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Posted on May 26, 2016

The Ugly Truth about Animal Shelters

** Warning: this is a departure from my typical blog post. However, anyone who knows me well at all, knows there are two things I’m passionate about: God and animals. You might find this post unpleasant or perhaps, dare I say, offensive …. but there’s nothing pleasant about this subject.  You’ve been warned**

An article caught my eye the other day. It told the story of a vet, Jian Zhicheng, who worked at an animal shelter in Taiwan. She had euthanized 700 animals in two years – many of whom were healthy and perfectly adoptable. The fact was there was no space to keep them and no one to want them. She worked hard to promote adoption over buying. But animal rights activists threatened her and called her a butcher.

She took her own life. Distraught by the overwhelming burden of euthanizing animals who have nowhere else to go and being labeled nothing short of a killer by her fellow humans, she injected herself with euthanasia drugs from the shelter.

This story hit me hard. Anger swelled inside me: this woman’s life has needlessly ended. She took on the weight of other people’s criticism, the weight of solving a problem that came to feel insurmountable.  The problem that Jian Zhicheng faced is one that many, many shelters in our own country face daily. Too many animals, not enough homes.

Having worked in animal shelters, I have heard no end of criticism of the “kill shelter.” I have seen the distrustful glint in the eyes of the public and even volunteers. I guarantee that if you’re an average member of the public, you hear the words ‘kill shelter’ and a shiver runs down your spine. You automatically think of a horrible place filled with horrible people that murder animals rather than try to find them a home.

Let’s break it down, okay?

Kill shelters are in truth open admission shelters. An open admission shelter is required to take in whatever animal crosses its doorstep. Let’s say they have space for 100 dogs and 100 cats.  On Monday, they start out the week with 80 dogs and 80 cats. Someone comes in to surrender their 13-year-old golden retriever that has lived with them forever. They’re moving and can’t be burdened by an arthritic dog with a weak bladder any more. Right behind the golden comes a mama dog with a litter of 6 puppies. Twenty minutes later, two dogs that were adopted on Saturday have been brought back because they peed inside the house. Three cats come in – all from the same place – their owner died and the daughter wants nothing to do with litter boxes. Two 1-year-old labs are dropped off – baby on the way so no more time for high-energy dogs.  A litter of kittens come in with their mama, still nursing. Five minutes later, another litter of kittens come in but there’s no mama – and they’re only four weeks old. So, we’re up to 86 dog kennels needed (the pups stay with mama in one kennel) and 84 cat kennels (the motherless kittens have been frantically placed with the last available kitten foster). Whew. Still space, right?

Then the animal control officers come in. Officer One has brought in  7 cats – three from traps and four abandoned – and 4 dogs, all without collars, tags or microchips. Officer Two has brought in 3 more dogs who were reported for chasing chickens. Officer Three has been very busy – 2 abandoned kittens, 3 cats roaming at large and 9 stray dogs nosing through the trash at the landfill. That brings our grand total up to 102 dogs (plus the puppies with their mama) and 96 cats. Two dogs more than the shelter can hold. A rolling cage is wheeled into the laundry room to hold one of the dogs – a chihuahua shaking with fear. A staff member takes home the elderly golden retriever to administer meds and free up a kennel.

It’s only Monday. And the shelter has room for 4 more cats and no more dogs. And yet Tuesday will come with more dogs and more cats. Followed by Wednesday with more dogs and more cats and a couple of parakeets.

Potential adopters stroll up and down the aisles, peering into kennels. The mutt with a gentle soul and good manners is given barely a glance as one couple shakes their heads and leave, complaining that there were no yorkies. or pomeranians. or westies.

A young woman brings her son to see the animals, only to turn right around and leave when she finds out it’s a ‘kill shelter.’ She pauses just long enough to look over her shoulder in disgust at the front desk workers, her gaze saying,”How can you be so cruel?”

Another potential adopter wants a dog who is housebroken and already knows commands for sit, stay, lay down, shake, roll over, play dead. Yet another wants a puppy and the puppy must be fluffy. The little pittie-hound mix pups are totally ignored.

In the background, a shelter worker crosses her fingers that her favorite, a 10-year-old border collie with a heart murmur, weak hips and the sweetest disposition will finally find a home. She’s been here a long time – longer than she has any right to be.

Thursday comes. Adoptions were good this week but with so many owner surrenders and strays, the shelter is at capacity – technically over if you count the three rolling cages stuffed into the back hallway to hold the three little dogs who did not get along with their family’s new puppy.

It is euthanasia day. Who gets to live and who will die?

And who are the people behind that grim decision?

They are the ones who everyday open their hearts to the sure prospect of hope mingled with a bitter disappointment. They are the ones who look past the mange, the stinky ears, the overgrown nails, the tangled hair to see animals who were created with intention by God. They see the souls – the sometimes gentle, sometimes fearful question in the eyes of those animals: is it going to be better now?

As they bathe 6-week-old puppies, frail from blood loss because they have been covered in so many fleas, these shelter workers vow silently to show these creatures that yes, it is going to be better now. When officers bring in an emaciated dog, abandoned inside a kennel for weeks – they passionately swear that yes, it is going to be better now. When a recently adopted dog is picked up as a stray and the ‘owner’ says to just keep him, the worker who did the adoption kneels down in front of those questioning eyes and promises, it will be better.

And when it isn’t – when no one chooses them, when the shelter runs out of space – their hearts break completely. And these workers go home and smile for their families and try to bury the guilt they feel that they were not able to help that one. and that one. and that one.

The ugly truth of the animal shelter isn’t the workers pulling up the syringe of pentobarbital. It isn’t the shelter director who is agonizing in his office about the high intake and low adoption rate as he brainstorms new ways to attract potential adopters.

It’s you.

The person who thinks it’s fine for their intact male dog to roam the neighborhood, spawning litter after litter of unwanted puppies. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who thinks they’ll make big bucks by backyard breeding … until the inbreeding starts creating puppies with deformities … puppies no one wants. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who spends $500 on the puppy for sale in the back of the truck at Wal-mart, encouraging that backyard breeder to keep right on breeding, never knowing the mama lives a mostly neglected life in a filthy cage outside until she becomes so covered in mammary tumors that she ends up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who takes that puppy home and loses interest once the puppy reaches 7 months old and starts digging or chewing or barking – time to drop her off at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who decides they’d like to travel more and it’s time to dump their senior dog, the one with lumps and sores, at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The hunter who abandons the gun-shy dog on a back road, driving away in a cloud of dust, leaving him for someone else to deal with.

The nice middle-class family who refuses to get their dog spayed and complains when a wandering intact male leaves her with a litter of unwanted puppies. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who hides behind a computer screen and leaves nasty messages, calling the shelter employees cruel, cold, unfeeling … all while petting the dog they purchased from a pet shop – shelter mutts are for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains that too much of their tax money has gone to the shelter – how could they possibly want to increase their budget for things like spay & neuter clinics or humane education or microchipping? That should be left for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains about the massive and daunting problem of animal welfare in this country … without offering any solution or any help. That’s for someone else to deal with.

For someone else to deal with.

The ugly truth is that so many people want to pass off their responsibility to someone else, anyone else. That’s why animal shelters exist. The emotional burden of what happens to those unwanted animals is passed off too – to sit squarely on the shoulders of the shelter workers and the volunteers and the rescues trying their damnedest to make a difference, to save lives.

The ugly truth is there is no easy answer. The real answer is simple but it is so hard because it requires persistence and endurance – there is no instant gratification. The only answer is spay and neuter. Pet overpopulation is an overwhelming problem and the only way to solve it is by reducing the population. Right now, society’s answer has been to reduce the population on the back end – i.e. killing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 2.4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year – that’s an animal every 13 seconds. The ASPCA reports a higher estimate of 2.7 million euthanized animals per year.

That’s madness, isn’t it?

Let’s change that.

Spay and neuter your pets – there’s no excuse for Rex to be accidentally spreading unknown litters around the neighborhood.

Adopt, don’t shop – shelter pets have every bit as much love to give as one from a breeder.

If you must buy, do your due diligence and fully inspect the premises of the breeder. See where mama lives full-time, not just when buyers come by. Ask about mama’s vet care. Ask for references.

Accept responsibility for the animal that you brought into your family. Dogs and cats don’t speak our language – they have to learn what we ask of them and that requires patience and consistency from you. They want to love you and that requires attention from you. They will get sick, they will get hurt, they may be inconvenient to care for – but that’s what you signed up for when you picked out the puppy with the waggly tail and the kitten with the fluffball fur.

If you do none of these things, then do this at least – look closely at those shelter workers and think – THINK- about the pain they willingly take on every day because someone else chose not to hold up their end of the bargain. And swallow the criticism that can float so easily to the surface. They are in the trenches – and what’s more, they repeatedly choose to be there because if not them, then who?

And that is the thought of every committed person involved in animal sheltering – if not me, then who?


UPDATE: In follow-up to the overwhelming response this post generated, be sure to read the next post -  Animal Welfare: Solve for X



  1. Thank you for writing this. You’ve said it all beautifully.

      • I completely agree. Now let me tell you what it’s like from a wannabe adopter
        I’m a senior citizen who moved to Illinois 11 years ago and through a series of circumstances ended up in a farming community of 5000.
        I really wanted a cat, having had at least one for 40 years. I happened to go to a holiday festival where someone was giving away kittens, so of course I got one. Then I started checking into getting her shots and spayed. Long story short, it never happened. Only place to get her spayed was $250 and shots were $75-100. I was a senior whose only income was ebay. I didn’t have a car so even if I had found a FREE spay I couldn’t have gotten there. Fortunately she has always been an inside cat so I never had to worry about it much, although it would have been better for her.
        FAST FORWARD to a couple of years later. Now I qualify for (very low) social security and i move to an even smaller town, right at 3000, and because i happened to trip over it, I started following the story of Patrick the pit bull in NJ WHO was tied to a balcony rail for weeks, then plaed in a garbage bag, and thrown down a trash chute. A maintenance man happened to see the bag move and took him to Spca. He was so bad off that they had him on ivs for days. Long story short, he made it and now lives with the dr and his wife who rescued him. He’s happy and healthy and beloved. He even has a law..Patrick’s Law in NJ.
        That was when the pit bull first crossed my path.
        I’ve been following rescues ever since and have grown to love the breed the more I learn about it. And I would love to adopt one. I live in an apt but right by the stairs to outside so it could work. But remember I’m on Social Security and not much of it. So when I look at the adoption lists of various shelters and see that the price to adopt a pit bull who has a very good chance of being euthanized soon is anywhere from $250-350 PLUS vetting expenses, I realize that no matter how desperately I may WANT a nice little pittie,to help,me not be lonely and somebody to snuggle with and sleep on my bed and yes, get along with my cat, it will never happen. On my $650 a month income, a $350 dog is notin the cards.
        So then I get back on Facebook and see the begging and pleading for someone to please pull this do because it will be put to death in 24 hours, all I can do is shake my head and try to figure out which is really more important- the LIFE of the dog or the COST of the dog???
        I cannot even imagine working in a shelter. .I would be in tears the entire time. But I also can’t imagine being judged in a home visit or having my credit checked or going through the other hoops necessary to a adopt a dog that if i DON’T, it’ll be the dead the next day. I understand vetting is expensive, but why bother if nobody can afford to adopt their New best friend and possible love of their life?
        I don’t pretend to understand how heartbreaking it must be to work where people drop their animals off because they’re too much to deal with. But I do wish somebody somewhere,would realize,that the more difficult it is, the more it costs for regular people like me, who really NEED the companionship and cuddling to pay,so much, the more you’ll be putting to sleep.

        • Jan, I do understand what you are saying. In our area, the cost isn’t quite so high. I volunteer with a shelter that is no-kill. When you get one of our dogs for $150, they are vetted, having been spay/neutered and given their shots. Our shelter workers also work with the dogs to socialize them. They are tested to see if they do well with cats. We also check with the person’s vet to make sure their animals are being taken care of. Even inside cats need medical treatment. I suggest you call or research on line what aid is available in your area. You might be surprised. Our area has a pet pantry where people on fixed incomes can get food for their animals.

          • How about getting this posted at vets offices, Petsmart, Petco, Co-ops, feed stores, in “Paws”. No one person has to do it all. Use volunteers near places where they live. I will try to distribute in Smyrna and Murfreesboro, Nolensville, etc. Use the directory from Paws for locations. A couple of volunteers could call ahead and get an ok from owners/managers.

            What about the 16 foot x 50″ panels for runs? Where would they go? I don’t understand the arrangement or exact need.

        • There are many shelters that when you adopt the vetting is included like where I work. Check for area outside of your area. I work at Fulton County Animal Services Managed by LifeLine in Atlanta.

        • Not all shelters charge money for adoptions, do credit checks (never heard of this one) or home inspections. Our shelter routinely has free adoption events and always has a senior for senior program plus the staff have the right to waive fees if warranted. If one shelter isn’t the right fit, find another one.

        • Jan, Please get in contact with me I can help you adopt a dog. My name is Alyse Kahn Weitz. You can find me on Facebook.

        • If you can not afford adoption fees, than you have no business owing a dog or cat. If they get sick and need vet care. Who suffers? Only your pet. Only adopt a dog if you can afford the possibilities of kennel cough, pneumonia or Parvo virus exposure. If it does not get neutered, expect to pay for a hit by car hospitalization or cancer. I have been in the veterinary field for seventeen years and nothing is cheap.
          I hope you get lucky and do get a chance to love a pitty of your own. But please win the lottery first because like I mentioned only the pets suffer in the end.

          • Exactly.


          • I applaud you for stating the truth. It may sound cold hearted – but it is fact. Owning pets is expensive if quality care is given. Medical, preventative meds, food if special diet are required. A lot of places offer spaying/neutering and charge based on income. Equate this as having children – if you can afford them – don’t have them. An area near me is begging for fosters for children because – WHY – parents abandoned or not able to provide necessary care. Wake up folks and be responsible. Thank you Kim.

        • Check with your local shelter. Mine has had adoption events when all dog have free adoptions and come fixed and vaccinated.

          • what bunk.. and from someone “in the veterinary field” as if removing reproductive organs atomically means your dog will get cancer or be hit by a car.. catch up for pete sake early spay neuter is harmful to dogs. Not all dogs get parvo.. not all dogs even get ill denying someone a pet because of “future problems’ is elitist and wrong

        • Thank you, Jan. I had heard about shelters “selling animals” more so than actually adopting them out, and until you spelled out the actual costs I had no idea what people were talking about. No wonder people don’t adopt more often! For those kinds of prices, and the “vetting” and credit check and all the rest, no wonder people go to the breeders and buy at pet stores. Everything you’ve said has to change. The whole system of animal care in this country is a mess.

          • The shelters are not “selling” animals. You are paying for the neuter, vetting, vaccines, What you are paying would cost you 5 times as much if you did it on your own. The workers also need to be paid. Where do you think they get their paycheck from? They also need to be able to live somewhere.
            If you can’t afford to adopt an animal, try fostering one. You can have the love but the shelter usually provides the food and medical care. You just have to give it back when it is ready for adoption.

          • I worked in an “open door” shelter for 11 1/2 years. I have been out of the field for 2 years now and I still remember a dog from probably 12 years ago. I remember calling my husband one night telling him I would be home late because I just found out that my favorite dog, a pit/rottie mix, who was blind was being put to sleep. They were doing it right after my shift ended so me and another tech could be with him. He was the sweetest dog, but had been there a long time and was starting to get nippy when another dog would approach because he couldn’t see. The management tried every rescue they could think of but couldn’t find anyone to take him. I sobbed as I held his head in my lap while the injection was given. I stroked him and talked to him as he took his final breaths. I cried that night. My husband didn’t quite understand why it hurt so much. I don’t think you can until you work at a shelter. That was probably 12 years ago and tears still fall while I type this.
            Thank you for this article. This really is a hard profession to be in.

          • no the system is not a mess unless you count bring in “meat dogs” and “turkish goldens” for resale at high dollar figures.. over 83% of all owned dogs are already spayed/neutered and over 90% of owned cats..shelter killing are down to almost nothing ( yes is is true) many places have a shortage of pets to sell in shelters so they “import” them from other places.

          • Shelters, if they don’t get donations, have patrons( rich people who donate lots of money, like Oprah Winfrey did with Paws Chicago) or have big expensive fundraisers, need to charge for adoption s. If you have animals food your pet won’t or can’t or doesn’t like to eat, Dante that. Also, towels, newspaper, sheets, blankets, leashes, Bes ,carriers, pet medicene, flea products, that can also help.

        • You can’t even afford to properly vet your cat, but you want to take on the added responsibility of a dog? And what happens when you can’t afford to properly vet your dog and it needs something you can’t provide it – it goes back to the shelter with a sad note about how you’re a low-income senior who cannot afford your pet and everyone says “oh what a shame, state of the union, sad neglected underclass, we hate the president etc” But the reality is YOU are the problem. You’ve been on this earth a long time – time to grow up and own up. Don’t take on what you can’t afford. You’re not doing it for the animal, you’re doing it because you’re selfish. If there is anything more passive-aggressive and SELFISH than the tired old “they’d rather kill that dog that give it to me for free” (even though I can’t afford it, or the other pet I own) I don’t know what it is.

          YOU. YOU are the problem.

          • Those are some very unfair statements…people often called their pets their kids, yet I don’t hear anyone saying “don’t have kids if you can’t afford them”. I am 53 years old and have had multiple animals all my life and have NEVER had anything over $100 vet bill. The trick is calling around when needing a vet. My 28 lb dog got attacked by a German Shepherd in my fenced yard. The first vet wanted to do surgery complete with anesthesia and overnight stay for about $3000…the next treated him as outpatient with local anesthesia and it cost $350 (which they took in $100 increments over 3 months). Most of my pets stayed with me their entire lives and those that didn’t I rehomed myself. All were altered via low cost/free clinics…to say you need big money to have a pet is elitist. I know homeless people who take better care of their companions then people with money. Yes, the animal has the best food and vet care, but they spend all their time in the yard or kennel because their owners are too busy making that money to bother with them. I foster for a rescue and the only pets I’ve seen turned in by seniors is when they have to go to a nursing home (or die) and pets aren’t allowed and the family can’t be bothered. Most common excuse for surrender is “no time” or “moving”. RARELY see “can’t afford”. The sick ones I see turned in are terminal and the owners are too cowardly to see them through to the end…

          • Though the statement is perhaps more mean than I would have stated it – I agree with this. If you can’t afford the bills for another life, then it’s irresponsible to take another life into your hands.

            Pets can be expensive, but part of loving them is ensuring that we treat them as well as we treat ourselves.

            I get regular visits to the doctor, my pets do too. I don’t want them to be unhealthy.

            The adoption center I used only charged me $50 per kitten for my two little loves. That included microchipping, neutering, vet checks, vouchers for the shots they were too young to get, a plethora of vaccines to begin with, a little bit of starter food, and full instructions for care. Some people might say $50 is expensive for a shelter cat – I say it’s a steal.

          • you my dear are a problem not only for animals but for your misanthropic attitude


          • Former Shelter Worker
            Your words were very cruel and extremely unnecessary, you are not the better person by a long shot, in fact YOU are the reason most people do not like ACC’s, I refuse to call them shelters as the word shelter has a different meaning than what many of these pounds give. Your point was completely void due to your holier-than-thou attitude, try kindness instead of being so damn judgmental.

          • Ouch. Please just suggest they volunteer ata shelter or rescue, foster for a no kill rescue. There are many ways to help.

          • Have you no empathy or compassion for others and why make reference about the president. You do not need to be so condescending to anyone. Try and think of ways this lady could succeed in giving a deserving pet a good home with some outside help. There is no need to sound so cruel.

          • Well said, @Former Shelter Worker. And @Desertwolf people may say that their pet is their kid but you honestly shouldn’t have a “kid” or a pet without being prepared with consequences of having to take care of them. Especially if money is a problem.

        • Have you considered volunteering as a foster? Usually, the rescue will provide for the animal’s vet bills and transportation. You may be asked to provide food, treats, and toys.
          There is always the possibility (and hope) that your foster will get adopted, but that leaves your home open to save another bundle of joy.

