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05 May 2009


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Susan Fox

When our county shelter opened four years ago, it was numbers only, at first. Only one employee had any previous open admission shelter experience. One had done animal control. No dog or cat was given a name. No one in the rescue community had any idea of what was going to happen as far as adoption effort or anything else.

A couple of months in, I brought it up with one of the kennel staff, who said they didn't want to name the animals because they didn't want to "get attached" to them. Now I could kind of understand that because the policy about euthanasia was a work in progress.

So, I cashed in some influence chips and went to see the director, who I'd saved a puppy with a broken leg for by arranging the surgery and transporting him to the vet and back, an overnight trip. The rescue I was volunteering with at the time raised the money for the surgery in about two hours and three phone calls.

I told him that the animals HAD to have names so people would connect with them and adopt them. As it turns out, he wanted (and wants) every animal possible to walk out the door on four paws, so within days, names started to show up on the kennel cards.

And the staffer who brushed off doing it became the shelter name hog who had to name everything. She may have named the brooms for all I know.

I guess the point is the same one that Nathan makes. The difference was one person, the shelter director, who knows what No Kill is and is committed to it.

We are open until 7 on Wednesdays, noon to 4 on Saturdays. Staff does adoption events. They take turns driving 20 minutes each way every week to put a dog or cat on the live local news. The director does a 5 minute live radio gig every week called, so help me, "Dogs on Death Row", which they aren't, but people remember it, and know that it's cop humor. I know, eye roll.

There is a volunteer rescue coordinator who is at the shelter a couple of times a week evaluating the dogs in hold and finding rescue slots as needed. There is a volunteer transport coordinator who fixes up the rides. I help them both has I can.

The local high school has a Panther Pals club. The school covers the liability since some are under 18, so there's a faithful crew of high school kids who are there every week, walking and playing with the dogs and petting and playing with the cats.

Plus there are adult volunteers who do the same things. We just got a new volunteer coordinator who is on disability, has experience training therapy dogs and wants to devote his available community service time to the shelter.

As the only volunteer who shows animals to the public, I find that people ask how long the animals have and are very relieved when I tell them there's no time limit. (One cat was there a year before she got adopted. I think that's the record.) They like our sparkling clean facility and comment on that quite often.

They show up in droves for the holiday open house, complete with live remote by one of the radio stations. A local rescue always sells paper memorial stars to build up the emergency medical fund, since the county limit per animal is $250. The two trees are always covered by the end of the day.

Our community loves animals and supports a shelter that does it right.

We are a rural county of 140,000 with an average income of $38,000, so don't tell me that No Kill can't work in places like ours. It does. We do it here every day.


I've also heard some things about Sac shelter here on the opposite coast.

I haven't checked our city shelter recently to see if all the pets are named, but there was an effort when I was volunteering there a couple years ago. I would name sometimes by pick up location (Brooklyn and Harlem live with me) either street if it was a good one or 'hood, or team player names (Yankee lives with me and has big mitts, guy at Brooklyn shelter says I need a "Met", I think I need a "Shea") if there were litters. We've gone through the spices (the 12 kittens and 3 mom ferals from my yard were "spiced") etc. It's actually one of the funnest parts of the "job". I'll never forget Mr Wrinkle (puppy!), puppy Cadet (yet another one found by the NYPD, ) Alex (rescued from neglect and so hairy we couldn't tell if she was a boy or a girl yet) etc. A few of the pets I named at the shelter by me still have their names, even when new owners tried to change them. Ooops! May have been the treat training we were doing ;)

Susan, interesting to hear about the law in CA regarding tagging for rescue. D@mn, I wish we had that here!! I lost so many Dals one month because the shelter "manager" didn't like the breed. I raised a major ruckus over that one. It was heartbreaking. Luckily we had just changed Mayors here and things were a changin'. He took a sudden vacation and we were able to immediately pull 3. And then he was gone, along with many who were there from the old admin and weren't quite on board with this "no-kill idea". I can't remember the exact number (around 20) that we had been contacted about by the adoption/rescue staff that we put our name on and "lost" when the "manager" noticed. Many tears when you get a phone call telling you "not to bother". I know my experience wasn't unique here and it pains me to think how many could have been saved with a law like that.


Sacramento AC is also the department which has decreed a ZERO tolerance policy for violation of their limit law. As in NEVER can you have a dog or cat over the limit, even if your just watching a friends pet, picked up a stray or have someone visiting for a few hours and their dogs stay in the car.

