You Can’t Find the Pet You Want at Your Shelter Because the Director Killed Him

Infographic from the Shelter Pet Project.  (click to enlarge)
Infographic from the Shelter Pet Project. (click to enlarge)


Reliable data tells us that, of the people who will add a pet to the family within the next year, approximately 17 million of them have not yet decided on a source for that pet.  We have approximately 3 million friendly, healthy pets – or pets with treatable conditions such as colds – being killed every year in U.S. shelters.  So we have 3 million shelter pets to market to 17 million people each year.  This is an achievable goal.  It also completely disproves the notion that there aren’t enough homes for shelter pets.  And it’s not just Maddie’s Fund and the No Kill Advocacy Center saying so – the Humane Society of the Unites States now publicly agrees.  Pet overpopulation is a myth.

Not only are there enough homes for all the shelter pets being killed in America – there are way too many homes.  In other words, if we were to convince through marketing even half of this group of 17 million to adopt from shelters, we’d run into a serious shortage.  Because the fact is we don’t have nearly enough shelter pets for everyone who wants to add a pet to the family this year.  But right now, that’s not the problem.

The problem is that many people who would potentially be interested in saving a pet from the pound do not feel inclined to actually go there and adopt.  There are numerous reasons for this – and they are all readily fixable:

1.  The shelter is depressing.  Who wants to visit a place that functions primarily as a pet killing facility?

Solution:  Make lifesaving the primary function of the shelter.  Reach out to the community and engage them in your lifesaving mission.  Make the shelter environment warm and inviting, reflective of your focus to find homes for every healthy/treatable pet under your roof.

2.  The shelter is closed during the hours most people can visit.  Too many facilities are closed on evenings and weekends.

Solution:  Stay open on evenings and weekends.  Make sure the community knows you are open.  Run promotions during those hours.

3.  The shelter doesn’t have the specific type of pet the adopter wants – e.g. a calico cat or a dog weighing less than 15 pounds or a pet they feel a connection with when they meet.

Solution:  Stop killing animals.  The reason shelters often don’t have the type of pet people are looking for is because the staff is killing them.

Shelter directors and their staff are needlessly killing an estimated 3 million healthy/treatable pets every year. These are the animals who would have been adopted by some of the 17 million people looking to add a pet to the family this year and open to the idea of shelter adoption. Sometimes shelter directors make themselves feel better by labeling these animals “unadoptable” which is, at best, delusional and at worst, an outright lie created for the purpose of fulfilling pet killers’ desire to inflict violence upon shelter pets.

The math speaks for itself.  The proven solutions to common problems faced by all shelters are available.  So why are so many shelters still killing animals?

There are more than enough homes.  The animals are wanted.  People are out there every day of the week looking for the very pets being killed and thrown into the dumpster by regressive shelter directors.  How much longer will we as a society allow this to continue?  There ought to be a law.

The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) is model legislation which takes away the discretion of shelter directors to kill randomly and in secret.  We can’t wait any longer for shelter directors to stop killing because it makes sense and it’s the right thing to do.  Like so many social injustices in our society, this one too will only be remedied by legislation:

The goal was never mere promises that we would strive to do better as a society. The focus was always on changing the law to eliminate the ability to do otherwise. The suffrage movement did not seek discretionary permission from election officials to vote, an ability that could be taken away. Its goal was winning the right to vote, a right guaranteed in law. The civil rights movement did not seek the discretionary ability to sit at the front of the bus or to eat at the same lunch counters. Its goal was winning the right to do so, a right guaranteed in law. Without legal rights, one’s fate is contingent on who the election official is, who the restaurant owner is, who the mayor is and in the case of animals entering shelters, who the director is.

“We’re doing the best we can” isn’t good enough. Blaming the public does not save lives.  We are a humane society and we don’t want pets needlessly killed in our shelters.  We want our shelter directors to do the work we pay them for – to shelter animals during their time of need.  Waiting for them to feel like doing their jobs is not going to cut it.  Legislation is needed.

If you want to be able to find the pet you feel a special bond with when you meet him at your local shelter, the director needs to stop killing animals and start doing his job.  CAPA can help you find your next pet.

17 thoughts on “You Can’t Find the Pet You Want at Your Shelter Because the Director Killed Him

  1. There is an issue here though with BSL and breed discrimination that I think would affect the numbers if it was taken into account. I would say about 80% of the dogs in the shelter I volunteer for are “pit bull” type dogs or “pit bull” mixes (yes, I know, pit bull isn’t a breed but that’s what they’re labeled as). Because of breed discrimination a lot of the people who want to adopt do not want to adopt a pit bull. You can tell them until you’re blue in the face how awesome the dogs and show them lots of lovely, kid friendly, cat friendly, dog friendly pits are and they still will want a lab (“because they’re so good with kids”). Then there are the people, like myself, who WANT a pit or a shepherd to foster but can’t find anywhere to foster one. My fiance and I split and he kept the house with our two shepherds and now I’m trying to find an affordable place to rent where I can foster pitties. I have been looking for approximately 5 months. I’ve called probably 50 apartment complexes, private homes, townhouse places, etc. etc. and have gotten turned down on fostering pits from At this point, I need to find a place to live and will have to settle for fostering some dogs that aren’t pits even though I know we need more foster homes for the long term dogs in our shelter (mostly pits). It sucks. But it’s the fact. And I think if these kind of issues were taken into consideration, the numbers might be different. If, for example, you asked those 17 million homes two questions 1. Would you adopt a pit bull and 2. Do you own your own home, a large number of the available group would be eliminated. Not saying we should kill pits (I volunteer at a no kill shelter) but I am saying education and an end to BSL and stupid rental policies would probably go a long way as well.

