laziness in doing the job it takes to keep the facility running in the best interest of the animals, I became painfully aware of what the “you can’t do this job if you love animals” comment came from. IF you actually care for animals, it is so hard to watch the daily drop offs, the emotions of the animals, the senseless deaths (even those that mourn themselves to death. It kills you a little everyday to not be able to calm, comfort, hold or play with these animals, and it kills you even more to know they will be dead in a week. IF you love animals, you would be able to change the way things are run, you would fight the ones in authority that keep telling the public whatever they want to hear to keep them happy & you would do whatever it takes to make sure that these animals get treated the best way possible in a horrible situation. And that may seem like you are fighting a losing battle, but if you love animals, you will have no problems fighting for them. Unfortunately, the ones who care stir up too much trouble (or work) for those in charge & therefore the facilities weed out the good & keep the bad.

  16. I’ve been on the no-kill bus since I read Winograd’s book when it was first published, but I only started working at a vet clinic 2 years ago. Every day, I’m confronted with situations that only strengthen my conviction in the no-kill equation. Not only do I work one-on-one with a huge number and variety of pet-owners, but I end up encountering people out in the community, (like when I wear my smock to the grocery store after work for example) and talking with them about all kinds of animal welfare issues, from spay/neuter, vaccinations, to where people are sourcing their pets. Working with such a variety of pet owners has driven home strongly for me that the old fashioned way that shelters think of the public as “the enemy” is wrong.

  17. I read this post and thought about it – for a couple days. I didn’t want to just toss an answer out there. I really wanted to think about it and see what the truth really was as far as if my line of work affects my views or not.

    I grew up in a VERY animal oriented family. My grandparents bred German Shepherd and always had cats. And I DO remember some of them – but some happened long before I came on the scene. When I was little we had a dog and her pup (an oops litter of one) and I know I loved the dogs. One day I was outside playing and a cute little kitten walked up to me, so I grabbed him and took him inside. My mom made me put up posters for a lost cat, but when no one responded he became mine. That was really my first real pet. The city we lived in was fairly small and the only vet was not just our vet, but also a family friend. I spent many hours at his office – running around and playing with the animals that were there. At that time they didn’t board animals, but they did have vet cats that had the run of the hospital that I relished in playing with – as well as Doc’s horses which were right out the back door! Doc was really a no nonsense man – he loved animals and did his job – in fact he was actually a vet for farm animals and did additional schooling so he could handle ‘house’ pets as well.

    Nobody in my family ever really talked about animals being “for life” or any shelter speak like that….until my sister-in-law and sister both started working at Doc’s. I also did for a while, but the gals that were there were all well versed on shelter speak and used it daily. They got me hooked on HSUS and PETA. I was a staunch supporter until I got older and started questioning things – and got away from the shelter speak talk of those employed at the vets. I began investigating things myself and reading up on stuff. I decided in my mid twenties that HSUS/PETA were bad and that the shelter speak I had heard was plain BS used to guilt people into helping the shelter – or to get them fired up to ‘attack’ breeders – or to promote adoptions. I never did like some of the things that were said and I began investigating some of the claims that were made…and realized that shelters used the slogans and the words they CHOSE to use in order to keep themselves from having to actually work to find homes for animals – and to keep them from feeling guilty that they killed animals.

    I will say that growing up I had a huge menagerie of animals – all rescues, but that was my choice, not something that I was made to do. I just loved animals and when I saw one in need, or heard of someone that was getting rid of one, I would take it and keep it. Hell, even after I turned 18 and my dad swore he’d throw me out if I brought ‘one more animal into the house’ – I showed up with a chinchilla, a hedgehog, a guinea pig, and then 3 more cats! (And that was just in one year!) I know none of us EVER went to a shelter to get a pet – because there were so many that we knew of that needed homes from amongst family & friends! Although after I graduated my mother did get a shelter cat because her sister had the cats brother!

    When I saw my first pit bull though it did change me – a LOT. I got much more active in the pet world at that point in time. Not because I chose to, but because the dogs I had fallen in love with were being persecuted just because they dared to be born as a certain breed. I worked with a rescue gal I know to help shut down fight rings. That just reinforced me even more in my own personal endeavor. I can still recall my first dog fight – and it still makes me sob..even now just thinking about it – and it’s been over 15 years! It wasn’t until I started working with my rescue/trainer friend that I started being more and more immersed in the animal welfare world. Shouldn’t surprise me – I now it hasn’t surprised my family. I have always been one to fight for the underdog – children, elderly, and animals. So to me it was just natural to start working with pits – and I still love every minute of it. The challenge of people saying it can’t be done – when in fact it can. The ability these dogs have of overcoming ANY situation still amazes me to this day. And I love the challenge of coming up with new training methods for dogs others consider as done deal, sealed fate (need to be killed) dogs.

