Why I Volunteer At A Shelter That Isn't "No-Kill"

"I'll only adopt a pet from a No-Kill shelter!"  If I hear that one more time I think I'll rip my hair out.  When you refuse to consider adopting a pet simply because they landed in a shelter that isn't "No-Kill" the only thing you've accomplished is to take away the prospect of a loving home for an animal that desperately needs it.  Since millions of animals are euthanized in shelters every year, animals in shelters that aren't No-Kill need homes even more desperately than those in No-Kill shelters.

Animals in shelters that aren't No-Kill need loving homes even more desperately than those in No-Kill shelters.
Could you look into Phoebe's eyes and say "Tough Tarts little white dog, I won't give you a loving home because you landed in a shelter that isn't No-Kill and I won't adopt from them!"
When  you refuse to consider adopting from a shelter that isn't No-Kill, when you bash shelters that don't have the option of being No-Kill, when you do everything in your power to ensure that others won't adopt from a shelter that isn't No-Kill, you might as well sign the death warrant for those animals.  Here's why...

Nobody wants homeless pets to be euthanized, but millions of homeless pets are euthanized every year in shelters across the U.S.  Most shelters that aren't No-Kill are municipal shelters, government entities.  Governments create municipal shelters in order to keep the homeless pet population under control.  They don't want stray animals wandering loose along highways posing a traffic danger.  They don't want loose dogs potentially forming packs and becoming a danger to the public (Yes, that actually happens). They want to give pet owners a place to surrender their pets rather than dumping them in public places, creating an unsafe or unsanitary population of homeless animals.

Senior dogs are harder to get adopted.  Don't turn away from a homeless senior dog simply because she ended up in a shelter that isn't No-Kill
Would you turn a blind eye to this adorable, senior dog because she ended up in a shelter that isn't No-Kill?  "Sorry, I know you're a senior dog and seniors are harder to get adopted, but I won't adopt you because you landed in a shelter that isn't No-Kill."
Shelters aren't Walmart or Macy's.  If you don't like how Walmart or Macy's is doing business you can boycott their stores. If enough people boycott them, they'll eventually go out of business.  That won't happen with shelters.  If people stop adopting from municipal shelters, the only thing that will be accomplished is that shelters will become even more overcrowded and even more animals will die.  Municipal shelters will never "go out of business" until the need for sheltering millions of homeless pets goes away.  No, there aren't enough adopters, rescues, and No-Kill shelters to eliminate the need for municipal shelters.  I wish there were.

Most shelters that aren't No-Kill are municipal shelters. Animals don't have a choice of which shelter they end up in
Please don't turn away from me because I ended up in a county shelter.  It wasn't my fault.  None of it was my fault.
The dogs, cats, and other animals that end up in shelters that aren't No-Kill don't get a form that says "Check here if you prefer to go to a No-Kill shelter".  They don't have a choice of where they end up.  When an animal is picked up off the street it's the luck of the draw; they may end up in a No-Kill shelter, they may not.  When an animal is surrendered to a shelter, their chances of survival are greatly increased if they're accepted into a No-Kill shelter. 

However, No-Kill shelters aren't obligated to take every animal that comes their way.  They evaluate each animal that is brought to their door and can elect to accept or deny that animal.  Not so with municipal shelters, they are almost always obligated to take every dog that comes their way.  Even if a dog is aggressive and has bitten a child's face off, a municipal shelter will take them.  They'll euthanize them, but they'll take them. Lucky are the animals who end up in No-Kill shelters.  Desperate and at risk are the ones who don't.

Please don't boycott shelters that aren't No-Kill, it's about the animals NOT the shelter!
Would you really turn away from these little guys because they had the bad luck to end up in a shelter that isn't No-Kill?
No-Kill shelters take owner surrenders and other rescues, but did you know that most of them get tons of dogs and cats from municipal shelters that aren't No-Kill as well?  They ADOPT those pets, not much differently than you or I would adopt a pet.  If a No-Kill shelter can adopt pets from shelters that aren't No-Kill, so can everyone else!  Oh, and NEWSFLASH, the shelter world is small.  Many shelter staff have worked in both No-Kill shelters as well as shelters that aren't No-Kill!  They work in shelters because they want to help homeless animals and save lives.  They want to make a difference.
Like all government entities, shelters have budgets.  When the budget is spent, it's spent.  When the shelter is full, it's full and that means municipal shelters have to make tough decisions.  They can't just turn people away, they can't stop answering the phones with calls about loose pets wandering the streets or aggressive dogs that have harmed people.  They still need to find a way to take in owner surrenders as well, IF they can't convince them to keep their pets for just one or two or three more weeks until kennel space opens up.  Shelters have limited space and resources.  Can't municipal shelters just STOP euthanizing pets?  Sure.  But one of two things would need to happen:

> Governments would need to increase the budget they have for sheltering animals and vastly expand shelter facilities.  This would probably mean an increase in taxes.  Personally, I'd be more than happy to add a few hundred bucks to my annual taxes to pay for it, but not everyone is willing or financially able to do so. 

