Discussion: Why is Reform Needed at Your Local Shelter?

It’s National Animal Shelter Reform Week although on this blog, that’s every week.  Why is reform needed in the overwhelming majority of our taxpayer funded shelters?  The answer is:  Because directors and staff are not doing their jobs to shelter pets but instead are killing them.

I regularly hear excuses from directors, shelter staff, volunteers and others who enable them as to why they “can’t stop” killing pets.  I outright reject the idea that they can’t stop since it’s been proven in dozens of open admission shelters all over the country that killing is a choice.  Rather, too many shelter directors won’t stop killing.

By far the most common excuse offered is some variation of the following:  What are we supposed to do with all these animals?  It is the very asking of this question that disqualifies a shelter director or staffer from employment.  Or at least it should.  If you are running an animal shelter or working in one and you do not inherently know what it is you are supposed to do with all the animals in your care, why are you in this line of work?  It’s not because you want to kill animals, right?  Because no kill advocates are constantly told that nobody wants that.  Usually by those doing the killing.

Please tell us why reform is needed at your local municipal shelter.  Or if you are one of the lucky ones whose shelter has already been reformed, tell us how things have changed for your community pets since the shelter director and staff started doing their jobs.

11 thoughts on “Discussion: Why is Reform Needed at Your Local Shelter?

  1. Reform is needed at my local shelter because it has become little more than a shameful disposal facility and most people don’t know it. There are surely well-intented people on the staff but they have either become complacent or are just blinded to the fact that shelters like theirs are saving so many more animals. The annual budget for the shelter is 1.6 million. The director earns almost 100k a year. The live release rate last year (as far as we can deduce) was 34%. This area is progressive and proud. People are smart. They support the space program and provide cutting edge technology to our troops. Our economy continues to grow and we have been essentially unaffected by financial problems which have plagued the rest of the country. We are often on lists of “great places to live.” Some of us know the truth. Many of us just don’t want to think about it or take the time to make it a priority.

    I genuinely believe that if people who call themselves advocates for animals would educate themselves and speak up, this community could change. Very, very quickly. The shelter killing is something people don’t even think about and since the shelter director is a veterinarian, there is a “do no harm” presumption of her intent. She is a singular person and she is a public servant. We are not victims of municipal leadership. We create our culture.


  2. My shelter does an excellent job of getting dogs out alive. Cats are not so fortunate. I am in discussions with my local county commissioners about finding a way to better market our cats to the public and rescue groups.

    Fortunately, my shelter is very rescue friendly and run by good and decent people. Unfortunately, they have trouble “thinking outside the box” and could use some more creative input.

    We have no TNR program, but my shelter also doesn’t take in feral cats (considering them to be wildlife). We do have low cost s/n available.

    Overall, I consider my county very lucky and we are leaps and bounds better than so very many others. Still, there’s room for improvement.

    1. This is off topic It’s not often I read or hear something new but considering feral cats wildlife “might” just be a way to save them from the shelters??????? After all, if they are 100% unadoptable as some seem to think, then they have no reason to go the shelter just to be killed.

      1. Many shelters consider feral cats to be wildlife, yes. Unfortunately, lots more consider them unadoptable and take them in only to kill them.

        I’ll say it again – if your shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive TNR program, it has ZERO business taking in feral cats at all. They are wildlife. They belong to the community. If you can’t make their lives better, leave them alone.

  3. Massachusetts shelters have a wonderful, free, volunteer-stafffed adoption resource in PILOT/AniMatch.  http://pilot4pets.org/application/
    This program provides a state
    wide database where shelters can post dogs to gain them attention outside of their local area. Transportation for the dogs to receiving organizations is available and free.  We also provide behavior assessments and trainingfor for rescues and shelters,  establishing networks and collaboration that helps move dogs from shelters into adoptive homes.

  4. I volunteer at a municipal shelter where the live release rate for both dogs and cats is about 92% each year, so things are already quite good. We have a very good staff, but even so they are very dependent on the volunteers for a lot of help. Which is how it should be. Finding homes for X number of dogs and cats is a big job. A big part of the staff “doing their job” is creating and maintaining the volunteer network. The staff also has good relations with local rescue organizations as well.

    No place is perfect but any reforms necessary at my shelter would be rather minimal compared to what is needed at many other facilities.

  5. The shelter where I volunteer has a good live release rate as well – killing less than 5% yearly. But it is the neglect from shelter staff – where they do not see that a mother cat is not eating because she has an Upper Respiratory Infection and is not producing milk so the kittens are dying. It took a vigilant volunteer to step in to foster them and help nurse most of them back to health. This is also a group that believes that customer service in helping animals get adopted is not within their job description. Animal adoptions might take weeks before shelter staff can get to them.

    Why is caring for the animals in your protection not a priority?

    1. If the live release rate is 95%+, it’s hard to imagine a neglectful staff. Is it a case where volunteers are taking up the slack and if the volunteers weren’t there, the shelter would be killing animals and allowing them to die in their cages? How do you think the situation could be helped – does the director need to bring down the hammer? Could a meeting be set up (if one hasn’t already) between vols and shelter leadership?

  6. Very interesting discussion. I whole heatedly support a no-kill shelter. The only pet shelter I am aware off that has a no-kill policy in my region is pets haven: http://www.petshaven.com.au/. They do amazing work through networking and advertising, fostering & so forth. :-)

  7. Brilliant post. You’d think that the people managing and staffing these shelters would be there because they love and care for animals and, thereby, want the best for them. How can killing a healthy animal be the best option?
    This is specifically why I sponsor only the No-Kill shelters. I’ll be doing write-ups on such shelters from across the world. You may want to give me any that you believe are doing their job properly and could do with a little bit of free publicity.

    1. Awesome! I whole-heartedly agree with you. Its ironic that, for the most part, its rare to see a nurse not take car of a patient, but hearing about a vet neglecting an animal in a shelter isnt rare. Is it because the animal doesnt have a voice, so they cant sue in a malpractice suit? Shelters need to be held to the same standards, regardless. That is what they are there to do.

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