WHAT DOES A GOOD
ANIMAL SHELTER LOOK LIKE?
What constitutes a good
animal shelter? There are traditional benchmarks which are commonly
used to describe a good shelter, i.e. does it have a high adoption
rate and a low euthanasia rate? But these do not begin to answer the
question of whether this is a good shelter because there are are so
many factors that affect these measures. For example, the shelter
may be located in an area with extreme poverty so there will be less
money to advertise adoptions or support spay and neuter programs.
The shelter may be located in an urban area where there are numerous
pit bulls who are usually more difficult to adopt. For these reasons
and many others, please do not take euthanasia and adoption rates as
the final word about a shelter. You may wish to volunteer or
financially support a shelter which is not a wealthy one but where
the animals need you the most.
In order to ascertain whether a certain shelter is well operated you
need to consider many factors. The best approach is to volunteer
there for a few days or weeks. While you are there, ask long-time
volunteers or staff about the shelter. Does it have broad community
support? Does it promote educational programs in the schools? Does
shelter management listen to its staff or volunteers when they have
suggestions? If there is a high turnover, either among staff or
volunteers, then this is usually not a good sign.
Ask about this shelter's reputation in the community. Go online and
see what others have to say about their experiences with the
shelter. It does not take a high budget to keep the kennels clean
and the dogs groomed, so see if the kennels are kept clean. This is
often an indication of morale at the shelter. Look around for
yourself and see if the animals are treated lovingly and exercised
Some shelters are nonprofits and others are branches of local
government. This is not the determining factor in whether the
shelter is well functioning. Other practices are more important,
e.g. whether there is an exercise yard and a place where potential
adopters can interact with the animals. Does the shelter do
meaningful interviews with people who come in to adopt, or are they
just glad to get another animal out the door?
Is spay and neuter a part of every adoption at this shelter? With so
many animals needing a home and shelters bursting at the seams it is
unconscionable to promote breeding. The "miracle of birth" that some
parents want their children to see is instead the "miracle of death"
for animals at the shelter who cannot find a home.
Are all animals microchipped prior to being adopted? Microchipping
will save thousands of lives because it allows animals to be
identified. The process consists of implanting a small microchip
slightly larger than a grain of rice into the animal's neck. This
chip can then be read by a scanner at any facility where the animal
is taken. Veterinarians, shelters, rescue groups and clinics
routinely scan all found animals to see if they can be identified
How long does the shelter hold animals (though this is often
controlled by state or local law)? If euthanasia is performed at
this shelter, how compassionately is it done? Does the shelter offer
a period of health insurance for each animal adopted (30 days is
common) and encourage (or even require) a return to the shelter if
the adoption does not work out well? Is there any follow-up to
adoptions, such as a call to the new home?
Is a veterinarian visiting the shelter on a regular basis? Many vets
volunteer to come by shelters and see the animals at little or no
charge. Are all the animals receiving their necessary (core)
innoculations? The cost of these shots is usually built into the
adoption fees. However, the fees should not be so high as to
discourage adoptions, so compare the adoption fees at the shelter
under consideration to adoption fees at other shelters. Many
shelters have a sliding scale for adoptions.
If you have specific abilities, you may want to volunteer these
skills. Shelters need painting and maintenance. They also need
financial support, so you could organize a fund raiser in town or at
the shelter. Perhaps you are able to help build an area where the
animals can be exercised and interact with adopters or a petting
area for young children. If you have computer skills, you could help
with the websites and advertising.
This brings us to the controversial issue of no kill shelters. There
are good people on both sides of this question and it would require
an entire essay to do justice to each side. Because many websites
are passionately devoted to one side or the other, it is challenging
to find a balanced analysis. For those interested in researching the
no kill issue further, here are two links that honestly present
insights into the matter: