Disclaimer: Although this blog is intended to be a joke, it doesn’t mean that animal shelters have not used these techniques.
Never announce your plan to become no-kill. The City of Austin is a good example of being too eager to announce to the world that they’ve become no-kill. When the word got out, pet owners from surrounding counties began delivering their pets to them. Austin had to throw tremendous resources out to maintain their no-kill status and eventually had to build a new animal shelter to meet the new demand.
I’ve seem incidents in which the announcement of having an adoption event created the problem of pet owners seeing your adoption efforts and decides that this is the best time to surrender their pet to their animal shelter. The best way to keep your animal shelter free of guilt-ridden pet owners is to constantly remind them that you are “a kill shelter.”
The formula for becoming a no-kill animal shelter is that your live outcomes have to equal or exceed your live intakes. Obviously, dead intakes don’t count. If you are one of the few remaining animal shelters that do not sterilize your animals before adoption, you might as well give up on becoming a no-kill shelter. The spaying and neutering of animals is the primary tool towards no-kill. Of course, if you don’t spay or neuter before adoption, you probably are not so progressive to be thinking no-kill anyway. Sure sterilization costs money; but you cannot trust adopters to shoulder the responsibility to perform this task on their own. Sending a shelter pet out to reproduce more animals is just insane.
Years ago, we were going to put a State initiative out to require animal shelters to sterilize pets prior to adoption. The jurisdictions with the greatest populations were all for it. The smaller jurisdictions claimed that it would require higher adoption fees and thus reduce adoptions. We passed the law based on the “class of the city.” It was a worthless law because the larger jurisdictions were already sterilizing their animals and it appeared that the smaller jurisdictions would not. They were blinded by the fact that they were just adding to the problem in their communities.
Create a policy that you’ll only allow intakes when you have an open cage. Of course this means that your animal control officers will be unable to pickup stray dogs. I remember reading about the outcry of citizens in a large Texas city that complained about packs of dogs were running their streets because their animal control officers were ignoring them. Fortunately, Texans are not opposed to carrying guns for their own protection.
Delaware was one of the first States to ban euthanasia for space. The reasoning was that as long as cage space was available, euthanasia was unnecessary. The didn’t have the foresight to realize that banks of open cages would be necessary for animal control officer to drop off animals. It didn’t make sense that animals would have to remain out in the trucks until space was made for the animals. This is the mistake that politicians make listen to animal rescue groups who don’t have a clear picture as to what the real world is really like.
Forgive me, I am now going to go off on a tangent. It’s my blog, so? Politicians in Utah were convinced that pet liability insurance should be the same for all animals. They were convinced that the cost of Pit Bull insurance should be the same as Poodles. They turned a blind eye to the fact that one breed was outweighing the insurance costs of other breeds. So, if you live in Utah, you will have to pay more for pet insurance to cover the cost that result from Pit Bull ownership. I guess you could liken it to the cost of groceries in which we have to pay more as a result of those who cater to thief. Okay, I got that out of my system…. let’s move on…..
Delay responding to dogs hit by car (HBC). The animal will either die or possibly picked up by a good Samaritan. Although there is a risk that the good Samaritan might think to bring the animal to the animal shelter. Put up the Closed Sign and hope for the best.
Destroy your night drop off cages. Night drop off cages are a great way to increase your intakes; you don’t want that. I worked at a location that we placed a camera to record the nightly drop offs. We witnessed an animal control truck, from another jurisdiction, dropping off animals. I have no idea as to how they report that in their monthly statistics. We once pulled out a homeless man from the same cages; which were protected from the weather. Fortunately for us, the guy walked off; I have no idea how we would have reported him on our statistics.
Require appointments for animal surrenders. This was one of the first “go to” policies when no-kill became a thing. The policy stopped last minute notions of people wanting to get rid of their pets; but saw an increase in the number of people turning in “a stray” animals. Policies frequently backfire.
So…. require an appointment to turn in a stray dog! Of course, that causes an increase in the number of dogs abandoned in the community or tied to the front door of your building. But, as I suggested earlier, don’t patrol for stray dogs.
Let’s not forget about cats. Cats make up one of the largest groups that lead to euthanasia. Many shelters started limiting their intakes to “domestic dogs.” I guess they were worried about some non-domestic dogs showing up.
