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Taking Your Pet To The Shelter??

Updated on August 10, 2012

Things You Need To Think About Before You Take Your Pet To A Shelter

Having to give up your pet doesn’t always make you a bad person.

Acknowledging that above statement took me almost 5 years - AFTER I left the shelter. You see, I had spent almost 15 years in the humane field and had hit “compassion fatigue“ around year 12 but refused to admit it. Everybody that gave up an animal was bad and anyone that wasn’t perfect with vet records and such wasn’t good enough to adopt an animal.

Sounds horrible doesn’t it? It was, and, it wasn’t. I was dedicated if nothing else. But we’re not here to talk about that.

What we are here to go over is the truth about that animal you are giving up and it’s chances of being adopted. Some people may get upset with me, but I’ve been with 3 shelters, a vets office and in animal control, so I do have some knowledge to go on here. Of course, if a “no-kill” shelter takes your pet it’s a whole different story - keep in mind that they are usually full at all times. Frankly, I have issues with most “no-kill” facilities but that’s for later too.

So, here are a few things to think about and this means be honest with yourself about your pet.

He Only Pees In My Shoes When He's Mad

1. Behavior - Most people think the health of the animal is the first thing considered. Not always. If the dog or cat is too aggressive to handle then it’s pretty much done right there. If this isn’t a problem, then other behavior factors are considered such as: is the pet good with other animals and/or children, is the pet housebroken or are there specific issues that require more training with housebreaking? Be honest with the shelter staff on this. No one wants to adopt out an animal and find out later that it has severe separation anxiety after it ate the couch - and yes, this has happened. As bad as is sounds, if your pet has a behavior issue that you won’t deal with, how can you expect someone else to do it when they have no emotional attachment involved? Some people will take on behavior issues if they know about them up front. If it’s not something they knew about beforehand that pet will usually be brought back to the shelter.

She's Missing Hair In Spots But It's Only Allergies

2. Health - On to the health of the pet. Not all health problems are a mark against the animal. Heartworms, scabies, ringworm and some other issues are things that can be treated but the shelter has to have the money, time and space to allow for the required treatment - and since some of these things are contagious to people the staff has to be willing to treat it. Believe me, knowingly making yourself a host for sarcoptic mange or to feline ringworm is not a job requirement. While both of these are self limiting on humans, they still make you itchy and uncomfortable (I’ve had both a few times over and it wasn’t fun at any time).

But He's Only 12

3. Age - I know you are thinking that an old pet (somewhere around 5 to 7 yrs and up) hardly ever finds a home. While that is true to an extent, it’s not a cold, hard fact. Age figures into health, behavior, sex, breed, housing environment and if the pet has been spayed or neutered. Those two words - housing environment - probably jumped out at you there. I mean what difference does it make how the pet lived? It does matter. Most people are not going to be too accepting of bringing a dog that has lived outside on a chain for 5 years into their house and the same applies to an outside cat. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, it’s just rare. Truthfully even a ten year old Yorkie has a good chance of finding a new home.

He's A Purebred Bassador

4. Breed - Once again, this one figures into all of the above. Unfortunately the large breed dogs suffer the most for this. As do the power breeds - even more so. Power breeds are the Rotties, Dobies, Mastiffs and of course the ever famous Pit Bull, among others. To a lot of people these dogs are just too much to handle and require more room. Shelters usually have to take a closer look at people applying for these breeds to make sure they are a good home and in some cases depending on where they live a supplemental insurance policy is required (usually applies to Pit Bulls).

Make Sure You're Sure

Taking your pet to the shelter is often a one way street so if you only need a short term home, see if a friend can pet sit for you. A lot of people drop off their pets and then feel guilty about it. The reasons you did it probably haven’t changed since the day before so if you attempt to get the pet back you are just going to be right back where you were.

