New Sign Publicly Declares Shelter Failing to Do Its Job

This photo of a new sign at Arlington Animal Services in Texas appeared on Facebook:

Facebook commenters appeared to be grateful for the sign, even thanking the pound for putting it up.  The idea being that the sign might discourage some people from surrendering their pets.

First off, I’m not thanking any pound for putting up a sign that announces they kill animals.  I’ll thank them when they stop killing animals.  Secondly, why would we want to discourage people from surrendering their pets when they are unable or unwilling to properly care for them?  Taking care of pets in need is what animal shelters are for.  It’s what we want people who can no longer care for their pets to do.  If this sign deters someone from surrendering a pet, are the circumstances that lead to the shelter visit suddenly going to change?  Will the terminally ill owner become healthy again?  Will the evicted family be allowed back into their home?  And if it’s a case where the surrendering party is truly irresponsible and uncaring – and I don’t believe that most owners are – will they transform into a responsible and compassionate owner after seeing the sign?

Something will happen to the pets who were going to be surrendered to the shelter but whose owners changed their minds after seeing the sign.  We don’t know what that will be.  But it’s hardly something to celebrate.

In addition to deterring potential surrendering parties, I have little doubt this sign will also deter potential volunteers and adopters.  The majority of Americans believe killing shelter pets is wrong.  They don’t want to go into a place and pet, talk to and love on animals they know may be killed after they leave.  Who would?  It’s heartbreaking.

Instead of hoping to drive people away from our public shelters, how about we demand our shelters do their jobs and protect the community’s pets from harm until they can be rehomed?  I’ll chip in for that sign.

37 thoughts on “New Sign Publicly Declares Shelter Failing to Do Its Job

  1. Seriously? Where exactly are they supposed to put these animals when there is no space left? Obviously, you have never worked in rescue and experienced the sheer number of unwanted animals that are dumped by irresponsible people. I see it firsthand. Spay and neuter is the first step, but many people don’t see the need and just dump litters of kittens. Maybe the people who were going to dump their pet at the shelter will instead use other avenues to find another suitable home for their pet.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      There IS an alternative to shelter killing! Spay/neuter is part of the solution, but not the whole solution. (For example, the family who is giving up their pet because they just got evicted and have to move in with a relative who won’t allow them to bring the pet is hardly helped by the fact that their animal is spayed).

      Fortunately, many shelters and no-kill advocates have already worked out a system that does indeed reduce shelter killing, and you can read about it here:

  2. There are no easy answers, but my personal belief is that humane euthanization in a shelter is preferable to slow starvation or horrific injury after having been abandoned in the middle of nowhere. And where I live, that’s what happens to alot of animals.

    1. I wonder what a dog would answer if I could ask him “Hey, would you rather I kill you right now or turn you loose in the country to take your chances?” I would bet money the dog would NOT choose the immediate death option. Would you? I’m currently fostering a dog who was dumped on someone’s farm instead of being taken to the local high-kill shelter, and believe me, he’s way better off than if he had ended up in that horrible shelter.

      Besides, look at what goes on in Memphis or in a gas chamber and tell me that death at a pound is guaranteed to be “humane.”

  3. I am OK with this if they change the name.. from “shelter” to .. we kill them if no one takes them after? hours

    but to use the word “shelter” is a misnomer of the worst type.

    1. We actually had a shelter here do that – changed their name from “animal shelter” to “animal control”…I guess because they knew that they weren’t sheltering.

  4. I agree with absolutely everything, except I have mixed feelings about the remark about deterring volunteers. After volunteering at a high-kill shelter for awhile, I do believe in helping the animals in there despite not supporting the actions of the organization. It is heartbreaking, and I was vehemently opposed to many things that happened there, but it’s rewarding to know you help make *that day* better for an animal, that they know love or see the light of day or a breath of fresh air *that day*, no matter what the next may bring. To make it through and go back, I didn’t think about the next day but only about today.

    And heck, it is a great experience to see first hand the deplorable conditions, and then spread the word to anyone who will listen. It carries some weight to say you experienced these things first hand and *knew* the wonderful animals that died – they weren’t a bunch of cast-offs or behavior problems no one would want, but tremendous stoic souls who should never be in a terrible spot.

