Why are shelter directors killing pets whom rescue groups are willing to save? Because they can.

Many pet lovers are shocked to learn that most municipal facilities that call themselves animal shelters do not actually shelter animals. In fact, these so-called shelters kill pets rescuers are willing to save, because they can. More still are astonished when they learn that some of the private non-profits calling themselves humane societies or societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals are guilty of the same crimes against pets as the municipal facilities that kill pets who are wanted.

In the case of public facilities, pet advocates can and should petition their government for a redress of grievances. But historically this has been a mixed bag of results with far too many elected officials blatantly thumbing their noses at taxpayers who call upon them to force animal shelter staff to do their jobs. Our public servants delete animal advocacy comments from their Facebook pages, ignore e-mails and petitions, and refuse to meet with advocates in person. When they do address the issue publicly, it’s usually to give the pet killing facility a pat on the back while wagging their fingers at the “irresponsible public”.

When it comes to the private HS/SPCA organizations, well-meaning advocates sometimes believe they should report the needless killing of pets there to the “national” HS/SPCA, meaning the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The sad truth is that neither of these organizations is affiliated with your local shelter, even if the names are similar. Furthermore, HSUS and ASPCA are primarily fundraising organizations and will likely not intervene to prevent wanted pets from being killed by your local non-profit organization.

But there is a solution that addresses the needless killing of wanted pets, and offers numerous other protections for shelter animals, at both public and private shelters. It’s called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA).  CAPA has already been passed in DE and has been introduced by legislators in MN, RI and WV.  Modified versions have been introduced in NY, TX, IL and FL.  More states will be announcing modified versions of CAPA on their legislative agendas soon.

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CAPA lays out a number of important requirements for public and private shelters that include lifesaving, transparency and community participation.  Specifically, neither public nor private shelter directors would have the discretion to kill pets under CAPA without giving public notice nor would they be allowed to kill pets that a rescue is willing to take.

Too often on this blog, we hear from pet advocates who have been shafted by shelter directors committed to killing for arbitrary reasons and, in some cases, in retaliation for shining a light on their dark secrets.  Here is a way to do something about that.  Augment your existing animal advocacy (fostering, rescue, networking, etc.) with some political advocacy that will not only save pets’ lives, but help the people who love them too.

Do you want accountability, transparency and legal access to the animals in your shelter’s care?  If so, you want CAPA.  Talk to your state or local legislators about getting CAPA introduced to protect your community’s pets from those who are needlessly killing them, because they can.  CAPA would make needless and secretive shelter pet killing illegal, regardless of whether the shelter is public or private.  Under CAPA, we would not only protect the lives of shelter pets but the hearts and minds of pet advocates who currently suffer at the whims of directors, standing by their cabinets of Fatal Plus and scoffing at the so-called irresponsible public’s attempts to actually shelter animals.

32 thoughts on “Why are shelter directors killing pets whom rescue groups are willing to save? Because they can.

