One of the things that I hate more than seeing animals in cages in an animal shelter is seeing them all running loose. My good friends at Best Friends Animal Society opened an animal shelter in Bentonville Arkansas that allows the animals to run loose. What could go wrong? A whole lot!
It is a widely known fact, at least to me, that animal shelters were never constructed for holding animals for long periods of confinement. They were originally built to house stray animals for a few days for their owners to find them. In the beginning, animals were held for three days. As owners became increasingly irresponsible, the holding time grew to five days and then ten. Of course, that holding time varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. So, if you wait nine days, don’t go pointing a finger at this blog claiming you had another day. Most places have a three-day stray holding period. Don’t balk, that is two days more than you should need.
The no-kill movement changed everything and animal shelters began holding animals way beyond the point where the animal goes cage crazy. I can understand the mindset of wanting to turn them loose. But, an animal shelter’s first obligation is to protect stray dogs for their holding period. After the holding period, the animal becomes lawfully owned by the animal shelter. As shown below, it makes sense to NOT mix stray dogs with adoption animals.
Many of those stray animals have no evidence of vaccination or behavior history. Allowing these animals to mix puts the entire population of animals at risk of disease or injury. It is foolish to just turn an animal loose in your shelter hoping that it isn’t an aggressive animal. If you are admitting pit bulls, you are going to have issues. Period. Most animal shelters have to deal with pit bulls making up 70% of the dogs within their facility. It makes it impractical to allow them to run loose.
Introducing a toddler to a mass of over-active dogs could be a terrifying experience. The toddler’s actions might incite the dogs to bite. If one dog in a pack goes nuts, a good many of the other dogs will go nuts as well. Even experienced staff will not do well in a frenzy of dogs.
I get it, announcing that you are freeing all of the dogs makes for a good newspaper article. It worked. But, how are you going to explain to the community that most of your bites come from people visiting your animal shelter? What are you going to say to the lost parent of a small dog who comes to pick up their puppy, but you can’t seem to get the puppy out of the mouth of another dog?
Calling this facility an animal shelter is technically true, but when I think of animal shelters, I think of public animal shelters. Bentonville already has a public animal shelter, so in my mind, this is a private animal shelter; we call them humane societies. The primary difference is funding and intake policies. Animal shelters are funded by local taxpayers and have the expectation to take in stray animals. Humane Society builds facilities to supplement the public facility and depends on donations; they may or may not accept stray animals. The Best Friend’s facility, as a private animal shelter, can better control the population of its shelter and thus keep the population low enough to allow for a limited number of animals to be able to live outside of cages.