        • I am not sure where you live but there are adoption sales for lack of a better word where the fee may fit better with your income. Also if you were good with the month to month expenses there could be a a guardian angel out there that could help you get a pet. If interested let’s talk more.

        • Your well written comment is an eye opener and raises very valid questions that need to be answered! Something is seriously broken in the system!!

        • Jan I am not trying to be cruel but I do not think it is a good idea for you to have a large dog if your income is so low and you can not afford to get your cat spayed or neutered. A large dog needs food, regular vet care and shots (parvo can kill), rabies shot, flea treatment, and depending on where one lives, preventive heart worm treatment. Those things cost money and medication dose is based on weight, so the bigger the dog the more the cost. By not having your pet s/n there is an increase in the chance of cancer. One big mistake that people make is not considering the cost and needs of the animal in making a choice. Some dogs need active work, are high energy, and can develop behavior problems if they are bored. So many people get an animal because they like the looks or just to save them and the animal is completely inappropriate for their lifestyle (ie a herding dog in a small apartment without the opportunity to be mentally and physically challenged). Many dogs are cat reactive, so an adopter may need to spend money on a crate, trainer, etc. to be able to get the animals to coexist. I would love to have a dog but I cannot afford to have a dog walker when I am away at work or traveling. That is the hard truth and I accept it. I foster cats as they are more appropriate to my lifestyle. You can advocate, volunteer, but without a car it may be a challenge. And I do not understand the people here saying oh just go to the cheapest shelter… how many pets does one have to see surrendered for pet health/cost to see that this is not a good idea. You seem to have a romantic idea that the dog will come in perfect health and behavior and will only need to be fed. That is not the case at all.

          • Well said

        • The shelter where I live charges $150 to adopt a cat but their animals are spayed/neutered, vetted and flea treated. In addition, charging a fee and doing a home check ensures the animal will be going to a good home. Abusers have been known to get free animals off the internet to abuse. Shelters really don’t want that for their animals. I’ve never heard of a credit check for an adoption though. Perhaps it’s to make sure you are able to provide for the animal financially (food, future vet bills etc) but it seems a little unreasonable to me.

        • i really wish i could let my best friend american staffishire come live with the senior citizen who posted just before me. i am being forced to find him a true loven home or i stay homeless. i live in a camper and have took great care of my dog and he has took great care of me. id love to know he had someone loven him as m8uch as i do. i am so scared he may have to go to a kill shelter when he has been such a awsome dog cmpainion protector best friend and so much more. im so torn up. he has been raised with poodles and is so loveing but he is the breed so many hate but dont understand. i am busted up and hope to find a loveing home 8505084205


        • Odessa, Texas, cost to adopt a fully vetted dog, pitbull or not no more than $50. We have a huge stray problem. I wish there were more willing to adopt like you❤️. Apartments here aren’t dog friendly and certainly not pitbull friendly. I have 15 dogs at present and I go through about 140 lbs of food every week and a half. Rescuers do all we can, but the shelter is too.

        • I cut out the “middle man”. I found my cat and my dog on the road. Picked them up. The cat had an intestinal disease. Got that fixed. He is my best buddy 8 years later. I do keep him vetted and he is a house cat. So I saved the hundreds in costs. And yes, some shelters and vets make consideration for people on low incomes. My dog, Dolly was picked up from the side of the road. She was healthy. Got her vetted and 8 years later she is the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful dog ever. She always tries her best to please. She understands me, not by commands, but truly understands because we love each other so much. The cat too. There needs to be common sense laws and will always need adoptors, donators, volunteers. Something needs to be done about the crappy, low-life scum that treat animals with hate, abuse. VERY STIFF FINES AND PUNISHMENT.

        • Jan, I have found a dog for you. Remember I said I live in Odessa? Our humane society has a beautiful pitbull and they transport dogs a lot. I am willing to help you. Please email me. put Odessa in subject line and I’ll know it is you.

        • This is such an important point. Bless you and your heart for wanting to help. I’m not in a position to answer your questions, but I will make suggestions: Rescue organizations might consider making Jan an “honorary Foster.” Jan could take an animal at no initial cost, on a permanent basis, so that at very least it frees ups space for the Rescue to save a new animal. Maybe some modification need to be made to this proposal — but let’s start somewhere, please.

        • The rescue where I work gives low elderly income a dog sometimes. Especially if you need a companion. She wants what’s best for man and beast and sometimes the only currency is love.

        • For you, and others in your situation, I would recommend fostering animals for no kill rescue groups. Look for them, go online, ask people, go to a vets office or shelter, as for groups you can volunteer or foster for. The rescue pays for vet care and supplies, and these animals desperately need someone kind like you to love them. It hurts when they are adopted, but you help prevent euthanasia, and it is very rewarding.

        • Thank you for this comment. I too wanted to adopt but the price to adopt was almost as much as a pet store. And I understand the cost of pet care and all but sadly I just can’t afford it. And I know I’m not the only one who would love to help these animals but it’s just too much money

        • I understand what you are saying, and yet many shelters need those adoption fees to cover the costs that they have put into the animal. Remember the shelters are nonprofit and often run on a shoestring budget. Usually the fees that shelters collect do not cover all the costs of sterilization, disease testing, vaccinations, worming, flea control or whatever other parasites or problems the animal had when it came into the shelter. You must be able to have enough income to cover not only daily care for the animal, but also routine vet visits and emergency visits. It is a living being and you must be able to provide. Sometimes people will volunteer at a shelter if they cannot afford to have a pet of their own.

        • Dear Jan, the medical costs is something that needs to be addressed with the vets. The costs to adopt an animal are just a fractions of what the animal received in shots, spay/neuter, etc. while in the shelter’s care. Also if someone is already on a fixed income it is hard for them to care for a pet and eventually they end up back at the shelter. Please don’t get me wrong people mean well. It is just not doing the animal any good. In that case I would suggest to look into other ways to support shelters i.e. by becoming a foster parent. I am doing it because I can’t afford a dog myself but still want to help.

        • Jan, please foster! Lots of shelters, if you foster, will provide much of the care needed for the foster animal (food, vet bills, spay/neuter, etc.). They just want the animals to have a home where they can be loved and cared for without being held in a crowded shelter where they may have to be put to sleep…
          Also, thank you for loving on pitties. They are such a sweet breed with a very negative connotation hanging over their heads. Thank you for seeing through and seeing their potential for fantastic parts of a family.

        • I totally agree with your post. I have thot about all the love they could give on the eve of their demise if only the price was adjusted for income reasons. Love needs to be consdidererd as well as a good home. God bless

        • Please be a foster – there are many rescues looking for someone like you to help them home a dog on death row. Reach out to them online – you will find one to work with you (and if not, there are people like me who will help you do it anyway).

        • The adoption fee for “bench warmers” (dogs who have been at the shelter more than 30 days and at rise of euthanasia) is $20. You can get the dog chipped for an extra $20 and they don’t do a home visit or have any kind of vetting process. They often have weekends where all the dogs are fee waived and senior dogs are almost always fee waived or $20. Adult cats are always free and all animals are fixed and vaccinated before they go home. I don’t know where you’re looking that adoption fees are $600…. do you not have a county shelter where you live?

        • Hi the shelter I volunteer at is also $150 for PItties and includes Spay/Neuter/microchip and shots. Our shelter sadly is a high kill
          Shelter. The volunteers also help with those on fixed icoes wit her vet visits and food and treats. Some offs even transport when needed.

        • Well said

        • If I was going to go through the expense to adopt a dog, it sure as hell wouldn’t be a pitbull. Why on earth?! Looking forward to being killed in your sleep?

        • Some shelters have senior specials. Check to see if any in your area do. I got wonderfulChihuahua with a special senior discount.

        • Yes shelter dogs may cost but they need that money to help other dogs! Most of these places are all volunteer. How do you think they would survive?

        • If your so concerned about the cost of adoption and the pets that need a loving and caring place to stay, please consider being a foster. This is an enormous help to relieve shelters until someone with financial security can provide a loving stable home. Fostering is just as important as adopting, and you enjoy the love of many animals in a short period of time.

        • While I agree it’s a stretch for someone in Jan’s situation to care for two pets, I am sympathetic and share her outrage at how outrageously (and needlessly) expensive pet ownership has become.

          Last year, my longtime canine pal had a medical emergency and, since I had just moved to a new area, I rushed him to the closest vet to my new house. Holy crap, before they even did anything to help my boy, a woman waltzed in with a barebones treatment estimate I had to sign — exam, X-ray and 2 labs — totalining almost $600. Whatever, I signed. I wanted him treated. They insisted that I GO HOME and they’d call me with an uodate. I was pissed but complied.

          Turned out, he needed surgery, $1,100. Again, I agreed but said I was coming back, even though they protested. Good thing I did. He crashed being prepped for surgery and died. At least I was there. But I paid $1,000 for very little care and delays while they wanted to ensure I had the means to pay. I later found out that, yes, that place is expensive and bougy. There are better vets in town who are more old school and care more about animals than making 6 figures.

          The pet industry is big business and it’s predatory. It uses guilt, marketing, and classism to sell products and services, driving up prices and pressuring pet owners into buying supposedly premium food and accessories that aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

          I have owned dogs for a long time and have fed them a good, medium-priced food on which they’ve thrived. That vet asked me what I fed and rolled her eyes when I told her. She then recommended I buy a wildly expensive food that they happen to sell in the shop attached to their practice. Please.

          I just adopted a young mixed breed dog from our local shelter. She will go to the no-frills vet the shelter used for her spay/shots and who kindly offered me a free in-depth exam within 30 days for her when I went to pick her up. Make no mistake, I want to do right by her but I see no reason to feed greed. Pet companionship shouldn’t become a privilege conveyed to the comfortable and well-heeled, but it’s moving that way.

      • I totally agree with you. I volunteer at my local shelter, so what you described hit home. It could not be more true for both me and the animals. I pray the dogs I take care of get the life they deserve. I try my hardest to give them the love they desperately need, hoping I can make a small difference in that animal’s life. The problem is the people who think its ok to abandon their pets or to treat them poorly, then think its ok to dump the problem on someone else. The whole “no-kill” vs “kill” shelter controversy wouldn’t even be a problem in the first place if people where responsible with their pets. They shouldn’t be so quick to judge the actions of those who are helping. The ugly truth is that some shelters don’t have an option when it comes to euthanization. I’m not saying I agree with putting animals down that don’t have a health or aggression problem, but I understand that they don’t have much of a choice. It should be humanity’s goal to get informed and to reduce the amount of adoptable animal euthanizations because they deserve to at least have a chance.

    • As a shelter worker in a “kill shelter” THANK YOU for this article. It is so true and so many have no idea what it takes to go into work every day knowing your heart will break because with all the ones leaving to rescues and homes, the sad reality is more keep coming. THANK YOU.

      • Thank you for your comment, Teri, and thank you for your service to animals as a shelter worker. It takes so much strength to face each day knowing more will come – thank you for choosing every day to meet that challenge.

      • Teri, There are many of us that have been there and done it. Thank You for you time and effort. All of God’s creatures that you helped are all waiting on the other side of that Rainbow Bridge and it will be a grand reunion… From one who, like you has been there. God Bless you and all those that have taken their time to help those that can not help themselves. The more I work with people.. The more I Love the Animals…

    • It is a misconception to think that all open admission shelters must be kill shelters. We now have close to 300 municipal open admission No Kill shelters:
      It also is a misconception that spay & neuter is the magic fix for everything. Scientific data has shown that it is not:
      While spay & neuter is a important part, it just is one piece of the puzzle. there are several other pieces that need to be implemented as well. We call it the No Kill Equation:

      I. Feral Cat TNR Program
      Many communities throughout the United States are embracing Trap, Neuter, Release programs (TNR) to improve animal welfare, reduce death rates, and meet obligations to public welfare.

      II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
      Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives.

      III. Rescue Groups
      An adoption or transfer to a rescue group frees up scarce cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning, killing, and improves a community’s rate of lifesaving. In an environment of millions of dogs and cats killed in shelters annually, rare is the circumstance in which a rescue group should be denied an animal.

      IV. Foster Care
      Volunteer foster care is crucial to No Kill. Without it, saving lives is compromised. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter’s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives.

      V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs
      Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice. In fact, studies show people get their animals from shelters only 20% of the time. If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, including public access hours for working people, offsite adoptions, adoption incentives, and effective marketing, they could increase the number of homes available and replace killing with adoptions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.

      VI. Pet Retention
      While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving animals requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. And the more a community sees its shelters as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be.

      VII. Medical and Behavior Programs
      In order to meet its commitment to a lifesaving guarantee for all savable animals, shelters need to keep animals happy and healthy and keep animals moving through the system. To do this, shelters must put in place comprehensive vaccination, handling, cleaning, socialization, and care policies before animals get sick and rehabilitative efforts for those who come in sick, injured, unweaned, or traumatized.

      VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement
      Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter’s exposure. And that means consistent marketing and public relations. Public relations and marketing are the foundation of all a shelter’s activities and their success. To do all these things well, the shelter must be in the public eye.

      IX. Volunteers
      Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

      X. Proactive Redemptions
      One of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations. This is unfortunate because doing so—primarily shifting from passive to a more proactive approach—has proven to have a significant impact on lifesaving and allow shelters to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.

      XI. A Compassionate Director
      The final element of the No Kill equation is the most important of all, without which all other elements are thwarted—a hard working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to regurgitate tired clichés or hide behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.” Unfortunately, this one is also oftentimes the hardest one to demand and find.

      To learn more:

      • Thank you for the great information! We have an incredibly huge bunny problem here in Las Vegas and zero education out there to stop it. People dumping bunnies in parks everyday.

      • Thank you. There are alternatives x

      • Hi Peter. I’d like to invite you to come spend a few days at our small, open access kill shelter in a rural Texas community. Our shelter is not municipal, it’s a 501c3 that depends on fundraisers, grants and donations. The things you list above are all goals we would LOVE to have….but guess what? Those things cost money. We apply for and get grants every year for low cost spay/neuter vouchers and for TNR. Unfortunately, there is such a huge need that we run out of money long before the next grant cycle. We have adoption events as frequently as we can get volunteers to help with them and we usually get several animals adopted out, however, we have found that we have a high rate of returns to the shelter on those pets adopted at off site events because they were an impulse.

        When I first discovered the no kill coalition, I thought I’d found something that was going to be wonderful. Instead, I found of group of people who feel that shelters can “want” their way to no kill. Your mantra is “they could if they wanted to”. I’m here to tell you….we have all the want in the world. And we work ourselves to a heartbroken nub trying to make our “want” a reality. But without community support and funding…it WILL NOT HAPPEN. The shelter CANNOT do it alone. I’ve seen the items you posted so many times… But none of you posting them have any solutions for how to accomplish those things without funding. The no kill coalition is a huge disappointment to shelters everywhere. All it does is teach hate toward kill shelters because they don’t “want to” hard enough to make funding and adopters fall out of the sky.

        • Right on Tami!

        • Exactly, Tami. “Want to” is not and never will be “can.” Money talks; “want to” kills.

        • Tami, since you are in TX you should checkout Seagoville, TX:

          You also might want to contact people in Austin, TX like Austin Pets Alive:

          There actually is no need for additional funding. I was a vital part in creating the first and only open admission No Kill shelter in the State of Maryland almost 6 years ago. We are the poorest county in the State of Maryland and count as one of the poorest counties nation wide. So yes, I understand very well how funding can be a challenge. You can accomplish a lot with fund raising as well as applying for Grants. But, in order to implement the No Kill Equation you don’t need additional funding. Leadership is everything 😉

          • Peter: Leadership is a wonderful thing until you run out of space. Then what? There are laws concerning the amount of space each animal is required to have. This ensures enough space for each animal so there is no overcrowding. However, when that last animal of the day is brought in and there is no room in the shelter, then what? MONEY is extremely important. For feeding, providing additional kennels to house more animals, pay more employees to clean and feed those animals. I’m glad you were able to effect a plan in your county. How about stepping up and going to that rural south Texas town and lending your expertise? Talk is cheap.

            I work in the Low/Cost Spay/Neuter field. The states need to be brought up to date on their laws that hinder my ability to do my job effectively. High volume spay/neuter is a different ballgame than in clinic/optimum care. Too many people cannot afford that option. The organization I work for can safely spay and neuter in high volume and the animal goes home at the end of the day to be a companion, not a mom or dad to litters of puppies/kittens.

          • No additional funding? Doesn’t Pets Alive ask for more and more each year to keep running? Hasn’t the budget increased?

        • Nicely said!

          • There is always more need, which outpaces funding. The expenses to run a low cost spay neuter can be high, with the equipment, drugs, anaesthesia, trained personnel, etc. But they may need volunteers, donations of money and supplies, ask them if they have a wish list, get them some things, could be a big help to them.

        • Well said Tami! NoKill is a lot of talk, but as a long term volunteer in Houston, I can tell you I almost never (and you can leave out the “almost”!) see anyone affiliated with them helping at our shelter!

          • There needs to be more coordination and cooperation between no kill and open admission animal care and Control, for sure. I am fortunate, in Chicago, I volunteer for two no kill rescues, and pull animals from animal care and Control whenever possible. One needs to guard against burnout, that’s my only complaint, and Iwish more people would help.

        • Tami, thanks you for this- the no “kill equation” sounds too good, too simple to be true, and it is and is yet another subtly form of bullying that led to that shelter worker’s suicide.

          • Amen

          • How is advocating 11 programs and services for saving every healthy treatable homeless pet bullying? No Kil is not easy. But neither is killing healthy treatable pets. And only one is rewarding to both the homeless pet and the human. If you are not targeting towards saving them, what are you working towards? If you are working towards that, why would you reject something that has worked. If it only worked once, it proves it can be done, and it has worked more than once.

        • Tami,You are so right. If this cannot be achieved in a first world country, think how hard it is in a third world country. I work at our local branch of the SPCA in South Africa (3rd world??), and we have huge rural populations. Absolutely no government or municipal funding. Everything runs through donations and funds generated by concerned members of staff and the general public. The total lack of understanding of the problem is overwhelming.

        • Thank you Tami. Well said and oh-so-true. When will people wake up and realize that there is no good to come from allowing animals to suffer in a “no-kill” situation? Too many animals, too many people, not enough predators. We all have to reduce populations and until this happens, nothing is going to change.

      • And the brainwashing continues. This is YOUR shelter; the one that blames YOU for the killing. Fifty years of public funded killing and still these folks remain blissfully, willfully ignorant of the No Kill Equation. It’s an abomination. Thanks for writing Peter.

        • Hi Carol,

          How do you have time to read & post? Shouldn’t every waking moment of yours be out pulling animals from shelters? I mean, aren’t you a part of the solution??

          • Advocacy is part of the solution to save them. By that logic everyone reading, learning more, and engaging in the discussion is guilty of not caring about homeless pets which would include you, me and all other people here. It is a false accusation.

        • Carol, lets talk about brain washing. When a shelter is an open door facility and receives a dog who is barely mobile and after a visit to the vet has been declared to have no quality of life or a dog has bitten on several occasions unprovoked possibly because he is imbred because his parents were not spayed and neutered. Are those animals supposed to be adopted? Are you willing to take in an animal of this nature? Would you open your home and exspose your family to these situations? I’m just curious to see how you would justify this. Granted there are shelter who do not take advantage of the resources they have been provided but let’s not speak generally in a term that equates all shelters and shelter advocates to be the same.

          • Taken from the information:And finally, a No Kill community is
            one where no savable animals are
            killed. Unfortunately, there are
            some animals who are hopelessly
            ill or injured, irremediably suffering, or in
            the case of dogs, vicious with a poor
            prognosis for rehabilitation. These animals
            are not adoption candidates and sadly,
            at this time in history, they are often killed,
            unless hospice care and sanctuaries are
            available. But since the No Kill philosophy
            does not mandate that vicious dogs or
            irremediably sick animals be made
            available for adoption, it is wholly
            consistent with public health and safety.

            No kill is suppose to be not putting down animals that are healthy mentally and physically that could be adopted out. But the public sees it as saving all of the animals. I know “no kill” groups that it is still a possibility that the animal could be put down but they just aren’t upfront about it with the public. I see it as very shady, and the shelter I work at wants to be very upfront about the possibility, even though it is small, of the animal being put down and we do get a lot of flack for being a “kill shelter”.

