Dogs In Shelters: So Many Unwanted Dogs?

Why Do We Need Animal Shelters?

Mostly because people today don't have the same sense of responsibility that they once did. Life today is mostly about instant gratification and getting the most out of our lives; somewhere along the way though, a great many folks are missing the bigger picture.

There are so many cast-off pets in animal shelters today because people simply do not want to live up to the responsibility that led them to get the pets in the first place. I'm not saying that it is always the wrong decision; people who truly do not know how to care for pets should not have them. (Don't even get me started on children!) However, pets are not throwaways; they are not disposable. If people only took the time to think through what they plan to DO with a pet once they actually have it, I think our shelters would have fewer "guests." Of course, as a last resort, if a pet is being neglected and/or abused, it is far better to have them in a shelter rather than kept by an uncaring or inept owner.

My Rescued Angel

Do I look like a throwaway? Pictures by Audrey Kirchner
Do I look like a throwaway? Pictures by Audrey Kirchner

Part of the problem with animals though is that they are just that - animals. They cannot express why they do their behaviors to us and they cannot tell us what they need. It is up to us to figure it out. If we have an Australian shepherd and that dog loves to run (been there/done that), it is the owner's responsibility to figure out a way to fulfill that dog's needs while keeping his or her own sanity. If a dog is a digger, it is the owner's responsibility to figure out a deterrent to keep that dog in the yard. If a dog is a barker or constantly gets into mischief, it is again the owner's responsibility to figure out why and then take the steps to correct it in a positive nonthreatening way.

Too often though, the dog that someone thought was going to be a great addition to the family turns out to not quite be so and off they go to a shelter or the pound. Although there are many no-kill shelters nowadays, the number is still staggering when you think of all the animals left there each and every day. Puppies born and dumped there, hoping that someone will take them; kitten upon kitten left the same way. I have always maintained that there are no bad dogs (or cats) but rather bad owners. If people took the time to live up to their commitments and honored those choices that they made of their own free will, I think we would find we had less animals to euthanize per year.

Yet Another Rescue Dog

Do I Look Like I Should Be Destroyed?
Do I Look Like I Should Be Destroyed?

Denaya The Wonder Dog

This little girl was half starved and found somewhere in Eastern Washington. She had obviously been abused beyond belief because months later when we adopted her, she could not play, she could not walk on grass, and she was terrified of everything. She had also been starved half to death.

She was eventually placed in a humane society and someone from the Washington State Malamute Association who goes around checking at the different pounds for purebred dogs found her. She was scheduled to be put down that day as she was so emaciated and "ruined". They adopted her and sent her to "rehab" at someone's farm where it took four months for them to get her weight back on. Then she was put up for adoption and that's where I came in!

One look at her and I knew she was just right for my Kodi Angel above and thus began the saga of the malamutes. I have not one regret. I will say, however, that taking on a rescue dog that is as abused as Denaya was is the challenge of the century. I can only further say after 6 or 7 years though that she is the delight I knew she would be. She just needed someone to love her. To think that someone would have disposed of her is no less than staggering. We will never know how she came to be lost and alone but the fact remains that someone did not look out for her.

Kodi we raised from a pup. He was on his way to the pound as well. His life was obviously not as tumultuous as Denaya's had been, but together they were a miracle. Malamutes are often branded as difficult, stubborn, unpredictable, aggressive. I can vouch for the fact that they can be difficult, they can be stubborn; I'm not so sure about unpredictable because in my experience, they have been dead-on predictable! Aggressive, perhaps to the extent that they are not great with small animals but even that is predictable and if you work with them and make sure that you are responsible in what you allow and do not allow, I've never seen it to be a problem. Usually it is the other way around especially with dogs - we are much more apt to be attacked by small dogs with our dogs than our dogs out "cruising" for small dogs.

It is all about knowing the breeds; it is all about knowing the individual needs of a dog or any pet and each individual owner's limitations or lifestyle. It is all about taking the time to get it to work and not expect the dog to just "behave". It is all about who the owner is and how much that owner steps up to the plate; how responsible that owner is that will determine whether ANY dog turns out to be a successful dog or a happy dog.


I would give anything to save 10 more like these 2!
I would give anything to save 10 more like these 2!

The Concept Of Shelter

Shelter conjures up the idea to protect I find it disheartening to think of so many animal shelters where the chief purpose is not a haven for an animal but a death sentence. There are just too many of our animals thrown away each year to go unnoticed.

People should not get a dog if they do not have the time for them. They should not get a dog if they do not have the money to spend on training them. Nor should they get a dog without knowing everything about that particular breed and the care involved; whether they are good with children, being alone, living in an apartment. The list goes on and on. We are the humans; it is our responsibility to do the homework and figure it out before we take on a pet and then dispose of it because it just did not work out.