  1. You are probably going to think from what I post that I do not think CAPA (or CAARA as it was in NY in the last legislative session) is a good idea. That is not true – I think it should be law everywhere. But I can only speak to the version proposed in NY and that was deeply flawed. All of your bullet points for CAPA highlights were in the bill and I agree with all of them. But the directives for implementation were either non-existent or were solely the responsibility of the pounds and shelters.
    It cannot work that way. It is unwieldy, inefficient, and prohibitively expensive to expect it to work that way.
    The NY version (and I’m going from memory here so I may have some of the details a little off, but it is substantially correct) laid all of the responsibility for finding and maintaining lists of rescues on the shelters and pounds. It laid all the responsibility for inspecting and approving the rescues on the shelters and pounds. It did not take into account the fact that New York is not just cities and large urban areas, sophisticated in the ways of animal rescue networks. It is large areas of small cities and smaller towns and villages and largely rural districts that have no idea of the difference between rescue and shelter and pound.
    I posed this question to the NY rescues last year on a NY dog law list and got no response – How is Cletus, the ACO appointed by the town board of East Buttcrack because he has a couple extra stalls in his barn and he loves dogs, supposed to know that you exist? How is he supposed to know that you have people willing to take and rehab Little Jughead, the 6 month old, untrained lab/pit cross some college student dumped on a back road on his way home for summer vacation so that Cletus won’t have to kill him when his time is up? This proposal tells him that he has to post Little Jughead on the internet when he doesn’t even have reliable dial-up. He can barely check email – forget about posting a picture.
    No response. And they didn’t not respond because they didn’t see it – there are moles aplenty on that list. I can only believe they didn’t respond because they knew it was true and they didn’t want to deal with trying to address it.
    The big problem with the bill in NY last year was that it was piecemeal. Each shelter and impounding organization was charged with maintaining a list of rescues and making available to those rescues a list of available animals. What an incredible, onerous and expensive duplication and reduplication of effort!
    I suggested that it should be the responsibility of the rescues to put together and maintain a list of willing and available rescues within the state or across the country. They should include on the list the capabilities of the rescue. Muffie’s Mutts over here only takes little fluffy dogs, but they’re really good with tricky health issues. Calvin’s Canine’s likes the hard cases and rehabs dogs that often end up doing police or SAR work.
    I said the rescues should police and inspect themselves so that the shelters and pounds can be sure they are not sending animals from the frying pan to the fire. I suggested that the rescues establish a network of rescuers contacting the pounds and shelters throughout the state on a regular schedule to find out if there are animals that need to be pulled.
    There was no discussion of any of this on the rescue lists or blogs. They all just whined about the corrupt ASPCA for using their money to block passage of the bill. There was a lot more wrong with the bill than just ASPCA having bought and paid for a couple of legislators.
    We all know, even though it makes us sick to believe it, that some of the shelters and pounds like to kill. Who knows why, but it’s true. CAPA (or CAARA) would make it harder for them to do that, but not impossible. For CAPA to work, the rescues need to take some responsibility. They can’t just loll around on their moral laurels, being fanned by slaves and having grapes dropped into their mouths while they wait for the godless ACOs to come crawling to them with their pitiful sacrificial offerings.
    The rescues also need to get off their asses and help to rewrite a workable bill with a workable infrastructure to support it!

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective! Just as you have a hard time seeing the podunk ACO networking, I see all the various rescue groups unwilling to cooperate, collaborate and work well together. There’s something about *saving* animals that turns humans into jerks. The shelter system is broken. fixing municipal facilities is good, but we also need to fix the other side of the equation so that the irresponsible public is embraced and supported instead of belittled and fined. In order to help the animals, we need to help the people too.
      Things are getting better in many places, and Shirley’s blog has been a big part of my being able to notice that.
      I don’t have the answers. I wonder if I could get a CAPA bill moving in the state of Alaska. Hmmm.

    2. I know plenty of volunteers who would be happy to step and provide lists to kill shelters of rescues if they were actually going to use it, just on the sheer hope of getting some animals out alive.

      There is a Facebook list of rescues here- http://www.lacroixtees.com/fb_directory/animal-rescue/ . Others look for rescues on websites such as Petfinder, Adopt-a-pet and Rescue Me. Many, if not most, No Kill communities show that if the shelter is trying to increase life-saving, people will step up. They will offer their homes, offer their picture taking skills, their Facebook/social media skills, their organizing skills. The only job the shelter has to do is to let them know that volunteers are welcome and needed by putting out a call to the community. Exponential results. No Kill communities swear they can’t do it without volunteers.

      Hell, someone should ask these sites if this CAPA or CAARA were to get passed, would they let rescues opt in, build it in as a feature into their sign up form? Petfinder answered my questions when I emailed them and I am a nobody in the animal welfare world.

      I have yet to see a rescue fanned by slaves. Seriously. Possibly the HSUS or ASPCA, but every rescue I have met has more bills than funds and less manpower than demand but do it and put up with way more than a reasonable person should because its a calling.

      In many cases, they will do everything right and then find out their “tagged” pet has been killed because someone couldn’t check email before killing the animal. By someone who gets paid, probably more than the rescuer does for the work they put in.