      • Thank you Peter! Spot on!

      • Kudos, someone with a real plan, real solutions not one quick fix!

      • I adopted from a shelter,which by the way is made harder than adopting a child!It was very expensive especially when most everything is donated!!Also they hid medical issues to push them out the door.Thanks Peter!!!!

        • I’ve had this problem in the past… I understand that shelters want to get animals placed in a good home where they will STAY, not just end up abandoned or back at the shelter.


          Seriously, I was in need of a working farm dog/family pet, something like an Aussie mix or a collie type breed mix to round up the ducks and chickens & take them from pasture to pasture with me.

          I really wanted a shelter dog because I hoped I could find a herding breed or mix that someone had mistakenly gotten thinking it would be a cute apartment dog – lot of herding breed “behavior issues” are really pretty much a lack of exercise and work to do.

          Well, I eventually *did* get 2 shelter dogs; a purebred Aussie abandoned for being a runt and “biting everyone”, and a border collie/corgi “Borgi” cross that was surrendered for being “too violent” with the elderly couple who owned her. (They’re high energy breeds who needed to be taught to nip at livestock but not people)

          I think I could have gotten foster children into my home easier than shelter dogs! Shelter after shelter with multi-page applications wanting tons of references, home visits, just crazy amounts of hoops to jump through.

          After a few months, the Madison Co. Shelter was able to get the Aussie placed with me very quickly by letting me foster her on an emergency basis to free up kennel space while I slogged through the adoption process.

          And major kudos to the Lowell shelter, who have a “shortcut” process where you can skip several steps in adoption by bringing in any dogs you already have for a visit so the shelter can see they are spayed, tagged, chipped, healthy, and can interact peacefully with the potential adoptee.

          Point being, I was DETERMINED to have shelter dogs. But if had been less determined, or if I had needed a dog right away urgently for security or varmint deterrent, there were SO MANY dogs that sounded like good potential matches for my needs & family listed in the classifieds of the local paper, on Craigslist, in the local farm groups on Facebook…

          Literally the only way I could have made the process slower, more complicated, and more expensive is if I’d decided to get on the waiting list for a purebred puppy from an reputable AKC breeder.

          (Actually, by a fluke, we lucked into a very very nice AKC Welsh Pembroke with a seriously fancy pedigree because someone returned a Christmas pup they couldn’t keep back to the breeder as per the adoption agreement, happened to be exactly what we’d been on their waiting list for, *just* in time for my boyfriend’s birthday.

          In my whole life, every pet I’ve had has stayed with me for their lifespan. We’re not wealthy but we do the best we can for our critters.

          Shelter adoption can’t and shouldn’t be the cheapest & easiest & fastest way to adopt animals, but to compete with all the other options, it can’t be on the more slow & difficult end of the spectrum either.

          • People have to understand, to adopt a dog there have to be some safeguards in place for the safety of the dog, in hopes the dog will not end up back at the shelter, dumped on the street, bbq’d, tortured, you name it. We in the shelter/rescue field see/have seen it all and try not to see any more. It really is simple: Application, references, sometimes background check, home visit. Not much to try to ensure a good home /good match for the lifespan of the dog.

        • Cindy,

          APA, one of the largest most well-known no-kill rescues, adopts out dangerous dogs, dogs with numerous medical issues, dogs to inappropriate families all without saying a word to the adopters. It’s disgusting and, as a vet, I have to clean up their messes. It’s not just kill shelters that do it, no-kills are extremely guilty of the same thing

        • The shelters do their best. They never get enough donations and government money to cover expenses. If you did not take the animal, it may have been euthanized. We do not live in a world where everyone knows each other, thus the application process. They are also accountable to the Dept of Agriculture for where their animals go. Thank you for adopting from a shelter,you did a great thing.

      • I’ve been rescuing animals my whole life. No kill shelters sound awesome but don’t work for long. They eventually run out of funds to keep so many long term with medical problems. One just got shut down a month or so ago. There are some animals that are too high risk to adopt out and animals that have no quality of life. The REAL fact is there are NOT enough adopters for older and sick dogs. They want dogs that are 1 or less that are perfectly trained and have no mental problems from their abuse. The EXACT same problem DHS has finding homes for foster kids over 12. Do you know how many dogs COME BACK to rescues. My guess is 1 in 4 and we have 5 pages of adoption questions, meet and greets, home checks AND follow ups. What about the dog that has multiple bites and pro trainers telling you they can’t do anymore. What do you do with him besides keeping him locked up for the safety of all? I’ve been there and can tell you the heartbreak. As for rescues and adoption… There will always be azzhatz that bring in their old dog with Cushing’s disease, I have one right now and I have no idea how we are going to get an adopter. Just how many adopters do you think are out there? Talk to us about the dogs we have had for YEARS. Talk to us about finding food. It isn’t as easy as going to the store when you have 30 – 40 giant breeds. Let’s talk about yesterday and over 50 rescue groups splitting up a couple of thousand pounds of food that was donated and wondering where we’ll get food next month. There isn’t an unlimited supply even from manufacturers. I’ve seen bad directors. I can tell you about a shelter in Texas where we have gotten 2 dogs that languished for weeks with no medical care. 1 was too far gone when they finally gave us the go ahead. I’ve seen more good ones though. People that held dogs for us for weeks until we had a foster open up. And foster homes? So many good hearted people who get their 1st foster dog and are just overwhelmed by a lifetime of bad for the dog. The dog comes in and growls at the kids.. goodbye foster home. Tired, cliche, myths? YOU are living in a FANTASY.
        Spay/neuter is the ultimate control method. A mandatory spay/neuter law should be the goal of EVERY animal lover in this country. Mandatory microchiping too. Special permits can be purchased for breeding and the money can go to permanent inspectors. People that no longer want their dog can pay a fee to the shelter. Animals thrown out can be tracked with the microchip. As for cats, there should be trap neuter release in every county. That’s how you take care of more than half your problem. THEN there may be enough to go around with your no kill advocacy. In the mean time i suggest you go after PETA the most prolific serial killers of animals in the world.

      • Your article is the best I did see to address the big problem every state and county is facing, and point IX, X, XI well taken education is also a big factor. I worked a long time in two “kill shelters”, done my best to help the animals where ever I could, still helping out only in a different capacity. We need to keep reminding people that we all can do better no matter what

      • Wow. You used a lot of words to reveal little intelligence.

        • And yet you seem to be revealing little intelligence in so few words. Kudos to you

      • I work in an open admission shelter with an 87% live release rate. I have visited No Kill shelters where dogs have been there kennelled for three years. That’s humane? You talk about some things that cost $$-a luxury to many shelters. We save animals with not enough money, foster families, a fabulous lost and found program etc.
        But those who preach no kill just takes my mind back to some I have seen and have left horrified. Animals should not have to suffer simply for the sake of being kept alive so we can be no kill.

        • So what day is a good day to kill a pet that has been in the shelter too long? Is it 100 days, 50 days, 7 days, ONE day? I personally would not like to be held in confinement for very long, but I would not choose to be killed if people were taking care of me and they were trying to help me find a loving home. That’s the argument that fails when attacking No Kill. The length of stay is something any shelter to fight to reduce, but the choice to kill a homeless pet that deserves a loving home is the difference. No Kill shelters, when effectively operated, work not only to save pets, but take care fo them during their stay.

          • davyd. I just talke to a guy that took a dog out of the no kill shelter her in town.. The dog had been there for over 5 yrs. In the 5 years that it was in there. how many good quick to place animals were put to sleep at animal control… It is a number game when you run a shelter.. I did not like it but no one had a better answer.. We did place a lot of dogs…

          • So which day is a good day to kill a homeless pet?

      • Have to have the funding and people willing to foster. Rescue groups are full sometimes also. The shelter I volunteer in doesn’t have these resources you’ve mentioned or the money needed. Do you foster or run a rescue group? Or work at a shelter to see first hand what goes on? I volunteer at a shelter, foster, and work with a rescue group but we’re full. So we have to sit back and wait till some are adopted before we can rescue more. I’ve been crying all morning because our shelter is full and we know what’s coming. But I have no more room to help at this point. Come adopt all ours and we can go pull out half the shelter. Get off your high horse.

        • The important words there are” effectively operated”. Whole i would love to see more enough kill shelters, it is difficult in many areas, you need many dedicated volunteers.i hope you volunteer at one of these shelters, you sound like a good person who could offer a lot of help.

      • Thank you Peter!!! Oh my goodness…finally somebody who gets it!! There is so much MORE a shelter employee can do besides just “kill” when they run out of space. No-kill simply means a safe rate of 90% for a consistent period of time. Shelter employees who hide behind the excuse of “I am doing my job. I did not create this problem” are the problem. Early networking, reaching out to the community and rescues, and allowing volunteers to help in any capacity they can, that would be a step in the right direction instead of locking the doors, shutting out volunteers, and killing in silence and in buildings without accountability like I have seen with my own two eyes at the shelter I ran for one month. That was the one month this shelter went from a 40% safe rate to a 96% safe rate. Tell me once more how it is not possible?

        I love your contribution, Peter. Keep fighting the fight and sharing the truth.

        • Bridgette, you worked in a shelter for a month? Can you tell me what month that was? January or February maybe? Warm weather slams us with kittens every single year and it is not uncommon to have 60 felines come in on a bad day. Our foster homes increase the shelter capacity by 2.5 times but they are also full in the warm months.
          Would also be curious to know how many of you screaming “No kill!” Actually work in the field. I find that sofa rescuers are plenty and are the first to point fingers.
          A “No kill” I visited two months ago as our shelter was actually low on dogs and we wanted to help someone else, had wire crates stacked on top of each other with not so much as a blanket to keep the dogs from constantly practicing their barrier reactivity. We chose 6 dogs we would take, including two they begged us to take. A volunteer, who the ED described as their most knowledgable of their dog population, listened quietly as the ED told us that one of the dogs we were interested in had killed a cat. I thought “Ok. Not uncommon. Some dogs have intense prey drives.” Upon getting us alone, this volunteer told us not to take that dog as he had also killed another dog.
          We changed our mind on him as that is a pretty big liability (he was not one of the two the ED wanted us to take) and selected another. The plan from there was that they would transport the dogs to one of our vets who would spay and neuter them. The next day, the ED emailed me that she had changed her mind on transferring the dogs as we were “too picky.”
          Too picky because we decided against taking a dog that had killed two animals. Never mind that she did not give us full disclosure on that dog; it was our fault. This is also a shelter that the entire community fundraises for. My guess is that most of them had not visited what is in my professional opinion, a shelter that looks like a horrible hoarding case. At last visit to their FB page, all six dogs we had been willing to take (and we WOULD have found them homes. We had agreed with them that if we could not get them adopted, they would be returned to hoarding central) are still there, in horrible living conditions.
          Another no kill shelter where I assisted with some dog training has had dogs there for years. They are adopted and returned over and over again. They have a small dog who constantly circles, whether in his kennel or outside. When he isn’t circling, he is biting someone.
          My guess is both of these no kill are doing the best they have with what they have. Sadly, the animals are paying the price.

          • Kim, I am sorry to hear about your bad experience with no-kill shelters. I have also toured several no-kill and low-kill shelters and had a pleasant experience at each. Here are some I highly recommend looking into if you are in Texas or ever come our way: Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter (supports cities within the county of Cedar Park, Hutto, Leander and Round Rock), Austin Animal Shelter, Friends for Life Houston (private), and Sugar Land Animal Shelter are just a few to get you started.

            I do want to point out that no-kill does not mean literally NO KILL. What it means is that the shelter maintains a 90% or higher safe rate for one year or more. There will always be animals in need of true euthanasia and that includes behavioral cases but the important point to remember is to have at least two or three certified behavioral specialists evaluate the animal to determine if rehab is possible or if euthanasia is the animal’s best option.

            Furthermore, I believe the same holds true for medical cases as the ACO’s at the shelter are not certified vets and need to seek the professional opinion of a vet to see if the animal’s quality of life is expected to be maintained or expected to decline.

            To give you an example, I had an owner drop off a dog to be euthanized. I was on the fence about his condition and I decided to network for rescue and have a sponsor help pay for a vet’s opinion. I personally took the dog to the vet, had a few tests run, and then followed the vet’s advice of euthanizing the dog. The vet was so amazingly compassionate and loved my efforts to save this dog that he offered his services for free, euthanized the dog, and offered to dispose of the body. It still tore me up to end this dog’s life but in my heart I knew I did right by the dog. He name was Fido.

            The one month I ran this shelter was from April 6 to May 6 following some flooding in the area and in the middle of budgeting. We were bombarded with kittens from the floods and also kitten season but I worked with a rescue that pulled 16 at once from the shelter. This was a rescue I had to clean up a mess with that one of the volunteers left by slamming them.

            What most people fail to realize is that many problems can be handled by speaking with people directly and sort out the differences. If all else fails, a face-to-face conversation is needed to make things work. I go out of my way to reach out to rescues, the community, and volunteers, as a combined effort of many resources is the only way to move animals out alive. A shelter cannot be successful if they shut out free resources, such as volunteers.

            If you are interested in following the efforts of the community to hold the City of Rosenberg accountable regarding the management of the animal shelter, I encourage you to find City of Rosenberg City Council Meeting, then go to “Meeting Documentation” then go to “Meeting Videos” then select play for May 17, 2016 meeting. When that page opens, go to the tab labeled “Meeting Index” and find “General Comments from the Audience” and you will hear several speakers, I am one of them. Warning, I am a horrible speaker and English is not my first language so I get extremely nervous, but the betterment of the shelter management means so much to me that I am going to push and expose until the city does right by the shelter, regardless of who runs it. I am in it for the animals and care very little about the little social clubs

            Talking about the field….yes, I was and still am an animal rescuer and have been for many years. It is a passion of mine and while I was enforcing laws for the City of Rosenberg, I helped get a neighborhood TNR program off and running by helping trapping cats and doing transports in another county/city, as Rosenberg still has a “leash law” for cats and TNR is not an option yet but a long-term goal of mine to initiate. I realize this can take years but again, I am in it for the animals and the long-run.

            I hope I was able to give some encouragement to you and others. I will leave you with on of my favorite quotes by Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” To me, every life matters. 🙂

          • short on dogs? isn’t that your goal ? turn off the lights and go home

        • Everyday I see this… and there is not always a place for the animals to go. Rescues run out of space.. not enough fosters…. Funding is crap low and not enough… So all of you bashing put your money where your mouth is… Open your home to foster… go volunteer… and network like crazy…. because no matter how hard we try… it doesn’t always work… I work volunteer in transport…. and have for the last two yrs… I have fostered kittens older cats… and went and picked one up to be returned…I now have five the last lil kitten came to me about 4 weeks old… They were gonna throw her in the trash…. Shes about 7 weeks now… ( age guessing) Spoke to the vet already about spay and shots…Two dogs three kids… How many more can a person take… I have too many now to foster… It would be too many for me to care for alone single disabled mom of three sons still at home and two adults……I have three of them over 11 yrs old…it requires a lot of vetting for older kits… I adopted One at 10 yrs old no one wanted him too old they said… Sanctuaries take as many as they can… But even they are filled… and we always try to make room for just one more…People can only do so much and sadly the animals suffer because they are not spayed Neutered.. dumped….

        • I have been doing animal rescue for over 45 years and have run several shelters for over 25 years. to go from 40% to 96% WOW that is unbelievable… Yes, I said Unbelievable… I would like to see how many animals that you found Loving homes for each month… We actually went to Animal Control and they gave us every peaceable dog they had… And I can not believe that you could achieve 96 %….

          • Agreed that number is OFF….especially when you work in a shelter and know better!

          • To Renee below…. I only ran two shelters for 25 years and I know the placement rates. I am a dog person, as I take in more of them.. But I am also fostering 5 cats.. It is hard to take in more until you relocate some.. Fat chance.. The oriental restaurant are the only ones that will take them… Just kidding.. Cats are a dime a dozen. I Have been there and done it.. NO ONE places that kind of percentage… That is just plain B.S. It is too bad that so many people that are posting here are either brain dead. or in the Twilight Zone. Many do not have a clue.. Hillary fans.. OH…. pardon me.. Not politically correct.. Sorry..

        • But for no kill to work, they need people willing to help. Many are not.

      • In a perfect world. Many rescues have closed up shop because they have no fosters. Many shelters don’t have enough volunteers or funds to adopt the programs you suggest.
        Who is going to do the due diligence to reunite a dog with its owner?
        Who is going to recruit volunteers?
        Where is the money coming from to vet animals?
        Who is going to work with people to keep dogs in homes?
        Last, but not least, many county shelter directors are appointed or elected. The position is political. Who is going to get the local government on the right page when it comes to appointments?

        These are all great thoughts, but you must not work in rescue. You’ve come up with great ideas, now come with some great ideas on how shelters can implement them successfully.

        Because it still boils down to the general public taking responsibility. The shelters are already doing what they can with what the have.

      • So very true. I work for LifeLine!

      • I hate the term “kill”. It tends to imply the animal is beaten over the head in the back parking lot. 🙁
        Our open admission (within our jurisdiction) municipal shelter HAS to euthanize some animals. If a dog has killed another dog or is human aggressive we aren’t allowed BY LAW to adopt out that animal as it would place our human population at risk, not to mention liability or the moral consideration. If an animal is dying due to medical issues, hit by car, parvo or things like that, where no matter what the medical staff did, it would only die a long and painful death. Or the 1 week old kitten in foster care that just crashes overnight for seemingly no reason that can not be saved. All these animals are euthanized at my shelter. I don’t think that makes us bad, especially when WE DID NOT CREATE THE PROBLEM! So, again, sometimes we must euthanize but why do we have to keep saying we “kill” them and imply that shelter staff are evil when they perform euthansia?

      • I was part of one of those open intake shelters that is moving towards “no kill”. They went from about 40% euthanasia rate, to about 15%. The media department is ecstatic about it, and so are donors!

        The thing that they don’t tell you is that they turn people away with excessively high intake fees, difficult to get appointments in order to surrender, waiting times, or force you to make multiple calls to rescues (that are also full) before even considering you to surrender. They still consider themselves open intake, but is easier to hit the lottery than have them actually take in your unwanted pet.

        Then they boast that their euthanasia numbers are down, but what they don’t tell donors is that their intake numbers are also down. They went from open intake, to taking in only healthy pretty ones, or purebred ones with a potential to make a “story” about, as if the worth of a dog or cat now is its potential to make a story on Facebook go viral.

        Then they brag that they’re doing more for the animals that they intake. 2 years ago, the average cost for a dog or cat from entry to adoption was about $120. Today: over $300. Somehow they sell this as a great thing! Look how much they’re doing! When in reality, the donated money is going to more fundraisers and management. The shelter went from 12 vets to 4 vets and one part-timer. The technical staff also cut in half. Animals are getting more medical treatment supposedly, but with less veterinary staff? Where’s the money going?

        It’s difficult to get the ok to euthanize a patient now. Many would think it’s a great thing, but when in reality you see the geriatric 115# mastiff with a broken back dragging her hind end until it’s raw and completely muscle wasted (and as a medically trained professional you know there is absolutely no chance of recovery) and you see the shelter using her story as a tear-jerker to get donations until the poor thing literally dies in the home of a foster on her own by choking to death due to a clot in her lungs, you know that was not the most “humane” thing to do. Meanwhile, the vet that pleaded with the management to let her put the dog to sleep for 2 weeks was labeled “uncaring” and “obsessed with wanting to kill” this dog.

        Or let’s not forget about the 15 year old chihuahua, with a loud heart murmur and blind because his diabetes hasn’t been treated that barely eats, that they send to a rescue: they boast that on their newspaper and donations come flying in! We are saving today what would have been euthanized years ago! What they fail to mention is that the “rescue” that the dog went to was busted a few months later for hoarding and multiple dogs dying in terrible conditions. But hey, our euthanasia numbers are down!

        When 4 vets leave within 3 months of each other due to the bullying and the lack of ethics shown by the shelter management, they tell the donors and volunteers that they all left in “good terms” and better opportunities somewhere else.

