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A Letter from a Shelter Manager

July 13, 2010 104 comments

I posted this blog post a few days ago, but I’m going to include it in Blog The Change For Animals because I am a huge supporter of pet adoption and it is “my” cause. I think every pet owner or prospective pet owner should have to read this before they get a pet. If more people did perhaps there would be fewer animals euthanized in this country. Read On.

If you have never worked or volunteered in an animal shelter, you should.
If you’ve never adopted a shelter dog, you should.
If you’ve never known a shelter manager or shelter staff member, you should.

Maybe then you would realize why it is so important to adopt a pet.

Today, I share with you A Letter From A Shelter Manager. If you think you can’t read this because it would be too hard to read, too much to bear, too much to deal with; you should. Maybe this letter can make a difference in just one person. You.

I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays”, that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are; “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving too that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would”. How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her”. Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! “She’s tearing up our yard”. How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog”.

Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.

Those dogs just don’t get adopted. It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”.

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.

My point to all of this DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!

Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that
someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this and it made me want to adopt”. THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT

Please Be The Change and Adopt A Pet. There are so many good ones just waiting for a new home.

If this post touched you in some way, please read Mary’s Dogs Blog where she discusses how shelter dogs are treated like second class citizens. If you think the euthanization of shelter dogs is the only issue. Think again.

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Dear Pet Owner: Can you Handle the Truth?

May 3, 2010 6 comments

Recently, I read a book review written on Amazon.com about Randy Grimm’s book, Don’t Dump the Dog: Outrageous Stories and Simple Solutions to Your Worst Dog Behavior Problems (it’s the first review listed, written by Charlie S from Wag’N Book Review).

In case you’ve never heard of Randy Grimm, Randy is a famous animal advocate and animal rescuer from St Louis, Missouri. He runs Stray Rescue of St Louis, where he has been actively involved in saving the lost, abandoned and stray dogs that roam the streets of St Louis. Quite a man in my opinion. But, that’s not what caught my eye, it was the reviewer’s description of a section of Chapter 1 of Randy’s book,

“An owner contacts Randy wanting to relinquish his dog because of (a) hyper-activity issue. The owner comes by the shelter on a day where Randy is alone at the shelter, clearly overwhelmed by work, and (Randy) asks the pet owner to answer the phone while he brings the “abandoned pet” to its new home – (A) cage. While there, the owner takes many dramatic calls covering a few ‘real emergencies’. When the owner gets a break, he drops the phone, runs back, frees his dog, gets another dog and runs out of the facility. The owner realized that the issue he deemed terrible was nothing compared to the realities shelters have to deal with. He later sent money to the shelter to thank them of the invaluable knowledge he acquired that day.”

Pets are often surrendered for legitimate reasons, especially now, with many people losing their homes. But, just as often people surrender their pet simply because they didn’t take the time to train their dog, do their homework before getting their pet or made a hasty decision to get a pet because it was “so cute”.

It got me to thinking… would pet parents be less likely to surrender their pets for a frivolous reason, or at the very least, would they think twice before surrendering their pet if they knew the truth about what could happen to their pet?

For instance…

– A surrendered pet may go home with someone that will not treat him as well as the previous owner did. There is no way to know which adoptive pet parents will be good ones unless you do a home visit, and most shelters can barely afford to stay open so that is usually not an option. It’s a sad commentary on how we humans treat our pets when a dog or cat comes back to the shelter in worse condition than when they left.
– An overcrowded shelter means that a pet could be euthanized, especially if the pet is old, sick, has behavioral issues, or just plain runs out of time. According to the Humane Society of the United States and The Shelter Pet Project, approximately three million (3,000,000) healthy and treatable pets are euthanized every year because they don’t get adopted.
– Sometimes a sick pet (e.g., Parvo virus) is surrendered to a shelter and infects all the other pets in the shelter. Someone’s pet could die before it reaches the adoption floor, unless it’s vaccinations were kept up-to-date.
– Many shelter environments are loud. The noise level can be enough to damage human ears and it can drive a dog nuts. Literally. It’s called going “kennel crazy”.
– Just because a dog lived inside it’s last owner’s home doesn’t mean that will be the case when he is adopted. Chances are that he could be tied up outside.
– Training and socializing a pet is important. It makes them more adoptable.
– Adopting a dog or cat saves a life. Buying from a backyard breeder or puppy mill ensures that one less dog or cat will find a loving home.

I don’t want anyone to think I am disparaging animal shelters. Let’s be honest, without them and other rescue organizations, many more animals would be roaming the streets and suffering at the hands of an abuser.

The people who work in shelters are some of the most dedicated, hard-working and loving people I know. And, most of the people who adopt from an animal shelter are great people. I’ve seen and heard some really great, heart-warming stories about dogs and cats that have found their forever homes and are loved completely by their new families.

But, the reality is there is no guarantee that your pet will find a loving home. When you decided to get a pet, you took on the responsibility for that pet. Don’t you owe it to him to make sure that you’ve tried everything before you give him up?

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