    1. I agree. I’ve volunteered at a no-kill rescue and now at a shelter that has a high save rate, but is still not no kill. If I can go in and show some animals what it is like to be cared for and loved, no matter how long they live, then I feel that is what I can do until there is no more unnecessary killing at shelters and they are “shelters” again. As for the sign, I don’t know what the answer is. I think responsible owners in a bad situation should know their pet may be euthanized if it has a manageable disease they are unaware of or is just deemed unadoptable, but all of the animals I have taken in over the years have 99% been dumped by someone else and found their way to me and others out there have suffered.

  5. Arlington Animal Services should not be criticized for giving full disclosure. No humane association is able to” promise” that every pet signed over to it will be placed in an adoptive home.

  6. Thanks for this, and I hope some of the people who are glad the shelter put up that sign will read your post. It’s horrible when shelters blame the public for what they, the shelters, are choosing to do. It’s even worse when shelters PRE-blame the public and threaten the animals, as this one is doing.

  7. @bunchofpants, if fate hadn’t intervened and you didn’t wind up fostering that dog, what would’ve happened to him? Open admission shelters take in EVERYTHING regardless. When every single kennel is occupied and the next person shows up at the door with a box of 12 kittens someone dumped on their porch or left by their mailbox because THEY couldn’t handle the responsibility, and your fosters (if you’re lucky enough to have them) are already overwhelmed, where do you put them? Other factors come into play here as well. Local and state hold times. 5 day stray holds, 14 day identifiable holds, all these situations require time and space at the shelter, but believe me that doesn’t stop people from coming through the door, and my experience has been most people will insist on leaving the animals anyway, despite attempts to calmly rationalize with them. Fosters, just like shelter workers and Animal Control Officers, have personal lives and responsibilities too. We have families. Therefore we have limits,and sometimes ones such as budget and staffing that are beyond our control. It doesn’t mean we’re not compassionate or caring. To keep up with the volume of work required to implement every aspect of no kill would require a constant 24 hour a day effort, and believe it or not some of us do need to eat and sleep and spend time with our families. These are not the same old excuses, this is LIFE and reality and it’s past time some folks realized it. For the Monday morning quarterbacks who criticize EVERYTHING that shelters do and seem to NEVER be happy with any effort from them, I would say put up or shut up. If youve never worked in rescue or a shelter, walk in our shoes. Plenty of us out here are busting our asses day in and day out trying to save as many lives as we can, and still we have to euthanize, and despite the fact that were trying to do our part, everyone on this blog still treats us like we’re lower-than-dirt, sub-par human beings. So….now that I have spoken my peace, I’m unsubscribing from this blog, because frankly I’m just damn sick and tired of all the shelter hating and negativity. If you people know the way to the promised land, then dammit move to the front of the line and be a leader, not a blogger.

    1. Is Seagoville, TX in the promised land or in reality? Is Marquette, MI in the promised land or in reality? How about Austin, TX or Reno, NV or Allegany County in MD? Because all these communities have open admission shelters where they save better than 90% of the pets in their care. What do they do when they are full and someone shows up with a box of kittens? They rely upon a set of broad reaching programs called the No Kill Equation which they utilize every day of the year.

      1. Why are you sorry?! Or was that just a hollow platitude…

        Chris is having a bad day. I’ve had them myself.

        Luck is not what gives a shelter an active foster program. Not killing the puppies or kittens when they bring them back is important. As is honoring the Foster person’s work by being nice to the people who come in to adopt.

        I think the sign is better than ASPCA or H$U$ who tout about helping shelter animals and don’t. Honesty and disclosure is better than lying and cheating and stealing.

        If local Animal Control did a better job of HELPING the public find their lost animal instead of confiscating pets in order to increase fines and fees, then maybe more of the animals wouldn’t need those five, ten or fourteen day holds, and the public would be more supportive of Animal Control and actually help to foster that box of kittens. If local Animal Control would maintain active foster contracts with local rescues, and actually USE the foster volunteers that are supposedly on their list, maybe they’d have a few extra spaces for more dogs and cats. Or guinea pigs, hamsters, mice or rabbits!

        I wish our Animal Control would put this sign up. It’s the truth. I don’t like it, but I like it better than them saying *Oh, we’ll take good care of fluffy* to your face, and then taking the animal directly to the kill room before you’ve left the parking lot.

    2. Chris, what you and many shelters who are trying to save lives and still failing seem to miss is that you CANNOT DO IT ALONE. It’s not possible. You MUST involve the community or you will fail.