        So if you want to get fundraisers, sure: just pimp out animal suffering. It’s the new way to get money flowing in. And those that don’t agree with you, just bully them until they leave or commit suicide, because obviously “No Kill” is so easy to do and no side effects whatsoever.

      • There is ONE really excellent way to stop dogs from ending up in a shelter. Make the breeders chip all puppies along with their early inoculations. Then when the pup is given up or lost it is returned to the person who is responsible for it’s existence. THE BREEDER. Let them take back their pups. Let them euthanize their own pups at their vet office. Let them find the home to return it to. You see breeders are responsible for every life they bring into the world but no one seems to remember they may have signed a contract with the breeder saying the breeder has first obligation of refusal. BUT they shouldn’t be able to slip out of responsibility that easily.

      • I apologize, but my comment will be several comments due to length.

        Peter and  no kill advocates for open door shelters,
        I think it’s great that there are shelters out there that are no kill, IF they’re doing it responsibly. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as you well know I’m sure. I won’t go into the semantics of that because there are enough responses already for that. One VERY important thing you have to consider is that there are places that have pet over-population problems that are way higher than your state (Peter), as ridiculous as that may sound to you. Where I live, Texas/Louisiana border, it’s out of control (and there are states way worse than ours-not to mention other countries). I do realize your state has an overpopulation issue, but there are areas way worse that simply will never be no kill even when implementing all your suggestions. It’s great information for those that can though. Thank you for sharing the information with those areas. The organization that you’re “affiliated with” needs to be very careful in how they point the finger though, since many people may or may not intentionally be bullying shelters that are trying these things but still not able to pull it off. Share the information responsibly, don’t shove it down the throats of the shelters that are not able to accomplish it currently. I’m not accusing you personally of doing this, but along with sharing your great information, it needs to be taught, to no kill advocates that instead of being judgemental, try to be compassionate and listen to the pleas and frustrations of the shelters you’re trying to help. Then offer help to meet their personal situation instead of making blanket statements about no kill shelters. Again, it’s not about you personally. I’m just suggesting a solution to bridge the gap between your organization,  shelters able to attain no kill status and shelters that think it’s unattainable or where it actually is unattainable currently. The truth is, unless spay and neuter happens in mass quantities in these areas, the no kill status is not attainable, end of story.

        • Melissa, once more I would like to mention Austin, TX. It is one of the largest animal shelter in the US and at the same time the largest No Kill shelter in the US. I also would like to mention once more Dr. Ellen Jefferson’s study (there is a link in one of my other posts) about her spay/neuter program in Austin, TX. Her group spayed/neutered 60,000 animals in Austin over a period of 5 years and it did not have any real impact on the intake numbers of the City shelter. Don’t get me wrong, spay/neuter is very important but that alone doesn’t lower the intake numbers in a shelter. Adoptions and Marketing, as example, are key factors.
          Yes, there are bad shelters and you will find bad apples everywhere, in all walks of life, not just in animal welfare. Look at the MAS (Memphis Animal Services), until recently it was a absolute hellhole. It changed when a new Mayor was a elected in Memphis and he hired a new shelter director.
          Look at Detroit, they went from a 2% life release rate to a 68% life release rate in just 3 weeks after hiring a new shelter director. What does that tell us? It’s often a issue with Leadership.

      • While our local shelter and a volunteer group that helps them implements all of these things, they continue to see rising populations of unwanted animals. One huge problem they face is lack of support from local city officials. Shelter employees and volunteers have GREAT ideas to reduce populations, offer more public assistance, etc, but the city officials don’t want to be bothered with it and could honestly care less. That’s a huge problem for city run shelters. Maybe one day those people will no longer be in charge, will retire or laws will change due to the passionate workers and volunteers, but we’re talking at least 10 years just for that. Until then, they can’t even apply for certain grants because it’s a pain in the butt to a city official that now has more paperwork that could cause a papercut.
        There are way more cumbersome problems that have to be dealt with in some areas (like government corruption) before some shelters can even dream of trying to implement these things. It’s sad, but it’s just a fact.
        I would LOVE nothing more than every shelter to be no kill for all SAFE adoptable animals, but we just need to be careful not to say that shelters are not doing enough to become no kill shelters. There are many that are not doing enough and are run by horrible, uncaring directors, but these are not the ones I’m referring to. I’m referring to the shelters where there hands are tied that are trying everything they possibly can but still can’t pull it off. These shelters will remain kill shelters but still deserve the same amount of respect, love and community support, including from your organization, than the shelters that either have already attained no kill status or are almost there. They do appreciate what your organization is doing. They just don’t feel that all of you actually are seeing what some shelters are up against. In an area(s) where there are 20,000 stray cats living in a ditch in one square mile, where the shelter already has a trap, fix and release and/or euthanize program, this is not a reasonable goal for the next 20 years even, without euthanizing. These shelter employees love these animals, take them home to free up space, are underpaid, overworked, underappreciated and still have to euthanize on top of that due to lack of space, already overfull rescue organizations and foster homes (that by the way have to be hidden from the city because they won’t allow foster homes because it’s too much paperwork and might open them up to a lawsuit). Now you add on top of it a no kill organization saying they don’t want it bad enough or they’d make it happen? You expect them to take you seriously? Come up with a solution to dealing with “good ‘ole boy, lazy city officials that don’t love animals and won’t change a line on an adoption application, much less a law, then change the way you approach them and put out your information, and you may get more respect and may get those same city officials to listen to you. Until then, in a lot of areas, you’re basically beating your head up against a brick wall and wasting your breath unless you can reword the way you present information.
        This is all perfectly attainable to MOST shelters up north (US), not in major cities, without a SEVERE overpopulation problem. For the rest of us, it’s kind of slap in the face, so no one will ever take your organization seriously down here unfortunately. Thank you for the good that you have done in your area and the ones you have helped though. Keep up the fight, but please keep in mind the “little guys” down here that KNOW this will not happen in their lifetime but work overtime to make sure that it’s at least “getting better” and not worse under their watch.
        One other thing I want to address to other people…I understand how frustrating it must be to see pets on the euthanasia list on FB that you want to adopt yet can’t afford the adoption fee for. However, I agree with 2 things…
        1) If you can’t afford an adoption fee, you probably shouldn’t have the animal despite its euthanasia status due to the potential of the animal suffering from lack of vet care, the possibility of the animal getting loose and adding to the overpopulation problem because you couldn’t afford to get the animal fixed or you or someone else actually getting injured from the animal because you adopted one (just in order to save him) that was totally unsuitable to your situation (Jan, such as adopting a strong pittie, being elderly and possibly being pulled down the stairs that you have to take the dog down in your apartment several times/day because he’s so excited to go out-it’s just a high risk situation considering my pitties pull me down occasionally when excited, and I’m strong).
        2) If you can’t afford the pet, find a shelter or rescue to foster for that will cover these expenses. They should find a foster that’s appropriate for YOU and won’t risk you or the animal. It’s a win-win situation. You get the companionship you need, an animal is saved (even though it may not be the one you saw on FB), and another spot is freed up at the shelter or rescue, so you’re saving potentially 2 lives instead of 1! Yes, you may have to say goodbye to that animal if someone wants to adopt him, but having fostered approximately 30 dogs myself, you do heal and learn how to get joy from seeing that animal thrive in their new home and know how many lives you save. And, should you cross paths with that “perfect one” that you want to adopt that noone else does, a lot of rescues will offer to pay vet bills on them and let them stay with you as a “forever foster”.  It doesn’t hurt to ask. This is especially true when it’s a senior animal. Jan, in your situation, offering to foster elderly dogs (as long as they can get up and down your stairs, would be perfect). Chances are that pet would be with you, as a foster for life. So it will, to you, be your dog, but you’ll have help with much needed vet bills and possibly food. You just need to provide love.

      • Part 3
        You may not get that strong pitbull you’re eyeing, but what you will do is free up a spot for that pitbull so his chance at being euthanized is greatly reduced. Plus, you can volunteer to go to the shelter and walk him (or any dog) and play with him in order to socialize him properly (not to mention cutting down on him barking non-stop due to going “kennel crazy”-which is a huge deterrent to potential adopters) so that he’s more likely to be adopted. There are so many ways you can get the companionship you want, save liveS and not have to worry about vet bills and money. I hope that you do find a way to accomplish this, and I apologize for the people that inappropriately badgered you on here. They meant well, but they’re coming across the wrong way. Thank you for wanting to save a life!
        One last thing…I agree that, in most places, a $250-$500 adoption fee, from a kill shelter is absurd! Yes, it probably includes vet bills, etc, but kill shelters here actually don’t even make enough to cover basic needs off of adoption fees. The tax payers pay all of that. MOST areas that charge that much can because there’s a shortage of pets in that area. However, there are some that have higher vet fees (and have a recoup the costs to keep their adoption program, legally afloat) and some that capitalize off of it, though it’s not the norm. Plus, in areas where there are shortages, many will pay to transport animals from the south, so that cost is factored in. I simply cannot figure out why a kill shelter would be charging that much, that’s overpopulated, without some type of government corruption, unless they have extremely strict laws governing the amount of vet care, socialization and training required before adoption is allowed. I’m open to someone explaining it though.

      • Peter, thank you for your comment. I stated that kill shelters are open admission … not the other way around. I applaud the achievements of the 300 shelters you refer to and recognize the importance of all the factors you listed. Having said that, they are all generic recommendations that many well-intentioned people toss out to shelters that are already struggling without following through and offering practical ideas for how to implement those worthy ideals. Sadly, the tone in which those recommendations are often given is not one of supportive guidance but rather of bitter disdain …. which truly leads nowhere. I have written a follow-up post that touches on this:

        • Heather, you hit the nail on the head with your follow up: Community support! It is a 2-way street. The shelter supports the community and the community supports the shelter. I have seen it and experienced it myself, after we turned our shelter in to a No Kill shelter. The community support was incredible.

          “Those of us who have seen a shelter turn around quickly and dramatically when shelter leadership with the will to implement the alternatives replaced one who didn’t, we have seen with our own eyes what is possible. In short, we have been to the Promised Land, and have first hand-knowledge, and experience, that those who justify the killing, who insist in the existence of pet overpopulation – are living in Plato’s cave, mistaking shadows for reality. And it is our job to reach those within the humane movement whose hearts and minds are open to celebrating this good news, so that they can become our allies in the fight for the brighter future we know – and has already been proven time and again – to be possible.”
          — Jennifer Winograd

      • And who will do all the work? It sounds good in theory but what about the fosters that suddenly drop a litter of sick kittens at the front door because it is not how they imagined it? What about the volunteers that do not want to commit themselves like this and “only” want to play with the dogs not listening to the counselors and let the dogs run lose? How do you teach a human behavior if they don’t want to listen? Where are the vets and trainers that can afford working pro bono? What about the people that do not want the TNR program in their neighborhoods and turn the animals in as feral? It is easier said than done. Instead of condemning the workers and directors who get threatened or fatigue because nothing they do is right and if it is right it is not fast enough.
        Thank you Heather for your article. It was very well written. We will keep on brushing our shoulders off and keep fighting for saving lives at open admission shelters.

    • I am a volunteer at a “high kill” shelter. It is no longer a high kill facility since our volunteer group became actively involved as the city shelter’s assistance group. But, sadly there are animals that still die there – court ordered euthanasia, owner surrender of animals too old or sick who they want put down, etc.

      Your article is extremely accurate. The shelter has a vet under contract who comes twice a month to the facility. If we haven’t been able to find adopters for the shelter pets, we are in a mad scramble to get them rescued or tagged for rescue before the vet comes and healthy, beautiful, adoptable animals are killed.

      Each time a pet is returned or surrendered, our hearts break. They don’t know or understand why they are not at home with the people they love, depend upon, and have grown to trust. They only know that now, they live in a cold metal cage or a concrete and metal kennel, in a noisy facility filled with barking dogs and frantically crying kitties, loud speaking strangers, and smells that frighten them; instead of being HOME where their food bowl, bed and favorite person lives. And then they are put in the necessary situation of discovering what their coping mechanism will be to deal with all the STRESS. Sometimes that method of coping puts them in danger of loosing their life because they are misunderstood as combative and “dangerous” – when all they are is scared and stressed beyond their coping abilities. Their “kennel personality” is NOT WHO THEY ARE!!!

      What we see and deal with breaks our hearts EVERY DAY!!! So thank you for your article. I am sharing it over and over praying that the message gets in the faces of enough people so they will be responsible pet owners. AND I PRAY over each shelter pet – for the perfect, loving, responsible and caring human to come in and see in them what we do – and love them enough to take them home forever, feed them well, take them to the vet regularly and treat them when they are sick or injured; and who will MICROCHIP them and keep the microchip data current.

    • I agree beautifully said. I only look at kill shelters when I want a dog. The local rescue that collects animals from kill shelters has already saved a life, why wouldn’t someone get their pet from a kill shelter and really save a life.

      • This is an excellent point.

      • Because for a rescue to continue to function they must adopt out their animals. Your comment makes zero sense.

        • I commend rescues, and the people who volunteer with them, and pull and foster the animals.

      • Yes but if more would get from rescues, they can pull more dogs and cats. But you make an excellent point.

    • Excellent wording. Well done for writing and I have empathy for the individuals that do spend their days having to look after these animals and making such difficult decisions everyday.

    • Thank you for enlightening me and many more to the truths. I knew yet didn’t realize how difficult it could be being in your shoes. I wish I could help some how. I myself have adopted or acquired the animals after someone was GETTING rid of them once again thank you for sharing

    • I don’t agree that’s everything that’s presented here. Why dogs get retuned? It is because shelters don’t share right information. It’s very challenging at times to care for dogs with special needs. And many times you really don’t know what you are getting into.

      And I did get a dog from a breeder. I paid $300. It lived a very long healthy life, much longer that dogs of the same breed with NO health issues.

      I adopted a dog NOT knowing anything about it, just a picture. Because my heart was broken and wanted to save one life because it was mentioned it was at the high kill shelter.

      While unemployed, the adoption fee was $300 from the rescue.In the first weeks, my mattress got destroyed as well as rugs. Yes, the dog needs housebreaking. I’m okay with that. But you can’t train a fearful dog afraid of people and noises. Nobody told me. Actually I was told she will be a great guard dog. I haven’t seen a dog so scared and afraid in my life! My new dog does not want to go outside to pee. Most of the time I have to pick her to carry her outside against her will, but that’s forcing the dog outside to relieve. Once outside she’s afraid of the noises and runs back in. I clean after her all the time. She relieves herself on a couch and pretty much anywhere. My husband works 70 hours or longer in a week to pay the bills. He put so much work in the house. Damages are about $1,500 in the first four weeks while I’m unemployed. Toys and chews and cleaning supplies are $300. So while people who work at the shelters give them away, you don’t see often them taking upon more challenging dogs home. The real heros are people leaving with those kind of dogs since you lived can be changed in a minute you walk out with that kind of dog. Sheltered dogs are NOT pets. Fearful dogs can also turn aggressive. And those could be more dangerous. So before you adopt from the shelter, make sure that you know what you are getting into. If you are up for it. We love our new pet, but we are so sad we can’t take it for a walk to the park because our dog is afraid of much anything. Since I can’t control outside world from people being outside or noises, you are pretty much on your own.

      • This could happen with any dog – seriously any (we had two dogs from the same litter – one was really scared of everything and the other was well balanced and well behaved). While I absolutely agree that potential adopters should be told everything known about the animal they are considering (I”m a foster and we strive to tell ALL about each animal as we want a good permanent placement otherwise it’s for nothing anyway), getting an animal from a breeder does nothing to guarantee you won’t have the same experience as you are having now.

        One thing I will tell you as a foster is I have yet to see a dog not have a personality change after about 3 months out of the shelter. Usually that is for the better – but sometimes I will see what we thought was a very docile dog become much more dominant and one one occasion aggressive. Granted, I have also seen the opposite – a dog that was not friendly with other animals at the shelter completely mellow out, relax, and turn into a very at-ease and friendly dog.

        There is ZERO way that the people at the shelters could have predicted how some of the dogs I’ve fostered would behave in a normal home environment. Sometimes it’s just not possible. Again, while I absolutely agree that withholding information is wrong and fundamentally undermines whatever the shelter/rescue is trying to accomplish, sometimes you just can’t tell.

        In otherwords, they are all different, just like people.

    • This was one of the best posts I have ever stumbled across by accident & read until the end. It’s people like you in this world who still give me hope of the good still in it.
      Your honesty & courage is respected by people who are worth knowing you. Ignore the insignificant whingers for they have nothing to offer which is exactly why they burden us all with their negative nonsense.
      I will continue to adopt from shelters from very young until I grow old. No wonder there is always a line up of an animal or two wanting to meet me they sense a true animal lover when the see it. Lol give me that over a pain in the arse man any day 🙂
      Nancy from Oz

  2. I think any animal killed at a shelter should have the person who brought them in with them when they are euthed and tasked with body disposal . I think like in Japan where by law every pet is the financial responsibility of the original owner (microchipped)

    • Thank you for your comment, Sharon. Yes, I believe there are many people who will never accept their role in this problem without being confronted with it directly. I think that fear of confronting their own accountability is why so many animals are abandoned – their owners couldn’t even face eye contact at the shelter to drop them off.

    • I had a similar thought the other day, as the shelter where I volunteer is currently over full. The next owner surrendering a pet with a lame excuse has to go in and choose which pet will be killed to make room for the one they don’t want to take responsibility for. Sadly, I think some people wouldn’t be bothered by that.

      • Excellent!

  3. So true! I always see post online of people pointing the finger at “kill shelters.” The workers try hard to do their best with a problem they didn’t create – but society did. Yet, people will go abandon an animal outside or give it to someone seedy instead of bringing to a kill shelter, where the animal at least has a CHANCE to be picked up by a rescue or adopted. Time to break the stereotype.

    I still DON’T understand how its not illegal to have an unfixed pet, especially a cat, considering how much is spent trying to manage over population. I do have to note that just being a “pure bred” dog doesn’t not make them adoptable. Someone may see that cute “yorkie” but don’t realize how much the hair costs to maintain or their issues with anxiety as terriers. I have two adopted pomeranians, that were both returned twice for having issues. I want to say people need to be “educated” but what some of them need is a good smack in the head.

    • Thank you for your comment, Michelle. Yes – you said it well: ‘the workers try hard to do their best with a problem they didn’t create.’ And I agree that pure bred dogs frequently have issues that in another dog would be a huge red flag to a potential adopter; yet, plenty of folks are almost stubborn in their desire to have them. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a family (usually with little kids who are rough and have no idea how to handle a dog) insist that they want the toy-sized dog that is clearly snappish and petrified of their children … all because it is simply a recognizable breed. (And man, if only a smack in the head really did work 🙂 )

      • Great point. I always say, a bigger dog is better, my lab can lift and push away anyone he doesn’t like, so he doesn’t bite.

  4. No shelter is no kill. Let’s be honest, if I see a 100% no kill shelter, I wonder what special powers they possess. As far as I know, the second coming hasn’t happened. Neither you or I can heal every animal. To be considered non kill, you only have to have a 90% live release rate. So that means you can euthanize 10%. There is going to be a time when it is more humane to euthanize. There’s no probability or statistic you can show me that we’ll make me believe you.

    I volunteer with our local county ran shelter. We try so hard to replay this message to people. The staff only has a certain amount in their budget every year for medical. They have a budget for food and supplies. Last year our shelter ran or of food in early November, not to have their budget renewed until December 1st.

    We supplement medical and food costs as much as possible. We even subsidise adoption fees to move the harder to place animals. We even pay for advertising. Most people in our county don’t even know where our shelter is at.

    It is our mission to educate and save as many lives as possible. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Thank you for your comment, Julie. You are spot on about ‘no-kill.’ Yet I would hazard a guess that most people have no idea that no-kill shelters can still perform euthanasia and be considered no-kill. The difference between the two (typically)is the reason for that euthanasia: a humane end to suffering versus having no resources (space, time,etc) to provide an extended chance for adoption. Thank you for volunteering at your local shelter. I know that a majority of the time it feels like an uphill battle but people like you make all the difference.

    • Well we run one in Aurora, NE…but you evidently think I am lying….