      As for policing rescues, I think most rescues would prefer to do without it. It is usually a mandate of the shelters whom the rescues want to work with.

      1. I think that Petfinder idea is a really good one.

        As for policing rescues – I’m sure they would prefer to do without it. So would breeders. But experience has shown that those dealing in high volumes are more likely to be overwhelmed than those dealing in small volumes. That goes for both rescues and breeders. Just because rescues feel they have a higher moral calling doesn’t make them immune from life’s problems. The shelter/pound would not be doing ITS duty if it released animals to any rescue that asked without question.

        The dog I spoke of in the other post had a rescue that would take him. They had no one – NO ONE – competent to handle him. I’ve got damn good skills and I was barely competent to handle him. If we had let him go to them he would have ended up in their bad dog room, crated 23/7, no one seeing him as a potential pet, and going insane. He was not adoptable to a regular person as he was. He would have been literally dangerous within a few weeks had he gone there. I know Shirley might not agree, but if that had been his only choice he would have been better off dead.

        And by the way, if PUPS passes there is a very good chance rescues are going to be thrown under the bus. Wouldn’t you rather have in place an industry-guided assessment policy created by people who understand rescue and how it works? Small breeders have no relation to the business model used by USDA to regulate the commercial breeders. How well do you think USDA is going to do with rescues?

      2. Oh, and by the way, thank you for that link to the list of rescues. That would have been very helpful a couple of months ago and I”m sure it will be helpful in the future.

    3. Yeesh. How can one run any business without access to the net these days? For God’s sake, the cell phones of children are internet-enabled. I’m tired of “the bubba defense” for shelters – if they can’t figure out how a computer works or how to use The Google, they have no business running any modern business whatsoever, including a shelter. I’d suggest a gig at McDonald’s instead, but that computerized cash register might be an undue burden for them.

      Show me a place where there’s no internet access in NY. No cable, no satellite, no fiber, no cell phone coverage? Come on. I lived in rural AZ and I had 4G cell and wireless high speed at home.

      1. I would go a step further and declare that if a shelter staff member or vol can’t maintain up a FB page (or find someone who can), they do not get the power to kill animals.

      2. Susan, Believe it or not I live where there is no DSL, Fios, Cable, Cell coverage (uh yup) but we have a library! Plus, on occasion we go to town. How do you get the work out about your adoptable pets? Where do people in your community with little connection get their news?

      3. NYC and its environs are not the be-all and end-all of NY. I did not have reliable cell phone access at my home until about 5 years ago and I did not have signal strength enough for a wireless modem until 2 years ago. It is still not all that reliable. It would cost $50,000 to run cable to my house so that I could have something like RoadRunner. There are plenty of places in NY that do not have reliable cell or internet access – my local ACO being one of them. Satellite, sure. But that comes under the unfunded mandate issue. If the ACO (I’m not talking shelter here – they are in or near communities and have access) does not have satellite then either he would have to get one or the town would have to get one for him.

        There are plenty of people who choose lifestyles different than yours.

      4. No! He was just saying he hadn’t read all the versions proposed. You certainly can do so and the internet is a great way to get access. The NY Version or Oreo’s Law was the first widely publicized proposal and it didn’t include any provision for rescues being checked out or picking up animals within a reasonable amount of time so it had issues. But requiring shelters to place dogs they can’t handle with groups that can is a great idea. Of course it always comes down to HOW.

  2. Why are shelter directors killing pets whom rescue groups are willing to save?
    1. Because they can.
    2. Because it is a power and control issue for government bureaucrats.
    3. Because egos become involved and those egos control decision making and blot out reason and common sense.
    4. Because they are entrenched in the antiquated philosophy of animal control as opposed to animal welfare.
    5. Because they refuse to change or be led to alternatives to killing.
    6. Because they refuse to give up their autonomy to kill unchallenged.
    7. Because some enjoy the power they have over life and death.
    8. Because the citizens of their community do not hold them accountable.
    9. Because elected officials allow them to get away with it.
    10. Because most in official positions and elected positions don’t care about voiceless animals.
    11. Because animals can’t vote.