      If you can actively engage the community, you’ll get more pets s/n, you’ll get more adopters, more fosters, more networkers, etc. That’s why telling the public up front that you’re going to kill animals is the wrong kind of communication. Sure, it may be satisfying to those working at the shelter to instill some kind of guilt in those surrendering animals, but what about the woman who finds a stray dog and cannot keep him? What about the cat whose family was killed in a car accident and the neighbor is trying to get him to safety? Do those people need to feel guilty for surrendering animals?

      Working at a shelter can embitter you towards the human race, I get that. But when you lose sight of the fact that the same people you blame are the *solution to the problem* (i.e. – the community), everyone loses.

    3. Police officers are known to have extremely stressful jobs in an arena that will never completely go away (crime) and in which they deal with unreasonable and sometimes violent people, as well as many legal complexities. Local politicians have responsibility for the overall success of their governments, even in the face of recessions, natural disasters and other forces over which they have no control. And in both fields, there are high public standards in place that make it obvious when they have failed.

      Yet these professionals do not say their work is just too hard. Their work is what they have undertaken to do. The issue IMO is how well they are doing it.

      Nor are we required to become police officers, or local politicians, in order to criticize (sometimes harshly) the police department or our local officials. In fact, we are expected to weigh in. Our opinions count. We pay for these services, just as we do for animal shelters.

      What police departments and local governments do when community standards change is learn from the public and from each other, and adapt. Police departments once insisted that hiring minority and female police officers would be the end of the world. They no longer make that claim.

      I see animal shelters as going through an equally major shift and a lot of pressure right now, because public standards are rising. And some shelters are saying that it’s impossible for them to change.

      But as Shirley points out, many shelters have already made the shift. They are pointing the way. I’m confident that in the end, No Kill standards will prevail. And we will be a better society for it.

      1. This is a comparison that hadn’t occurred to me, and it’s a good one. Right now, as another example, many police departments are coming under blistering criticism for killing pets and other animals where unnecessary. And they should – if we just let it go, so will they.

        As for the sign, I think it’s well-intentioned, but it goes awry because it doesn’t provide any other information, or indicate if more is available at the desk.

        There seems to be a widespread presumption among the welfare community, and especially among those who work or volunteer in shelters, that everyone knows what resources are available in the community for pets, and knows how to rehome pets when necessary. In my observation, nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe in small towns where everyone knows everyone else, but in cities? You’re lucky if they know where the shelters are, now so many have moved out to the tules.

    4. @Chris (who is probably not reading this because he/she flounced), I AM moving to the head of the line … currently awaiting the 501(c)3 certification of our own local Pets Alive No Kill org. I aim to make no kill the standard in my area and eventually my whole state.

      An can we please declare a moratorium on the argument kill-defenders make along the lines of “you don’t/never have worked in a shelter; you don’t do/never have done rescue so you don’t understand”? Because first off, it’s usually false–many of the no kill proponents HAVE worked in shelters or rescue (I have done both, for example) and we have been made sick by the senseless killing. Second, you don’t have to have done those things to know that killing animals is a crappy thing to do, and that there are indeed viable alternatives. Just look at the right-hand column of this blog and you will see that open-admission no kill shelters are a REALITY all over this country:

      And as to what would have happened to my foster boy if I hadn’t taken him in, well all I really know is that he wouldn’t have been killed in a gas chamber after his two-day hold was up. Maybe he would have been hit by a car, or his heartworm would have eventually killed him, but MAYBE NOT. Maybe someone else would have taken him in. But the one thing I do know for sure is that his possibility of “maybe not” was not taken away from him forever by the gas chamber/fatal plus. He still has possibilities (and a pending adoption!) Being killed at the shelter would have completely nullified any possibility of a good life.

      Kill proponents are pessimists think that the possibility of bad things happening to an animal outweigh all the possibilities of good things happening. So they choose a fate for another being that they would not choose for themselves if they were in the same situation. No kill advocates are optimists. We are trying to make the good outcomes the norm.

      1. Bunchofpants: I want to congratulate you for your efforts of 501c & I am glad someone like you is getting involved. Thank you.

        IMO the “we gonna kill Fluffy” sign is good because maybe one, just one, dog/cat abandoner will now know what is really going to happen to Fluffy & try just a little harder one more time to find another home for him/her.

        Even if their dog/cat is left on a street corner, there’s more of a chance someone will take the lost Fluffy home, wheresa at the kill shelter… their chance at life is slim to none.

