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« 13 Day old infant dies in dog attack (over Labor Day Weekend) | Main | The significance of the upcoming new book, "Why Dogs Die Young" »

September 11, 2011


Truth in Numbers

So San Fransisco follows in the path of Tompkins in no longer being a "no kill" open admission shelter? So much for the flawed concept that communities like Tompkins don't suffer from the same pet overpopulation issues that the other 99.5% of public shelters face - too many pets - not enough homes.


Truth -- the reality is that San Francisco abandoned many of their no kill ideals several years ago and hasn't been no kill, or really even all that close to it, for the better part of the past decade.

Truth in Numbers

What's Tompkins excuse? They abandoned running an open admission shelter back as early as 2007 yet there are still people who include the Tompkins SPCA in their list of "open admission" no kill shelters.


I'll be honest, I haven't been paying super-close attention to what is going on at Tompkins, so I'm not qualified to say. It's interesting though that at the No Kill Conference there was a lot of talk about how "open" open admission shelters should be. It's a concept that I've struggled with for awhile but am finally starting to warm up to. For decades the sheltering community has been essentially enabling people to get by without being responsible for their pets and just accepting drop-offs. There is some movement now (especially in the struggling economy) to put more of the onus on owners to rehome their own pet if that is an option. While many have used this (as it seems you are) as a reason to be hyper-critical of the No Kill Movement, I think most rational people would agree that if it can be an option, it is a better one than just killing them at the shelter -- which has been the shelter default for decades). Again, it's something that has taken me some time to warm up to....and I do plan to write more about it soon. In the meantime, I think Christie Keith did a nice write-up on this a few weeks ago:


It's easy enough to state shelters and rescues are enablers and have made it easy for people to abandon their pets; however, I'm struggling with that for a lot reasons. It IS supposed to be a SHELTER and sometimes people are simply out of options. Is it better to dump the animal? Because that's what used to happen and that's what will happen again. I guess we could revert to the old methods of dealing with unwanted pets, but shooting dogs to dispense with them and putting kittens in a gunny sack and drowning them is no longer in vogue (we don't kill our own pets anymore - we've graduated to killing children in our society).

I will say when people call me about the need to place a "pit bull" I tell them the best option is if they can find a co-worker, friend, or relative to take the dog. Most of the calls I get are from middle-aged women with a dog that belongs to their son. If we had a time tunnel we could go back to the day when you allowed your 16 year old son to bring a dog home in the first place! (I'd still be living at home if my parents had been that nice, LOL).

So, is it okay for shelters to take "cute, adoptable dogs" but turn away large, unadoptable mixed breeds? I get a number of calls from people that tell me a local (mostly) private shelter won't take their dog. I tell them to call them back and tell the shelter they have a litter of four-month old Yorkies they need to place. Suddenly the shelter has all sorts of room! It's a miracle!

I also have a problem with taxpayer-funded shelters telling residents they are "full" because they're trying to improve their kill numbers. I told one councilmember I didn't care if they had to start stacking crates in the mayor's office, these people are paying taxes in exchange for a service! They don't seem to get the concept - it would be like the city-owned Power and Light company telling someone to call an electrical contractor if a power line were down in their yard.

I'm struggling with this one, Brent. Shelters aren't going to turn pet owners into responsible people by telling them to re-home their own pet. The pet owners will more than likely revert to the tried-and-true method of dumping it someplace. Or shooting it. Or drowning it.

What's REALLY sad about this is I've lived long enough to see this come full-circle. :-(


KMK -- Again, I'll write more about this topic in the future because it's something I still wrestle with a little - because there is a happy medium.

On the one hand, I don't think shelters should just take all the animals no questions asked. I think if you really talk to people and get to the heart of why the animal is getting dropped off, a lot of problems can be overcome.

I also think that if a shelter is a kill facility, they have every right to tell the person that they cannot guarantee the pet a good home -- and that if they want to assure themselves that the pet will get a good home, they should have to do it themselves.

