One of the most common issues that animal shelter workers face is pet owners relinquishing a pet due to the cost of ownership. The most common practice is the surrendering of a pet due to medial costs. Once a pet is surrendered, those costs now become the responsibility of the shelter.
When a shelter is faced with the cost of caring for an animal that has been abandoned by the owner, many factors enter in to the equations when determining the animal’s plight: resources, animal’s age, animal’s overall health condition, adoptability (breed, temperament, size) and story.
The ability to pay a major medial bill is the most frequent hurdle in making the decision to treat a pet; after all, it is the most common reason that the pet was surrendered to the shelter. It is not uncommon that a pet owner will surrender their pet seeking free medical care and attempt to adopt the pet back after the care has been provided. The decision to move forward on an animal is always a difficult one. Many shelters opt to set a maximum allowance for each pet. That maximum allowance is determined by the cost at hand and the frequency that pet owners in your community burden you with this problem.
Young animals will be given more weight that senior animals; although their life is no more valuable, we tend to want to offer a young animal a chance at a longer life than treating an animal that doesn’t have much longer to live anyway.
Determining what is wrong with an animal will make the decision much easier. Are you dealing with a one time injury or is this an injury that is going to have ongoing need for treatment. Is the illness or injury costly to treat? How long will recovery be? Keep in mind that cage space is an issue and recovering animals are a good excuse to create a foster program to deal with the long term care of an injured animal.
Is the dog a pitbull? I hate to mention breed but the fact is pitbull dogs usually represent over 50% of the dog breeds in our shelters. Due to rent agreements, they are one of the most likely dogs to never get adopted. Do you want to throw hundreds of dollars into a dog that will eventually be euthanized? I would suggest that if a dog has a history of aggression, there is no reason to consider the dog for adoption. The last thing you need in your shelter is an aggressive dog that has no hope of a future outside your shelter. Small dogs are the easiest to adoption, so they should be consider first to receive medical treatment.
And finally the animal’s story. Many of the major animal welfare organizations live off of the donations they receive by posing a pitiful animal on national television. If it works for them, it can work for you. Anytime I use the media to ask for funds to help an animal, our intake of funds would always be more than the cost of treating the animal. It is easier for a person to focus on a specific animal than to donate for a general cause.
Making life and death decisions is the hardest part of our profession. I helps when you go in with a plan.