    I think right around the time I started working with pit bull type dogs is the same time I began to question shelters and their practices. But then again – shelters were killing pits at a huge rate and refused to put ANY of them up for adoption. I learned that I have to get to the dog first in order to keep it from being taken in to keep them alive. Luckily I have also made friends with enough ACO’s that sometimes I do get called when they pick one up before taking it in…and I do admit to a few late night escapades to get some death row dogs out of the shelter :) But I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

    Has it changed my opinion on shelters? Hell yes it has. Living in a BSL state and having to watch these poor dogs suffer for nothing more than being born as a pit bull HAS changed me. It has also changed my opinions of shelters too…partly because it led me to discover more and more “shelters” that just don’t live up to their name. Oh, they write pretty flyers. And their website looks great. But once you start digging through the layers you begin to find the same thing over and over. Places that claim to love animals & do everything they can to save them…are also just as quick to shove a needle full of Fatal Plus into them when their hold period is up, or when they have a treatable condition, or when the employees COULD do more to find homes, but don’t.

    To be fair – I don’t think growing up how I did – or being in animal rescue is what changed my opinion though. It was simply me caring enough to research shelters more and find out what is REALLY going on behind the scenes that caused my change in opinion. I simply feel that if you are going to ask for donations, be given tax payers $, or whine about the irresponsible public – then you can & should be living up to the standards you expect of others. How can you make a person feel bad because they lost their job, then their home, and have no other choice but to relinquish their pet because they got a ’24 hour vacate’ sticker on their door and had no other option of what to do with their pet other than a shelter….BUT that same person/place then turns right around and kills the animals that are relinquished. Just isn’t right! Or the ones who complain about bad breeders – I know there are bad ones, but don’t vilify EVERYONE just because some don’t do it right! Breeding should be done simply to enhance the breed – not create new designer dogs! But again – this is stuff I discovered AFTER I started my work in animal rescue. After I educated myself on shelters. I didn’t just take a job, or in this case decide to rescue, and instantly decide shelters were “bad”…. it was AFTER working with shelters, after trying to work with them, and after volunteering and hearing over and over again about how that’s just not how it’s done. Keep all the animals alive and find homes for them? Are you kidding? Not MY job! I got SOOOO sick of hearing that – in fact I stopped volunteering BECAUSE of hearing that! When pushed and questioned over and over and hearing that same thing being said I got sick of it. I was someone who ALWAYS questioned practices and wanted to know WHY it was done that way. If I felt like it could be done differently – with a better outcome – then I spoke up. Those in charge didn’t like it – and asked me to keep my opinions to myself. Didn’t work though!!!

    I guess to put it simply – no my “job” does not affect my opinions of shelters. The shelters do!

    1. Something else (and then I’ll shut up!) – it was through my rescue work that I ultimately found this blog. AND because of this blog that I made a choice to go back to school for a degree so that I CAN work as a shelter director, or open my own rescue (like real deal 501 rescue).

      It has made me realize that those who aren’t so immersed in rescue, or shelters, or ANY animal related field – they just don’t KNOW much about shelters. We expect shelters to do what the name implies. And your average Joe Shmoe would probably not REALLY know what is going on in any shelter – because there are just these expectations that we have of what a shelter is and should be. Nobody thinks that maybe, just maybe, a shelter isn’t anything more than a holding place for death. When in fact it can & should be so much more!

      I am thankful to be where I am now. I have enough knowledge that I CAN educate your regular person walking down the street about animal welfare. I have talked numerous people out of breeding their pits – simply by giving them stats about what happens to them – showing them our county website stats & telling them to go to the shelter and see how many pits are in cages there.

      Can’t tell you the joy I felt when a friend recently told me a story about his new puppy – that someone dumped at his place. The dumper was still there and the friend said some pretty strong words to him about it & then picked the pup up and went inside. (And this was a guy who USE to breed pits!) He also asks me all the time when I’m getting my own shelter or rescue – because he’s ready & willing to move wherever we go to help out! (And that wouldn’t have EVER happened if I had never taken the first step to learn more about our local shelter!

      1. I’m cheering for you Erica. I hope one day I’ll be writing about the lives saved at YOUR shelter and I’ll add at the end “I knew her when…”

      2. And I can’t wait for that day either – because you know I’ll be sending you LOTS of “Animal of the Day” pets to post!!! LOL

      3. Erica, are you in Ohio? Anywhere near Cleveland? If you are, I’d like to chat with you to compare notes.

      4. Hi KateH – actually I am in Columbus. But we can still ‘chat’ if you want. Do you do Facebook by any chance? Just trying to find a way we can exchange info without it being done publicly for all the world to see…..

        Shirley – is there anyway that you can pass along my email to KateH so we can talk??? I’d post it here but last time I posted it on a blog for someone to contact me I had nothing but issues…

      5. Thanks Shirley – I owe you one! I’ll find some way to “pay” you back!!!! (Blog video thingy is due come April?????)

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