      • Thank you for your comment, Mary. That is fantastic to hear! Do you experience good support from the community? Are they on-board with the necessity of spay-neuter? And thank you for your dedication to the animals.

      • Mary, is your shelter truly no kill? Because if the shelter is a) at capacity and turning animals away (most likely to municipal shelters where they may be euthanized); b) euthanizing sick/aggressive animals or sending them to another shelter to be euthanized, the shelter is not no kill.

        The issue with “no kill” shelters is both of the above. No kill shelters often also take away business from municipal shelters because they have better programs (spay, neuter, marketing, etc). The local government shelters see far less adoptions because they simply cannot offer fully vetted animals to the public and cannot house sick animals for any length of time. Just because a shelter is not personally sticking an animal with a fatal needle doesn’t mean that they are not still responsible for animals dying via the two avenues above.

        I can’t imagine the type of heartless person who wouldn’t adopt from a kill shelter. Especially so knowing those animals are on seriously borrowed time.

        I am not a proponent of no kill but it’s a pipe dream and it’s not realistic. I fully support the dedicated men and women of the animal control society who probably have numerous health and emotional issues because of the work that our society forces them to do. And their jobs are so much more than just killing animals. They pick up dead animals on the side of the road so we don’t have to see it, they investigate and bring charges against animal cruelty, they are the person you call when loose dogs have become a problem in your neighborhood. And the list goes on.

        Until society wakes up and realizes most pets are a reflection of those owners’ lack of commitment and those owners are no longer willing to sign over their animals lives for petty reasons and take some responsibility, this problem will continue.

        • The no kill shelter in our city gets most of their animals from the local “kill” shelter. They take the animals that are most in need or the sickest as they have the resources to treat them and give them another chance that they wouldn’t have had at the kill shelter, and I’m sure the kill shelter is grateful for this. But I guess I’m just “heartless” for adopting my cat from a no-kill shelter?

          • Adoption is adoption is adoption. Cooperation among shelters and rescues is absolutely vital to saving lives and having an impact. I’m so glad you have that cooperation where you live. Thank you for adopting.

          • Of course not. No need to be sarcastic. But don’t you agree that it’s heartless to not adopt from a “kill” shelter because it’s a kill shelter? Adopting from a kill shelter most certainly saves a life. Adopting from a no-kill shelter saves a life too, because it makes room for one more.

        • I work in a “municipal” shelter (we have some state funding, cut by 10% this year) and it IS possible not to euthanise for space and/or time. Our pound (on site) has a requirement to accept all and any stray animals in a 1500 square mile area, as well as investigating abuse cases and neglect cases. Our shelter accepts the majority of the animals that arrive during the year, with a very small number going to specialist associations instead (some pedigree dogs and FIV+ cats) and I can’t tell you how hard it is when 160 dogs are brought in on one day from a puppy farm, or 21 dogs from a hoarder, or 8 dogs kept in a barn all their lives, and the constant onslaught in the summer months of feral kittens….

          It is a massive, massive effort and no, we aren’t “cheating” or taking business away from kill shelters. We have five or six behaviouralists who are either staff members, members of the steering committee or regular volunteers. They work with our aggressive dogs (like the one I saw yesterday who has failed the three bite tests by a licensed vet – the fourth means we are legally obliged to end his life or keep him and rehab him … our director was in the process of rehabbing him, needless to say)

          And as for sick… our current mascot Arnold is an 11 year old crippled muttley who lives with one of our volunteers. When we needed treatment, we ran a campaign for him and gained what we needed for his vet bills (in the thousands)

          Please don’t say we are “taking business away” from kill shelters. We work so very hard with our partners both locally and across Europe to rehome our dogs. Our nearest neighbour is a municipal shelter like we are. They euthanise. They are just beginning to accept offers to take their dogs if they are full and our network is not. For years, they refused all efforts to interact and to help out, to take dogs from them. They made adoptions as hard as possible, never allowing out-of-state adoptions, refusing many adoptants, saying dogs were too hard to rehab. I know (and love) some of their volunteers but their major battle is to get the shelter to accept that no-kill for space is possible. I hate the fact that they won’t work with us and would prefer to euthanise than to collaborate. Pet food drives and massive collaboration with our local vets, town councils, neighbouring shelters, internet campaigns for funding, adoption and support, they all help. I can’t tell you how hard we work, and to be told that either we must be euthanising and that we are not “truly no-kill” (we do, occasionally, but for medical reasons only, and I can’t tell you the disputes over doing this) and that we are stealing custom from kill shelters… that’s very sad. I’d be more than happy to share our stats with you and to have a chat with you if you feel that we are in some way doing something impossible or that we are concealing deaths. We moved from being a kill-shelter under the stewardship of our current director. She fought against bureaucrats and hardened beliefs, against people who had been in animal welfare for far too long, against people who hated her. Her open approach has led huge changes in our corner of France and I’m glad to see other municipal pounds and shelters following in her footsteps.

          Only when we all work together can we address the problems and present solutions.

          • “Only when we all work together can we address the problems and present solutions.” Yes, yes, yes.

          • “They work with our aggressive dogs (like the one I saw yesterday who has failed the three bite tests by a licensed vet – the fourth means we are legally obliged to end his life or keep him and rehab him … our director was in the process of rehabbing him, needless to say)”
            needless to say? you are putting peoples lives at risk..

        • I think the problem is people are confusing No Kill with never euthanizing a suffering animal. there are some animals who are hopelessly ill or injured, irremediably suffering, or in the case of dogs, vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation. These animals are not adoption candidates and sadly,
          at this time in history, they are often killed,
          unless hospice care and sanctuaries are available. The big difference is using the word euthanasia as it means by definition. And not using when killing a healthy treatable homeless pet. So a shelter that euthanizes for these suffering animals is No Kill. You are not clear on what No Kill is.

      • Ma,is basically no kill if a dog stays in one shelter to long they will send it to a different shelter and so on,until it finds a home.but there are still cases when they have to with.I’ve been a foster for 7 yrs,had over 250 dogs come through my home and it’s overwhelming the amount that don’t get saved.Education is the only thing that’s going to stop it.My biggest fear is that people up north are going to be full and adoptions are going to slow down and eventually stop,then what happens?

      • Negative, I think the point was, even if you are no kill, what does that mean for terminally ill or injured animals? What happens if or when you run out of space? I commend no kill shelters, but I don’t hate other shelters, I figure they all need help, if we are to become no kill nation.

    • Nailed it. I’ve tried to explain this more times than I care to recall.

      Your comment is an insightful addition to a brutal but well-written and important article.

    • I tell people this all of the time. NO ONE is no kill. The “no kills” run out of room and turn people and their pets away, sending them elsewhere. Elsewhere is almost always a kill shelter, or dumped out somewhere. They get to keep their lofty “no kill” standing, and others get to be left with the bad name of Kill shelter.

        • But what happens when one runs out of space at a no kill shelter? And people always need a place to put their animals.

  5. I’ve been involved in animal rescue for 35 years. I live in Fargo, ND where intake is low, not like southern states with high intake on a weekly basis. It drives me nuts when people don’t understand a shelter in high intake area cannot keep everything that comes in, there is no room and there never will be. No money to adequately house and care for a couple hundred dogs and increase that number by 20 every week. I agree with all that you have typed in this article, thank you for it. I hope it opens some eyes.

    • Thank you for your comment, Patty. And a huge thank you for being involved in animal rescue for so long. You’ve brought out another good point – there are certainly areas that have lower intake and it can be hard for people in those areas to understand the massive problems faced in higher intake shelters. And you’re right on the money with saying that there never will be enough room to keep everything that comes in …. if those areas remain high-intake. That is why spay and neuter is so critical – it is our only hope of reducing intake to reasonable levels across the board.

  6. While spay and neuter is crucial in reducing the numbers of unwanted pets, I think the greatest issue is the lack of accountability in so many people: if they get tired of a pet, it starts costing “too much”, it it inconveniences them in any way, it gets abandoned, in the woods or in a shelter.

    I don’t think there is much we can do to educate adults, but getting into the schools to educate children about animals and how to care for them could go far in reducing euthanasia in the future.

    “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10

    • Yes, I agree with you 100%. Lack of accountability is rampant and disheartening. Educating the future generations is absolutely necessary for changing mindset regarding what constitutes responsible pet ownership (and why true ownership really requires responsibility … so many times I get the impression that people view pets as rent-able).

    • You are so correct on all of these fronts. Having been a rescue volunteer for many years, the reasons animals were turned into or returned to rescue were ridiculous and these are people we carefully vetted before allowing them to adopt. Dogs returned because they didn’t come when called by their new name after being in a home for less than 24 hours, dogs returned because the owner didn’t consider the dog a flight risk and he ran away from his new home within 24 hours because they allowed him off leash, dogs that chewed a remote control because the new owner didn’t read our new dog pamphlet urging them to crate the dog when they aren’t at home and keep valuables out of the dog’s reach. I have seen many times, someone dropping thousands of dollars on a dog from a breeder, to turn around and have put not a single cent into that dog’s care other than food and give it to rescue.

      But then “it’s just a dog.” I am convinced 80% of the general public knows squat about properly training a dog and lacks the commitment to own one.

      • Thank you for your comment, Rachel. I know exactly what you mean – that expectation that an adopted pet will know instantly what is desired of it … nevermind that they may have never lived inside or been exposed to things like vacuums, ceiling fans, even leashes for crying out loud. Frustrating isn’t even the word. At a previous shelter I worked at, we offered free training classes to adoptive families to work on any issues they were experiencing. It was amazing how many people didn’t take advantage of it.

      • You’re looking at the fallout from the “animals are just morally superior little people with fur” school of magical thinking. When Fluffy or Fido turns out to be other than perfect, the illusion is shattered, and the reaction is anger, followed by abandonment.

  7. YES! Also, microchipping saves lives. When our shelter is full to capacity, if an animal comes in without a microchip, we must make space to hold that animal for its legally required stray period. If we cannot find adopters, rescue, or foster for animals to make space, we are forced to euthanize. Needless to say, this is always a last and most painful resort. However, if the animal is microchipped, we can reduce the hold time to hours or even minutes, and therefore we are not in the horrible position of having to make long-term space available for the animal by euthanizing. In addition, if the stray animal is very old, injured, sick, or deemed unadoptable for any reason, the chip can also save the life of the pet if euthanasia is being considered, and get it back home to its family. A simply microchip can save so many lives!

    • Thank you for your comment, Jen – yes, microchipping is vital!

    • It pays for itself in a short time. Microchips are a huge help,but the info must be kept up to date.

  8. Heather, thank you so very much for you blog. You hit the proverbial nail on the head.

    I started a small nonprofit in rural Virginia to hopefully put an end to the 50+% euthanasia rate. (We’ve been very successful.) We have also been verbally assaulted by “keyboard warriors” who want to blame us and the Animal Control Officers for not doing enough, while they do nothing to help solve the problem.

    I shared this on our Facebook page in hopes that it reaches the people it needs to. The uneducated, the flippant, and the callous. The keyboard warriors who think that we do nothing but think of ways to hurt these homeless pets.

    Again, thank you for writing this.

    • Thank you for your comment, Leigh, and thank you for all you do – starting up a nonprofit is no small feat and to hear you’re making progress is very inspiring. In our digital age, it has become so easy for people to identify a problem and yet never be able to identify their own complicity by not stepping forward to help find a solution. I’m hopeful that if people spend a little more time considering the full scope of ‘why’ there is a problem, they will realize they can participate in the solution.

  9. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for being an advocate for the shelter animals, shelter personnel, for spay/neuter. I’ve been in the trenches off and on (had to take mental breaks) since I was 16 helping my mom and I’m now 44. I think I’ve seen it all and then something happens to make me realize I’ve not and really don’t want to sometimes. Spay and neuter is the answer, it just seems to be fighting an uphill battle, so many get neutered and spayed and yet so many more just keep coming in. I hope the tide turns one day, maybe not in my lifetime but the sooner the better for the animals, and the rescuers, animal shelter personnel, animal advocates, all of us that care.

    • Thank you, Ashli, for serving animals. I really believe the tide will turn. There are fantastic models out there, where communities have truly embraced spay and neuter along with humane education. That is what will make the difference longterm. It just takes one person, then another, then another (repeat a million times) and we will see change. It can happen.

  10. Until recently, I managed an open admission shelter in central Texas. I have since been doing a lot of writing, largely about what I call our “no-kill journey.” Your post really hit the nail on the head. It’s what I wish we could make people understand…there can be no no-kill shelter without first having a no-kill community. The shelter can’t make it happen, but the community can. Great post!

    And, when I say no-kill, I actually mean no-kill-for-time-or-space.

    • Thank you for your comment, Freda. A no-kill community is indeed the key piece to the puzzle, isn’t it?

  11. Thank you so much for writing this. Working in the rescue community it is a constant battle to try and educate people to adopt instead of buying. Not to mention those who are on the anti- vaccine, anti-spay band wagon. It brings me to tears with frustration listening to people. Then of course, you have those people that buy a designer “pure-bred” dog, paying $1000 for a dog that is in all honesty a “mutt” or mixed breed dog. I wish your blog was mandatory read for everybody.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarce. You’re right – it is a constant battle but I firmly believe it is a battle that can be won. But boy, does it require a hell of a lot of endurance.

  12. Oh my, this could not have been said any better. Very deep and all so true. I volunteer, and foster pups for our local shelter. I see cats, kittens pups and dogs of all sizes and breeds brought in and it just breaks my heart. I know there has to be some put down for various reasons. I cringe when people post how bad we are or how it is, or in our case, how it was. I will share this in hopes that it will spread and others will read it and maybe it will touch their heart and hit home. Spay and neuter is the answer, microchip is another. It takes a village as Miss Laura will say. I am proud to be a part of that village….

    • Leslie, thank you so much for volunteering and fostering – fostering has its own bittersweet burden, doesn’t it? Thank you, thank you, thank you for serving the animals in your community.

  13. You speak the truth in this well written article and I thank you. Those of us in rescue know this and say this all of the time but unfortunately ignorant people don’t see the error of their ways. They just don’t. But thank you for being another voice for the voiceless.

  14. You speak the truth in this well written article and I thank you. Those of us in rescue say this all of the time but unfortunately ignorant people are blind to the truth. Thank you for being another voice for the voiceless.

    • Thank you for your comment, Blanca. I believe in miracles and that we have to keep trying to find a way to get the blind to see.

  15. As a retired animal shelter director….your blog gave me chills. Been there, done that. Every word echoed. As for the suicide in Taiwan….another soul crushed by the weight. Thank you for your writing.

    • Thank you for comment, Vicki – and thank you for your years of service as a shelter director.

  16. This was an eye opener. Thank you. I recently lost my pet to lymphoma cancer, putting him down was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I can’t imagine the weight on the shoulders of those people who work at these shelters. Thank you and God bless them.

    • Erica, I’m so sorry for your loss. Saying good-bye ot our four-legged family is impossibly hard.

  17. i volunteer at the open admissions shelter in nyc. i was there today. a cat i met and her 3 newborns are on the list tonight. i’m sharing her and pledging $ to a rescue to save her. i do this every day. tears are rolling down my face, i will be writing bios in the morning. kitten season hasn’t even really hit yet. thank you so much for writing this, all the haters that funny enough do help by sharing & pledging for the animals on the list, should read this. i will have to think of some good places to share this. one of my fellow volunteers posted this, and i’m so glad i checked it out.

    on the brighter side, the rescue community here is well orgnanized. over the last 4-5 years the euth rate has dropped very significantly. i also volunteer with one of the rescues, whose slogan is ‘save them all’. it is slowly moving in that direction. too slowly, but it is moving. thanks again.

    • Thank you, Liz, for all you do – IT MATTERS. Until the public at large understands their responsibility, it takes the cooperation of the rescue community and volunteers like yourself to help reduce the load on open admission shelters. Thank you for opening your heart to those animals and giving of yourself to make a difference in their lives.

      • thank you again for this post, i’ve been sharing it and hopefully some people who really don’t understand the real situation will read it. this education is what can truly resolve the problem. as i know most of us feel, i only wish i could do more.

    • Thank you for what you do. I see those animals,want to take them all home, but would be called an animal hoarder if I did, there is that many.

  18. Great article, and absolutely true. I would like to add a little from the point of a no-kill shelter. I work at an open admission shelter in France and it is so hard to maintain a no-kill status. I’m very proud that we do. It takes massive, and I mean internationally massive, effort to advertise, promote, rehome and support the post-adoption process for our animals. We work with an ever-growing network of other refuges to help out – but it depends on so much. We have some state funding but the rest comes in donations – and donations mean we can have bigger facilities and space for weeks like the ones you describe. From state co-operation down to inter-shelter networking across international lines sometimes, being no-kill is as huge a burden, believe me. Yes, it’s an emotional burden too. Not the same, but still. When we face the weeks you describe, our only option is to engage EVERYONE to get some adoptions, to find emergency foster spaces, to find that one partner in the shelter that an anti-social dog on their own will tolerate. We had 160 dogs arrive in one day two years ago – and by evening, 36 remained at the shelter. The next day, that was 8.

    Our problems are just the same in no-kill shelters. Our solutions are a little different. It’s not ideal. We have dogs sometimes waiting years for homes. That in itself is very depressing.

    Thanks for the article though. I agree with all of it! Just wanted to give you the picture from “the other side” too.

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective, Emma. It is so encouraging to hear about what you have achieved – the level of cooperation among different groups such as you describe is truly admirable. Thank you so much for all you do to serve homeless animals – I know the emotional burden is still taxing and wearisome regardless if the threat of euthanasia looms. Your shelter is achieving great things and it is my fondest hope that all shelters can reach that status – that’s the ultimate goal of anyone committed to animal rescue/sheltering.

      • I believe in the power of one. If you feel passionate about dogs and cats and the problems that lead to euthanasia – do something about it. If you believe you can use your energy and passion to make a difference, big or small- do it. Waiting for others to make a difference or tell you what to do, will leave you frustrated. Momentum, passion and numbers is what is needed to bring about change. I volunteered at a shelter. I saw beautiful, healthy dogs in the shelter one week and gone the next and sadly not because they were adopted. During the summer dogs arrived in huge numbers daily and a shelter can only hold so many. I scrambled to get individual dogs adopted through cute ads and sharing,but I wanted to save more. I decided I needed to learn about transport. I researched states across the country where there were fewer dogs and not as many transports. I spoke with my shelter and teamed up with a transporter to learn. I made calls, wrote emails and secured shelters in the Midwest that needed dogs and asked them to give me a chance. That was 21 months ago. Since then Nola Freedom Transport has brought 735 dogs from shelters and rescues all over Louisiana. Dogs are adopted usually within a week or less. Everything is volunteer and all funds are raised on Facebook to finance each trip. Did I think I would be doing this a couple years ago when I went in to the shelter to volunteer and walk dogs? No, but you may surprise yourself, as I did, when you believe in the power of one person making a change. As Nike says: Just do it.

  19. While I realize this was written for and in your perspective applies mostly to shelters and shelter workers (bless every last one of you!), much of this can apply to the veterinary field as well.

    Thank you for writing this.

  20. I’ve often thought if we tried something different in shelters such as actually paying people to alter their animals, we could change the narrative. It is greed and laziness that drives much of the needless breeding. How many countless dollars do we spend housing, catching, vetting and euthanizing unwanted pets? If people actually made money doing the right thing, they would be out there catching strays, bringing in their neighbors dogs, wandering pets,etc. to make a profit. Even if we just rerouted funds for awhile, every money grubbing backyard breeder and irresponsible pet owner would be helping us make them more responsible. Pets would actually become a valuable commodity to the very people causing the problems. I know it sounds crazy, but what we’re doing isn’t working.

  21. Good article but let’s talk about the horrors at puppy mills. Pet shops selling these puppies for thousands are also ending up in shelters. They are impulse buys and are often not wanted after the cute puppy stage . They are poorly breed and cost more than anticipated so again are dumped in a shelter. And their breeding parents are forced to live a cruel and inhumane life in a cage. If we can stop this it will increase adoptions at the shelters. A win for both. Adopt don’t shop

  22. A great article. Thank you for writing it. I will share and hope that others will read it and share too. It breaks my heart to see pictures of babies too young to die on the days euthanasia lists. I share them too but know that many of them will not make it and my heart breaks a little more. When will it end? God bless.