  3. If a reputable rescue is willing to take a pet the shelter cannot house it should be done. However, defining “reputable” rescue and encouraging groups with specialized resources to take shy or treatable dogs the shelter can not help is the problem. It’s hard to make a law that takes these gray areas into consideration. For example our local Min Pin rescue will not take dogs over 5 years of age. For the record, I cannot imagine killing a dog that a qualified rescue will take. There is no reason for it. It should be up to the rescue to take on a case a shelter thinks is difficult if they want to. Bless them for doing it, too.

    1. “I cannot imagine killing a dog that a qualified rescue will take.”

      That begs the question. In many cases, how is the shelter to find the rescue?

      I had a situation at the beginning of the year – the shelter where I volunteer had a totally unmanageable dog. Most of the shelter workers were afraid of him. I saw a lot of potential in him – in the right hands. Now, I’m lucky – my shelter is no-kill. And part of no-kill is having contacts with rescues. Well, they didn’t have any rescue on tap who was competent to handle this dog. I reached out to the NY rescue community for a placement for this dog.

      Many of them know I have (horror of horrors!) sometimes bred a litter. I got back diatribes on the evil breeders who overload the shelter system with their cast-offs. Why that person believes there is a puppy mill somewhere flooding the state with lab/mastiff crosses I have no idea, but apparently she does.

      I got back primers on how to run a no-kill shelter. The shelter manager worked with Nathan Winograd the whole time he was in Tompkins County. I think she knows how to run a no-kill shelter.

      I got back instructions that I needed to build up a rescue network. Well, duh! That was what I was trying to do. Meanwhile the dog was teetering on the edge every day as his behavior escalated.

      I don’t have a high opinion of rescues based on my interactions with them.

      If CAPA is to work, it must be a joint effort. And if the rescues can’t stop judging and start helping – they are just as much the problem as the shelters and pounds.

      And by the way, an evil breeder and obedience exhibitor helped me and suggested the perfect placement for the dog. He is now in doggy delinquent boot camp and will soon be beginning his career protecting you from bombs or illicit drugs or whatever his training will lead him to.

      But if I had left it up to the rescues he would be dead.

      1. You do make a great point, that more people need to get involved to help animals find their homes and that currently the situation is that the animals who need the most the resources are getting killed. That dog is lucky that someone cared enough to go the extra mile. Thanks for helping him/her/it.

  4. I personally would like to see CAARA go further and put in place some simple reporting requirements and standards on ALL nonprofit organizations that rescue dogs (shelters and rescues). For example, I would like to see mandatory reporting on the number of animals taken in, where they come from, their dispositions, numbers who have been in care for longer periods (in excess of 1 year), AND require even rescues to post cases where they are electing “euthanasia” so as to make them available to other rescue groups willing to save them. I would also like to see some serious reporting on the source of funds and how they are spent. I would like to see all fundraising literature to have to list the % of funds spend on direct care of animals. To my mind, a reputable rescue group OR shelter should be able to provide this information.

    But CAARA as it is, would go a long way to saving animals that are dying in shelters — the leading cause of death for companion animals in this day and age, I might stress.

    This is how sobering the whole situation is: Someone finds a kitty and takes it to the shelter, thinking they are doing the right thing for the cat. But in most shelters kill huge numbers of cats (yes, even in NYS). And heaven help if the cat is frightened, scared, or excessively shy in the shelter environment — unadoptable, or “reclassify” as “unhealthy/untreatable.”. What is truly sad is that a lost/stray cat is 3-4 times more likely to find its way home IF LEFT ON THE STREET RATHER THAN TAKEN TO A SHELTER. Worse yet, more people acquire their pet cats as strays in their neighborhood THAN ADOPT THEM FROM SHELTERS.

    And what about all those “pitbull” dogs? Can’t have too many in the shelter or “there goes the neighborhood.” Cute & fluffy “merchandise” is supposedly necessary for adoptions. Well, what about taking a lesson from Animal Farm Foundation and learn how to promote these wonderful dogs?