A shelter is supposed to protect pets. I can only hope that all will eventually become no-kill shelters but especially in our sad economy, that seems rather idealistic. There are so many good people out there who rescue animals and take such good care of them and I can only say that I adore each and every one of them. Their devotion to a seemingly hopeless cause is amazing! I am banned from most shelters and rescue organizations by my husband as it seems that each and every time I go to one, we end up with at least 1 more dog. That is my paltry contribution to saving the dogs!

That being said, getting a dog from a shelter or rescue association is one of the most gratifying experiences of a lifetime because that dog will love you forever; no questions asked. Not to say that it will not be a difficult transition sometimes. In Denaya's case, it took several years to get her to trust again. That is indeed sad but then on the other hand, the joy that that fact alone gives me was worth all that effort! There are literally hundreds of rescue organizations all over that are simply brimming with dogs.

To help in the healing of a dog (or anything) is the best gift I think you can give yourself! I say a silent prayer or two from time to time when I look at the dogs on the rescue websites (no one can stop me from looking); first, I hope and pray that they find someone just right for them that makes it all okay. Secondly, I pray that there is some justice in the world and that somehow the people who dump or abuse a dog (or any animal or child) eventually has that karma come around full circle. There are some mitigating circumstances I know that do cause people to have to get rid of a dog or a pet but so many are just taken to a shelter as a means of taking the easy way out. That needs to be changed somehow. We should be accountable for all of our actions in all things, including taking a pet into our lives.

At the very least, I mention to people all the time who are considering giving away a pet, there are other options. Finding a decent home for a dog that you have spoken for seems fairer than seeing a dog sent to a shelter and possibly being euthanized. I think of the adage of treating others as you would be treated and even in the case of a dog, it applies! Some of my best friends are of the canine variety!

More by this Author

Comments 20 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 3 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Hi Gen - I answered most of this on my other hub about malamutes being right for folks--but that said, it just does take a lot of time. Dogs are pack animals no matter what breed, and they have to figure things out in their own due time. It is not an easy (or usually a quick) process. You are the alpha but one of them has to be the alpha amongst themselves--but if you are consistent and show that to all dogs no matter what their issue, praise equally, treat them equally, they will usually bond together and figure out their own pecking order. Every time you introduce a new member to the "pack" which is you included, there has to be adjustment period. Dogs are smart though--especially northern breeds--so they'll get it. Good luck - and patience is key~~ We waited for our Denaya to play with our other dog for MONTHS and almost gave up--then it just happened!

Gen Achilles profile image

Gen Achilles 3 years ago

Mittens is looking good, she seems to be getting stronger and acts more like a dog following me around than a cat lol. I'm getting ready to move her to the main house now that she is flea free and has had her shots. I'm concerned how she and the dogs will take to each other. But I will take it slow.

I'm posting here again because I need advice. 3 days ago a lady asked me to take her "Siberian husky" because I have a 6 month old AKC registered Siberian named Dawn. I don't believe Sasha is Siberian, comparing her to Dawn; she has a broader head, a shorter and thicker tail, a heavier looking body, and her fur sticks up and out away from her body. However Sasha weighs 55 pounds and has one blue eye and one brown eye. Could she be a malamute or a Siberian malamute mix?

Also Sasha was rescued off the streets by the lady who gave her to me, she was under a year old and had already had puppies! Sasha is very timid submissive, and terrified of water and kennels. My Siberian gets along great with Sasha, but Rascal refuses. Sasha does not know how to play, Dawn is trying to teach her, but rascal only bullies her or walks away rather than include her in the fun. I could use any advice you can give, I have known and raised rotts and shepards my whole life, excellent loyal breeds. But this is my first time with siberians and malamutes. I couldn't refuse Sasha because we live in Texas and most people keep them outside all year because of shedding. It wouldn't have been long before she ended up back on the streets the lady told many people were interested but either refused when they learned of the work involved or she decided they would not be good for Sasha. Now I'm concerned about my dog accepting Sasha. She needs love and stability.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 3 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Gosh Gen--that is an AMAZING story--actually TWO amazing stories! Bless your heart for taking on the abused!!! I hear what you're saying...we had a whippet collie that had been abused by some boys and Salty Dog never got over it--except with my boys. He hated men and he was extremely protective of most all women--and he did not like young boys much but fell in love (and protected) my 2 boys. He was the miracle dog--he used to lay his head on my husband's foot when he slept--the best compliment ever my hubby says to this day.

