Socially conscious sheltering FAQ

Q: What are some examples and statistics related to socially conscious sheltering successes thus far?

A: When measuring success, we evaluate:

  • The number of stray animals having a safe place to live until they are reunited with their families.
  • The number of animals whose owners can no longer care for them that are gracefully received by the shelter.
  • The number of animals in the community that are positively impacted by the shelter’s programs.
  • The number of safe animals adopted in the community.
  • The level of community support to provide the resources needed to rehabilitate animals.
  • The length of time an animal lives in the shelter and for what reasons. It is especially important to look at the length of time between an animal becoming ready for adoption and being adopted.
  • The success of the entire community is of utmost importance. Policy changes in one shelter can create a problem in another shelter, which distorts the impact on the animals. By looking at combined statistics for a geographical area, one can understand the authentic animal welfare picture.

Q: What are some of the factors that are considered before a euthanasia decision is made?

A: Every animal is an individual, and each situation is unique. As such, each euthanasia decision is made on a case-by-case basis, taking a holistic view of the animal’s health, behavior, history and observations in the shelter. Will this animal suffer due to serious health issues that cannot be addressed? Is the animal behaviorally safe to be placed into the community without causing injury to human and other animals? Can this animal be safely rehabilitated?

Q: What are the concerns that the informed and uninformed public are asking? How might we address them?

Do we euthanize for time and space? No. Animals may be in our care for days, weeks or months before finding a new home. We understand that it may take more time for some pets to find the right match, which is why we do not put an end date on their stay with us.

How can you justify euthanizing any animal? When an animal is suffering due to serious health issues that cannot be addressed, socially conscious shelters believe euthanasia is a humane decision. When an animal poses a real threat to the community, there is a responsibility of the shelter to ensure other animals (and people) are safe. These are the situations when euthanasia is appropriate.

Why are adoption fees so expensive? It is typical for progressive shelters to invest an average of $450 per animal, which is more than most adoption fees. Adopting from a socially conscious shelter is a great value for the pet owner considering the shelter has invested in spay/neuter, other necessary surgery, vaccines, a microchip and often much more.

How do you assess the behavior of a pet? Qualified team members use a behavior assessment including interactions with staff and volunteers, behavior observations while in the shelter’s care, the history of the animal in its previous home (if known) and an evaluation of how the animal responds to positive reinforcement behavior modification to fully assess any animal displaying behavior concerns. Shelter behavior teams work daily with pets that are timid, anxious or in need of behavior training for them to become the best possible candidates for adoption.

Q: Have statistics for animals turned away (e.g., from no-kill shelters) been tracked? How do they look and what do they tell us?

A While there is no way to track how many animals are turned away from no-kill shelters, in 2016 fewer than five percent of dog adoptions through shelters were facilitated through no-kill organizations in Colorado. This statistic clearly illustrates how pet acceptance decisions that are necessary for an organization to be considered “no kill” significantly limit a shelter’s impact on the homeless dog population.

Statistics from individual shelter data indicates that, in the last decade, the animal welfare movement has made great strides in reducing the number of animals entering shelters and rescues and in reducing euthanasia of animals. Unfortunately, animal welfare has a long way to go to provide reliable data for all shelters operating in the United States. Shelter Animals Count is an organization that has created a national database to facilitate the collection of this vital data. In 2017, data from 2,800 U.S. shelters and rescues showed that 2.6 million animals were cared for and that 2.1 million animals had positive outcomes. Many shelters and rescues do not report their data, which makes it difficult to get accurate data across all organizations. National euthanasia numbers are extrapolated from a minimal amount of data, and that data is being generalized for all shelters when, in fact, different parts of the country are experiencing dramatically different results. Euthanasia in a shelter is tied to the community’s socioeconomic reality and that usually dictates the resources available to shelters and rescues.

Q: Historically, it has taken bold legislative moves to advance causes, such as human rights, animal rights and humane treatment of animals. What is the right next step if not the No Kill movement?

