Dear Shelters, You Can Stop Hating Us Now. Love, Everybody

How many times have you heard a shelter vol or staffer open a marketing pitch for a pet in need with something along the lines of, “It never ceases to amaze me how people can dump a senior” or “I am so disgusted by people who don’t spay and neuter their pets and then dump the litters at the shelter” or “It is shocking that people would dump their animals just because they’re having a baby”?

OK shelter peeps, message received.  You have made clear your contempt for people who surrender their pets to a shelter.  We got it.

Can you please stopped being amazed, disgusted and shocked now?  Because you are only hurting the pets who need the public’s help.  You are turning off members of the public who would respond to your requests for donations, foster homes, volunteer help and adoption drives.  You are driving away the solution to your problems.

Why not market the pets for what they are now, not your opinion of where they used to be or how they arrived at the shelter?  Why not rise above your condemnation and ill will toward the public and keep the door open for assistance and education?  Why not make the public feel you are the most approachable resource in the county when they have questions on training, need assistance with pet food or want to find out about low cost spay-neuter options?

Leaving your animosity toward the public behind and focusing on getting pets out alive costs nothing.  And it can’t possibly yield any worse results than filling up the dumpster with dead pets, which is what most municipal facilities are doing now.  What would it hurt to try a simple alternative?

Bear in mind that some members of the public are amazed, disgusted and shocked that the people tasked with sheltering community pets are instead warehousing and killing them.  If you want to bring the public – the solution – into the fold, you’re going to have to do better than reminding them how awful they are every chance you get.

Dog #1038663 at the pound in Charlotte, NC, as pictured on PetHarbor.

23 thoughts on “Dear Shelters, You Can Stop Hating Us Now. Love, Everybody

  1. Members of the public are hopefully becoming shocked and disgusted over the callous horrific treatment pets often receive at kill shelters. One segment that is particularly affected are the volunteers. Yes they do frequently repeat the party line but also become exposed to and are starting to bear testament to the situations like the following in Upson County GA, where the director is known to be sadistic : “Smart began asking us what we wanted to do at the shelter. We told him anything, Bathe dogs; clean the pens, play with the dogs, and walk the dogs. He then asked us if we would become emotional if they had to put dogs down while we were there. We told him we would rather they be adopted, but understood that some may have to be put down. Then John Smith an animal control officer pulled up with an inmate, he walked in the door, and Smart told him to go get the 2 puppies out of their run, John asked why and Smart told him they were going to put them down. John had a surprised look on his face, but did as he was told. After John left Smart began to give us the details of putting dogs down, he said they die within 30 seconds after being euthanized, but then told us that puppies and cats are harder because they sometimes have to stick them up to 4 or 5 times because they are more fearful and are harder to hold, he also stated that just like humans some dogs veins roll and that also takes longer. He also stated that their eyes may bulge out. Webb went on to say that they inject some of them in their stomachs, and that also takes longer for them to die. After a very long discussion on euthanasia, He also told us that rescues, only wanted purebred dogs. He said rescues don’t want just any dog. Then he told Christi to take us to the back to see the dogs. There were 29 dogs that I could see. Peggy Ferrel asked if we could walk some of them and Christi said that Smart had already left so it would be better to wait until tomorrow. ”

  2. Think it’s hard being a member of the general public? Try being a hobby/show breeder. We have a huge body of knowledge that we’re willing to share with shelters, but we’re vilified for having intact animals and are constantly told that we’re “the problem” that creates overpopulation (really? h/s breeders produce about 2% of the puppies in the nation . . .). And yet, we continue to rescue and to foster and to raise money for s/n clinics and feature shelters at dog shows and volunteer bathing, grooming, and breed identification services and offer to help with training and . . . well, you get the picture.

    Yeah. We’re stupid that way.

    1. Yes, I have seen that attitude among dog lovers who do NOT realize that show breeders have FEW litters that go to select homes. Also, I know a few long-time dog breeders who I would put up against many vets for the knowledge they have!