    What does all this say to you? It says to me that shelters are lousy places for animals and they don’t serve the animals’ needs. And they aren’t doing their jobs, in spite of large budgets and contributions by people who either buy their PR Bull#@&% or just look the other way. And our local media have been giving them a pass for far too long. Time for some true investigatory reporting.

    How about this for a story: More animals die at the hands of shelters in one year than evil, wicked, “irresponsible humans” kill in 10 years total? How’s that for putting things in perspective?

  5. Susan, I was very interested in your ideas regarding the NY CAPRA until your 5th paragraph.
    As a “rescue” -which you have made very clear- are not worthy – I am not surprised you found no one responding to your posts.
    We are all volunteer. Every dime goes to the animals. So for us to justify spending money/or precious people resources may not be in the cards. While government run shelters and extremely well funded ASPCAs with $500k per year CEOs are better positioned to have the resources that were called for in the bill.

    1. What you are seeing is bitterness after contact with some of the local (to me) and not so local rescues in an attempt to save a dog who was worth saving, but required expert assistance. Exactly the sort of dog that Oreo’s Law (the precursor to NY’s CAARA last year) was supposed to be for.

      Oreo, for those who don’t remember, was the dog thrown off a rooftop in NYC. ASPCA, kind-hearted animal lovers that they are, nursed her back to health, decided she was aggressive, and killed her – even though there was at least one rescue with the training and behavioral support she needed begging to take her.

      Most rescues may be operating on shoestrings and volunteer donations, but don’t kid yourself – so are most of the shelters, pounds and ACOs in NY. Every individual town is charged by the state with having a dog control plan in place. Some hire their own. Some contract with other towns and go in together. Some contract with shelters in the larger villages or smaller cities. But unless you’re talking about a major metropolitan center, they don’t have the money, resources or expertise to try to make sense of the rescue community. CAARA charged each individual shelter, pound and ACO with finding rescues to work with and notify of impending scheduled euthanasias, inspecting those rescues, and maintaining a database of information on them. And it was charged as an unfunded mandate. No fiscal impact to the state, so obviously the fiscal impact was laid on the shelters, pounds and ACOs and indirectly the taxpayers who support them.

      ASPCA is probably the only one in the state that has the resources to do that and, of course, they fought bitterly against the bill. They thought Paulin’s quick-kill bill was the way to go. That way they could have killed animals as they came in the door claiming emotional distress and they wouldn’t have had to worry about those pesky rescues and soft-headed animal lovers.

      I am assuming that rescues network. I assume that they talk to one another and help one another out and have some idea of what the strengths and weaknesses are of their comrades. If that is true, then the rescues are the ones positioned to provide the information needed by the shelters – with minimal cost and maximal accuracy. And if it is not true, then why isn’t it?

      I think there should be an accreditation process for rescues and I think a shelter receiving municipal funds is entitled to require that accreditation from any rescue that wants to pull animals from them. Wouldn’t it be better for the rescues themselves to develop their accreditation process? Rescues have many and varied business models – some have sheltering facilities, some are networks of foster homes, some are both. Those which are only facility-based could undergo the same inspection from Ag&Mkts that the shelters go through, but how is Ag&Mkts supposed to even begin to understand the fostering system and where will it fit on their forms? That’s assuming Ag&Mkts even has the funds to do it.

      If rescues want this, they need to step up to the plate to come up with a way to make it work.

      1. This site and group may be an example, but I don’t think it’s perfect. They have codes of ethics that member rescues are supposed to follow and are open to changing things if their members agree.

        “…Each of our members have completed an application process that includes interviews, personal reference checks and veterinarian reference checks.

        In addition, each of our rescues has agreed to abide by our …Canine Code of Ethics for any dogs that they rescue or the …Feline Code of Ethics for cats.

        The code provides a standard by which you can measure our rescues and ensures that all [our] members are compassionate and ethical rescuers who have the best interests of the animals they rescue at the forefront.

