The Long Arm of Restrictive Shelter Policies

The Humane Society of Marshall County in Benton, KY (aka The Benton Marshall HS, as listed on Facebook) says on its website it is a private, limited admission shelter in need of donations.  A reader recently sent me a list of the group’s requirements for accepting dogs and cats:

  • We can ONLY ACCEPT animals from Marshall County
  • We can ONLY ACCEPT owner surrenders which means we CANNOT accept strays
  • Bring ALL vet records when surrendering an animal
  • DOGS:
  • MUST HAVE PROOF: Current rabies, Negative heartworm test and a negative fecal test.
  • CANNOT ACCEPT: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Dobermans, Akita or Mastiff
  • MUST HAVE at least one set of puppy shots and negative fecal test
  • Parents CANNOT be related

When accepting dogs, the staff will look at the adult dogs skin conditions, sores, behavior problems, eye or ear problems. Accepting puppies the staff will look for vomitting, diarrhea, nasal, eye discharge, skin condition, itching and umbilical hernia.

  • CATS:
  • MUST HAVE PROOF:  Negative Leukemia FIV test, negative fecal test and rabies
  • MUST HAVE PROOF:  At least one set of kitten shots, Negative Leukemia FIV test and negative fecal test

When accepting cats, the staff will look for skin problems, eye discharge, nasal discharge, ears, sneezing, and diarrhea.


Shorter:  Vetted white & fluffies only.

I was curious, since the HS clearly doesn’t intend to spend much in the way of veterinary care for its pets and since they adopt out intact pets with a $50 refundable deposit (so they are not paying for neutering themselves), how much do they sell dogs and cats for?

The website states cats are $65 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit) and dogs are $75 – $200 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit).  The adoption application states that after you buy the pet, if you fail to have him neutered by a certain date, the HS has the right to take your pet back.  In addition, there are a list of annual expenses for which the adopter is expected to be prepared to pay for 20 years, including $30 – $100 a year for neutering.  Dang, I guess neutering doesn’t last as long as it usta.

At any rate, having recently read through a bunch of different shelter and rescue policies, I find too many of them failing to effectively fulfill the stated mission of getting homeless pets adopted.  Picking out the vetted white and fluffies from the community and selling them intact for up to $200 creates another problem too:  resentment on the part of the municipal facility.  The Marshall Co pound accepts all the unvetted Pitbulls and goopy-eyed cats.  Naturally this is going to cause some bad blood, as was evident last year when the county voted not to accept the Humane Society’s offer to merge:

The county shelter and Humane Society used to be competitors of sorts and for years, county leaders and Humane Society leaders haven’t always agreed.


After big changes from new leadership at the county shelter, the number of adoptions soared, euthanasia rates subsequently went down and the price to adopt went down, too.


Due to low euthanasia rates and high adoption rates, the county shelter is operating with a surplus.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society is losing business. Their adoption fees are higher and more people are taking animals and donations to the county shelter.

Look at how well the county shelter was doing in February 2012 (pdf).  Increased lifesaving=decreased expenses.  I was unable to find any more recent stats but hopefully the shelter is continuing to succeed in its mission.

The impact of restrictive shelter policies reaches well into the community – potential adopters, donors and officials are all affected.  As are the pets, sadly.  Why not consider throwing off the shackles and offering a hand to the county in a meaningful way – not just a oh-gee-you-guys-have-a-surplus-and-we-are-in-the-red-let’s-be-friends kind of way?  There is a potential win-win situation in Marshall Co but not as things stand.  Will the private and the public sectors ever be able to work together for the benefit of the community’s pets?


16 thoughts on “The Long Arm of Restrictive Shelter Policies

  1. This of course is not uncommon — although usually the requirements are less formalized than this, the end result is the same. And it becomes not uncommon for many of these humane societies to ship animals in from 100s of miles away that meet their criteria while a shelter down the street has 50% or lower save rates.

    1. Good point Brent. It’s a fail on both ends because often the people doing the shipping are only too happy to send their white & fluffies to a place that wants them because they don’t stand a reasonable chance at the originating shelter. They are so desperate to get pets out of the place alive, they don’t want to think about displacement killing on the other end.

  2. Very impressed at the cut of the euthanasia $$. The fact that it was so high to begin with is disturbing, but clearly things are changing for the better there (e.g. money going to meds/vaccines rather than killing).

    My local shelter seems to have an amicable relationship with the local SPCA group. I know that the SPCA takes injured animals for the shelter (that has no money for vetting, etc.), but I’m not sure what the shelter does for the SPCA…except that both groups actually seem to care about getting animals into homes.

    I’ll have to thank my vet for the high quality s/n’s she’s done for us. They all seemed to take the first time…

  3. Isn’t it priceless – that the Humane Society and the County Shelter would “competitors of sorts.” It is the same in both Tennessee Counties where I was Director. These entities have distinctly different revenue streams and role in the communities – but their goals are similar. Reality dictates that the county shelter must be open admission, must fund programs to educate, legislate and prosecute (when necessary) it’s citizens. The Humane Society has none of these requirements. In Montomgery County, TN (Clarksville) – the HS takes in big donations and has big fundraisers and pays their staff out of the citizen’s donations. They are also paying their building’s mortgage payment from citizen’s donations. Something that just doesn’t sit right with me and many others – especially since they don’t have any animals in that facility and they don’t volunteer at the county shelter. So glad this county shelter is making big strides forward in saving lives AND funding!

    1. Yeah, that’s a treasure. I’d love to see the little paws being placed on little bibles when the dogs are questioned about their parents and must swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

      1. Ah, but that’s not required for kittens! Perhaps because cats are regarded as agents of chaos …?

  4. The rescue that helped us with our stray (we mistakenly took him to the municipal shelter for a stray hold and they wanted to kill him due to his health problems – which we knew about and were willing to pay to fix) has fairly high adoption fees. They take in hard-luck cases from the high-kill municipal shelter and help with often high medical fees. We paid over $300 to “adopt” an animal that we found but they pulled – the municipal shelter wouldn’t allow us to pull him as individuals, so we had to enlist the help of the rescue.

    But I got the full list of medical treatments given to Charlie (the naughty and once very ill Lhasa Apso) and know exactly how that $300 was spent – we did not “buy” him, we paid for part of his medical expenses.

    The instant I saw him in our back alley I knew I had to help him, so I don’t regret any of the money spent. While the municipal shelter often has 80 dogs, usually only one or two are on the “walk list” and being marketed for adoption. And the high-kill shelter charges a $200 adoption fee, which is low for the area. Adoption fees, and what’s considered reasonable, vary greatly by region.

  5. I hate to see county shelters at odds with local private shelters. They can do SO much if they work together. Where I live, the county AC and local private shelter have a great working relationship. The private shelter takes in owner surrenders, but also visits the AC weekly and pulls animals from there (over 1500 last year, and over half of their intakes). Because the AC doesn’t adopt out pit bulls, the shelter takes puppies and well socialized adult pitties so they can find homes. Yes, the shelter takes in “white and fluffies”, but it also pulls heartworm positive dogs, injured/sick animals, and kittens too young to be at AC. It has also helped with puppy mills and hoarder seizures. The county AC’s euthanasia rate is still too high, but with the help of the privates rescues, it is lowering steadily.

    1. Totally agree. As I said earlier – there is a distinctly different role for each entity – public and private – BUT their goals should remain in concert. To save lives and to educate and promote safety in the community. Unfortunately – I don’t see this “teamwork” happening often. AND – as we an all see from the Marshall County HS strangling requirements for animals – they don’t care about the lives. It’s about the money.

Leave a Reply