      Unfortunately, the general public does not realize that a REAL ‘breeder’ (i.e., show breeder) is not the same as a puppy miller or a ‘backyard’ breeder – people who just collect dogs and breed them frequently and indiscriminately. Most of the general public does not even know where to FIND a pup/dog from a real breeder, so they have no clue about the differences.

      Add to that all those who don’t know the way to be No Kill in our shelters, and then you get a lot of people who figure that every dog born means that one has to be killed in a shelter, which is not true! Distressing…

      1. Debbie Tucker-Smith wrote:
        “REAL ‘breeder’ (i.e., show breeder)”

        Show breeders aren’t the only real breeders. How about the working dog breeders who produce dogs that do the jobs the breeds were originally created to do? If you think they have any less knowledge of dogs and breeding or are any less careful in their breeding or placement, you are mistaken.

      2. Grahund, I’m sure that Debbie Tucker-Smith is very aware of the amazing working dogs and hunting dogs that are produced by wonderful, dedicated, and knowledgeable breeders. But she *was* responding to my post and I had referred to hobby/show breeders, since that is my experience. But to her point: people have no idea that show/working/hunting dog breeders are actually (in general) real and decent people. All they know is the propaganda that they have been fed by certain groups for the last five decades. We all need to work together to combat that propaganda–especially the “for every animal you buy another animal in a shelter dies” mentality. The dog fancy has been separated into cliques for far too long and it’s time we unite to fight a common enemy.

  3. You’ve said it so well my dear! The public, especially on Facebook, are beginning to be turned OFF by the horrid pictures of the poor animals and the condition they are in and especially WHY they are. It just makes the public angry and the ones that really want to do something about it usually can’t afford to! All we can do is spread their ugly pictures and this helps no one. Especially the animals. I know, some of them need to be seen and brought out into the open… but there is no call to disgrace every person that drops off a litter of pups or a senior dog because the person may have tried in vain to find the animal a home. They could be seniors themselves or gotten so physically unable to care for the pet that this is their last hope. Just bring out the great points of the animal and don’t put us through the guilt of not being able to help. It is just not fair to the ones of us that truly want to help but can’t. Either we are all the way across the country, the laws won’t allow us to bring the animal across state lines without a massive amount of money to keep the animal in quarantine for a period. ITs’ just not fair for the animals. There IS ONE rescue inTexas that really show off their animals.. and they should be applauded for their efforts. The show off their dogs and cats all dressed up, clean and pretty just waiting for a good home. And I’ll bet you they have a better success rate for placing the than the ones that show only the bad side of the ones they have. We wish we could rescue every single one of them but it’s just not possible. I know that if I could, I certainly would! But again, it’s the money and the distance and having a place large enough and being physically able to care for them. That’s the main objective isn’t it ? Finding a good home for them, and not just getting rid of them? I say hurray for your efforts and for the rest of us that care but can do nothing but spread the word about the poor animals that need us.


    Kathie G. “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened” Kathie


    1. Katherine, is there a way that you can stop using the diamonds with the question mark on it as a spacer? While it’s nice to be a little different, those spacers make it harder to read your comment.

    2. Today I am heartbroken. Two dogs.. one a stray, one an owner surrender were murdered. Both at different shelter in different States. I had been sharing, tagging , begging for someone to help. One shelter had an out break of distemper, so I sort of understand what /why. The second dog was small, cute but labeled a pitt, but you could clearly see she was a French Bulldog mix. She was only at the shelter 8 days. there were people working on getting her out. people that had pledged money.. the shelter says they “don’t do pledges or chip-in’s”. Owner surrenders are the first ones murdered, can be murdered on intake. And I’m mad about that. Did the people that surrender her to the shelter know it was a death sentence? Were they even told? To me a dog that had a home most likely has some training.. why are they the first to be killed?
      Sorry.. I’m rambling..