I think you are now catching the drift: stop any process that takes in live animals that will render them dead. You can start with stopping the euthanasia service you offer to pet owners. Veterinarians provide this service as well and don’t have to report it as a statistic. Due to the notion that pets are personal property, many pet owners believe that they can have their pet killed on a whim. I always had a policy that pet owners could surrender their pet to the animal shelter, but could not demand the euthanasia of the animal. I would explain that in order for my shelter to kill an animal we had to own the animal. As the new owner of the animal we would decide the animal’s fate. This stops the notion that a person can demand that they pet be killed so that no one else could have it. I know, this sounds crazy, but it has happened many times. I am not going to kill a puppy because the owner doesn’t want anyone else to own it. Now, if the puppy has eaten a couple family members, I might reconsider.
Keep in mind; I am not suggesting that you do any or all of these things; I am just reporting options that are available to you. After all, we have a reason that we call this dark humor.
One of the problems that I’ve faced with animal control officers is that many of them prefer to impound an animal rather that return the animal back to the owner with a ticket. I hate to say that I’ve had these officer working for me and I did everything that I could do to get rid of them. The problem is worse when the animal control officers are not employed by the animal shelter, but are employed by the local police department. This is quite common and poses quite a problem. One of the last places that I worked, the animal control officer intentionally over stressed the animal shelter by identifying colonies of sick cats and delivering them to the animal shelter. Obviously, it hurts your statistics when you have to euthanize the animals as well as it impacts other healthy animals in your facility. I only bring this up to show that not everything is under your control. Outside forces will influence shelter statistics. As well as inside forces.
When I first started in the business, City Council members started noticing that I was listing animals available for adoption in the local newspaper. One of those members reported to the Chief of Police that I had listed the same animal multiple times. I got called into the Chief’s office and was told to euthanize any animal that was over its stray hold time even though space was not an issue. The lesson to learn is that if you work for a bunch of buttheads, give your animals new names when they are listed in the newspaper.
Probably the most effect way to move animals out of your shelter is to give rescue groups sufficient motivation to take your animals. The first step is to prepare the animal for adoption. Give the animal all of its vaccinations and perform the sterilization of the animal. If that isn’t enough to stimulate rescues to take your animals…. pay them.
Maddie’s Fund offered community grants in which they allowed us to pay our rescues to take our animals. Oddly, we may have been Maddie’s Fund’s only success story. Because Maddie discovered how difficult it is to get animal shelters to work with one another. It seems, for them, anything you got two shelters together, all they did is fight. Our group in central Florida was a different story. We overcame our issues to work together to get animals adopted. It was a noble cause and money flowed. Maddie’s Fund extended our grant numerous times because, I think, they liked to have a project that they could point their finger at that was successful.
It is too bad that more shelters couldn’t get along. One success story failed to keep that funding going. Maddie went off in other directions. Humane groups cannot seem to get along with one another even when money is at stake and animal’s lives are at stake.
Some of the national humane organizations provide funding for animal transport services. The notion is that if you can’t adopt animals in your community, maybe they would be welcome somewhere else. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls have pretty much saturated the country.
This is when I dust off my harebrained ideal of forcing pet owners to sterilize their pets. I think that anywhere an animal shelter is overcrowded with 50% or more of a specific breed that the community should force the owners who have that breed to sterilize their pet. People who are selling the breed should be forced to sterilize the dogs that they sell.
Let’s face it. Pit Bull owners are still some of the most irresponsible pet owners around; otherwise, why are they still being bred when our animal shelters are overwhelmed with them?
So? You have a shelter full of Pit Bull dogs and they are hindering your efforts to maintaining your No-Kill status. You begin paying a rescue from another State to come rescue your dogs. Let’s say that the rescue that you are using has a very poor live release rate. So in fact you are paying a rescue to come in and euthanize your dogs. In hind sight, I always looked at the live release rate of rescuers that I worked with; but that doesn’t mean that others do as well. The whole point of being No-Kill is that of your own statistics. No one really looks at the statistics of the rescues that you use. Well, until the news finds out about it.
Let’s face it. There is so much pressure on shelters becoming No-Kill that it is easy to see the shelter’s administration making stupid decisions. Many of those decisions become obstacles to the primary mission of the public animal shelter to protect the people of their community.
One of the risks that you face is that even when you meet the status of being a No-Kill shelter, volunteers will cause an uprising when you refuse to adopt animals that clearly would put the public at risk. The people who determine your employment might hold the volunteers in higher esteem than protecting the public. I’ve always said that doing the right thing frequently puts your job at risk, but keeping your community’s children safe is a higher goal than keeping your job.
Sorry, that must have hit a nerve with me.
Every shelter should do whatever it takes to find homes for the animals in their care, but you should not take that goal so far as to put the community at risk. Currently, animal shelters are full of unadoptable animals that remain in cages because the shelter is worried about its statistics. At some point, someone must point out that keeping an animal in a cage for the rest of its life is inhumane.