Definition of a “Good Shelter”

On our social media we will share shelter dogs and cats that are in “red alert” – in danger of being euthanized. Many shelters will add details about the dog/cat with a “euth date” listed so you know what kind of timeframe the dog or cat has before the vet or certified euthanasia tech shows up to put it to sleep. (NOTE: If you think those posts are too heartbreaking, then you should see the email blasts we rescues get. There’s a group out of New York that writes boldly the euth date and the words “to be destroyed.” First time I saw that a few years ago it took my breath…because that’s EXACTLY the term that should be used. “Euthanized” is such a palatable word, “destroyed” is more accurate, I think.)

When I share these animals, I ask our fans to share with others so a rescue or home might be open to taking it in. Oftentimes, in response, I will have comments from the virtue signaling public – things like, “That’s awful! That shelter needs to be closed down! That baby needs a home, not killed!”

And you will see me reply with something like this:

“Good shelters share the animals that aren’t going to make it out alive in hopes that they can be saved by rescues or an adopter. Bad shelters won’t say a word and euthanize them because they don’t want to put forth the effort, never giving the animal a chance to be saved.”

And that’s basically the definition of a good shelter – shelters who try. I’ll elaborate more for those virtue signaling, cross-posting “Karens” who don’t foster, don’t transport across the states when we need it (click here to see a typical run sheet for those who might be so inclined), don’t donate towards medical bills, or at the very least don’t share the post but instead blab all over it so their friends can see what a big heart they have.

Listen, Karen…. Our shelters are full because people refuse to get their animals fixed. I set up at a dog event this past Labor Day weekend and just about every animal there was intact. People swear they’re a dog whisperer and think they have total control over their intact dog. I sit there listening to this while the dog is choking itself on the leash or it’s peeing all over my booth, and I’m thinking, “sure, your dog is under control, you can’t even walk it on a loose leash or catch it before it hikes its leg. Come on, Felicia, stop kidding yourself.” And if Felicia wants to keep kidding herself, I have a photo that popped up the other day on social media that I must share so you can understand how crafty animals can get when they succumb to their hormones.

dogs mating through fence

That would be two dogs mating through a fence. Ah yes, the female “safe inside a fenced-in yard” backed her fanny up to the fence and welcomed the male who was happy to oblige. They mate through crates. And without the human knowing anything ever happened. (Don’t get me started on cats.)

DID YOU KNOW? That a freshly neutered male dog can still get an intact female dog pregnant a few weeks after it is neutered? I was bawled out on Facebook by some dog people a few weeks ago for not knowing this. I know someone this has happened to, and so did everyone else on that thread. I’m still currently researching this (there’s not much research on it, actually), but here’s an article showing research on sperm being stored in a female’s reproductive tract, for dogs it’s up to 9 days. If it can be stored in a female’s reproductive tract, it is definitely staying alive in the male’s reproductive system until it is flushed. Proof is what human vasectomy patients are told – not to have sex for several weeks until they are healed AND clear of sperm. So to be clear, “no testicles” does not mean “instantly sterile.” How many shelters and rescues adopt out freshly neutered male dogs? A lot of them! (OMG.) They still have hormones, they will still seek out a dog in heat, they can still reproduce. Let that sink in for a minute.

The result of dogs and mother nature outsmarting us humans is a social media post like this one here:

dumb dog breeder

The people who need to be blamed for the shelter dogs being euthanized isn’t the shelter staff that works like mad to try and save the animals in their facility (nights and weekends networking them off the clock without being paid), but it’s fools like these dog owners in that photo that cause most of the issues (and then get desperate to get rid of the puppies and hand them over to individuals that probably shouldn’t be trusted driving a car let alone being in charge of a living creature). Mother Nature can’t be controlled or outsmarted. She will always win/find a way, and she will enjoy the victory lap while you’re baffled over her mad skill. In the end, it’s not Felicia that’s holding the dogs she’s created as they breathe their last breath in the shelter; it’s the shelter staff who carry that heartbreak around with them. But Felicia doesn’t care about anyone but herself, nor does she care that YOUR tax dollars are paying for her indiscretions – if you look closer, it’s a common thread across many aspects of Felicia’s life. People like Felicia are amoebas – a below-average hedonist who is motivated just enough to move away from mild discomfort.