> Another alternative is for Governments and the public to allow homeless dogs and other animals to roam free in the streets.  In Arizona, cats are considered free roaming animals and do not get picked up by animal control unless there is an extenuating circumstance, like the cat attacked a child.  If dogs were to roam free, their population would have to be monitored to ensure they were able to get adequate food and water, don't develop contagious diseases, and could be kept away from roadways where they might cause a traffic danger.  They would also have to be monitored to ensure aggressive packs do not form; this has actually happened in several cities.

In one city the municipal shelter was in desperate need of an expansion to accommodate the enormous number of homeless pets they take in.  If the shelter was expanded, more animals could be taken in, meaning fewer animals would be euthanized.  The county finally approved the shelter's plea for more money and an expansion.  The land was secured, the money allocated.  Everyone was SO excited, think of all the furry little lives that could be saved with a larger shelter!  Shelter staff couldn't wait for the new shelter to be built.  They waited.  And they waited. 

Nearly 2 years later the county reneged on it's commitment to a new shelter.  Instead, they elected to use the funds to build a brand new sports stadium on the land that had been allocated for the new shelter.  No shelter expansion.  No additional space for homeless animals.  No additional lives would be saved.  I understand the county's decision.  They are there to serve the public and a stadium provided a forum for families to enjoy activities together.  It also brought lots of money into the county.  An animal shelter is an expense, it doesn't generate any revenue.

These 3 little amigos ended up in a shelter that isn't No-Kill along with an enormous number of other homeless Chihuahuas
Is bashing and boycotting shelters that aren't No-Kill a solution to the problem of homeless pets?  Is it an effective way to end euthanasia?  Absolutely NOT.  So what is the solution?  I believe the only real solution is to attack the root cause of the homeless pet population, and that is preventing so many pets from ending up in shelters in the first place.  I believe education is the only way to accomplish that. See my post on  Education: The Only Real Solution To Pet Homelessness

If you're going to adopt a pet, please don't turn your back on the millions of animals in shelters that aren't No-Kill.  Regardless of how you feel about these shelters or the governments that establish them, please remember that it's about the animals not the shelters. 

So, why do I volunteer for a shelter that isn't No-Kill?  It's simple.  I don't volunteer for the shelter, I volunteer for the animals.  It's all about the animals, and I won't turn my back on them.  Will you?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on adopting from shelters that aren't No-Kill.  Please tell us how you feel about it in the comments below.



Hailey and Zaphod and their Lady said...

This post was very well done. I admit to having the bias about kill shelters. My Hailey was rescued from one at 3 weeks old. I think the issue isn't the kill or no kill shelter is it irresponsible pet ownership. I think we can make a difference by tackling that. Thanks for you post. It gave me a lot to think about.

Unknown said...

How rewarding this must be for you!


Anonymous said...

Cathy, thank you for taking on such a controversial subject, with such poise and conviction. This post was very well done, and thought provoking.

I have worked at a "kill" shelter and volunteered at a "no kill" shelter, and you are absolutely on point, "it is about the animals". They did not have the choice of which shelter they ended up in.

The county shelter where I live can not refuse to take in that litter of kittens that a person brings in because they did not have their cat spayed, and allowed her to get pregnant.

The same for that litter of puppies their dog had because they thought that a female dog must have a litter of pups before getting spayed (I have actually heard people think this is necessary). There is a definite lack of education.

Educating the public not only about spaying and neutering their pets, but informing them of the many available places that have low or no cost spay and neuter clinics.

As pet bloggers, we can do our part by posting articles as you have here, and educate people as much as possible. Eduction of how shelters "no kill" and those that are not "no kill" function, as well as spaying and neutering their pets.

You have inspired me to take on this subject. I promise to do my part in educating the public about the homeless pet population.

I also challenge other pet bloggers to do the same. October is "Adopt a Shelter Pet Month" and this is a perfect subject that needs to be shared.

Together, we (pet bloggers) can help make a difference.

Thank your for sharing such a difficult subject.


Unknown said...

This is a really good article. Thank you. You make so many good points and inform us of what is really happening. It is not the animals fault where he ends up, like you said, and ultimately all that matters is that they get a forever home with people to love them. And prevention, spaying and neutering so we don't have so many animals in this situation. I really want to be a part of making a difference in animals lives and it is so good see you and so many other bloggers doing so much good.

Dachshund Nola said...

