Battered Rescuers, Dead Shelter Pets

I receive tips on a regular basis from caring advocates reporting that their local shelter kills animals needlessly.  What motivates the tipster to write is often one of the following:

  • There are empty cages at the shelter but the pets were killed anyway.
  • Rescue was already lined up for the animals and the staff knew that but the pets were killed anyway.
  • A small percentage of the animals (or even just one animal) were sneezing/coughing but every animal in the room was killed.

I report on very few of these stories for the simple reason that, although the person was upset enough at the time to contact me, they almost always back out when I offer to post the story, even if I promise to keep them anonymous.  Sometimes they just fall silent, other times they write me back to say something along the lines of, “Please don’t publish my story because I’m afraid the shelter will ban me and then I won’t be able to help any more animals” or “I’m afraid the shelter will retaliate by killing this animal I have on rescue hold there right now.”

I understand these concerns and as such, I don’t post about the killings.  But I do have strong opinions about the issue and want to go on record once again here.  I’m not a doctor but this kind of behavior from shelter pet advocates puts me in mind of Stockholm Syndrome.  If you are unfamiliar with Stockholm Syndrome, this is how Wikipedia describes it:

In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

Just as actual hostages may come to believe that, because their captors are not inflicting violence upon them, the captors are good people, animal advocates may mistake a lack of killing by the shelter for an act of kindness.  This is how I believe many volunteers and rescuers come to defend the killing that goes on at their shelter.

But make no mistake.  The killing will continue.  By holding compassionate pet advocates hostage – in the sense that they fear speaking the truth publicly or taking political action to force the shelter to stop killing – the status quo is guaranteed to remain in place.  The fearful rescuers will always be allowed to save a few and the shelter will always kill the rest.

While I understand that a rescuer’s greatest desire is to save animals, I think it’s important to maintain perspective.  If you want to continue the save-a-few-and-kill-the-rest paradigm, keep doing what you’ve always done.  Remain silent about the abuse and needless killing at your shelter.  Don’t rock the boat.  You will be rewarded by the positive feelings that accompany saving an animal here and there.

But if you have had enough of scrambling to save a few while the rest are killed, if you are tired of being afraid to speak the truth, if you want meaningful change that will force the shelter to do its job and save every healthy/treatable animal – do something different.  Speak out publicly.  Empower yourself to stand up and demand an end to the killing.  Maybe do everything different.

Yes, if the shelter bans you, some animals will die that you may have been allowed to save and that is tragic but it’s not your fault.  The blame lies solely with those doing the killing while lifesaving alternatives exist.  By working for meaningful reform, you are making it your goal to save not just the few, but every animal.  The power is in your hands.

17 thoughts on “Battered Rescuers, Dead Shelter Pets

  1. Great post – I agree! I will be back with more on this subject – because it is one I am quite familiar with!

  2. This is a great post which brings a very important issue! I also think that we, rescuers, need to find the best venues to speak out so that we are heard, and not just dismissed as “crazy animal people”. Rescuers need to collect, document and professionally present all evidence of abuse or mismanagement at shelters. I personally have been guilty of occasionally falling in the trap of “fear of retaliation” but I have learned that not speaking up leads to even more animals being killed needlessly. Great article!

  3. You have to be willing to speak out for things to start to change. Besides, in the age of internet, it’s GOOD that as many shelters as possible learn that they do not exist in a bubble.

    People are watching them – people that they don’t even know exist are watching them, and almost ALL of those people have cell phones that take pretty good resolution photos and videos.

    If decency and compassion won’t make them change their ways, then so be it – we’ll settle for fear of exposure.

  4. Fear of exposure — that is not working well at some shelters like Memphis and some others I read about. Seems they think that no matter what they do, and no matter who sees it, they can just continue to do whatever they want without worry. What other job can you be a TOTAL failure at and still be able to find another job doing the same thing at another shelter?

  5. One of the animal pounds in Crowley, Louisiana doesn’t feed their animals often and they get thin and sick, and they have repeatedly be caught doing this, but now they are doing it once again. So fear of exposure doesn’t work if there are no consequences for the wrong doing.

    Tweet: City of #Crowley in #Louisiana – Starving #dogs AGAIN!!!! NEED IMMEDIATE RESCUE!!! Please SHARE! #petrescue

    1. Has anyone documented this via photos/videos, eyewitness accounts and shelter records indicating weight loss? If so, that’s the kind of thing that is difficult for shelters to ignore once it’s exposed.

      1. What the hell is going on here? There should be massive protests in front of this shelter if this is the case. Caring in Canada.

  6. sadly, I know of at least one shelter and evenone RESCUE group that retaliated by kiling the animals– WHO THE HELL are they to play God??!!!!Not even GOD would have done that!!!!

  7. Yeah, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal “Care” & Control banned me in 2009 and I haven’t set foot in there since but the manager knows that myself and a few others are watching closely….Do I want to rock the boat? Hell yeah! It’s an election year and we will have the Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte in September. I’m ready to ROCK! Anyone with me????

  8. So many rescuers are very soft-hearted in the extreme, lacking the personality to be confrontational in almost any way. That is the biggest problem, so it takes the ones willing to push and insist and confront, and they are few and far between. It is the same in everything, whistle-blowers are NOT the usual, they are the exceptional. It takes a certain type, and not everyone HAS what it takes. That’s my opinion, anyway. I am a natural sh**-disturber when I see below-par things, so I would be right in their faces, and then ‘banned’. Love the age of the internet, since banning doesn’t mean people won’t know about what is wrong!

  9. If people do not come forward they are as much at fault as those that are doing these horrendous deeds. You have to do what they did at one shelter and video what is happening and post it on youtube for the world to see. Do not allow yourself to stay one day longer than it takes to get the evidence and get it out there. Youtube will do the rest. The reason they get away with this is that most people except those that are in the industry do not know this is happening. Expose it.

  10. Everyone knows “shelters” like Memphis’ & Charlotte’s are killing dogs & cats already. That is exposed & widely known. So how do we get them to stop? More volunteers working with the shelters will help, but the killing still continues.

  11. Couldnt agree more. Yeah some shelters may have too much pride, get mad and ban that person. But SOME shelters may welcome critiscism and feedback, so its good to say something in order to get something important fixed. You never know until you try.

  12. well, southbark, in mobile, al…. 2 year old 501 -c who has pulled over 2000 plus death row dogs, from mobile county animal shelter, had been offically banned for the second time…. details are to come…..

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