        Should you have any questions or comment concerning any of our members, please email us…”

        From http://helpinghomelesspets.com/members/index.htm

  6. I am an ACO in the south at a high kill shelter. I am reading this blog because we want to make changes. Mostly we are met with venom and hatred. I long to speak with the rescues in my community but cannot afford to cause strife (any more than there already is) between the shelter and the rescuers. Let me lay out a scenario for you here and I would love and any constructive polite ideas.

    Our shelter holds 100 animals. Any animals over that we can be fined daily. We do not double up on animals unless they came in together. Mothers and unweaned pups stay together. Weaned pups can be kenneled together. My job every day is to investigate bite cases, respond to calls in regards to sick, injured, feral, abandoned and aggressive dogs, animal cruelty cases, evictions, drug raids. and more. Say the shelter is full. Imagine 50 of them are adoptable dogs. 10 are bite quarantine dogs which are required to stay for 10 days. 20 are strays on a 7 day hold for owner to reclaim. 10 are on hold for legal reasons. We try to keep 5 kennels open for the on call person so they have a place to put animals in case of overnight emergencies. 5 are on medical hold.

    So there, you have 100 full kennels. Now…imagine this. Rescues come in and out every day. We do not get a high volume of adopters due to location but will be relocating next year. So lets say 3-5 dogs leave the shelter a day. During a normal day we have 4 officers on the road. We bring in 4-8 dogs a day. And no, we dont pick up random strays we see…we arent allowed. We pick up aggressive dogs that are a public safety issue. We pick up injured dogs, sick dogs, dogs abandoned when their owners move out, dogs left behind in an eviction, dogs displaced when owners go to jail. For example, todays calls were exactly this: an emaciated mother and her 5 pups who were found tied up behind an abandoned house. an aggressive dog tied up and left in an alley. a stray mother who had given birth under a womans deck and was aggressive to anyone who came nearby. two dogs running loose on the interstate. a litter of 4 puppies dumped behind a liquor store in a rubbermaid container. one puppy who has now bitten 2 times. stray dog with mange dumping trash cans. On the flip side, we had one dog reclaimed by owner, one dog adopted, rescue pulled 3 pups. The numbers just dont even out. Too many coming in and not enough going out. We do not want to euthanize healthy dogs. It is heartbreaking. But what else would you have us do? Where are they all supposed to go? I have a legal requirement to hold all those dogs for 7 days and one of them for 10. more dogs are going to come in tomorrow. how do i make room? we work with rescues and we welcome any and all of them as long as they can show 501C3 status and a licence from the state. we would gladly let them take any and all of the adoptable dogs. but most of the rescues are full as well. some days they tell us they are coming for a dog but……they never come. weeks will pass by and they dont come. yet when we put the dog down they call us murderers and say we will rot in hell. I promise you that every single person in my shelter is doing everything that they know how to do. we want to be better. but i cannot tell people that need us that we are full, we cannot help you. i cannot tell the woman who calls about a litter of pups in a storm drain that we are full. i cant tell the man that is chased daily by an aggressive stray that we are full. i cannot leave the two dogs running on the interstate because we are full. so please, please tell me what to do. we have been forced to euthanize animals to make room for others that i have a legal obligation to pick up. if rescue wants them to live, come and get them. please do. we would be so happy. Please give me your ideas and thoughts.

    1. sj, you are amazing. I also work in the county shelter-I know your story is true. The only thing I can think of that you are not doing is look into whether your local gov’t will allow you to have responsible owners do their own bite Q. We do that here. If an owner is not known for at large complaints, our state (and we have active rabies in cats) permits us to require the owner to keep the dog from meeting any new people or leaving the yard for 10 days. They get a vet exam card they have their vet sign at the end of the 10 days stating the dog appears healthy. We save space this way. We’ve also offered owners to PAY for their dog to stay in a kennel of their choice that is approved for Q. It’s worked for 20 or so years. YES, some owners can’t or won’t quarantine but most want to.

    2. sj, I have to ask – how much is your shelter using social media to try to get animals marketed? Are all animals photographed and put online?

  7. In addition, animal control is not meant to be a humane society. We are a short term holding facility, hoping that the animals are reclaimed, adopted, rescued. A humane society is a long term adoption center. We do not have both. If we did it would seem that things would be better as we could send dogs there but with population problems like we have, the humane society would also be full in a matter of months. And then what?