I don't understand absolutely NOT even considering adopting from a shelter that's kill, but I can understand wanting to go to a no-kill shelter, depending on how they do things. In this city, the no-kill shelter pulls the high risk dogs (seniors, pit bull types, behavior or medical issues, ect) from the kill shelter and works to rehabilitate the ones that wouldn't normally be picked at the kill shelter. I think both have their pros and cons.

M. K. Clinton said...

As long as there are animals that need loving homes, it doesn't matter where they come from. This is a great post. ♥

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thank you, I really appreciate the kind words! You are so right, the issue is irresponsible pet ownership. So many pets would never see a shelter if their owners would just be responsible. Thanks for much for stopping by!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

It really is rewarding to volunteer and help animals find loving homes. Sometimes it's heartbreaking as well, but more rewarding than heartbreaking. Thanks for stopping by!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Suzanne, thank you so very much for your support, it was a bit scary to write this but I feel it's important and if I get any backlash than so be it. Thank you also for sharing your experience and insights - you are spot on with all the points you made!! Thanks for weighing in on this. We have to continue sharing information and helping to educate others. I know there are still many people who are as ignorant as I was years ago!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

You are so right Julie, it's about the animals who have no control over where they end up! I'm so glad we are in this fight together, wanting to make a difference and help homeless pets - all of them, no matter where they are! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this Julie!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

I don't understand it either, but I've even had friends who have told me to my face they would never adopt from a shelter that isn't no-kill. That pains me so much, what if it were their dog who ended up in a shelter that isn't no-kill, how would it make them feel that people wouldn't want to give their pet a new home simply because they didn't end up in a no-kill shelter. All animals deserve a chance at life and love, no matter where they are. Bless all the rescues and no kill shelters that come in and adopt 25 - 30 dogs or cats in one shot, some of them being "at risk" animals. Where would we be without them!? Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

You are absolutely right, M.K.! It doesn't matter where they are, an animal in need is an animal in need! Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Oh you are SO right!!!! A pet in need is a pet in need of a home... no matter where they come from.
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

Bocci said...

I agree with what other comments have said about your courage and conviction to take on this subject. I totally agree that it's unfair to boycott shelters that are NOT no-kill. But, with planning and the right marketing, ALL shelters can move to "no-kill" which is between 0-10% of all intake are killed. I'm a huge fan of Best Friends Animal Society and agree with their mission and assessment of public shelters. In most cases, public shelters could allocate more money, for staff, for example, but they simply just choose not to. Here in Columbus, Ohio, the largest city in the state and it's capital, the county animal is completely lacking in appropriate outreach (they utilize NO social media). They have a 40-50% kill rate, which is an embarrassment—and that statistic is completely of their own choosing.

Best Friends has worked with many cities and states across the country and helped them officially reach "no-kill" status.

The other stance that I love Best Friends for is their refusal to label the killing that goes on in shelters as "euthanasia". That is a misuse of the word.

Another source that I found incredibly eye opening is Pukkah's Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs. by Ted Karasote. He devotes several chapters of this book to trying to understand the differences in kill rates among shelters (including government shelters). His first-hand research is quite shocking.

Thanks for this post and for allowing me to air my thoughts.

FiveSibesMom said...

Such a great blog post with an incredibly important message! There are so many (too many) pets in need in all shelters. Getting caught up basing shelters does absolutely nothing to help the animals. These furbabies are so sweet, their faces just tug at my heart. My last two angels came from a shelter and they were amazing dogs. My wish is that all homeless pets on day have loving homes they so deserve. Thank you for all the amazing wonderful work you do on their behalf!

FiveSibesMom said...

I apologize for the typos (*bashing* and *one* day) - typing on a phone!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...


Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

I'm late in responding to your comment, but thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Best Friends is an awesome organization, I hope to visit them in the near future for a weekend of volunteering there. I firmly believe that it's possible for all shelters to move to a no kill model, but not without the help and support of their communities. You still need to "stop the bleeding" as they say. Shelters with insanely high intake rates have such a hard time saving all the animals in their care when they just don't stop coming. There are people who routinely buy or adopt pets and surrender them like it's nothing. Keeping pets out of shelters in the first place is the most critical thing. If a shelter gets 5,000 pets per year vs. 150,000 per year it is a whole lot easier to save them all. There are still too many people out there who either don't understand or don't care about the ramifications of abandoning pets like it's nothing. Some communities are worse than others. Thanks for visiting the blog and sharing your thoughts. I'll check out Pukkah's Promise, it sounds really interesting.

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Don't worry about the typos LOL! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post, I appreciate that! Bashing shelters only accomplished one thing - it keeps people from adopting pets there, which translates into more pets that will die. It doesn't matter where an animal in need comes from, they need & deserve our help and that's all that matters!

Post a Comment