I’ve seen a lot of grousing about local animal shelters the past year or so, and it’s getting on my nerves. Mostly because most of the grousing comes from the people most resistant to actually funding the shelters at a manageable level and/or making use of user fees to help with that funding.
First, let’s define what the shelters are there for – to provide a safe holding space for stray animals and/or sick or vicious animals until such time as either they can be returned home, found a new home, made healthy, or humanely euthanized. Shelters are in place to protect the public health and safety.
They are NOT intended as a convenient place to dump a pet you really should have thought about more *before* you got it. They are not intended as the place you go to get your pet treated for free, or, failing that, turning over the responsibility you should never have had in the first place.
So where do all of these stray or unwanted animals come from?
Some of them have simply wandered from a loving home when someone left a door or gate unlatched. Some got bored and wandered away, in spite of the owner being convinced that their dog would *never* leave the yard. Some of them may have spotted a deer or a rabbit or squirrel, gave chase and got lost. For those, the shelter can be a single place for owners to hopefully find their healthy pet instead of having to search the whole county. Presumably, the shelter will provide some education regarding responsible stewardship (and good fences) when the owner happily reunites with the animal.
Ah, but then there are the rest of the animals. The ones who are dumped for so many sad reasons.
I can’t housebreak him.
I didn’t know he would get so big.
She just won’t get along with the rest of the dogs.
She can’t tolerate the toddlers grabbing her ears and she nipped at one of them.
She keeps chasing my livestock.
I can’t afford the vaccinations.
I didn’t know they shed so much.
They keep bringing mud in the house.
They bark at everyone walking by.
He hates my boyfriend.
I refuse to pay for a $5 license, take the dog.
She just won’t obey me.
He keeps chewing the furniture.
She doesn’t go with the decor.
The claws are scratching the floor.
My new apartment won’t take pets.
She’s getting big and I don’t know whether she’s fat or pregnant.
I thought I would get over my alergies if I got a dog.
Well, you get the idea.
Some would say that those weren’t homeless pets. They might have been better off if they had been.
To expect shelters to clean up after our idiocy while operating on a shoestring is ridiculous. And people wonder why animal control officers and shelter workers get cynical or burn out.
I haven’t even mentioned the breeders (so-to-speak) who sold or wholesaled those animals in the first place with little concern for whether they were going to good homes – as long as the check cleared. Where is their responsibility to the shelters?
I doubt that I’m changing any minds here, but it does help to vent. At least I know I can stop by my local shelter, drop off some supplies or some cash, and know that it is clean, well-managed, and even many of the local breeders recognize that they have an obligation to fund the place. And to help find homes for the dogs who have been abandoned for what is really no good reason other than an irresponsible seller and an irresponsible buyer.
Please, please, support your local shelter. If you don’t like the way it looks, help paint some weekend, or fix walls, or buy some light bulbs or some bleach. If you’re supposed to be licensing your dogs, do it. The shelter often depends on licensing fees for its operating fund.
Instead of griping what a horrible place it is, give an hour or two a month and help make it a better place. Help socialize shy dogs, bathe them or feed them or walk them. Whether you like the dog catcher or not, maybe you can at least come to understand each other better.
This isn’t a perfect world and shelters are not an ideal place for any animal to end up. Often they are scared, confused, abandoned, sometimes even injured. A shelter can be a waystation, a bridge between abandonment and home. Help make that shelter a good place rather than a place you just keep kicking while you keep it from being properly funded.
Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?