    1. BSL is an example of how the other side has effectively used legislation against dogs of a certain body shape and in effect, against those of us who love them. Thankfully more and more municipalities are getting rid of their anti-Pitbull legislation. But there is still a long way to go in that regard and in repairing the damage that Pitbull haters have done to public perception.

      I would not ask someone if they would adopt a Pitbull. I would ask them if they would adopt a friendly dog if they fell in love with him. Then I’d introduce him to a friendly Pitbull and see what happens.

      1. It’s more than just breed-specific laws (which are improving), but the breed-specific rental policies are a huge issue (most of these are insurance-based). When you look at a US Population where approximately 43 million people rent (35% — and this number is growing post the housing crisis), and a very large percentage of these units do not allow many breeds of dogs. People WILL adopt pit bulls, but many of them simply can’t. And it is a huge problem…because it impacts not only adoptions, but foster homes as well.

      2. Home owners’ insurance also often includes breed-specific or size restrictions on pets, and home owners’ associations are also likely to have such restrictions.

  2. It would be so nice if the breed of the dog were set aside completely. There is no way short of genetics test to know for certain whether a dog is a pit bull or not. Too many breeds are mixed and all seem to be hung with that same term…’s just a term!

    I’m with Shirley. A dog that’s friendly, that has a pleasing way about him/her, one that is the size that would fit your lifestyle is the dog for you. The dog that grabs your heart, regardless of the mix he/she has and likes you too…..that’s the one for you..

  3. I think we need to start concentrating on ways to punish shelters that euthanize too freely. We have presented many of them with options–the No Kill Solution–and many refuse to implement it because it takes too much work. So, I thought, money always talks, right? What if someone was able to introduce federal legislation that charged municipalities that run shelters something like $120 for every animal they euthanize–call it a “waste management fee”, since this is biological matter. You better believe that every town that runs a shelter will be telling shelter directors to find ways to lower their euthanasia rates. Now, one would just have to make sure they weren’t lying about how many pets they kill, or just start turning away animals because they know they will have to kill them and don’t want to take the monetary hit.

    There would be a lot of angles to find solutions for in legislation like this, but I’m convinced that many shelters out there won’t change until they are forced to change. And money talks.

  4. “De-valuing” and “convenience killing” doesn’t just happen at animal controls and animal shelters….it also occurs at adoption-based, primarily donation-funded animal rescues, humane societies, and SPCA’s when an animal has run through their “crisis” and/or “pity/sympathy” donation value, but they are not candidates for adoption with, or even without a fee because of behavioral/training issues that can’t be fixed, or physical issues that are chronic, or often it is a combination of both.

    The reality is that sometimes animals do need to be euthanized because they have severe and painful physical issues and their quality of this phase of their life is not good. Or they may have very severe and dangerous behavioral and/or training issues that make them very dangerous to be around.
    However, when a rescue collects “targeted/designated” donations to RESCUE animals, and then after all of the donations have been received from kind-hearted people have dwindled down, and then the ‘rescue’ euthanizes the animal and does not publically post the vets report of exactly WHY the rescued animal HAD to be “put down” rather than taking the time and making the effort to find a sanctuary and/or hospice that will provide a home for the animal where they can live out their lives not having to :do” anything for people, that should send up red flags to donors who sent money to RESCUE an animal, and not to have them put down without a vet report stating WHY.

    If anyone wants a copy of an Accountability and Transparency Questionnaire for Rescues, Humane Societies, and SPCA’s running “targeted/designated” fundraisers that is circulating on Facebook and is a questionnaire designed to be sent to rescues running the “targeted/designated” fundraisers, filled out and returned to prospective donors BEFORE they donate, please email me at with your email address and we will send you a copy as an attachment.

    This questionnaire is designed to have answers given by the rescue to questions asked from donors BEFORE people donate to the animal rescue, and will allow donors to rest easier if an animal they donated money to the rescue to actually RESCUE is euthanized….a vet report posted publically which the rescue would have agreed to do on the questionnaire they sent back to the donor will add clarity to the issue of “did the animal really NEED to be euthanized according to the veterinarian whose publically posted vet report is being scrutinized by many, or was it simply more “de-valuing” and “convenience killing” taking place?