  23. As I wipe away tears, I want to thank you for writing what the adopters of family members who were on the “list” may not know about the people who vowed to get these dogs adopted before having to make a choice. The perspective of the rescuers in kill shelters overwhelmed me. Thank you for a brief view through their eyes and hearts.

  24. The basic premise on which this article is based is popular but false. It is a falsehood that has been spread by kill shelters. It is there there is a difference between “open admission” and “No Kill.”

    This viewpoint ignores the fact that there are hundreds of open admission No Kill shelters.

    This is a falsehood that gives comfort to kill shelters, because it, in effect, says to them, “its OK, keep killing, because you have to.” But that is not true.

    The thing that separates shelters that kill from shelters that don’t is the robust implementation of 11 programs that end the killing. Fail to implement them well and killing is the result.

    See details about these programs here:!about-the-nke/c1n1i

    In this day and age there is no excuse for shelters that DON”T implement these efforts and that continue killing, no matter how much people try to invent them.

    • Mike Fry, very well written. I agree 100% with what you have stated. I ran a shelter for one month (I was terminated after being told “It’s just not working out) and raised the safe rate from 40% to 96% doing exactly what you have pointed out but since we have an active leash law for cats, I had to resort to a “working cat/barn yard cat” program for the only two true feral cats that did come in the shelter. That months, we only euthanized one dog and four cats due to medical reasons. The annual intake of this shelter is approx. 1,300 with a population of 33,000.

    • Mike, thank you for your comment. However, I think you misunderstood: I stated that kill shelters are open admission – not the other way around. This was not an article about no-kill versus kill, limited admission vs. open admission. It is an article about the role of the public in generating a need for shelters in the first place. I have written a follow-up that touches on the rather heated dialogue that tends to take place between those who have already achieved no-kill and those still struggling:

    • If you feel that way, volunteer and help kill shelters,advise others to do the same. Thank you for what you do.

  25. Thank you for this article. I don’t think I have encountered as glaring examples of cognitive dissonance (and ways that people try to deal with it) as I have in dog rescue. Dumpers can always explain to themselves why they dump their pets, anti-spay/neuter people can always explain to themselves why they refuse to have their pets altered, people already involved in rescue in some form can explain to themselves why they still went ahead and bought JUST that one puppy, faceless couch warriors sitting behind their computers not actually doing anything can explain to themselves why they’re very important and know everything about rescue/animal sheltering better than those who do it every day… The list goes on and on.
    I think that this is what’s hindering our efforts more than anything: people refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Everyone has excuses and it’s always the animals that suffer. Or, in Dr. Z’s case a human being who actually did try and DO. May she rest in peace…

  26. Nicely written. These were many of my thoughts when I spent a lot of time at the humane society early in my career. I was put in the position of “choosing” several times. I’ll never forget when the shelter was full and 30 chihuahuas were obtained from one household…none of them were housetrained and most were fearbiters. I knew in time and with the right people those issues could be turned around. Time, people, and money were what we were short of–working hard to home the ones we already had. I learned from my time there and hope that others learn from you speaking out in such an eloquent way.

  27. Well said; I couldn’t agree more.

  28. Thank you for writing this. I foster (primarily medical) for our county’s kill shelter. One of my fosters was put down this week and one I’d offer to foster later this summer (I have family commitments precluding earlier foster) was also euthanized due to his heartworms winning the battle. Rough week. I try not to feel personally responsible but of course I do (I did not make the decisions and had advocated for both but..). Hard choices were made and while I understand, my heart breaks just a little each time there is less than a fairy tale ending. Thank you for pointing to the society which forces these no win calls.

  29. Mike Fry… I’m sorry but you are the one that has been misled. It is impossible to be open admission and no kill at the same time. So much has been done to help unwanted pets in the last 10 yrs, such as the TNR, save 90%, fostering and rescue programs, but don’t delude yourself and others to what is still happening in this world. Most shelters ARE trying to save as many as possible, and there are true non kills out there, but they are non profits and ARE NOT open admission. Please tell me ONE SINGLE open admission shelter that is truly no kill, does not euthanize ANY animal that’s not too sick or very dangerous. Also, when you try and incorporate the save 90, and beuarocrats and the public put pressure on to do so, then you create other problems like adopting out aggressive dogs and cats, adopting to people that can’t really afford a pet, and so on. It is a vicious unfortunate cycle that the ONLY people that really have to deal with are the incredible, loving care takers. More definitely has to be done, but you are spreading false info here. And God bless all of the incredible people that give all of their love to these defenseless creatures, to those that continue to press on, even when their hearts are broken daily.

    • Let’s clarify some terms. No Kill simply means you do not kill healthy and treatable animals. The term euthanasia also is clearly defined as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured animals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”.
      There are hundreds of municipal open admission No Kill shelters across the country with Austin, TX as the largest.
      Watch Ryan Clinton giving his famous 3 min speech to the Austin City Council:

    • Deana, Simply not true. There ae a myriad of examples. For one I can personally witnessed: in Colorado, there was a terrible open admission shelter until the day a new director was hired. This shelter killed half the cats and a third of the dogs it took in. It changed literally overnight. OVERNIGHT> And has not killed a healthy treatable pet since that day. Consistent 97+% save rate. Plenty more where that came from and growing each week. You cannot say it is impossible if it exists.

  30. This blog is filled with dated information and full of myths. It describes “old thinking” animal sheltering and has nothing to do with best practices or how modern shelter is done. There is no reason that open admission shelters can’t be no kill, unless they choose not to institute best practice. Forty percent of Michigan counties are no kill. They all have open admission shelters.

    • What do you do with all the pit bulls and feral cats?

        • How?

          • Feral cats are really not that complicated. TNR has been wildly successful. There is o reason to kill a cat that is already living on its own successfully. Pit bulls are just dogs. Like any other dog. In addition to their not being a breed called pit bull in the first place, many dogs identified as such often are not the few breeds commonly put into that category. I highly recommend people with questions about pit bulls go to and people just looking for why and how we should save every healthy treatable pet go to And read all the publication both sites have available.

    • Deborah, thank you for your comment; however, I think you misunderstood. I stated that kill shelters are open admission – not the other way around. While this comment section certainly snaked off into no-kill vs. kill, this article focused on the public’s role and responsibility in sheltering.

  31. In DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland, Lower Pennsylvania they are starting TNR for cats. There are still a lot of cats. There is an issue with small animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice gerbils and more) but it is getting better (knock on wood). The issue with dogs is old sick dogs and dogs with behavior problems like you said but mostly is is the over breeding and surrendering of fighting breed dogs (pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, Cane Corsos, and more and mixes of these breeds). The shelters are over flowing with them and most people are not interested in adopting fighting breeds. This happens so much that shelters and rescues lie and call them boxer mix, lab mix, terrier mix just to get them adopted which is dangerous because if the person doesn’t know they have a power breed and how to take care of and train one it can be dangerous. If a mutt or a collie or poodle or what ever come in unless they are really old people are fighting over them and even if they are are old they usually get placed in rescue. I feel if we could get to the owners of bully breeds (for lack of a better word) and get them to spay/neuter a huge part of the problem in this area would be solved and it would also greatly reduce the dog attack problem also.

  32. II had an epiphany this afternoon. I have never bought a pet. All my pets have been rescues from shelters and they have all added more to my life than I could have ever hoped for. I used to think that “no kill” shelters were the way to go but now I see that if you pull from a high kill shelter the lives you save are no less valuable. THE ALL need a home. I am trying to start my own rescue but it has been extremely difficult (all but impossible) to find fosters. I am devoted to an amazing shelter in TN that works terribly hard to save the lives of these precious souls. This shelter does have to euthanize at times due to overcrowding but just like the article says, its not the workers or volunteers who have failed these dogs…It is the ignorant idiocy of the general public (of course excluding the true animal lovers) who have failed them. They refuse to spay or neuter, can’t be bothered if an issue develops. God forbid they take any responsibility for the animal…no it’s just sooo much easier for them to abandon them somewhere or turn them in to a shelter so they can be “someone elses problem” Shame on them!
    There were many great comments but my favorite was the person who said she’d love nothing more than to charge the person surrendering an animal with the responsibility of chosing the animal that should die in its place. Well kudos to that person…They should make that a law!! I say euthanize the idiots and save the animals!!!

  33. Why does my county charge $250.00 for an adoption, kitte, cat, dog, puppy, male female and yet to those on welfare they can adopt at no cost up to nine animals? Now call me daft if you will but how is it one can’t feed their children but can buy animal food? Another misnomer?

    • Linda, Giving up to 9 animals to people on welfare is one of the big problems whey there are so many stray animals on the street. I grew up in a time when there was commons sense, honor, decency and that is all gone. Our government is all screwed up and does nothing for the people that support it. I see in california they are paying people that are in a gang, $1,000 a month if they promise not to make problems.. WTF. How do I join a gang, I could use the money. But coming back to reality. If you want to help make a change, go to the city and country meetings to see the people that are involved in your local government. Write to or meet with commissioners too see if changes can be made. I was brought up that if you could not afford it, you did not have it. If you can not afford a pet, you should not have it.. Giving them a free pet is great entertainment for them. Everybody loves a new pet. But with the mentality that they have. When they tire of it , it pees on the floor or chews up something they throw it out and go get another one. It breaks the monotony for them. They have no values, or commitment to the animals that cost them nothing.. It is a lot of work, but we have to start some place. Sad to say, that our government is corrupt and screwed up, so it is an endless uphill battle. I also see where they want to give all illegals a drivers license, because they will then go out and get insurance for the cars they drive to make it better for us. The stupidity of government is endless and my wife tells me not to talk politics as I get very foul mouth. God Bless those that help the animals that can not help themselves. The more I work with people… The more I Love the Animals

      • Thanks for suggesting that people get more involved with local government. Look at your town’s animal shelter budget. (proposed in Sept, adopted in Nov) How much are they spending for S/N? advertising? education?
        Are programs advocated by No Kill being funded?
        If not, speak up!

    • I have no answer for that, but I hope you adopt from there anyway. Those animals need you. Also, ask if the fee includes shots, spay neuter, any supplies, coupons? Maybe not the last two,but at Petsmart, and Petco, the no kill rescues there yoffe all of that. It helps. Compare prices of getting a free animal, and having to pay all of this yourself. I hope you adopt from that shelter.

  34. There are so many wonderful people out there struggling, juggling to help the unwanted abandoned souls. If these idiots would open their eyes…. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NO KILL SHELTER… no shelter can take every animal in. We know what happens when people do this in their homes!!
    My feeling is put up or shut up. Do-gooders are nit-picking at our local shelters because all is not a perfect situation… asked to help….they don’t have time! Help with funds to right the problems… can’t give at the moment. Yes, I’ve heard it all!

    • Thank You Valerie for being one of the few that knows the reality of animal rescue and fostering. Been at it for over 45 years and it has always been 24/7. Ran two shelters for over 25 years. We never got paid, we fed all the fosters the same good food our animals ate, as the food donated by those that think they are doing the animals a favor buy the cheap shit that is great for pig food.. They also do not realize when you foster more than 5 to 10 at a time, what comes off the street is not perfect.. The opposite many times, as that is why so many were dumped. Many people that write in do not have a clue what it is all about.. And you are so right about the No Kill shelters. It is all about the money as they hoard animals that many times would not make good pets. But the sad thing is the hundreds and thousands that are turned away to be put to sleep by Animal Control. They also get rid of animals by giving them to the volunteers, who do the dirty work. There is no such thing as a bad dog or cat for that matter….. Just shitty owners

    • Except that there are Open Admission No Kill shelters. I am not sure why this is such a pervasive myth. I am somebody that helped turn one such shelter around. First, by exposing the regressive practices of the shelter. Then, once a good director that did not want to kill healthy treatable pets was hired, the shelter stopped killing. And yes it was hard. But the community pitched in. New volunteers sprung up and the staff either left if they could not work in the paradigm, or change, happily to start saving lives. But they did it and are still open admission and not killing any healthy treatable pet since he walked in the door over a year ago. Sometimes they get full. they always work with people surrendering to see if they can get them to keep their pet (they have a food bank, have helped with medical costs, training). It is hard, it is a fight, but don’t say it is impossible if it already exists. It saves lives.

  35. I have been volunteered thousands of hours at LA City Harbor Animal Shelter over the past five years. Reading this was very emotional for me. Not sure why as I already know the content but I have never felt so validated. I had to read it twice and no doubt I’ll be reading it many times. I do know that I will be finding creative ways to share your letter in my community… Thank you so much Heather, I am so grateful to you. Feeling nothing will change, I have had one foot out the door of the shelter this past year so I can do real community outreach work.

  36. Very good read. When ppl have issues in terms of vet bills. Which crop up and yes monies should be set aside for it. BUT when it happens and one doesnt have the extra at that given time. They have taken care of all vet bills and care for 6/7 yrs… When one falls on a hard time for a spell, we should discount them, speak ill of them when all they want to do is care for their beloved pet(s). Vets should allow payments in certain circumstances. That way you wouldn’t have shelters as full! That way pets can stay with those who do love them. Think about that for a while chew on that. I know, I worked for a vet for a few yrs. So the new vets today have soo many expenses they can’t afford to do that, I say bs! I’ve heard them behind the scenes, the desks. They only care about their own purse strings. Not all, but a lot. Sad really.

    • Going to vet school is very expensive. Who pays for the education? The vet offices are filled with equipment, rent has to be paid, salaries paid. The average pay for a vet is around $100,000, half of a human doctor and the same as a physician’s assistant — the average debt for a vet student once they graduate is $150,000 — that is what they have to pay back, interest accruing annually. You call bs on an average of $150,000 debt? Less than 10 percent graduate with no debt. No I am not a vet, I volunteer for a rescue, and I foster.

  37. Oh, I’ve made many, many donations to shelters throughout the yrs. No one cares that I’ve seen. Also very sad.

  38. Several years ago, my family moved from the Houston area to central CT. Our dog was in a kennel while we hunted for a house. We got a call one day from the kennel that our sweet dog had to be rushed to a vet’s office because she had suffered a convulsion. We run to the vet’s clinic & find out that she is fine & has already pulled the IV out. With enormous relief, I look around the room. The aluminum cages are filled with kittens. Being a life long animal person, I know that this is unusual. I inquire about it & find out that the vet does not want kittens euthanized. I am thrilled by this man’s attitude. Once we found our house & moved in, we went back to this wonderful vet & adopted two kittens. Our dog loved them until the day she died. They helped raise our Lab puppy & we still enjoy their company since moving back down south. We love our Windsor, CT ladies! ❤️

  39. Love the article! I work at an adoption center for dogs and cats. We pull 95% of our animals from small municipal shelters across Texas that euthanize for space related reasons. When we have the space and funding, we have been able to help extreme cases like hoarding or dog fighting busts. I’m proud of where I work and love what I do! 🙂 I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Scrolling through the comments, I had to stop reading though. I think a dose of more compassion for our fellow animal welfare advocates would help. We’re all in this together, with our different roles. I definitely have my opinions and disagree with people, but that’s life. We all endure the heartbreak and dream about our work, if we can even sleep some nights. Obviously we love animals, but find some empathy for your fellow humans too 🙂

    • Christi, thank you for your comment and thank you for the work you do. I agree – there is a great need for more compassion and cooperation from animal welfare advocates. After reading many, many contentious comments, I have written a follow-up post that addresses exactly what you touched on:

  40. I say close down the awful kill shelter they don’t even check there emails that the dog there killing had an adopter

    • Great idea Cher, Close down all the kill shelters. And what happens to all the stay and unwanted animals in the area ?? The shelters are at least making an effort to help. Shelters are not the problem, it is the senseless breeding and the dumping of unwanted animals.. Put your effort into trying to get mandatory spay and neuter put into effect and have he city and county prosecute those that abuse and dump animals… I hated the fact the the two shelters that I ran for about 25 years had to put animals down.. But we placed thousands of animals into loving homes. I did not enjoy seeing God’s creatures put to sleep but at least I was helping many of them…

  41. I think we all need a refresher. We all have to admit when we look back at our lives before we became involved in animals and rescue we were as clueless as the general public. Prior to becoming involved with a very special shelter in TN I was clueless also. I learned what goes on in shelters and rescues. The pain that volunteers and shelter workers go through everyday of there lives. I know the people who cry everyday on the way home from work. We are all “experts” on the subject and our experiences. But it is still the general public that are ignorant of what really happens in this segment of the community. And they are the ones that will have to change it. They don’t want to know what really happens in animal rescue. It hurts. Its ugly and they do not want to deal with it and they do not have to. I am a firm believer that until the general public have the experience of shelters and shelter life, only dents will be made in solving the problems by groups like all the ones above. I believe that until the people in our communities experience a shelter nothing will really change. I also think it would be nice for everyone to have to spend a week in a shelter or rescue. But there stands the question. How can this be done. Mandatory. Suggestions? Everyone with a traffic ticket must do probation in the animal shelter. Make it a requirement to get your drivers license renewed. Proof that you spent a week in a shelter gives your a credit on your taxes. Weird ideas? but there could be many more. There must be some way to make the community aware and until the community is aware and puts it upon themselves to change things, its not ever really going to change. Its an emotional and moral experience to spend time, hands on, at a shelter, rescue, transport or foster. But I believe it must be experienced to make a difference. But how?

  42. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this piece. I’ve lived this life. I was a kennel manager at a open admission shelter that housed over 300 animals at a given time. We weren’t always so overwhelmed, but those days were the absolute worst of all. We had a strong crew and stuck together and talked often of what decisions were made and why, so everyone understood. It’s really hard to compete with “no kill rescues” that easily shut their doors the moment they reach capacity, while we are required to continue take every animal in and provide shelter and waiting periods and then have those same rescues bad mouth you in the press and condemn you every chance they get. Some were awesome and saved many animals from our shelter and drove hundreds of miles to these animals, but our own local local rescues treated us like pariah. It was a really, really hard job, but for all the all the animals I comforted, all the skin infections, ear hematomas, cases of kennel cough and feline upper respiratory infection that we cured, all the loving forever homes we found, it was best the job I ever had. It doesn’t matter to me if all they remember was our kill numbers, I remember the love in their eyes. I cried with every death and soothed them to the end, if no one could love them forever, at least I could offer them love at the end, a warm blanket and my arms around them. Thank you for acknowledging that the job is impossible if you don’t love animals and twice as because you do.

  43. The tragic event of Jian Zhicheng taking her own life after the death of hundreds of healthy treatable pets by her hand should not be misconstrued. People’s commentary to her were undoubtedly painful. But do you think for one moment she was not more affected by killing those pets? She was led to believe she had to. We, as humans, have been embraced the act of killing pets for over a hundred years for our convenience. Make no mistake, there is no other reason.
    The policy of the Taiwanese shelter she worked at may have placed her in a no win scenario. She may have been led to believe she had no choice. But I sincerely doubt, if she was someone that cared about homeless pets, that correspondence from people defending homeless pets was the greatest source of her despair. It was the act of killing that she performed hundreds of times. That is not something a person with compassion can perform for long without consequences.
    To credit people’s criticism is to give them far more credit than they deserve and is offensive to Jian Zhicheng’s memory. The core of her despair was knowing she killed hundreds healthy treatable pets she knew should not be killed. That would be true to anyone who values the live of homeless pets. You can point to those people, but I would confidently argue the horror of killing those pets was what led to her to the tragic decision.
    No, the tragedy of Jian Zhicheng is not critics of kill shelters, the tragedy is that her shelter is part of a system that places humans in a terrifying position of believing killing a healthy treatable pet is a humane act. It isn’t, should never feel that way, and should be resisted each and every time.
    There is an erroneous assumption that No Kill shelters cannot be open admission. It’s simply not true. In the US alone, there are hundreds and growing at an encouraging rate. What needs to be spread is what is possible, and what is possible is saving every healthy treatable pet. If that is not the goal, more pets will die needlessly, and more people will be emotionally savaged by the actions they are influenced to perform for “humane” reasons.
    I was part of a group of individuals that found an open admission public shelter killing half of the cats and a third of the dogs entering the shelter annually for decades. When confronted to change, the primary defense was that they were open admission. After a 2-year battle to facilitate change at the shelter, a new, compassionate leader was brought in to take over the facility. That shelter has been saving over 97% of all animals it takes in since the day the new director took over. They have not killed a single healthy treatable homeless pet. They are still open admission.
    I believe the critics may have been misinterpreting Jian Zhicheng as the problem. What they needed to do was target a system that puts compassionate people in a position where they come to believe that killing a homeless pet is justified. Do not discount the pain Jian Zhicheng went through. She was dealing with performing a heinous act every day and she knew, as all compassionate people do, in her heart was wrong.
    We cannot let the status quo tell us killing is a necessity. That is just throwing our hands up and saying “there is nothing we can do about it”. There is something we can do about it. In fact, there are 11 things we can do about it. And as each new shelter and community embrace it, we get one more step closer to a world that does not allow a compassionate person like Jian Zhicheng to end her life tragically because of the inhumane acts she was positioned to perform.