  4. I am a show breeder and have been doing rescue for over 30 years. I’ve heard every story and then some. I have suffered some pretty severe burn out from having to listen and look at the people who give me their dogs for these stupid reasons. I try not to be judgemental but when you are hit with these things every day, week and month you wonder if there are any people out there who really know how to care for a dog for it’s lifetime. The other fact is that the saddest stories sometimes get the dogs the most attention, just look at any aftermath of a “puppy mill” or “hoarder” bust. They have people coming out of the woodwork to adopt these dogs. Sad stories sell.

    In all my years in rescue there have only been a handful of people who contacted me well ahead of their scheduled move, baby, divorce, etc. and worked with me to get their pet to safety. These are the same people that check back to see how their former pet is doing and to make themselves available to the new owners for questions and updates. The rest are never heard from again.

    While I see the point in not emphasizing the past of every dog, sometimes that past is what helps us find the right home. Too many rescues and shelters are starting to gloss over the known history of the dog for fear it will compromise an adoption. What ends up happening is that the dog is either returned or dumped at another shelter, or worse. Honesty is the key and the marketing of the dogs should be as honest as possible. If the dog isn’t reliably housebroken say so and give tips on how to improve the behavior. It does the dog no good to save it just to place it in an inappropriate situation.

    Shelters and rescues have an obligation to not only take in and place dogs but do it as responsibly as they would require an adopter to act.

    I and my friends run one of the biggest schipperke rescues in the US. I am very proud to say that in 30 years of rescuing schipperkes we have only taken in about 8 dogs that originally came from show breeders. Of those 8, six were taken back to the breeder at their insistence, two we placed as the breeders were either sick or otherwise incapacitated and could not take their dogs back. They did, however, assist us in placing their dogs. Show breeders are some of the best dog educators in the country and unfortunately are now lumped in with any breeder of any caliber. We are the dolphins in the tuna nets.

    Michele Kasten
    Victoria Schipperkes
    Midwest Schipperke Rescue

  5. First I would would like to state how very appreciated hobby breeders are that strive for health and temperament. I love you guys and being willing to teach and keep the pulse on animal sheltering is extremely helpful. I encourage adopters to check with us for what they are looking for, also breed specific rescues and then the wonderful breeders like you when a specific breed is sought.

    I am troubled by the love of the public and then shocked by the “No Kill” movement not realizing the ways they are turning their back on people in very much the same way a judgmental shelter is judging. I have had owners love their pets for years and finally decided they need to be euthanized for either a health issue that they cannot manage or aggression that has put household members or neighbors in danger. Can you love the public and hate and judge them at the same time? Most people who have a seriously ill animal do just surrender because they have such difficultly making that final choice. I have met only one owner in 25 years that appeared to want to euthanize out of convenience, in my experience this is a myth that needs to be debunked. You need to be able to trust the public with their own loved animals.

  6. I couldnt agree more with this post.

    Also, an animal shelter is a business like any other business, and if they turn people away, they arent going to “sell their product” like they normally would, because theyd go to NK shelters and other places where they feel more appreciated. Doesnt that worry them at all?

  7. No way shelter workers will get over their hatred of the public until they get counseling, paid vacations, and a living wage. Their jobs suck and they aren’t given psychological evaluations before being hired. Talk to workers who have quit — if they’re honest they may admit they were homicidal when they had to leave the job.

  8. Conflict of interest? Difficult to define the enemy?
    Can’t be the shelter that kills them fault.
    Can’t be the people that dumps them at the shelters fault.

    Must be the breeder’s fault.

  9. A little story that happened at UPAWS. A few years ago, a lady needed to surrender her dog due to her not being the right fit in their home with the activity level. We understood, accepted her dog and found her dog a new loving home. The lady was so grateful for us and for how kindly she was treated that she wanted to think of something to help our shelter…something big. She approached me with the idea of UPAWS having a big charity dog walk! She approached the City and she coordinated our 1st Strut Your Mutt. This fundraiser has grown into our largest yearly fundraiser for our shelter!! Now, if she had been treated badly and been made to feel shameful for having to surrender her dog…well, things would of been very different. Now not everyone puts together a huge fundraiser BUT they do feel, talk, donate, and support.