If there is any question about it, do some research. If you are having housebreaking issues seek help from the internet, friends or ask the shelter if they have any literature available. The same thing goes with chewing, food aggression, separation anxiety and digging. Pets need to be trained and you need to be honest enough with yourself about it - do you have the time and can you make that commitment? If not then the shelter may be an option but go there with your eyes open. And don’t ask the staff for more than they can give - they see this every day and they can’t promise they will find a home for your pet or any other pet they have but they do their best. Each and every animal is different. All of these things are guidelines. Believe me, I’ve seen some animals that no one would have thought would be put up for adoption that found their perfect homes - it happens.


Little Money, Little Space

Keep in mind that most shelters operate on a limited amount of funds and space so if you go in there with your 3 year old un-neutered male, heartworm positive dog that has been living on a chain in the back yard since he was 4 months old, be realistic about it. Again, above all else, be up front with the shelter staff. If they know the pet isn’t good with kids they will place them in an adult home and let the adopters know that the pet has problems with children. It’s a lot worse to have a child injured because you didn’t tell the truth.

After reading this you may think why go to the shelter at all - I’ll just drop him off in the country and some farmer will give him a home. That’s not what usually happens. Most of these animals end up dying a slow, painful death after being hit by cars or due to exposure or disease. At least going to the shelter gives the animal a chance. If they do euthanize the pet, it is done compassionately, quickly and painlessly.

Final Thoughts

I recently came across another article posted elsewhere that was written by a shelter manager about what really happens when you turn in your pet. Never have I been so angry at another person involved in animal welfare! While there was truth in the article there was a lot of hatred in there also. If you can’t tell someone about what happens at the shelter in a straight forward but yet compassionate way, how can you be compassionate with those you’ve elected to care for? Unfortunately shelter workers all over fall into this when dealing with people. It’s compassion fatigue and I will be writing about it soon.


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    • Sypsey profile image

      Sypsey 5 years ago

      Those programs do exists on some places and is an excellent idea for a future hub - I'll get working on it. Thanks!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Also, if you could please advise us of better alternates to shelters, I will appreciate. Perhaps some people would find them comforting. For example, how about foster program for Humane Society's pets that are put for adoption after training?

    • Sypsey profile image

      Sypsey 5 years ago

      Suhail - taking a pet to a shelter is hard for most people, but some options are worse - it all depends on the shelter. Unfortunately so many people have bad experiences at shelters that they will never consider going to one again - even to adopt. It's a bad deal all the way around - the ones that end up suffering for the bad experience are the animals looking for homes, not the staff. Ahhh, don't get me started. As far as the compassion fatigue, I will be posting that within the next day or two. Thank you for your comment and check back soon.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I always thought and still think that leaving a pet at a shelter is the most unwanted thing that I can think of. When I was moving internationally, two of my dogs were taken in by a friend, who took them to his village / hamlet. I kept in touch with their progress, which was never very satisfactory, and I am still guilty of doing that some 20 years later. Sorry, no matter what, I will not do it again unless I am 100% sure that the new household is 100% better than mine.

      It is surely a hub that is off the beaten path - useful and interesting.

      I will be looking forward to reading about compassion fatigue :-)

    • Sypsey profile image

      Sypsey 5 years ago

      I am sorry your daughter had to go through that and commend your son for working with the dog. You are absolutely right - some dogs do need that certain person/home. Thanks for the "Great job!" I appreciate it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I will stay tuned. My daughter adopted a dog that turned out to be quite aggressive. Killing neighborhood cats and beating up dogs. She lives in the country where animals pretty much run free. They were going to have to turn him in because of liability issues. My son agreed to take him in and work with him . He lives in the city with a fenced in yard. We were able to save the heartbreak. He just wasn't cut out to be a country dog! Too much trouble to get into. I think some dogs just belong with different owners. Great job!

    • Sypsey profile image

      Sypsey 5 years ago

      Thank you so much DrMark1961. I was hoping I didn't come off sounding like a complete you know what.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Cold truths, but stated in a clear and decent way. Thanks. I am voting this up and will share on Pinterest and HP.