        I personally have taken in MANY dogs, destined to the “shelter,” that have been abandoned in my neighborhood. These are the dogs that are not likely to be adopted by anyone & the “shelter” would surely kill. I have a soft spot for unfortunate dogs/cats that aren’t Grade A.

        I believe there are others, maybe only a few, that would give a dog/cat a second chance that the “shelter” would surely kill. I’m not likely to go to the “shelter” to pick out a “loser” but would surely prevent that “loser” from ever getting to the “shelter” knowing he/she will be killed there, and so would others.

        I know for a fact, many folks to take their dogs/cats to the “shelter” have no idea what’s going to happen to them, and have first hand prevented folks from leaving their dogs at the shelter because I was there to tell them what was going to happen & their alternatives.

        “Shelters” shouldn’t call themselves shelters & continue to kill, but they need to let everyone know up front what they do. If that saves one life, and I know it will, that’s a good thing.

    1. CAPA is not a set of recommendations. It’s comprehensive legislation to force shelters to work with rescuers and maintain transparency. I’ve never believed it was intended to be an a la carte set of guidelines. If the shelter wants to follow CAPA in its totality even though it’s not the law in TX, that’s wonderful. But there is no information indicating that is what’s happening here. If anyone knows otherwise, please share.

  8. Have we not read of several instances where people surrendered cherished pets to shelters because of circumstances that precluded their keeping them, only to find out when it was too late that the pet was immediately killed as “unadoptable” or for space, or killed after a few days just because it was still there?

    And have we not read of shelters that killed lost pets AFTER owners contacted them, saying they would reclaim their pet, only to learn that the pet had been killed before they could get there “because we had it too long”??

    These sad events would not happen if No Kill policies governed the operation of every shelter. But they don’t. And until they do, I would rather see the shelters that kill for space or time make that clear to the public. Not in the fine print of the surrender agreement, not in the policies that may (or may not) be posted on the web site, but right out front, so people bringing in a pet they cannot keep are aware and can consider alternatives; so the community is aware that time is of the essence if they lose a dog, or find a lost dog that they could keep at their home while a search for the owner proceeds.

    Of course we would all like it to be different. But until it is, I don’t see anything wrong with TELLING the public of this reality. And perhaps greater awareness will motivate the community to change that reality by embracing No Kill policies.

  9. I definitely agree about it deterring some volunteers and workers, which is not a good thing. It may also deter some possible adoptions because they would see the sign and just see the building as a big killing facility.

    As for the sign in general, I think they were TRYING to do the right thing by deterring possible surrenders but it wont. The dog will still need to be surrended, so it will end up on the side of the road, left for dead in the backyard as no one cares for it or an owner may actually shoot them to die as well (seriously, it does still happen nowadays).

  10. What do shelter say to the owners when they turn in a litter of animals? I wish they would encourage/make the owners have the moms spayed at the shelter’s expense.

    1. For me personally, spaying right then and there isnt going to do much. If a family, who has 3 spayed female adult dogs, have to re-locate without their dogs, its just the same as a little of 3 puppies coming in through the door. Youre still looking for 3 empty kennels. Actually the puppies would be easier to place so it would be a worse situation for the adult dogs. So spaying isnt totally the solution in these types of situations.

  11. Here’s a synopsis of the solution that is working in a growing number of no-kill communities:

    “What Happens When the Pound Is Full?


    The director of No-Kill NOW!: “I hear it over and over again. ‘Doesn’t a no kill shelter have to kill when all the cages are full?’ This is the question most often asked.

    “The objective of no-kill is to PREVENT FILLING animal pounds to capacity. How this is accomplished encompasses everything that the no-kill movement is about.

    “We can stop looking for that easy one-step solution to overpopulation. We’ve already had a quick-fix for the last 150 years. It has been killing. Today our society is ready for a more sophisticated and humane response.

    “No-kill requires a collaboration between

    + the public [& I would add “the media”]

    + rescues

    + pound administrators

    + veterinarians

    + charitable foundations

    + government officials

    + and the business community.

    “No-kill is not one solution. It is many.”

    More about the No Kill Equation,

    The No-Kill Communities blog tracks news about the growing number of OPEN ADMISSION no-kill shelters, with info about how they did it. Also includes those communities on their way to no-kill,

    Why should communities accept failure when there are many examples of success?