  44. I managed an open admission shelter for 6 years. Your words ring so true. I got so tired of friends and family saying “you love animals, how can you kill them?”. Thank you for this post and for the commenters who offered practical solutions.

  45. Well said.
    On the other side of the coin, I know of half-a-dozen no-kill rescue groups in my city where they will spend hundreds of dollars on one very sick cat or dog because, unfortunately, they don’t want to make the HARD decision to euthanize the sick cat or dog and spend the money on dozens of other dogs & cats.
    And so the cats & dogs they can’t afford to rescue get shunted into the city’s open-admission, kill shelter.
    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

  46. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the ultimate goal should be to put shelters out of business completely. This will take strong leadership and support of the community. I am a practicing veterinarian and I like to think that I do what I can (discounted rates for desexing feral cats, accepting vouchers from shelters for desexing, working with rescue organizations as well as giving them huge discounts, etc) however regardless of all the spay/neuter clinics that I have worked for, their is an endless flow of homeless, unwanted pets. This article hits the problem head on. In my mind, shelters that go ‘non-kill’ do so because they are crap at adopting out animals so it is easier to become ‘non-kill’ and turn away animals. Thank you again for writing this article.

    • To Bethany Horn in regard to No Kill shelters. Most shelters become no kill as there is grant money and other funding available for them.. Very little money comes into shelters that put animals to sleep. The sad thing is that no kill shelters do have a lot of animals put down, but they are given to the volunteers that take them away and no one knows that the animals are not going into loving homes. As mentioned in what I wrote, I talked to a guy that had just gotten a dog from the local no kill shelter and it had been caged there for over 5 years. And while that cage was occupied for 5 years, think how many placeable animals were sent to Animal Control to be put down. Mandatory spay and neuter like they have in Germany is the only answer to stop the senseless killing of God’s creatures. People also need to put pressure on local government officials to shut down puppy mills. MOST are filthy and and cruel to the animals they keep. God Bless all those people that take the time to help those animals that can not help themselves.. Foster a stray animal or two. If you can not Foster, Volunteer at a shelter that is actually doing the work of helping animals. If you do not have time to Foster, Support a shelter with donations of Good Food, things they need and money to operate on. Sending out animals stories on the net is also a great way to raise awareness to the plight of these wonderful creatures that ask for nothing but give Love and Devotion to those that will take the time to help them.

      • It would be wonderful if we could have a mandatory/spay neuter law in the US — but in numerous municipalities that has been proposed and not supported. Some people in the US think that they do not want the government to interfere with their rights, and what they do with their property (pets) is none of the government’s business. Germany is more highly regulated in many ways than the US — there is even a law as to the minimum vacation time a worker has to receive — there is no such law in the US. The mentality here in the US has to change and that is a long battle.

  47. In my community, there is something worse than the taxpayer-funded open admissions shelter. When the no-kill shelters are full, when the private humane society charges for intake and the people don’t want to pay to leave a pet, the open admissions shelter takes in animals at no charge. Despite this option, some people still dump unwanted animals, especially cats, off in the desert to fend for themselves. Given the desert heat, lack of water and food as well as the numbers of coyote and bobcats around town, this is a much worse fate.

  48. I know Austin is held up as the pinnacle of “open admissions, no kill.” But Austin isn’t exactly open admissions. Intake is by appointment only. And yes they implemented counseling and extra services for pet owners, but intake was cut in HALF. Other cities that have extra services haven’t been able to cut intake in HALF. It seems to me that making it difficult to surrender pets reduces intake more than anything else. Austin doesn’t even accept healthy cats, they turn you away.

    My other concern with the number juggling it takes to get to the 90% live release number – its not clear to me what organizations Austin works with or if there is any restrictions on which groups can pull from the municipal shelter.

    In my city, intake is more than 30,000 animals annually. There are open intake hours even though owners are informed of alternatives, offered low cost medical care and told there is a good chance their pet will be euthanized – there are still LOTS of dogs and cats coming in daily.

    Also the municipal shelter, for better or worse, limits the number of rescues they transfer and discharge to (the so called “collaboration” model.) BUT all those rescues are vetted and audited. They have to have procedures in place for screening fosters and have updates on all their animals. Many of them don’t have facilities, but if they do – those have to be kept track of too.

    As is Austin is drowning in unwanted pets. Neighborhoods are overrun with strays left to starve or be hit by cars or die of exposure. And even with intake by appointment the no-kill shelter is so overcrowded that most animals don’t even get minutes of interaction with humans everyday. This has led to poorly place unsocialized and amazingly unfixed animals being “adopted out” to god knows who, god knows where.

    I have loved and lost many animals. I recently got some cross eyed looks for adopting a 15 year old cat in the early stages of kidney failure (I had personal reasons for doing it – but the shelter’s rescue partner and their vet thought my space at the inn could have gone to a more ‘deserving’ animal.) Having seen both sides of the issue, I still believe that ‘no kill’ is a fallacy. Its hard to believe that Austin, in the course of a couple of months, changed the culture SO MUCH that people stopped going to breeders and pet stores and so many more animals at the city shelter found loving homes. The math doesn’t add it. Something else had to give. And more than likely animals are living terrible lives and expericing painful deaths because of the push to attain an arbitrary number of 90% live release.

    Can no kill happen? Yes, but it won’t be in matter of months. And it will take not just posters and TV ads, but actual governement intervention such as: high costs of entry for breeders such as expensive licensing and capital requirements to make sure the profit from dog breeding is negative or minimal. Or that dog breeding permits only be issued to non-profits without beneficial ownership. Or heavy fines for being found with an unfixed dog. Once the replacement rate for the current GOOD pet homes is stabile or even negative, then no kill is possible. But until that day, GOOD high quality no kill is difficult. And where it IS done, I would venture a guess that its because the replacement rate in that geographic area from all sources is stable or negative.

    Until then, I keep fostering. I KNOW my animals are in amazing hands with the best diets, vet care, enrichment, love and my presence as a compassionate witness at the final visits when there are no more treatments that can keep an animal comfortable. That is what I can do.

  49. It’s very nicecto read such a well written article and see the comments of many intelligent people, but im disappointed shouldn’t there have been mention of the rendering plants, mant shelters have contracts in many states, and there is profit made by using these facilities, processing of dead dogs and cats into products of dog food, cat food, fish food and also the selling of by products of this process to soap and cosmetic companies, to kill a healthy adoptable animal is indeed wrong, criminal, but also until the public truly understands, until advocates truly unite, the machine keeps killing, but thank you everyone for taking time to comment and also forvthe article, it’s not a easy solution but one that can be accomplished and changed

    • Does this still go on? I thought it was illegal now, and this happened in the 1950s.

  50. Great article!! You are very articulate and spot on! Thank you!

  51. It is after 1 am and it took be just about an hour to type this off the top of my head… I tried to spell most of the words correctly but it may be a
    bit jumbled here and there… Take it for what it is …My two cents…

    Just surfing the net and came across your site. Have not read it all and as it is past midnight, I will put the cart before the horse and I will add my two cents for what it is worth.. Been there and Done it.. Have the T shirts to prove it. The wife and I have done animal rescue for over 45 years. Ran a shelter in Michigan for over 14 years and I was president of the local Humane Society for over 8 years. All volunteer and no food or gas allowance.. We also fed the rescue animals in our home the premium food that we wed ours.. No soy bean or corn. I am typing this off the top of my head so it might be a bit helter skelter, but I will make the comments as they come to mind.. You might not agree with my thoughts but then there are a lot of things in this country that I do not agree with and there is little we can do about that. We have gone past the point of no return.

    Got involved with a sort of rescue group in Michigan.. Some old ladies taking in animals from the street. Very little organization. Got involved and took over. Made news letter, fund raisers ect ect.. No kennel.. all he animals were in holding homes and we showed what we had once a week. We became the largest holding home and took in all the big dogs, (Shepherds, Collies, Great Danes, Afghan Hounds ect).. We did our own shots, stool checks, and we had Parvoe in the house two times where we injected the fluid under the skin to keep them alive.. We made it work and today it is a great working organization. Sick and NON placable animals were put to sleep, but keep in mind that all these animals off the street were living with us.. We always had 9 to 15.. The numbers rose with puppies and most females we took off the street were pregnant. We had NO funding other than the donations and placements.. We made NO money on the placements. I was in Germany several times and they do not have a stray problem over there… Mandatory spay and neuter. Could use it for non thinking people as well. NO unmarried woman without a father should have more than one child. Don’t like that??? TS.

    The sad thing was when we left the working organizations the cat people took over.. They sued the organization and took half the money to open a cat rescue and the organization still took in cats and dogs.. Not to offend.. BUT for some reason when you have total cat people, there are problem. I was a dog person per se, but I love all animals.. I am still a dog person and have 5 cats in the house. Trapped some, found a kitten just a week old and had them fixed…Keep them confined till the stiches heal.. That was two years ago.. Cats do not belong on the street. They are domesticated and belong IN you’re your house.

    Went to Florida to take care of mom and dad with medical problems.. After 14 years of 24/7 animals we were burned out. Came down with 4 dogs. (rescues that became permanent) The president of the local Humane Society kept making contact as he found out that we ran a functioning Animal Shelter for over 14 years… They needed help as they were all screwed up… Not unorganized.. NO organizations,, misappropriation of funds.. and hording feral cats on the top of the list, as well as crazy dogs. Animal Control was located next door. We did not want anything to do with them as we had our hands full with taking care of mom and dad.. Full time job. Pleas help, give us some insight, what can we do?????? Come to the meeting and enlighten us… Well I gave in for the animals and attended a meeting and I was president for over 8 years… What a mess that was… Every cat cage was full of feral cats. Bloody noses and all beat up just from hitting the sides of the care any time you would feed and water them… The dog cages full mix breed cur dogs that were nuts..Hunting dogs that had been in cages for months and years… The check book was not taken care of by the Treasurer.. the Shelter Manager had that and in looking at what paper work they had the money was going out but not for the animals. As all the cat cages were full of feral cats.. Good cats that were housebroken, fixed and peaceable were sent next door to Animal Control to be put to sleep. The same for dogs.. Dogs that came out of a functioning household were also sent next door. NOW we were not a no kill shelter… I have only been doing rescue work for over 45 years and I can tell you … There is NO such thing as a working NO KILL shelter… You CAN NOT take in everything that comes along and run a no kill shelter. People complained about us putting animals down… YOU tell me what I am going to do with the animals that I do not have room for.. If you run it as an operational business… then you have to have rules and guide lines…. We started to place animals by being selective.. You do not like the word selective.. What would you do ???? I would go to Okeechobee Animal Control every week and some times with my van, I would make two trips and they would give me every small dog that they had.. and we would place them. That was on my own time with my own gas… At least we were relocating a lot of animals into loving homes…Lots of them… It is the numbers that count… We had major fund raisers as we got NO money from the city, state of the National Humane Society.. They are a mullti million dollar joke when it comes to the relocation of animals.. They take in Millions and Millions and more than 95 per cent of what they take in goes to wages and entertainment ….As well as advertising for more money. The over 8 years I spent there could cover another 10 pages, but I will keep it short. The sad part is that some animals have to be put to sleep and it kills me to think about it.. BUT until laws are made for mandatory spay and neuter, nothing will change… We went into the schools to educate the SMALL children.. Teens and Adults, you can not educate.. The people that love the animals will continue to Love them and the stupid breeders and abusers will continue doing their thing and they will not change.. Child molester, women and animals abusers DO NOT change EVER. We did take a lot of the animals into the Homes for the Elderly and Assisted Living Centers and schools.. That is before the government stepped in and screwed that up… It is a longer story but I will just say, that we were paying the bills and moving a lot of cats dogs, chickens, ducks, ferrets and you name it… Most of the odd ball critters came to my house. I had the room for the outside animals and the pond for the ducks. Sad to say, the first time I left, the people I left in change found out is was work and never came back and then it worked out well for a time until the cat people took over and it became a no kill shelter. Now as when I took it over the cages are filled with non place able animals and the good stuff goes next door to Animal Control to be put to sleep.. Talked to a guy the other day that got a dog and it had been there for 5 years… OH and when people come in for some of the small breed dogs they are told that they are not up for adoption as they are going to the rescue group for that breed… The sad thing is.. I am either in it for 100 per cent or not at all.. AND sad to say… I can not work with the kind of people that are in there now… God Bless all the animals especially those that are looking for a Loving home. The more I work with people… The more I Love the Animals.. john

    • I am in the process of writing some of the stories of the 45 years that Linda and I have been doing rescue… Some of them are on my facebook if you care to look at them and I would be more than happy to share other thoughts on Rescue and Fostering or any other topic that I have knowledge on. Linda also worked for about 5 years at an Animal Emergency Clinic…Make it a Nice Day.. john

      • I have a comment to make . That may not be well received but us the truth. I started volunteering as a foster for a local rescue last year and was thrilled to be able to help and felt like I was making a difference however I am now jaded by the rescue/ adootion process. One of the dogs I fostered I decided I would like to adopt. I was refused because I didn’t measure up to the rescues guidelines,they felt I didn’t have the money to adopt her I have 2 other dogs ,both spayed and neutered and up to date on their medical. They have never been without medical care, I feed high quality dog food and what gets me the most …I qualified to foster dogs. How can I qualify to foster but not adopt? Bottom line ,I think if these rescues cared more about placing these dogs in good living homes and thought less about money and did not make it so difficult adopt maybe there would be more dogs saved and less euthanized . Or these potential adopters wouldn’t get disgusted with being turned down and go on to buy dogs from pet stores and back yard breeders thus supporting them instead of the rescues. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for listening.

        • Allison,,, I will come right out and say, do not let this one experience sour you from helping the animals… BUT I will also tell you that the reason that Linda and I left both the shelters that we ran.. One for 14 years and one for 8 years… It was because of the shitty people that you have to deal with. For over 25 years we ran two shelters… WE were volunteers with no gas, or phone allowance and we fed our foster animals with real food that our dogs got not the cheap shit that is donated. It was the people that drove us away… You can only put up with it for so long. Keep in mind that there are good shelters and bad shelter… Find one that is there for the animals and not for the glory or what they can steal in food, medical supplies and money. I am writing a book about our 45 years of rescue and to this day, my favorite comment is … The more I work with people.. The more I Love the Animals.. As my kids (50 years old) would say…. People suck. The attitude of people is not what it use to be… There is no common sense, respect, honesty, courtesy, decency ect ect. It is not taught any more. But in spite of it all,,, I still pick up strays and foster… But I do it on my terms… The last shelter that I ran for over 8 years, had the title of a Humane Society and after I left they became NO KILL, for the Grants and money available. After they became NO KILL and the cages were full , they would not take in anything and sent all the good animals that needed relocation to Animal Control to be put to sleep.. And special animals that were place able, were sold to Rescue Organizations rather than placing them into good Loving Homes locally… They had money problems and I always said it was not a money problem… but a money management problem… Do not give up on helping God’s wonderful creatures that ask for nothing and give Love and Devotion. I know it is easy for me to say to forget about the shitty treatment as I do not forgive or forget ignorance and stupidity and you will find a lot of it these days… Make it a Great Day, Always put the animals first… Devote your life to the animals and not to an organization that go though the motion for other reasons.

    • Thank you for what you do and did.

  52. Thank you for your article. We are shelter investigators and hold animal control facilities accountable for their crimes behind the walls of same. The very very first thing we analyze is the ATTITUDE of the shelter director. We carefully assess their goals, mission, history and their plan. If a shelter director is what we call “forward thinking” with a positive attitude, we will work with that facility to enable them to achieve True No Kill. If the shelter director and the staff have no desire and little effort has been expended in this direction, then unfortunately they are then branded a kill pound. A forward thinking shelter director will be appearing at the local council meetings with elected officials. They will be in the news making announcements that they need help. They will host adoption events and fundraisers, actively seeking fosters. They will beg and plead for the public’s assistance and actively engage their community. Otherwise one may be looking at a “petapuff” square in the face. What you miss completely in your assessment is that there are people in the world that wish to retain their right to kill dogs and cats. They may be simply shelter insiders that wish to increase their bottomline or petapuffs as mentioned who seek to exterminate dogs and cats completely. So it is a bit more complex than blaming the public. Our mantra is NEVER BLAME SOCIETY FOR GOVERNMENT CRIMES. That being said, the public that we engage should not tolerate animal felony abuse behind the walls of the kill pound. Thank you again for advocating for these precious babies.

  53. I have been on every side of this issue. I do not feel this article is well written, I feel YOU are the problem. Let me outline it for you though, bc I am not being rude with that comment.

    I have been a volunteer, and I have been an adopter, and I have been the person bringing in wounded animals that aren’t mine and paying for the costs, sometimes willingly, sometimes bc the shelter decided since I helped the animal I was responsible when at the time I had my own financial woes.

    You wrote an article attacking the people who come to adopt, making it seem like wanting certain things makes them selfish. If they want a fluffy dog, and pass all the none fluffy ones, it makes them the problem? Wanting a dog that is already trained makes the adopter the problem? No, it doesn’t. Maybe the fluffiness of the dog makes them love it more, less likely to bring it back. Should humans work this way, idk, but we do. We like certain things. The people looking for a trained dog, they want to adopt a shelter dog. Their heart is in the right place, but maybe they know they don’t have the time to train the dog, or know they have no tolerance for an animal going in the house. They are the problem? No, they are realistic and know what will work for them personally to save an animal. Making people feel guilty and take any animal to save it is what causes them to be returned, and makes adoptees feel bullied.

    Then let’s look at the picture you paint of the examples of people who bring their animal in. You might scoff at people who bring an animal in bc it pees constantly in the house. Some animals just can’t be taught, or not by that person, and if that person finds themself resenting the animal, or caging it constantly bc of it, they should feel safe in bringing that animal in without being judged for not having a good enough reason to ‘abandon’ their pet. There are tons of people who don’t mind a pet going to the bathroom in the house, and there are a ton who do mind. But neither should be judged as good or bad for having the patience or lack of patience for that. The person bringing in a pet from a loved one who passed, they shouldn’t feel judged if they don’t like litter boxes themself or any other reason they don’t want that pet. The people moving, most times it is breaking their heart they have to leave their pet behind,usually it has to do with other factors they aren’t in control of, not bc they don’t have the time for a senior pet. But let’s take the example you used and say that is the reason, they don’t have time for the senior pet any longer. Maybe they now have jobs that they seriously don’t have the time for the senior pet, but without the jobs their family will be homeless, or the move is because the company changed locations and they can’t afford to buy so they rent and no animals are allowed. Or they are buying but the HOA says no pets.

    Why write an article villianizing any of these people? You are only making the huge expanse between adopters and shelters bigger by judgments made against pet owners who no longer find themself equipped to be that pets parent, it might be frustrating to see a pet brought in, as I know from experience it is, but you can’t pass judgement on the people for it, bc you don’t know what caused it.

