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« Also in the spirit of Veteran's Day | Main | Five year old Alabama boy dead from dog attack »

November 13, 2010


Kathy Pobloskie

Well you have said it perfectly Brent - thereby freeing up my Saturday morning. So I'm off to ride my horse! Thank you.


While there are pros and cons to most shelters, I posted on a friend's wall last week about this very topic, in response to the No Kill Movement's "shelter reform week".

While it is right to acknowledge that there is room for improvement, I disagree with placing the blame on all of the shelters. This is a community problem... a national crisis. Until people stop breeding the heck out of animals and stop dropping their pets at shelters whenever they become an inconvenience to them, the problem lies with those folks, not the shelters. I admit that not all shelters are perfect and that some are downright horrible, but lets put the blame where it belongs. Why do we need shelters in the first place? And some of them are doing everything they can for our communities, so yes, we should be thanking them. Many shelters have moved progressively forward while the people who breed and dump animals have gotten worse. Furthermore, there are problems with policies and ordinances that result in people dumping their animals in shelters. Positive and responsible pet ownership is key here, and until we change the ways of the people, we'll never have a true environment in which animal control can move entirely to animal care.

One can certainly comment on the many ways that shelters can improve, and I totally agree with you that not adopting out certain breeds or not adopting out animals at all is a complete failure, but again, where are these animals coming from? There are so many ways to "fix" the issues that we see in shelters, but if we never reach the public and make the changes needed there, intake, which is the real problem, will always be the biggest concern.


We have gone from killing 40 million animals a year and now we're down to 4 million. People are, by and large, responsible. The shelters are not filled with puppies and most of the kittens are from community cats. We HAVE reached the public but there will always be a need for shelters just as there will always be a need for foster homes, homeless shelters and battered women's shelters.

Do we blame the irresponsible parent when a child is molested or killed in foster care? I mean, the kid wouldn't have been in foster if the parent wasn't a lout! Or do we blame the person committing the action?

Let's leave the old rhetoric behind and quit excusing the killing. We put a man on the moon 40 years ago - you can't convince me we can't solve this problem because of a small percentage of irresponsible people.


I agree with you in some ways, and also believe that there will always be a need for shelters. But if we're reaching everyone effectively, the structure and needs of the shelters will change from "control" which is a community issue, to "care" which is a shelter issue. I acknowledged the need for improvements in many shelters, especially in terms of adoptions, euthanasia and community cats, but we can't ignore the community and place all the blame on the shelters. This argument could be used in for many situations. An abusive partner is arrested, and while the abused individual is taken in and cared for, the abusive partner can and should be educated and reformed so that this behavior doesn't repeat itself. No rhetoric - but yes, I absolutely would blame the parent that molested their child, and fully believe, that while the child should be taken care of and nurtured, that the parent should be educated, counseled and given all the resources possible to ensure that such a trauma is never passed on to another child.

Irresponsible owners are not that small of a %. Look at the most common reasons behind owner relinqueshment. Look at all the dog fighting busts, puppy mills, backyard breeders, tethered animals, starving animals... the list goes on. This is no small concern.


Let's see HSUS, BF and all the proponents of PropB start campaigning for legislation mandating care standards for shelters, as they did for breeding operations.

Focus on THAT, which everyone can agree on. Or should.. Right?

Who is most morally righteous over "killing/euthanasia" is a separate issue.


Care standards should absolutely be key, but I wouldn't go as far as to say who is responsible is a separate issue. They are unified issues and should be dealt as such. You cannot teach a child to succeed by doing their homework for them - it's a multipart process.

Anna Nirva

How does our nation assess our shelters? How can the average pet owner learn which shelter might deserve our donations and volunteer support? How does a shelter apply for a rating? Where is the objective resource? If one is out there, I have not been fortunate to find it. If we need to design and build such a system, please let me help somehow.


1) I think the thousands of volunteers volunteering for shelters or rescue groups is a different subject vs. the leaders running our animal shelters. Volunteers are the army of compassion that save thousands of lives and they should be appreciated. But the power to choose life or death and to stop inhumane treatment of animals lies with the shelter directors and politicians. That is what needs to be reformed.

2) There are a lot less shelters getting it right than the number that need serious reform. Houston's animal control is an example of a shelter that citizens and volunteers have been trying to "fix" for many years, but the shelters leaders have refused and fought us. Here is a short history of what has been going on: Believe me I left A LOT of horrible stories out of this article.

Also, I talk to adocates from all over the country who tell me stories that sound remarkable like Houston. We could just change the names of the shelter leaders and our stories would be the same.

BTW: Houston has 5 kill shelters--3 of the 5 automatically kill Pit Bulls.