Our current rescued mal took years for us to calm down--she is now just a goofy old queen who keeps my other 2 mals in line with just a look. She wouldn't walk on grass, had food issues (still does but we just avoid it by never feeding the dogs together), and doesn't like being turned over or picked up--never has. I'm proud to say that she's 14 years old and still going strong--coming from almost being euthanized at the shelter but due to the kindness of strangers, someone saved her and she came to us. Keep up the great work--and I will pray for Mittens to make it~!

Gen Achilles profile image

Gen Achilles 3 years ago

I found a Belgian malinios - chow mix, he had been beaten and starved. His tail had a chunk of fur ripped off and both front legs where cut open all the way down. I brought him home, treated him and discovered he was 4 to 6 months old, as he lost 2 puppy teeth! I can't believe some people are so cruel. Rascal had all kinds of issues, couldn't put anything on his neck ( I assume he had been on choke collar), he would roll over and pee on himself if I hollered at my boys to clean their rooms, he refused to eat even though he was starved, and he developed aggression towards men. I was a single mother going through collage at the time, but I made the time to work with him. After 2 years He now proudly wears a collar with tags, he eats but is still is a bit under weight, and men can approach and pet him (totally thanks to my dad). He still gets upset if I yell at my children but doesn't pee on himself anymore. He has defended me from a very sick cat, an aggressive dog (we were at a dog park) and a drunk man who tried to force his way into my house late one night while the boys were sleeping. He absolutely loves children, allows them to pull his neck fur, ears, and tail (when I see that I correct the children) and only licks them. I could not have wished for a better dog. He is very much pampered and spoiled rotten.

If his story isn't enough, 3 weeks ago I witnessed a cat being thrown out of a moving truck. The kitten came to me, purring its little hert out. Her back legs were hairless, a lower tooth broken off, overloaded with fleas, and weak from anemia. She is looking much better now, and I hope little Mittens makes it.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Amen, Sophie~~~ Wishing you and your dog all the best because she found a gem!

Sophie 5 years ago

I adopted my dog Gracie from a local animal shelter. She was in there past her 'due' date but the people who worked there just couldn't give her up. She is just the sweetest dog ever. I'm not sure why she was there but I believe there is a reason for everything and she was ment to be with me.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Dolores, that is so true these days. We have a very good friend who adopted an older dog - a poodle (standard) who was 10 years old and the owner simply had to give her up. I thought it was so kind of our friends and they got a wonderful dog out of the deal~! She lived another 5 years with our friend and that was truly a blessing - for them and the dog!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Hi, Audrey - I guess that a lot of people buy animals on a whim, just like the buy clothing and stuff in general. How foolish. But I wonder how many animals are put in shelters due to financial problems. People who lose their homes or jobs may have no recourse - how sad that must be for them as well as their beloved pet.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Sinea - bless you - the more people that adopt lost souls the better in my book~! Every one of my many dogs has been a rescue until the last 2 malamutes. I wouldn't have traded one of those dogs for all the purebreds in the world to tell the truth - they were all one of a kind!

Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

We adopted our lab from a wonderful rescue organization that rescues and places labs in good homes. Best "dog decision" we ever made. We'd do it again.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Terry - Bless you and your wife! Good to know there are other folks out there who realize that pets are not disposable....will have to check out your hubs, too!

Terry.Hirneisen profile image

Terry.Hirneisen 5 years ago from Shenandoah Valley

My wife and I have rescued over 50 dogs in our 35 years of marriage. Each has lived out their lives at our home. Each comes in ever night for bed time. We NEVER both go away over night as there are animals needing care.

I praise anyone doing what they can to teach that pets are NOT DISPOSABLE OBJECTS. Stop by my hubs sometime.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

No kidding - I always hope in my heart that these folks come back as dogs and someone does that to them! Wishful thinking I suppose.

dearabbysmom profile image

dearabbysmom 5 years ago from Indiana

Great hub! You have to wonder what dogs think when dumped by their families. So hard to understand.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the tip, Amy and thanks for reading.

Amy 6 years ago

Awesome Post. Thank akirchner for sharing great information about pet tracker. A-GPS dog collar offers total peace of mind that your dog is always under surveillance, no matter where you are. SpotLight GPS Pet Locator is one A-GPS Pet Locator which helps pet owner keep track of pets.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks so much for commenting - and glad you agree - I only wish I could rescue them all!

Sierra  6 years ago

This is awesome! I agreed with you all the way!

akirchner profile image

akirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

The holidays are one of the worst times for animals and when most alarming numbers end up in shelters or being euthanized because people "can't deal with them".....I love this time of year but then again, I feel so bad....

Lyria profile image

Lyria 7 years ago

I am with you 100%! I wish more people would look at animal shelters before purchasing a pet. There are SO many wonderful animals waiting for someone to love them and take them home. Great topic!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article