    1. Off the top of my head, I’ll toss out 10 suggestions for improvement with the idea that if you can’t use some, maybe you can use others:

      1. Work to get rid of MSN in your county. It’s a proven failure that has never eliminated or reduced shelter pet killing anywhere.
      2. Offer a free ride home for any pet you pick up knowing where the pet lives (such as ID tag, microchip scan, lost pet report, etc.) Carry chip scanners in every ACO truck and either have computer access to or daily printouts of the shelter’s lost pet reports in the truck.
      3. Open your doors on evenings and weekends – all day Saturday and all day Sunday. This is when people can come to adopt. Be open.
      4. Advertise in as many local media outlets as you can, as often as they will accept it. Seek free advertising in all of these outlets. Advertise individual pets and/or special promotions (adoptions, free nail trims, etc.) and/or general “we are here. come on down” type ads.
      5. Run free or “pay what you will” adoption promotions to free up space when overcrowding looks imminent.
      6. Run other adoption promotions (Adopt one cat, get one cat free, etc.) anytime you are not running a free adoption promotion.
      7. Hold offsite adoption events daily in high traffic areas.
      8. Read the wealth of material available to you from shelter staff who have changed from kill to no kill. Their experiences will prevent you from having to reinvent the wheel. Here is one for starters: http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/saving-99-of-intake-how-much-does-it-cost-at-upaws/
      9. Commit to lifesaving. Remove killing as an option. Announce your commitment to the public, loudly and repeatedly, and ask them to help you in your new no kill endeavor.
      10. Stop differentiating yourself from a humane society. Your goal is to get animals into homes. Name yourself whatever you like but don’t get hung up on the idea that you can’t save lives because you aren’t a humane society.

  8. sj: First, no SINGLE thing is going to solve all of the issues in your shelter. CAPA (or CAARA) is one piece of the puzzle, along with starting to build bridges with local rescue groups. If there has been particularly bad blood, then you may need to enlist the help of a mediator to bring everyone together.

    Second, you have to approach this from 4 directions: (1) reducing intakes (see suggestion by mikken re bite holds as just one example); (2) increasing capacity (by using foster homes, off-site adoption locations, being innovative when under the crunch), (3) improving medical and behavioral conditions while in your care (thus preventing diseases, illness, and behavioral deterioration), and (4) moving them out the door (reducing length of stay, transferring to rescues, increasing returns to owners, increasing adoptions).

    Is it easy? No. Is it doable? Yes! And many shelters with as few resources and the same conditions/responsibilities that you outline.

    Here are a few things to start with:

    (1) Stop taking in cats (if you are doing so currently). Ideally, do TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return). Even if lost, the cats are 13 times more likely to find their own way home if left on the street. If homeless, they are 3-4 times more likely to find an “adoptive” home in their neighborhood than in your shelter.

    (2) Do proactive returns to owners, and that means IN THE FIELD. ACOs need to knock on doors, ask around, or look if the dog got loose, & then return it (even if they have to fix a hole in the fence). Have field ACOs immediately post a photo, location where dog found, and the ACO’s phone number so dogs can be returned BEFORE they ever make it to the shelter.

    (3) Do citations instead of “seizures.” If someone doesn’t have a dog license, write them a ticket. But don’t take the dog in to “hold hostage.” Bill them, just like you bill for all sorts of things (traffic tickets, etc).

    (4) If someone in the neighborhood has found the dog, ask if they wouldn’t mind holding the dog in the event a neighbor has lost it. Log the info, take a photo, and get it listed ASAP on a lost-pets site.

    (5) Stop taking owner-surrenders, or at least do them ONLY by appointment and ONLY if there is shelter space. Have a wait-list instead.

    (6) If a purebred (or close to purebred) dog comes in, consult your list of breed rescues and see if they will come down to evaluate the dog for purposes of pulling it once it clears stray hold (or immediately, if surrendered).

