The Evolution of the Animal Shelter Profession

I was once called “old school.” I guess they meant that I am stuck to the old ways of the profession when the responsibility of being an Animal Control Officer was to serve and protect the public. Our profession has evolved, and to be honest, I am glad that I am now retired because I can’t stop being old school..

The No Kill Movement started the evolution. Our professional focus turned to the plight of the animals in our care. I have to admit, it was very fulfilling to see euthanasia rates decline. Shelters with a live release rate of 10% started seeing more animals getting adopted and eventually many shelters saw live release rates over 90%.

The problem was that many claimed that a 90% live release rate was still too low and that decisions had to be made to place animals that were not considered adoptable. Pit bulls became the poster breed for this cause. Organizations were attempting to convince the public that pit bulls were the breed to own. Even ones that had a history of aggression.

Recently, in my community, a woman was killed by a pair of pit bulls. The Newspaper, along with the local Animal Control organization wrote an article assuring the public that pit bulls are a maligned breed and that you should ignore the deaths caused by the breed. After all, “all breeds are the same.” Don’t let another pit bull related death interfere with the adoption of these animals from the animal shelter.

The problem with this evolution is that it is making people stupid. Animal Shelters are so focused on adopting every animal that they fail to warn people about the genetic characteristics that control an animal’s behavior. Let’s face it, when shelters have a population of 70% pit bulls, they have quite a sales job to make. After all, their mission is no longer to protect people, but to have the highest possible adoption rate…. no matter what the cost.

Since this evolution has sucked so many animal shelters in, it might become necessary to outlaw the adoption of potentially dangerous animals. The Commonwealth of Virginia outlaws the holding back of information about a dog’s previous behavior problems to potential adopters. I used to think that keeping adopters in the dark was a Southern thing, but it appears that it has spilled over into the rest of the Country. Maybe communities should reenact some old school philosophies.

I’m not suggesting that some breeds should be banned; I just think that animal shelters should get back to the days of full disclosure when adopting animals. An era of integrity and respecting the mission that people must come first.