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When an Animal Shelter Closes

December 3, 2010 40 comments

It seems ironic (or at the very least a sad coincidence) that today on National Adopt a Mutt Day there would be such sad news to report on the adoptable mutts in my very own community.

I had been hearing rumors for days now that the shelter I have volunteered at for the past 8 years was in trouble and would be closing, but I had been hoping and praying it would not true. It was not to be, today the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) announced it would be closing it’s doors on December 31, 2010.

To say this is a sad event is an understatement. This one small humane society has been operating on its own since 1981. Despite many people’s mistaken belief, MVHS has never been affiliated with the larger Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, Woodbury, St. Paul, etc. It did not receive money from the the Humane Society of the United States (by the way, MOST Humane Societies DON’T receive money from HSUS). It operated on a tight budget, with a small staff, and had to raise all of it’s money on its own – and it had a high adoption rate (perhaps that’s because it didn’t put a timeline on an animal’s life like other humane societies do or maybe it’s because of the awesome staff and volunteers who promoted the animals and tried to help animals find homes).

It is the only animal shelter servicing the South Metro area and soon it will be gone.

So what is the impact when a shelter closes?

Other shelters and rescue groups end up taking up the slack. Most small shelters and rescue groups operate on a shoestring budget already, so when a shelter closes they not only take on additional animals they had not planned for, they also take on the extra costs associated with it. It can make or break a shelter or rescue group, financially.

Staff and Volunteers feel set adrift. Many volunteers work at animal shelters because they deeply care for the animals, but in many cases, there is also a sense of commaraderie that develops between the staff and volunteers. Friendships are formed. There is a feeling that you are all united in a common cause – saving animals

The animals that remain suffer undue additional stress. Animals that have not been adopted out feel the additional stress from the staff and volunteers, who are stressed out themselves, but their daily routine and lives change too. Suddenly, they are shipped off to some other location, maybe to a place where conditions are worse than where they came from (or more stressful) or they may have a limit on the number of days they can remain before they are euthanized.

The community suffers. Shelters provide a lot of services that the community often does not often recognize – educational programs, veterinary services, dog training, personal support after adoption, spaying and neutering, pet supplies for your newly adopted pet and informational resources. MVHS even offered people a list of apartments and townhomes that allowed pets.

What can you do?

Give money to your local animal shelters and rescue groups. Now. Call your local animal shelter and ask them if they are affiliated with a larger organization or if they operate on their own small budget, and then give. Contact a rescue organization and ask what you can do to help. Most of them need money, but many of them also need foster homes for the animals they already have.

- Adopt. Normally I would be encouraging people to not to adopt during the holiday season, but this year I am asking people to adopt the remaining dogs, cats, birds, etc. that remain at MVHS. If you have the space, the time and want to make a difference, please adopt. And, if you are not local and living in MN, please adopt from your own shelter or rescue organizations. So many of the dogs, cats and other animals that end up at a shelter are not there because they were bad or did something to deserve it. In fact, some of the most common reasons animals are surrendered are because: someone lost a job, someone died, a family situation has changed (e.g., divorce) or the family had to move to a smaller location, like an apartment that doesn’t take pets. People that want a purebreed dog or cat often don’t realize that a lot of purebreed dogs and cats end up in shelters every single day (I should know I have two of my own – a Lab and a Sheltie). Many rescues and shelters have purebred dogs and cats, and often rescues are geared towards a particular breed. If that’s what you are looking for, please check with a shelter or rescue group first. Please.

Volunteer. I have had so many people tell me that they could never volunteer at a shelter because it would break their heart. I’m not going to lie, some days your heart does break, but most of the time you feel good knowing you have given a dog or cat a little extra attention and love that day. Every single interaction of love and kindness matters to them. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. And did I mention the friendships you develop? Trust me. It is SO worth it.

It’s never easy when an animal shelter closes, but sometimes it can bring change. I hope you will be a part of that change.

Please Note: If you are coming here to read this because HumaneWatch.org sent you here, please note that this shelter DID NOT close because of anything HSUS did or did not do and I completely disavow their misrepresentation of this fact in order to push their agenda to smear HSUS or any other group that supports caring for animals in a humane way.

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