Also on the HSUS site it said "A special “Laugh. Dance. Rescue” T-shirt, with the message contained in the shape of a dog, is being sold exclusively on DeGeneres’s website to benefit The HSUS’s Shelter Services work." The HSUS does not have any shelters. I wonder where this money is actually going?


You can't actually find "Shelter Services" on the HSUS page.

But you can find:

and of course their wonderful "Animal Sheltering" magazine which published several articles about why shelters should always kill dogfighting bust dogs... articles which have now been disappeared from the archive. I guess we should be grateful for that.


Excellent blog, Brent.

Jamie wrote, "Irresponsible owners are not that small of a %. Look at the most common reasons behind owner relinqueshment. Look at all the dog fighting busts, puppy mills, backyard breeders, tethered animals, starving animals... the list goes on. This is no small concern".

In our area the most common reason for relinquishment, the last time I checked, was "moving, can't keep the pet", which goes a bit beyond just the fact the owner moving. The phone calls I get certainly reflect that reason. I think behavior problems were second, and many of those can be traced back to people taking puppies away from the dam too early, but that's a whole 'nuther subject matter.

Let's look at each item -
1. Dogfighting busts - HSUS has been collecting money to "stop dogfighting" for 30 years. Give me a 100 million dollars and I'll find every dogfighter between Hell and Texas and back again. The only "problem" is HSUS keeps collecting money to stop a problem I'm not convinced is as widespread as they claim, for which they themselves are partly responsible. Funny, every article I read claims it's a "growing problem". Hmmm...guess we can make an assumption here that contributing money to HSUS causes dogfighting! Whatever time and money HSUS is investing in stopping dogfighting should hereby be invested in helping shelters and rescues, because they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. When dogfighting was a misdemeanor and before HSUS jumped in to help stop the problem, we weren't killing people's "pit bulls" right, left, and center.

2. "Puppy mills" - how is this a problem? And are we talking about "breeders" or "hoarders"? We've made great strides since the 1970s and 1980s. There are laws in place to deal with illegal operations. Besides, shelters in certain parts of the country are importing animals, so they welcome those "puppy mill" dogs. Breeding is not a criminal activity in most places, but give the animal rights activists time. They're working on it.

3. "Backyard breeders" - only illegal in select locations. Again, how is this a "problem" if 22 million people are looking for a pet every year? Does every single backyard-bred dog end up in a shelter. Probably not.

4. Tethered animals - this one is the biggest mystery of all to me. When I was a kid no one had money for a fence and everyone tethered their dogs. And yet, you don't see the majority of Baby Boomers walking around with huge scars, missing fingers, and the tips of our noses gone due to tethered dogs. Can they be a problem? I suppose. Is this at the top of my list? Nope. Is it better than being thumped by a car? Probably. Is the assumption here that all tethered dogs end up in the shelter? Funny, none of ours ever did.

5. Starving animals - yes, they're starving all right - inside the walls of the Dallas animal shelter. Don't we have a million cruelty laws on the books? in our state we have beaucoup misdemeanor cruelty, felony cruelty, and local cruelty laws. Call me Polyanna but this one seems like a no-brainer to solve if it's a "problem".

Actually, the majority of the public *is* responsible. Everyone needs to read Nathan's books. People are the solution, not the problem. This is kind of like fishing - if you think things are bad now, you should have been around 30 years ago. For my generation the cup is half full when it comes to shelter euthanasia - but half empty when it comes to 'pit bulls'. I don't recall dogfighting being a "problem" until HSUS came on the scene as a reinvented animal rights organization.


Foreclosures are kicking shelters in the ass right now. And since a large majority of the dogs losing their homes include pit bull type dogs owned by under-resourced owners (many who over-breed in order to keep the lights on), we're seeing euth numbers go up rather than down in many places during this economy, even those places without BSL. When pit bulls are surrendered and subsequently killed like we're seeing in Houston, the general belief is "Oh but they're just pit bulls." Not much grief and certainly no public outcry. The same was true in SF when the city tried to promote itself as no-kill. No-kill, except for pit bulls, since who's going to rail against their euthanasias? Not many. Houston gets away with it for the same reason SF and so many urban shelters have all these years. They're "just pit bulls" and not enough care at this point in time to work towards truly honest, un-doctored save rates.

Barbara Saunders

The rhetoric supporting the status quo is so powerful. I agree that there are some shelters, shelter staff/management/boards, and volunteers doing great work, the very logic of the "irresponsible public" mantra needs to be seriously deconstructed.