A: Every community experiences different animal issues, and legislation to protect the health and welfare of animals should be made at a community level.  Animal control and animal sheltering must be valued, and agencies must be funded at a level that allows issues to be addressed. Local laws must be upheld to protect people and animals. Community agencies are underfunded in many communities.

Socially conscious sheltering is the responsible, transparent future of animal welfare. This social change will result in best outcomes for animals, rather than unintentional consequences from No Kill legislation that directly results in animal suffering and public safety issues.

Q: What alternative legislation might socially conscious sheltering propose or consider?

A: Legislation that covers the placement of all healthy and safe animals is more likely to be effective through the passage of resolutions than through laws because enforcement of such legislation is very difficult, and an unenforced law is ineffective. Most urgently, the public is being tricked into supporting legislative efforts that are presented as “good for animal” when, in reality, these efforts are resulting in unacceptable suffering. People must strive to truly understand any measure upon which they are voting so unintended suffering is not legislated into existence.

Q: The Front Range has a collaborative shelter approach. How can it be strengthened?

A: Colorado can be proud of our collaborative approach to animal welfare. Through collaboration, education, advocacy and resource sharing, the Metro Denver Animal Welfare Alliance and other coalitions work to increase companion animal adoptions, reunite more lost pets with their owners, spay/neuter more pets and decrease the number of relinquished pets due to resource issues. No matter a community’s intake philosophy, there is a place for everyone to contribute to the health and well-being of animals in Colorado.

Q: Are municipal shelters subject to the No Kill laws as well?

A: There are municipal shelters operating in communities that passed No Kill legislation. Austin, Texas is an example. Other small communities have passed similar laws, but usually because they already have a high save rate. If a community passes this law, the funding must come with the expectation, and there must be empowerment to euthanize animals that are suffering or unsafe. When an anti-euthanasia measure was enacted in Austin, their animal services budget increased from $6 million to $12 million to meet the mandate. They are still struggling with overcrowding, the welfare of animals in their care and having to limit animal intake.

Q: What are examples of bullying and inappropriate attacks that shelter workers receive?

A: The No Kill movement commonly attempts to vilify other organizations, their leadership and their staff. Recently a group sold a bumper sticker suggesting animal control officers should be killed. Organization’s social media sites are bombarded by members of the movement who spread untrue rumors, list staff personal contact information and send threatening emails. Homes and shelters have been vandalized, and shelter workers, their families and pets have been threatened. There are online petitions for executive directors to be fired. Workers are accosted in the community and called killers or murderers in front of their families and other citizens.

No Kill advocates swamp local government with emails and calls, as well as attend meetings to complain about shelters. These advocates come prepared with information detailing what they perceive to be wrong and how No Kill can solve the concerns by passing a no-kill ordinance. Local council members are bewildered and sometimes agree to follow up on the accusations, which creates considerable and unnecessary expense.

Q: Have any other No Kill movement policies passed that have been implemented already? What are the consequences?

A: The Austin study, while flawed, addresses the fact that No Kill comes with a cost. Animals suffer because they are overcrowded in shelters or rescues or they are living their entire life in a cage or a kennel. No-kill rescues have been shut down because of cruelty to animals, hoarding and overcrowding and a lack of medical care. Subsequently, open admission shelters take these animals into their care. One Colorado rescue failed to provide any veterinary care for animals in foster homes, and because the foster families lacked the resources to provide care, the animals ended up at an open admission shelter.

In California, the Hayden Bill requires shelters to turn over animals at risk of euthanasia to any rescue that requests them. No consideration is given to the level of suffering that the animal is experiencing, the safety of the community or the skills and resources of the receiving organization. Rescue groups pull dangerous animals out of shelters and try to get them adopted by unsuspecting owners. When someone gets hurt, the animal ends up back in a shelter and the cycle continues. Shelters and rescue organizations that knowingly release and adopt out dangerous animals are being sued by people whose loved ones have been killed or maimed.