Animal advocates have been hearing for years from people who kill animals at shelters that the public is irresponsible, that pet owners are animal dumpers and that death is better for many pets than being adopted out to a home. We know all those things to be false, obviously. But among too many shelter workers, there persists a judgmental attitude toward anyone surrendering a pet. The notion that the surrendering party is trying to do right by the animal by taking him to a place with the words ANIMAL SHELTER on the sign is lost on those who insist on branding these people as trash.
The truth is, no one at an animal shelter knows for sure why a pet is being surrendered. The surrendering party may relate circumstances regarding the pet that are fabricated, for example. This might be attributable to the person’s unwillingness to explain his personal circumstances (terminal illness, eviction, domestic abuse, etc.) to a stranger. The surrendering party may be unable to relate the true circumstances regarding the pet due to mental illness (e.g. someone who suffers from delusions). Sometimes people surrendering pets make up stories that they believe will prevent the staff from immediately killing the animal (e.g. claiming an owned pet to be a stray and therefore subject to a mandatory holding period). The bottom line is that pets can not speak and the person speaking for them may or may not be relating the full and complete history associated with the animal. Shelter staff absolutely must take this into account when accepting animals.
Beyond this, and regardless of any shelter worker’s personal feelings, staff members must do their jobs. That is, when you hang out a shingle that says ANIMAL SHELTER and someone brings you an animal in need of shelter, do it. It would be ideal if every surrendering party complied with all your requests such as scheduling an appointment, completing a surrender form and providing the pet’s vet records. But in real life, that’s not always going to happen. Be prepared for it. Expect it. Handle it. Above all, take the animal that is in front of your face. That animal may be lost, stolen, abused, sick or simply homeless – you don’t know for certain. The only thing that is 100% verifiable is that someone has brought you the pet and told you there is no one to provide care for him. Do your job. Take that animal and shelter him while things get sorted.
Tragically, too many shelters stand on ceremony when it comes to accepting pets being surrendered. If the surrendering party does not comply with one or more of the required protocols, the shelter attempts to refuse service – a service the staff is being paid by the public to provide. This leaves the animal completely unprotected, which is the opposite of what the shelter is there to do.
Last week, a man tried to surrender a dog at the Denver Animal Shelter in CO. He declined to complete the surrender form and presumably some sort of confrontation occurred, resulting in the man running from the lobby to his vehicle. He tried to leave the dog in the lobby but the dog got outside and chased after the man’s car. Witnesses say the man ran over the dog before picking him up. When the man returned later that day and again attempted to surrender the dog, the shelter staff apparently insisted on the completion of the surrender form which caused a problem and resulted in the man running to his vehicle and the dog chasing after him. Again.
The Denver Animal Shelter staff appears to have been unprepared to help the dog the first time the man attempted to surrender him. That’s failure number one. But for the staff to intentionally initiate a repeat of the failure when the man brought the dog back is positively outrageous. At that point, the staff knew the dog was in need and knew the man did not want to fill out the form. Failing to protect the dog a second time after witnessing the disastrous results of their first failure is unacceptable.
It is currently unknown whether the dog is alive. The man told a local news reporter that he drove to Los Angeles and abandoned the dog on the street. That’s one of his stories anyway. Who knows what really happened to the dog? The only thing we know for sure is that the staff at the Denver Animal Shelter did not help the pet when he was in need – which was their job – twice. But staff did do one thing – they issued a citation to the man for cruelty and neglect. He is due in court on July 2. Yay animal “shelter”.
(Thanks Davyd for the link.)