Even a no kill shelter that is "full" can have the right/ability to say "we're full, and if you can keep the pet for 2-3 weeks longer we can assure the pet a happy home then" and put some onus on the owners to keep the pet for awhile. This may not be practical in all cases, but a lot of people do comply (and many end up working through their issues with their pet during that time).

I don't think there is any reason to think that the vast majority of people will dump, shoot or drown their dog under any circumstance - -and I certainly don't think the type of people that would do that would have ever thought to go to the shelter first.


Brent, I agree with everything you've written.

There are a lot of gray areas in this discussion - but I'm a technical person and I think in black and white. :-)

yes, shelters should ask more questions. I'm not suggesting they shouldn't. Quite often a behavior problem or living situation is "fixable". The people that make me want to clobber them are those that want to get rid of the dog because it's chewing the furniture but they won't put it in a crate because "that's cruel". Certainly taking it the shelter to face certain death isn't cruel!

I get annoyed when shelters don't ask the owner where they got their "pit bull", because a good breeder will take the dog back. But honestly, in the 25+ years I've been getting calls about pit bulls needing homes (hundreds of calls would not be an exaggeration), I can count the number of times on one hand that the owner knew who the breeder was and had the registration papers. What always cracks me up is when the owner calls me but they can't find the breeder's number. Okay, you can find my number that you've had for 15 years but you can't find the number of a guy that you bought a dog from six months ago? KEEP LOOKING!

Or they can't remember where they got the dog. HUH? I can remember exactly where I got every dog I've ever owned, including the ones we had when I was a kid.

I called a breeder one time to tell him one of his pups was in my livingroom and he literally blew a gasket - he knew the owners were having marital problems and had told them three times to bring the puppy back to him. The owners told me the breeder wouldn't take the puppy back so I told them to bring it to my house and I'd deal with him. I guess they were embarrassed? Not sure.

No-kill shelters that are privately funded absolutely have the right to tell people they're full and ask them to hang onto the pet a little longer. But the taxpayer funded shelter to which I referred is NOT full - they're telling people they're full so people will take their dogs/cats elsewhere and their numbers look better. Now they're bragging about practically being no-kill! One couple picked up a kitten and took it to that municipal shelter themselves and were told "Sorry, we can't take it!". The man asked if he was supposed to dump it out on the street. The shelter worker told him they didn't care what he did with it but they weren't taking it. Nice.

And we all know there are private shelters that are "selectively" choosing which animals they take. I'll get a phone call from someone complaining that a local (mostly) private shelter won't take their dog because they're full, and three days later I'm reading that this same shelter went to the KCMO municipal shelter and pulled X number of dogs and cats. Hello!

Again, it's a big topic. I realize that. The answer is still continued education and low cost speutering, IMO. We still need to take the Mountain to Mohammed. I just don't want to see us go backwards, because that wasn't pretty, either.


The shelters who declare themselves no kill but are selectively 'helping' municiple shelters are by taking all of their highly adoptable animals is another topic altogether....


Brent - I also agree 100% with your last post.

Many of the purebred rescues started 20 years ago or so - not because they wanted to cherry-pick the highly adoptable dogs from shelters, but because the animal rights activists kept saying breeders were filling the shelters and 25 to 30 percent of the dogs in shelters were purebreds. So, a lot of the purebred parent clubs and other faniciers said, "Okay, we'll start a rescue and help you out".

It didn't take long for the shelters to stop working with most of those rescues because they were taking all the "good dogs".

Even as recently as 15 years ago I had friends that did Sheltie rescue and they never got a call from a shelter about young, healthy Shelties because they could sell them too easily. they only got calls if the dogs were geriatric or had some other affliction. There's a dermatolotical genetic disorder called "DM" (affects Collies and Shelties) for short and they picked up a few of those - the owners turned them in because they thought they had an allergy they couldn't clear up.

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