  12. “A Thought Experiment

    Imagine you run an open admission shelter. Your per capita intake is higher than the national average. Like many communities, you have pockets of affluence, but there are also incredible amounts of poverty. You are getting your daily influx of animals. And then you get the call. The state has requested assistance in closing down a puppy mill. They are asking other shelters for help, but you would take the lead…

    …This is the scenario I faced a number of years ago. And I want to share with you what happened.”

    See “Four Million Shelter Animals Want You!”,

  13. “No matter what any of us believes, we ultimately won’t know if we don’t try… Even if we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, I knew it could still be better than now.”

    – Mitch Schneider, Washoe County Regional Animal Services, Nevada

    “Washoe County Regional Animal Services is responsible for running the municipal shelter for all towns and municipalities of Washoe County, Nevada including Reno. As a tourism-based economy, Reno and its surrounding communities have been very hard hit by the economic downturn. Loss of jobs and loss of homes are at all-time highs. In fact, the state of Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. As a result, WCRAS takes in four times the per capita intake rate of Los Angeles, five times the rate of San Francisco, seven times the rate of New York City, and over two times the national average.

    If there was ever an agency which should have a high rate of killing according to traditional sheltering dogma, indeed if there was ever a community where No Kill could not work, it is Washoe County. But it is working…

    N. W.: Why were you willing to try something new when you didn’t believe it was possible?

    M.S.: No matter what any of us believes, we ultimately won’t know if we don’t try. On top of that, if in fact No Kill failed, I didn’t want it to be because our agency refused to think outside the box or because I didn’t like the term. Even if we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, I knew it could still be better than now. We could save more animals. And that would make thousands of animals pretty happy, and it would make thousands of animal lovers pretty happy. It would also make the taxpayers happier. It would reduce staff burnout and turnover, which would reduce costs for human resources for hiring and training new staff, and it would increase our image in the community.

    N.W.: Were you open to all the changes after making the decision to at least give it a try?

    M.S.: I’ve always been committed to process improvement, but I’ve been in this business for 20 years and I found myself having to check my traditional thinking and responses a lot. But I also knew that many people go their whole lives never making a difference, but we can, if we choose too. And I wanted to make a difference in the lives of animals, a difference in the lives of people who care about them, a difference in how our community sees itself.

    I love Washoe County and if we could achieve No Kill here, it could become a source of collective pride. So while I might dislike the term No Kill, I hate the term dog catcher even more and you are what you act like. Act like a dog catcher, then you are a dog catcher…”

  14. I agree we need to stop the killing NOW, but there are a number of ignorant people who buy into the mainstream philosophy that the shelter is the best place to take unwanted animals. These people often choose to ignore the possibility that their actions may lead to their animals untimely death. Telling them the truth about the space issues shelters battle and the outdated animal laws they must follow (euthanizing for time/space) may influence some to try harder to find a new home for their animals or at least a no-kill rescue. It’s easy to ditch your animal at a shelter if you delude yourself into believing it will find a new home and have a good life, possibly not so easy once you learn otherwise. I’m sure shelter workers want to kill any animals but they are trapped by an outdated legal system and government which tells them they must.
    I don’t think this sign will discourage volunteers and workers, in fact it may encourage more help and donations. More space means more animals saved, donations can help that space get built & properly staffed. The people who work or volunteer in shelters with kill policies know all too well of the imminent danger these animals are in because they are the ones who show up day after day and have no choice but to help with the euthanasia, clean the empty cages or deal with the bodies. I know some of these people, they love animals which is why they chose an underpaid, painful environment as their career. I know they suffer but are confined by an inhumane, outdated system which many of them are trying change from the inside. Becoming a no-kill nation will take work from all sides before it will be a reality. We must coexist & cooperate in the name of progress for animals.
    We can’t solve this problem without changing the laws and infrastructure which support euthanasia as a solution to homeless animals. Meanwhile, we must support our local no-kill shelters and groups like Alley Cat Allies and help change the system. Fight the power, save our furrfriends!

    1. I think the point of no kill advocacy is that we are working hard to make the shelter actually be the best place to take unwanted/stray animals ;-)

  15. D’oh! Got too hepped up & made a typo:
    I’m sure shelter workers DON’T want to kill any animals but they are trapped by an outdated legal system and government which tells them they must.

  16. I totally agree! It is time for the shelters to be accoutnable. The reason shelters are in place is to help people and pets. They should be a safe haven not a killing place. Change is so needed.

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