Monday, June 16, 2008


Ok, here's another rant from me.

I was reading a newsletter from another local shelter in my general area. It like my own shelter is what is known in the industry as "open admission" shelters.

This newsletter had several articles referring to it's open admission status because quite often they are asked if they are a "no kill" shelter.

People who are not into rescue (ok, and some that are) are all into "no kill" shelters because they think they are better. No risk of little fluffy being killed right??

Well.. ok, that is some what true.. but not completely.

Lets get into the facts about shelters.

Shelters are there to HELP the pet over population that is absolutely a result of ignorant humans. Because of the general belief that pets can fend for themselves, or that pets should have litters, or that brother and sisters won't mate, or their "absolutely positively always indoor pet" couldn't possibly escape (you have no idea what a pet in heat is like) there are now billions of homeless pets in this country alone. no, that isn't a typo. Billions. Thousands are being put to sleep each and every day in this country. and then there are the thousands that die with out ever seeing a human. It is shameful.

so what is John or Jane Doe supposed to do when they have a little fluffy they can't take care of? Well first of all they shouldn't have taken in a pet if they couldn't care for it. Unlike children, there is no government welfare to help families out to take care of pets. Since pets (in the eyes of the law) are property, if you can't afford one, you shouldn't get one. Period. It is harsh of me to say, and I know if I weren't in a place financially to have a pet I would be devastated. (but then again I know about my local shelter's fostering program, so I'd probably be a part of that regardless)

Anyway.. I'm digressing. This fluffy has to go somewhere.. doesn't it? What are your options?? well you could list it in the paper or on craigslist to try to find a home for it. You can try to pawn it off on family and friends. You could try to find a "no kill' shelter for it. You could find somewhere and just set it free and hope it finds a home, or you can take it to an 'open admission' shelter.. yes.. they have dubiously earned the rep of "kill shelter" due to no kill shelters.

Lets go through these options. posting to find a home. Well, who is going to come and get your fluffy? well maybe you'll luck out and you'll find a nice person who lives in a nice home who has lots of resources to take care of your pet. But honestly, they probably have either gotten their pets from a breeder, or the shelter, or they know people who know people.. there aren't a lot of nice people looking on craigslist or on the paper. There is a better chance that it is a home just like the one it is leaving. Someone who can't afford the adoption fee from a shelter and wants a 'free' pet because they honestly can't afford it. well now the pet is back in the same situation, and there is a darn good chance that if it becomes sick or injured, the owners are going to be tossing it out or listing it on craigslist (that pet section is just so sad some days). now.. those are the good options. There is a darn good chance that the person who is coming to get your pet is going to lie to you, and lie big. Either they are a reseller to labs, or for other not so scrupulous options. Don't think it happens? get your head out of the sand. Where do you think they get animals for 'animal testing'? you think they go through the hassle of breeding them for this? They buy them from people who go out and get 'free' pets. Talk about pure profit for these people. And all it takes is a little lie. It is completely heart breaking.

So.. you try to pawn them off on friends and family. Doesn't that make you the popular one??

Ok, so that isn't sounding as good. No Kill shelters are always touted as the best place to take pets. and in theory no kill shelters are a good place. However, because they are not 'open admission' shelters, they simply stop accepting animals when they don't have room. so good luck finding a no kill shelter who can actually take an animal. Now say you do find one who can. How do you know they really are an honest to goodness shelter and not a woman hoarding pets?? What kind of conditions are the pets in? do they get lavished attention or set to languish in an over crowded room and fed what ever food is available? lets say you luck out, and you find an honest to goodness no kill shelter who cares about the animals, and lavishes attention on them, and will keep them till they find a home. Sound great doesn't it? well where are these pets kept. It is a rare shelter that keeps pets in a home like environment. Chances are they are in a cage of some sort. Can you imagine spending months if not years in a small cage? is that REALLY in fluffy's best interest?? Maybe fluffy gets lucky, it is a good facility, they socialize often, etc, but as I've said, that is rare.

So you think if you set it free somewhere it will survive just fine? doubt it. When I moved into an apartment as a newly wed, I saw a small little kitten on the stoop. I listened to my DH tell me not to feed it or pay attention to it cause it would never leave. I wish I hadn't.. because several months later I ran into that kitten again as a young adult. thin, matted, and smelling of the local dumpster, the kitty was on its last leg. I brought it in and tried to nurse it back to health, but again I was ignorant. The kitty had felv, and was dying. She just got worse and worse, and eventually I had to have her put down. The bite out of my budget for a kitty that wasn't even mine was devastating, but I could not let that kitten suffer any more. So many pets die on the streets either from disease, from starvation, at the hands of bigger predator animals or being hit by cars, or killed for the amusement of some sick and twisted human. Unless you specifically hand over the care of your pet to a specific individual, you risk your pet being a homeless statistic.

So then that leaves "open admission" shelters. Your generic county shelter/pound. Now I will admit, there are a LOT of badly run pounds. I won't even dignify calling them a shelter. They take pets in, hold them for any required by law length of time, then put the animals down. But even that is a fate better than being left to die on the street, or being put into a testing facility. Heck, even being in a home that won't treat a simple illness is (to me) a worse fate. So many times I see people posting on line looking for info on their pet's health saying "I can't afford a vet". Um.. a pet isn't a toaster. It can not wait for you to have money to go to the vet. Just like children they need to go to a Dr when they are sick. it can not wait, and to do so is to cause pain and suffering to the pet and in many communities is it actually against the law. So even in the worst possible scenario of bringing a pet to an open admission shelter and it being put down, often that is the preferable solution to possible options for the pet. Sounds mean? sounds cruel? Well I'm not going to disagree. I want perfect homes for each and every fluffy out there, but there aren't. I'm a realist. I know that the options for a lot of pets are horrid. I know I wouldn't want to live my life out in a cage.

However, a lot of 'open admission' shelters have evolved and do amazing incredible work with the minuscule funds they get. Life saving treatment, behavior modification, training, fostering, socialization. A lot of "open admission" shelters have adoption rates that rival 'no kill' shelters. The staff care (probably too much at times) and work very hard to find the right pets for the right people so they stay in their new homes. They screen adopters to make sure they are aware of the responsibility of owning a pet, and can deal with emergencies as well as every day care.

to me "no kill" shelters have their place and are a great resource. But deep down my heart is with the 'open admission' shelters. They have to take each and every pet that comes in. They have to see the very worst of humanity. The cat who was put in a carrier then sent it down to the local incinerator. The batch of kittens in a box thrown in the river. the dog dragged behind a car. just to mention a few. And they keep going back. they keep trying to save the next one that walks in the door.

I've often been told I should go to work at the shelter. I wish I could. I wish my soul was that strong. It is not. I'd be constantly have to be held back from hauling off and hitting someone. I'd constantly be crying over the one that was brought in that was too far gone to be saved. I watch Animal Cop shows on Animal Planet and am constantly amazed these people not only don't just haul off and hit people, they don't even berate them for being idiots. I don't have that kind of restraint (can you tell from this post?? :D)

I hope everyone who takes a minute to read this to send a letter of thanks to their local shelter for all they do for the homeless animals of the community. Even those that have a high euthanasia rate are keeping these pets from dying horrible deaths on the street. better yet, write a nice letter of thanks to your local letter to the editor.. let the community know how much shelters do for us, and the pets that can't speak for themselves..

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