    Let’s get into my last sentence, you can’t judge because you don’t know what caused it. First of all, people aren’t even in control of their own lives. Even when we are responsible and think our lives are in the right direction and set, life happens. What we thought we knew gets turned on us. So if we had a good job and a home, suddenly we could be jobless for any amount of reasons. Or the house we are buying could have an HOA already established that changes its rules on pets. Or if it was HOA free have one move in who then makes new rules. Or we could be a very responsible pet owner, and then suddenly have to take in our human relatives who need money and space and be forced to make a decision. People try, and with any pet brought in the person should be met with respect and told, “thank you for giving this pet a good home while you could, I’m sorry you found yourself here today, I know it isn’t easy.” Most times that pet owner will tear up and appreciate the human kindness you showed them. Instead there are articles like these, and shelter workers who say these things directly to the owners shaming them for not being able to be a pet parent any longer, and it makes the person feel overly judged in the harshest way, or bullied. This should not be happening ever, bc yes there are people who are constantly wanting the newest cutest pet, dumping the last for the new. Or people who never should have adopted to begin with. But for the most part, when a pet parent brings a pet in it isn’t bc that pet wasn’t valued, but bc human matters made it necessary, and the judgements make that person less likely to either support a shelter later down the road or endorse them. Shelters should be seen the way Peter wrote, as places to go to for help, guidance, acceptance.

    Don’t blame the person for not knowing what they were buying into but help them if you can and if not, graciously accept the animal and really pay attention to the animal’s quirks that caused it to be there. Don’t hide those quirks as many shelters do, and don’t write a description for that animal that in any way insults the previous owners. It isn’t cute to write “My parents didn’t want me anymore because I pee in the house” which is one example I’ve read many times from shelters trying to home a pet. And those are the only two ways I’ve ever seen a shelter handle it, either hiding the pets negative quirks or shaming the last owners, which isn’t a way to put your best foot forward. People will unconsciously pick up on that judgmental negativity and not come to see that pet. Instead it could be written “I have pottying in the house issues, so I need pet parents who don’t mind the extra clean up. I probably always will be like this, but I have a ton of love to give if my parents can accept my messiness”

    Now the other numerous issues that block adoptees from adopting besides the judgement of the workers. HOA’s. It is becoming more and more common for breeds of animals to be banned, sizes of animals to be banned, and amounts of animals to be banned. That could seem good because no hoarders, or backyard breeders, but it also limits the other potential good adopters. Especially for the breeds judged to be violent. But most HOA’s these days(at least in my area) allow a maximum of two pets, not two each but two period. I’ve found pet lovers who have a heart usually have 4-5 pets. That’s not a scientific quote, just what I’ve experienced as a volunteer and as a regular person. So for the people out there who would be good loving pet parents, you are losing room for 2-3 pets for each of these people.

    Renting. Idk about all the places I don’t live, but around here, if you rent, you usually aren’t even allowed one pet. The very few places that do allow it are way over priced, which limits the amount of available adopters.

    Pet expenses. The older woman who posted got blasted bc if she can’t afford the adoption fee then she can’t afford her pet and is selfish. Great judgment there guys. It’s true that if she’s on a restricted income she can’t afford to be a pet owner, but selfish? Calling her the problem? No. She has a heart, she has love to give. She’d probably spoil the animal rotten. She represents a huge portion of the people who would take every animal out of a shelter, there wouldn’t be an animal left behind. Maybe shelters should get more progressive. I agree it is a problem to have ppl with big hearts and small wallets adopting bc more than likely that animal will need medical attention they can’t afford. They also have a bigger chance of becoming even more cash poor in the future and to then have trouble with normal day to day expenses for that animal. But I don’t see shelters coming up with a solution to get those animals a home even with this portion of potential adopters. Instead they revert to “its all of you who are the problem.”

    Not all shelter workers are a good fit either. Too many play the judgmental blame game or contribute to the animals being brought in. I am a part of many groups that have to do with pets including rehoming sites. When pet owners try to solve the problem instead of making it the shelters issue in the rehoming groups, this one shelter employee constantly tells the pet owner not to rehoming their pet but bring it to the shelter. This article does outline the frustration a shelter goes through pretty well, and the constraints shelters try to work within. When a shelter volunteer constantly advertises for pets to be brought in rather than an owner do the work of finding and choosing a new family for their pet, it adds to the shelter’s already huge population. Shelter workers and volunteers need to be educated better to not contribute to the problem. Not saying all workers/volunteers are an issue, but as in all things, the ones needing education/training are louder than the rest and spread their message further.

    Also, we have a bad enough issue in the states with this, why in the world did we bring 250 something animals from China to add to our problem? Another example of workers with big hearts contributing to the problem.

    Hopefully even tho it was long, ppl on here took the time to read this. Bc this person wrote this article to call everyone else the problem. Usually on both sides of that front counter are ppl with big hearts, and both sides make mistakes that add to the problem bc of that big heart. Don’t shame the ppl you did on here. Kill shelters have made their own bad reputation, including through articles like this. This article is the biggest problem, bc its this very thing that causes the tensions and bad feelings in the general public. Shelters do NOT educate enough, instead they try everything to get an animal adopted, and dismiss the humans in the equation. Either a shelter makes it their mission to decide if you are an appropriate fit even with intrusive home visits or they just push animals on you lying about the animal or hiding its flaws or glare at you if you walk in looking for a certain something and don’t adopt who they feel deserve to be adopted.

    • I do understand some of your points, as I have taken in fosters that were surrendered because of eviction (one cat) or gone into a nursing home. I have compassion for those people. I have a little less compassion for the person that cannot afford to s/n their cat, and wants to adopt a large dog. Why? Because the rescue I volunteer for has had to spend thousands on cats with mammary cancer from not being spayed (there are numerous free and low cost options in the city). I see nothing wrong with someone wanting a particular type of dog — like a small fluffy. Trying to talk someone into adopting a large dog that needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation is not a good idea if the person wants a small lap dog — one of the biggest problems I see is people taking dogs that are inappropriate for their lifestyle. And I agree that no shelter or rescue should cover up the personality of any animal that is up for adoption. Some animals are not good with small children, some are more independent, and if one gets a bad match the chances are higher that the animals will be returned. But I think it is wrong to vilify all shelter workers and call them killers and murderers and that is what one sees on social media. The shelters and rescues are left to clean up the messes and mistakes made by people; some do it better than others. One issue I see with dogs is that there is a huge disconnect between what dogs are available in the local shelter (chis and pit bull type dogs) and what people want. That has to do with what backyard breeding is going on. My dad lives in the suburbs in a HOA (not fancy one, just your normal middle class) and most of the dogs I seen being walked are not from the shelter, as I have asked. They are purebreds, and the people could not find what they wanted. I have just asked out of curiosity. Until the backyard breeding is reduced the problem will continue — just look at craigslist and see what is available and you can count on many of those dogs ending up in the shelter. I foster cats and there again is nothing wrong if someone prefers orange cats; but with cats there is not the great variety of breeds and sizes as there is with dogs.

    • Believe it or not, I have added my two cents on half a dozen comments so far and I had not read the entire article…. So the First thing is that I want to say after reading he article is…. Thank You Heather for an excellent article. The wife and I have been doing animal rescue for over 45 years, We ran a shelter in Mich. for over 14 years. There was NO kennel, so all the animals were in Holding Homes. We always had 9 to 15 dog IN THE HOUSE. We were Volunteers, no gas or phone allowance and we fed all the animals in our home premium food that our dogs got, not the shit that is donated. (corn and soy bean). We did our own fecal checks and shots that we were allowed. AND we took in everything that came through the door or we picked up for those that were too lazy to bring the animals to us.. Most of the stuff off the street was our there because they either were a problem, old age, or medical. Of the two Animal Rescue and Relocation Organizations that I ran for over 25 years, neither one was funded by the city or state. Both organizations that we ran, as far as funding was from the placement of animals, donations and fund raisers This was 24/4 for over 14 years in Michigan and over 8 years in Florida.

      Of the article that Heather wrote, I have only two comments.

      You stated that a person who complains that too much of their tax money has gone to the animal shelters.
      I can honestly state that I ran two animals shelter for over 25 years and I got NO funding from the city, or state. We ran in the black through donations, placements and fund raisers.. So it can be done with total organization..

      Also, Heather you mentioned that the HSUS states that 2.4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year. The ASPCA reports a higher estimate of 2.7 million euthanized animals per year.

      I looked at the net and found that the HSUS reported 3 to 4 million animals being put to sleep.. But that site was 8 years old and as I mentioned before … Most Animal Shelters DO NOT send figures into the HSUS… In the 8 years that I ran the local Humane Society here in Florida, I NEVER sent them in one item of information to them about how many we put to sleep. I also NEVER so much as ever got $1 from them.
      The Humane Society of the United States takes in million and million of dollars each year and less than one per cent of that goes to the animals. HSUS reported its revenue as US$129 million and net assets of US$215 million as of December 31, 2014 (wickipeedea)
      NEVER send money to the Humane Society of the United States.

      Animal Control would come over with the full size pickup once a week with the animals the they had put to sleep and would load what we had.. The pick up was filled to the top with cats and dogs. They would cover it with a tarp and take it out to the land fill to dump. Enough to make you cry… But I did not have the answer… But we did place a lot of animals.

      The reason that I list all this above, Annie is to say that we have been there and done it. And I have the T shits to prove it.

      So to Annie, I want to say that you wrote a lot of words and you either did not read the article or you have not been in the real world. You write.. “I have been on every side of this issue. I do not feel this article is well written, I feel YOU are the problem”. I can honestly say that you are full of Shit. So sad that you wrote all that but it was a wasted effort on your part. You do not seem to have a clue of the real world of Animal Rescue, Fostering or Placement of animals. You were right on some of the points why people dump animals and that there are some rescue people that need training. You made some good comments but when you started out with the comment… “I have been on every side of this issue. I do not feel this article is well written, I feel YOU are the problem.” Everything that you wrote after that I classed as Bull Shit… You have some nerve…

      During my years if running the two shelters…

      I also drove to a neighboring town on Saturdays with my van full of airline crates and took every small dog that their Animal Control had and on some Saturdays I would make two trips as they would put EVERY animal that they held to sleep once a week and by the next week end they were filled up again.. I got no gas allowance and I did this on my own time.

      I also took my Great Danes and Shepherds, puppies, kittens and my blind rabbit into the Assisted Living Centers and Home for the elderly. The bunny was blind as some so called animal lover fumigated their house and left the bunny inside the house… It was turned into Animal Control to be put to sleep, but one of my volunteers took it and brought it to me, as they knew I would take it. The old people loved it.. As it just sat in their lap and they could pet it.

      I also went into the schools to educate children…We went into the High Schools looking for volunteers. Those kids what were thinking of going into Veterinary Medicine. We went into the grade schools to educate the little kids… You do not educate teens or adults. Our dogs were also in all the parades. Any time there was an event in town or the county, we were set up there with the dogs and cats… I had the maxi van.. so I did all the hauling… It is a lot of work but it can be done with organization and Total commitment to the animals..

      When we had elections for officers of the organizations, many people wanted to be on the board for reasons of prestige… BUT I always told everyone.. that I did not want volunteers on the board… I wanted people that were totally committed to the animals… “I always compared it to a breakfast of bacon and eggs” …. “The chicken was involved in the making of the breakfast BUT the pig was committed.”

      So the next time that you have something to say.. Make it positive.. My mother always told me..If you do not have anything nice to say…Keep your mouth shut…

  54. Castrating male dogs and cats with calcium chloride is a veterinary procedure that is inexpensive, easy to perform, only requires tranquilization and can be performed at the location where the animal was found/captured. Check with your veterinarian if he/she is interested and willing to utilize this method. There is lots of information on the website:

    • Many vets won’t hear or talk about this, keep their prices secret. I don’t know why. But this is a good idea.

  55. Advocacy, volunteer, donations, dialogue. I am glad you pissed off people, and others embrace your blog.

    The absolute hardest part is volunteerism – even from the arm chair – sharing posts – sharing tears – sharing “wins.”

    And as for shelter staff… they have some of the warmest hearts I have ever met… I have seen people dump their pet in person for EU – cat with kidney disease – so our shelter has to take… the shelter staff’s arms were warm and she waited until the person in the fancy car left before sharing “the look.”

  56. This is almost hard to read because its so true to what I experienced working in a “kill” shelter. They were some of the best and worst times I’ve had. It’s a tough, tiring job thats never finished. I admire those that are still doing it. <3

  57. Great article. I made a New Years resolution a while back. I decided to accelerate whatever methods I could find to help lower the intakes, as well as to pull out animals, from our local shelter. Anyone can do this! I work with people that get Death Row dogs in TN, if anyone is close to Nashville, please contact Jody Beskini on Facebook if you have a good stable home and want to partake or if you want to start a grass roots “community” of rescuers in your area. Think outside the box, gather up people, and also help the shelter instead of negating it. Goes a long ways to be a positive voice. And by all means, approach a shelter with a “How Can I Help You” approach, never go in like you are telling them how to run their business. OPEN DOORS, not close them and SAVE these animals!! It will be the most difficult, but most purposeful thing you can do !

    • Thank you, Jody, for your comment. Your proactive approach is exactly what is needed. If more animal advocates embraced the the attitude you have, we could see so much improvement in the animal sheltering system. Far too often (and it’s evidenced throughout the comments on this post), people identify what is wrong in a shelter but offer no help or practical solution. I’ve written a follow-up post that addresses this disparity:

  58. I have such a problem with this article. I agree with everything you say until you say “it’s YOU”! You assume that everyone reading this has behaved this way? Really? I have never worked at a shelter but I volunteered at our shelters Spay Neuter clinic for ten years. All my dogs (I have five) are well cared for, have ample running room of over an acre of totally fenced land, are spayed or neutered. They get the best vet care including specialists. I have never turned in a dog at the shelter but have stopped many times in the street to put a dog in my car that is running in traffic (those dogs go to the shelter and happy to say all have been claimed by their owners). I have never bought a dog but give generously to many rescue groups. I have volunteered to help dogs after Hurricane Katrina and spent time in Louisiana/Mississippi to help the exhausted rescue workers. I took a pitbull home after adopting her there. Two of my current dogs were deemed “unadoptable” due to their fears and happy to say, both have become great dogs. I have a trust set up for my dogs. If something happens to me, my dogs will be cared for and loved. My dogs are mutts. They slept with me every night. One is slightly incontinent so we figure out how to make that work. I have fostered puppies that were too young stay stay alone. I have never had to euthanize a dog that wasn’t mine but have been with every single dog that I had to put down to stop their suffering.
    Your article talks down to “us”. I have never been paid to take care of a dog. I must be a stupid loser. I must be oblivious and superficial. But I am not an unkind, uncaring person. And I can say, in kindness to you, that I hope you have the good fortune to come back in life as one of my dogs. I admire the work you do but please stop thinking that all of the rest of us are the root of these problems. There are GOOD people that do things every day. I am no saint but I am not your enemy.

    • Lisa, I’m not sure how you missed it but the ‘YOU’ this article refers to is immediately defined by 10 different scenarios of people. It is not a blanket statement. I am well aware there are incredible people out there doing wonderful things for dogs and cats. This article was not written to address them – it addresses the members of the public who dump their responsibility onto the shelter without considering the downstream effect. I applaud all you have done for animals. I also have five dogs and understand perfectly what that entails. I hate that for one minute you thought this article could possibly be referring to you – based on the history you relayed, you fit none of those scenarios, so I’m not sure why you identified yourself as such. Please understand, there are folks who have no idea that their actions (such as buying from a backyard breeder, letting their intact dog roam around, abandoning their hunting dog) contribute to the mess our country’s animal sheltering system is in. I feel it is critical to raise awareness in this group of people so that maybe just maybe they will reconsider future similar behavior. And because I doubt you have ever heard it enough, thank you very much for pouring your heart and soul into animals. Everything you mentioned you have done – it matters so much, so very much.

  59. It sounds a lot like the (mostly) thankless job of working as a hospital nurse. You sacrifice your own needs for others’, sustain injuries to protect their safety, AND get complained about for supposedly not doing enough. For some reason, customers who interact with service people often seem to think they are entitled to criticize and complain. Until parents start training their kids to show respect, people will continue to feel superior and act critical toward others. And childhood is also the best time to start learning about true kindness toward animals. In fact, schools could help teach these values (instead of teaching sex education.) It would be much more valuable.

    • Schools need to teach this and sex education, both are needed. Think of this as sex education about animals.

  60. I applaud you and your work. I know I could never do it as it would be entirely too painful. I get way too attached to animals as it is.

  61. I actually found this article because I googled the TRUTH about sheltered dogs. And this article is causing adoptions going WRONG. I googled because I don’t know what to do anymore with our sheltered dog from the high kill shelter in Kentucky that was transported to Illinois because my heart broke. I asked if a puppy pictured is going to make a good guarding dog. I was assured she will be. To save her from euthanasia I jumped right to it to save its life. The dog was soon to be euthanized. A lot there is a reason. So you should alway try to dig to find out why. The dog we got is scared of most noises and people. We can’t have normal lives anymore because it’s a dog with special needs which was hidden from NEW adoptive parents. I’m distraught how some rescues operate. They hide things. It’s five weeks. By looking how much this adoption comes up to be it’s close to $2,000. Things destroyed $1,500. Toys, chews and cleaning supplies another $300. And the adoption fee $300. That’s what you get for turning your life upside down around a new adopted dog. I need to wake up twice during the night to take my new dog outside because it’s only then that people sleep and the street is pretty much quiet. The dog afraid of people and noises is paralyzed. She shuts down, hides, and pees everywhere. I don’t mind teaching a dog. But it’s impossible to train her. I was looking for articles to help me deal with the problems shelters don’t mention. And that’s what I found in here!

    Sad shelters lie about issues that need to be corrected! Shame on you for blaming all who come to adopt.

    I was a volunteer at the high kill shelter years ago. And by only seeing what’s happening at the shelter I would probably post this article on Facebook. What you don’t see is the other side. Instead of attacking people maybe you should do more training of those pets for successful adoptions. Also, take them outside on a regular basis to relieve themselves.

    Reach to high schools to educate and extra help at those shelters. Educate new parents what challenges will be depending on the dog they take home.

    My new dog hides behind the toilet and can stay there for a long time. If I want to pull her out, frightened she pees. She pees everywhere. I don’t even mention her chewing on things because I see her that makes her happy. She’s MUCH more expensive dog in first weeks than my $300 German Shepherd dog that was put down due to cancer. And she was 12 years old without any health or problem issues. A very healhy dog from a breeder. I don’t encourage breeding neither taking dogs from shelters that have special needs unless you know what you get yourself into.

    Sad I did not find help here. I was looking for some advice on-line to help my new dog rescued from the shelter after a rescue team lied to me what kind of dog I’m adopting. As it seems there is no help. You are pretty much on your own to treat the dog that can’t be trained.

  62. I completely agree with your article. America needs to realize that we are the problem and until the people realize that, this wont stop.

  63. Heather, I suspect you already know about Best Friends Animal Society ( and their mission to end killing in community shelters. They’re always looking for talented writers. Put that passion to work.

  64. This post is probably the best post I have ever read in my life about the plight of these animals and the heroic efforts of EVERYONE in trying to solve an unsolvable problem. As with everything in life, it begins with each and every one of us. If we all took responsibility for the decisions we, and we alone, make the world would be a better place – take care of yourself, your family, your pets – do not shirk your responsibility and expect someone else to, as the author so correctly states, “deal with it”. Enough already. Be accountable.

  65. HMMMM… shaking my head.. if you cannot afford medical care for a pet don’t adopt is what i keep reading…. Well perhaps the federal government should stop proving medical care, food stamps and low income housing to all the people who can not afford the kids they keep having.. then there would definitely be enough money to give to city shelters that are run by those city governments to helps these dogs… Perhaps the federal government should allow people tax credits for adopting pets, give them pet credits and earned income credits for saving all these pets….Funny how the federal government should give tax credits, food money, low income housing to irresponsible people over populating with kids they can not afford but so many people commenting about pets after this article say if you cannot afford you do not deserve one…these pets did nothing wrong to end up in a shelter.. it was poor choices from people that they ended up there… I say stop tax credits, food Stamps, low income housing for irresponsible people and make them figure out how to pay for themselves and give all that money to those who help save pets.. and to the shelters they end up in…

  66. If your cat ALWAYS stays in the house then you don’t ‘have’ to spay it to be a responsible owner. Responsible in this case means ZERO litters– a female cat who is NEVER exposed to a male will not reproduce. My advice to this woman- Get a free dog off Craig’s list and keep it in the house or on a leash ALL of the time.


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