  10. I’m going to partially (respectfully) disagree. We weave stories every day of our lives. A good story has a “hero” and a “villain”. It has a plot with the hero facing a difficult period. And then (if you want people to walk away content) it has a happy ending that, in this case, can involve prospective adopters.

    For example, I recently rescued a puppy being confined in a rusty, metal cage at a livestock auction. On his crate was a sign that read “Puppy FREE, Crate Not”. I think it behooves me, for a variety of reasons, to include the puppy’s background story. It tugged at heartstrings and resulted in a lot of applications to adopt the little (soon to be big) dude.

    What i am trying to say is that I feel strongly a good story coupled with positive traits of the adoptable animal make for a very powerful incentive to adopt. People want to feel like they are making a difference for an animal, and they are often impressed by being part of a story that started out possibly negative but that they (by adopting) changed to a positive.

    I am not saying the story needs to be the emphasis of the dog’s adoption profile. But I think it can sometimes (not always) enhance an animal’s “adoptability”. If I’m making any sense, here. :)

    1. And, to add. When I used to volunteer at a hi-kill shelter, there was one middle-aged Labrador mix who was dearly loved by a geriatric woman. She and her daughter had tried in vain to find this dog a home, as the elderly woman was unable to physically care for the dog and the daughter had a very dog-aggressive canine already. And I shared that love with people who were interested in the dog, and that made a difference. She was adopted within a week (and she was not an “easy” dog – she had no leash manners, was a real diamond in the rough kind of lady). SO I think there is a way to weave any story into an adoption profile, positive and negative, and doing it in a respectful, compassionate way (and not so compassionate way, when necessary).

    2. I understand what you’re saying – look at the number of people who want to adopt a high-profile animal issue animal (like Patrick the dog or any other animal who has had something happen that resulted in media coverage). Why will those people not go out and adopt another very deserving animal? (I frequently will suggest that they do just that rather than wring their hands that they would take so-and-so if only they lived closer, etc).
      I think that we need to let people know about the animals as individuals – their personality, their characteristics, something other than just the basic “large brown and white dog”.
      And photos – oh that photo of the poor little black pup breaks my heart. You can just feel his fear and almost see him trembling. That should NEVER be happening.

  11. I agree. If the people that are doing intake can’t keep their their mouths in check, they shouldn’t be doing intake.

    I handle intakes from shelters, not direct owner surrenders. I no longer have the patience to hold their hands and make them feel better for dumping their pet. Thank goodness there are people who can do intake properly.

    However, while there are valid reasons why people can’t keep their pets, especially in today’s economy, but I feel people are not made to take responsibility for their actions. (I believe that is happening in our society as a whole; not just pet owners.) I don’t believe in anonymous night drop offs – but then again, if the intake staff can’t do their job without verbally judging people, then it’s needed.

    I feel it might be too easy for people to be irresponsible. Our society has become a throw away society and a “I want it now” society. I want owners to know there are alternatives to surrendering their pets. Did they know there is help for people who need an apartment that allows pets? Food banks that provide food for pets? Organizations that assist with medical needs of their pets?

    I do my best support people that are honest and upfront and surrender for valid reasons. They’ve exhausted their options and have no alternative – that is what shelters/rescues are here for. They are not a dumping group for people who are irresponsible and get rid of something when it no longer suits their life style.

    Then again, in some states you can dump your unwanted children at hospitals, no questions again. With this happening, the argument for responsible pet ownership is hard to validate.

    1. I cannot disagree more with your fifth paragraph.

      Animal shelters should not be just for the pets of people whom the staff deem deserving – they should be for pets in need irrespective of ownership or circumstances. Turn away those whom you consider to be irresponsible, and what do you think will happen? Do you really think they’ll suddenly slap their foreheads, realize what idiots they’ve been, and live up to their responsibilities?

      Here’s a recent story from my neck of the woods, on what’s actually more likely to happen:

      1. There’s been no follow-up in the six days since that posted, db. I’ll also be surprised if there is any, especially since the three pups were rescued in Siskiyou County and there’s no mention of reporting the incident to any officials there.

Leave a Reply