    1. Very good points and many of these “shelters” and “humane” societies are nothing more than killing places who use these animals for pr and fund raising and manage to befuddle the public with their glossy and emotional PR campaigns. But we need to start calling what they are doing what they do – they do not euthanize these animals. They KILL! Using the proper terminology might go a long way to at least making people aware of what is happening and think for a bit about whether they will support the KILLING. There is much information available that will tell you how these folks operate . . . the former CEO of A$PCA is now a lobbyist for the puppy mill industry (yeah, he cares a lot about animals) and the CEO of H$U$ doesn’t even like animals (but he likes power and money).

      Bottom line is do your homework and do not support people and organizations that feel that killing is the answer . . . ie Memphis Animal Slaughterhouse, Michigan Humane . . . so many operate like this.

  5. What I’d suggest for No. 3 as well would also be keeping GOOD RECORDS up-to-date with photos and everything and POST THEM ON-LINE where people can see them. That way, people whose hearts really are set on pets with given characteristics can check back and have some degree of confidence they’ll be able to quickly spot newcomers who might be right. Which might well keep them checking with the shelter rather than looking elsewhere, and if they do happen to have their interest piqued by that fabulous photo of The Chuckling What’s-It in full grin and wriggle and decide on him instead, all to the good.

  6. And on the flip side of the housing restrictions aspect of the discussion, there are pounds placing restrictions on the homes they will approve for pitbulls when there is no BSL in place locally and of course the pound has no idea about any particular rental agreement or insurance policy. The Memphis pound is an example of a pet killing facility with a large number of pitbulls and no BSL. They simply refuse all adopters who won’t jump through their hoops, including a home inspection which they often fail to conduct, instead sending the desired pet to the kill room.
    My hope is that, as advocates continue to speak for these pets and progress continues to be made, the tide will turn. In the meantime, I would suggest anyone with the desire to adopt a pitbull who is running into housing restrictions put together a small presentation (nothing fancy) that illustrates why body shaped bans are being reversed around the country and that there is no basis for such discrimination. The homeowner or insurance company may still say no, but at least they are getting the correct info and maybe if someone else approaches them about it later, they might reconsider.

  7. I think this article misses one MAJOR POINT in pet adoptions by GOOD Shelters and RESCUE organizations – of those 17 million people how many are actually going to provide the decent home we all wish for the pet to have and would may have better off been Eu’d then in the hands of someone who would only mistreat it or not care properly for it. I think they need to re-evaluate those #’s and then I’ll consider their point.

  8. The math speaks for itself only because of your major accounting flaw!
    You stated:
    approximately 17 million will add a pet to the family this year.
    approximately 3 million pets are killed every year in U.S. shelters.
    That’s correct.
    You also stated:
    Not only are there enough homes for all the shelter pets being killed in America – there are way too many homes. In other words, if we were to convince through marketing even half of this group of 17 million to adopt from shelters, we’d run into a serious shortage.
    Uhh… wrong… actually if you lived in a parallel universe where only the dogs in shelters were available, then sure. But we don’t and your fairy tail assumption failed to consider that besides the 8 million pets surrendered to shelters each year.
    { btw, The shelter statistics of 8 million intakes only accounts for humane societies and not county or city animal shelters.. or it might be the other way around, the 8 million intakes stats are from shelters and does not include humane societies, either way.. 8 million is most like half of the actually number of animals who are at risk of euthanasia a year and that would make the 3 million that are killed, realistically more like 5-6 million}.. you failed to include that Retail pet stores sell more than 500,000 puppies a year, 60,000 pets are born in Puppy mills, (that’s an extremely low estimate and is only stats from a few registered ones ) and while It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States for sure, estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million..
    Basically your entire article fails to include the fact that from breeders -back yard or registered, puppy mills, retail stores, private pet owners and unaltered strays It is estimated that 25,000,000-27,000,000 DOGS are born in the US in one year. Compare that to the cdcs report of 3-4 million people born each year.

    The majority of pets are obtained from acquaintances and family members. 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders, and 29% of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues.

    Currently more than 4,000 commercial breeding facilities are licensed to operate in the United States. It may be assumed that many more commercial breeding facilities operate without a license.
    People have too many options IE too many dogs to choose from. Even if spontaneously the 17 million people looking to get a pet only went to the shelter.. you can easily assess that the shelters would be back to their dog intake limits with in a week. Thus being forced to kill due to overpopulation again.

    So while ur math might be right, your numbers are grossly wrong, therefore your answer doesnt make sense. While people are busy blaming shelters ( don’t get me wrong some shelters suck and are horribly run) breeders are still breeding stores are still selling and unaltered pets and still doing it. There is a reaction to every action ..

    Source: Spay USA–facts.html

    Last thing… this pisses me off
    You stated
    3. “The shelter doesn’t have the specific type of pet the adopter wants – e.g. a calico cat or a dog weighing less than 15 pounds or a pet they feel a connection with when they meet”
    That is stated by someone who has probably never been to a shelter or humane society … if you cant find what your looking for in a shelter then you are not looking hard enough or you decided before Stepping foot in the shelter that they wont have what u want..

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