If you would like to see the typical shelter list of dogs the Felicias in my area are creating (and not taking back if the owner can’t keep them), this is the ongoing/current list of dogs at the Louisville, KY animal control facility (every shelter across the country looks like this): Current Dogs at Louisville Metro Animal Services

To recap – good shelters network their dogs. It is an unrelenting battle to keep the runs open for the next surrendered or stray animal. It takes the effort of several people to network a single dog to open up one dog run at a shelter – it’s maddening. Take this situation for instance; look how much effort and money it will take to save/find adopters for this many animals (and just one person created this chaos): Lexington, KY Rescue Seeks Help

Over the years I have had several people who were making out their will ask me what shelter is good so they can leave a legacy donation. Aside from what I wrote above, here’s the list I give them.

Good shelters:

  • Have a lengthy list of pre-approved rescues (home visit completed to ensure they’re not hoarders) that they call upon if they are full or if they get in an animal that won’t do well in the shelter environment. (Rescues should be in contact with the shelters regularly seeing what they can do to help, that is the #1 reason for a rescue’s existence. This ideally is a welcomed symbiotic relationship.)
  • Have a behavior assessment program and are honest (to the best of their ability) with the public and rescues about an animal’s temperament and reason for surrender. (NOTE: No one should mislead anyone about a dangerous dog, rescues included. This should be common sense, but sometimes shelters sugar-coat to keep from killing. That is completely unfair and goes against the #1 reason for a shelter’s existence = to keep the public safe.)
  • Have an extensive volunteer program where dogs get walked, are shown at adoption events, or taken out for a day on the town. They also have “approved” kitten/puppy foster homes at the ready so they don’t catch disease in the shelter and die needlessly. You know Felicia (above puppy photo) isn’t vaccinating her pups before she gets rid of them and a parvo outbreak is very likely to happen.
  • Have programs like “train to adopt” where the dogs are learning things like manners and obedience to help mitigate their chances of being returned to the shelter for an undesirable behavior. (Humane Society of Missouri wins best shelter hands-down on this bullet point. Outstanding work, I’ve seen it with my own eyes during a seminar I attended at their St. Louis facility.)
  • Have cat adoption displays at the local pet stores and have volunteers that clean/feed/check on them on a regular basis. 
  • Help people get their animals fixed when they can’t afford it, even when the spay/neuter voucher doesn’t cover the full surgery – they find a way. If the stars line up correctly and Felicia finally does decide to get her dog spayed, we need to make sure it happens.
  • Come in during Thanksgiving and Christmas to take care of the animals in their facility (vs putting them down so they don’t have to come in).
  • When they have open runs, are willing to help take the pressure off other area shelters who are in dire “red alert” (at risk of euthanizing because they’re so full and no open runs/cages) by taking in some of their animals. Also, good shelters who have been helped will give a shoutout to the other shelter who helped them and not imply they did it on their own. There’s no shame in needing help, it happens to everyone.
  • When an animal is lost/found, they are shared on social media in hopes of returning the animal to the owner asap. Shelters should NEVER not scan an animal for a chip or go against a stray hold period and euthanize it before the owner has a chance to find it. It happens, sadly. That’s the worst. I know too many people that this has happened to.

That’s a lot of criteria, much of it is asking people to burn a ton of energy to help the animals in our communities. Your shelter staff makes minimum wage or just above that, so it truly is a calling. I hope the Karens of this world take all of this into consideration next time she shreds them on social media. Hey Karen, try fostering when they’re full; there’s no reason why you’re not part of the solution, too.

And as always, PLEASE spay and neuter your pets! If you or a Felicia in your life needs help, don’t hesitate to send us a message or email!



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