With regards to irresponsible people, our job in animal welfare is to educate those who are amenable to education. We can minimize the problem. We cannot eliminate the problem. We have to move towards saving animals WHILE PEOPLE ARE STILL IRRESPONSIBLE. We can no more stop ALL cases of "irresponsible people" disposing of their animals at shelters than we can stop all teenagers from driving fast or having sex. At some point, we must question the agenda behind further trying to reduce "irresponsibility." Is it about saving animals or some arrogant and self-righteous crusade?


The best dog I ever had most loving safe around my kids smartest of 9 dogs was a pit bull. She was so sweet her name was Kiddy and I miss her everyday.


Donna - I'm not sure how much the foreclosure thing is affecting shelters here in the Kansas City metro. Probably not a lot since it's darned near impossible to get an animal into a shelter. 'No kill' means you don't let anything through the door. At least one taxpayer supported shelter is putting residents on a "waiting list" and directing them to another taxpayer supported shelter that won't turn anything away. I was wondering how the first shelter had improved their euth numbers so much!

Barbara - the "irresponsible owner" thing always amuses me. People honestly expect pet owners that don't behave responsibly and aren't responsible about their OWN reproduction to be responsible with their pets and their pets' reproduction. And yes, you CAN stop irresponsible people. Just ask any city council. :-) If you pass enough laws and make the fines high enough they will by golly snap to attention and become instantly responsible.


"truly honest, un-doctored save rates. " AMEN Donna! If you say you're no kill and don't release your records you're hiding something.

Barbara - Double AMEN! How did we the conclusion that we should expect pet owners to be 100% responsible when there is not one other segment of the population that is? Police aren't, priests aren't, doctors/nurses aren't...maybe city council members are... ;-P


And I'm not sure why honest, undoctored save rates are such a problem for people. If you aren't doing anything wrong, and your goal is to save them all (and if it's not, you're in the wrong profession), then why not be honest about the problems/struggles/etc so that good solutions can be reached and prioritized in solving the problem? It just makes sense to me.

KMK - I've been seeing a lot in KC recently that the foreclosure issue is starting to become a problem. I certainly still don't think it's as bad as it is in other places, but we are seeing a pretty significant increase in owner surrenders. Some of this is undoubtedly other shelters turning them away....but some of it I think is a sign of the times.


The "non-no kill" shelters who follow the Assilomar accords, so much the target of the Winogradians, are supposed to be completely transparent in their statistics. They use a measure of "live release rate", which I certainly prefer to the phoniness of the "no kill" game. Even when they don't necessarily look so great. Here's an example from a Denver-area shelter.


Thanks, Brent, you're closer to the city than I am. The foreclosure issue was what I kind of expected - people are relinquishing their pets, but not to the degree they are in other areas.

Thanks for the link, EmilyS. I'm familiar with Asilomar but had never looked at that particular link. Interesting.

I would like to see "no kill" work with my own two eyes. Not that I doubt Winograd, but around here "No Kill" is certainly a game. One private shelter is getting huge accolades for their "no kill" program but they are literally sucking the life out of other resources in the metro area. They also put cameras on their property, so don't even think about dumping something off, no matter how desperate you are!

Another shelter is now proudly "no kill", which they accomplished by going to a "limited admissions policy" - and they put that right on their web site! I know I've written this before, but someone should tell the President we can solve our health care problem if we keep the pesky sick people out of the hospitals!

A friend of mine compares it to a car business. You own three car dealerships in cities X, Y, and Z. Once a month you send cars from dealership X to dealership Y, cars from dealership Y to dealership Z, and cars from dealership Z to dealership X. On paper the cars are "sold" when in reality they've just been shuffled around, which is not all bad, as different people see the cars, but it is basically nothing more than a shell game.


Just thought I'd say, as I understood it, Loudoun County animal shelter didn't sue for their right to kill pit bulls, somebody took Loudoun County to court and sued THEM because they kill pit bulls for no reason, and they countersued I believe. I think the judge upheld the shelter's "right" or whatever to kill the dogs they want because they do transfer some pit bulls to rescue groups, not many though, as they don't work with many rescue groups here. :/

BTW, some time ago, Loudoun county conducted a survey to see if the people of the county were in favor of their policy, and they overwhelmingly were NOT. But I guess they didn't get the results the wanted, so they just filed them away and forgot about them. You can see them if you go to their website: And click on "statistics" under the "Our Department" heading, go to the next to the last folder at the bottom titled "Survey" and you will see a file on the right called "Raw Data.xls", and all the stuff for the survey is in there. Enjoy!


Oh and if you go back to stats, you can see their kill stats and adopted stats and all that stuff too. Even stats for the calls they went out on.


Oh and if you go back to stats, you can see their kill stats and adopted stats and all that stuff too. Even stats for the calls they went out on.

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