    (7) Build a large volunteer base, and particularly your foster home base. Pregnant and young animals (pups and kittens) should never even ENTER the shelter. Too dangerous given possibility of illness & disease.

    (8) Start getting off-site adoption locations lined up. Even office buildings can house a cat or two in a cat condo. In Austin, volunteers line up in the AM to take the dogs out to adoption sites, then return them if they aren’t adopted.

    (9) Change your adoption hours. Being open evenings and weekends is a simple way to increase your adoptions many-fold. People can’t come get animals if you are only open during the workweek day.

    (10) Start a doggie playgroups program. Our municipal city shelter does this with 3-4 dogs at a time on a postage-stamp size lot. It makes it far easier to clean kennels and the dogs do not deteriorate behaviorally so badly.

    (11) Add kennel enrichment. Animal Farm Foundation has an entire guide on how to do cheap, simple things to stimulate the minds of the dogs in the kennels.

    And I haven’t even scratched the surface of the many life-saving initiatives that are allowing shelters (yes, even crowded, underfunded, municipal, animal-control shelters) to save in excess of 90-95%. You don’t have to even be creative anymore. Others have done that already.

    If you chip away, and chip away, and work HARD on behalf of every animal, those critics will eventually come around. But start with what YOU and your municipality can do. And then JUST DO IT.

    And for a mere $1000, you can take an online 5-course No-Kill Animal Shelter Management Certificate Program offered by Bonney Brown and Diane Blankenburg (of Humane Network, both formerly of Nevada Humane Society), via Pacific University. I completed the 5-course program a few weeks ago. It covers leadership, management, clinic issues, marketing, adoptions, community relations, fundraising, and so much more. The next series starts September 2014:


    1. Blog owner disclaimer: I have no affiliation with or knowledge of the course recommended in the previous comment. And for clarification, I would never counsel any open admission shelter to stop accepting cats or stop accepting owner surrenders.

      This is a mostly open forum where people are welcome to share their ideas but I don’t want anyone to think that this blog endorses open admission shelters turning away cats or owner surrenders. Managing admissions by scheduling appointments for owner surrenders is fine by me, so long as exceptions are made for animals in emergency situations. TNR for feral cats is a great program but turning away all cats in need is not something I support.

      1. I am not suggesting turning away cats in need (meaning ill or needing medical attention). But research suggests that shelters are the last place that otherwise healthy cats should go to. With shelters nationally killing most (to almost all) the cats that enter their facilities, and with a greater likelihood of returning home or finding a home if returned or left be compared to being taken to a shelter, AND the fact that research shows that by day 21 in a shelter there is a 90% probability that a cat will be sick (usually due to stress and exposure to pathogens), leaving cats where they are may be the kindest thing. Dr. Julie Levy has outlined this strategy as an ALTERNATIVE to simply taking them in and killing them. Better they are left where they are than to take them in and kill them. As she says, she spend millions of dollars only to kill cats. She decided that if the shelter was costing them their lives, better to leave them alone.

        For anyone who would like to see the research and the case for leaving cats where they are (ideally TNR them, return them, whether friendly or not), here’s a Maddie’s Institute offering that discusses this approachy. Since cats do not pose a threat to humans, and since cats are most likely to die in shelters (rather than left where they are), and generally there is no animal control mandate to take in cats, best they stay where they are. This applies to otherwise healthy cats that are living amongst us in our neighborhoods. For owner-surrenders, most shelters find that people find a home for their own cat or will find someone to care for it.

        Cats are very resilient and resourceful. Take away the mating drive, and you largely solve the problem of free-roaming cats. Better than killing the vast majority of them in “shelters.” If you can’t help them, then leave them be.

        See: http://www.maddiesfund.org/Maddies_Institute/Articles/Feline_Shelter_Intake_Reduction_Program_FAQs.html

  9. Perhaps we can work to have no animal control mandate for dogs, too. They must be fairly resilient and resourceful too (perhaps they’ll fare better with the automobiles and coyotes, here in my suburban area). Plus folks like them, and communities might not outlaw feeding them. I guess that would help stop shelter killing.

    Shelters should shelter.

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