Makes it real friendly to good samaritans, rescue fosters and responsible breeders doesn't it?

H. Houlahan

Any rural dogpound in Ohio or Western PA is as bad or significantly worse.

As NESR's closest rep to the rural Ohio "source" area for dumped English shepherds, I get to visit a fine selection of hellholes.

Some of them have employees and volunteers in the trenches who are trying to do their best, others have a uniform Just Don't Givashit attitude, top to bottom. None have a mandate to care for the dogs (most are purely dog pounds, no cats) as opposed to a pure animal control orientation, and none have a director, county dog warden, or other leader who -- well, who could get elected dogcatcher anywhere.

IF they use Petfinder, the dog is lucky to be identified by a run number. There is frequently no photo. Breed ID -- for common breeds -- is dodgy at best, usually both fanciful and uninspired. (If it's black, it's a Lab. If it's black and one or both ears stick up, it's a Lab x GSD.)

IF you can get anyone on the phone, don't bother trying to ask questions about a specific dog. He doesn't know, and isn't going to find out for you. You will be lucky if he'll verify that the dog in run 8 is indeed a black and white fluffy one. Drive three hours to find a husky mix in run 8 because they already killed the ES you were sent to redeem -- oh well. Want the husky? We got some nice coonhounds, too. You are a "rescue" aren't you? What's the big deal about that one dog?

No evening or weekend hours at all.

Owner turn-ins get zero legal grace period, and so will be the first to be killed "for space" or because the dog warden is taking Friday off. A dog left in the "drop box" anonymously at 3 am is considered an "owner turn-in." Nevermind that she might have been found wandering at night by someone who thought the animal shelter was the good, safe place to take her at that time, stolen by an irate neighbor, dumped by a vindictive ex-spouse.

Oh, and the dog will be released (in Ohio) with a dog license, for which you must pay even if you can show out-of-state ID (it's not expensive, not worth arguing) -- but he will be unneutered, unvetted, and UNVACCINATED for rabies. The'll usually hit them with a DHPP, but I always stop at my vet on the way home to get the damn dog a rabies shot.

Don't get me started on the sanitary situation.


That’s freaking pathetic. Could they try any LESS to get their animals into homes?

Comment by Pai — May 4, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

Oh, sure they could. Not much less, but a little less. I've seen listings on Petfinder with no name, no background/description, AND no picture at all.

Too often, "shelters" are the problem.


I just saw a commercial with Oliver, the pup from the Pedigree adoption commercials. They show him all happy in his new home. Yes, we 'may' have remembered him visually, but gosh darn it if I didn't look up because of his name. Commercials are done in the same style as the previous ones and I do recall quite a bit of chatter in online forums calling the dogs by name when the original commercials ran.

Oliver looks to be quite the lil' character :)


Actually, I clicked through to their listings pages, most of the animals DO have names:

Now if they could just get on board with the descriptions . . . . . . . . .

Gina Spadafori

Rabbit pee ... I will remember that!

Christie Keith

A reader just let me know the nameless dog is still in the shelter, and all they know there is that he's around 3 years old and unaltered. She didn't ask why he has no name - she was talking to a volunteer who "sounded really nice" and encouraged her to hurry in if she was interested in the dog. Unfortunately, she doesn't even live in California, so her interest was more general (and because she was hoping to learn he'd been adopted).

Alison Brendel

I have to say, our local humane society is VERY lucky to have Michael Kloth come down and take great shots of there animals. I'm thrilled that he does this and I truly believe it helps them find better homes. I also had him photograph my recent litter and he did an awesome job with them too. I'm in no other way affiliated with him, but take a look at his galleries His shots really make a difference. But the poor guy sure at least deserves a name!!!

Christie Keith

I am very sympathetic to the photography issue, as I'm a poor photographer and I find pet photos challenging. And not everyone is a professional writer, either.

But yeah, they could have named him.

I spent some time on the shelter's website this morning and it seems that they do better by their cats, as all of them had names as far as I could see, and a generic "more about" text that was sometimes individualized and sometimes not, PLUS a plea contained within the generic info for volunteers to come photograph the cats and write their bios. So someone, at least in the feline kennels, is on the ball.

And many of the dogs DO have names, and plenty of them are pits and pit mixes, which I'd heard this shelter didn't even offer for adoption -- clearly I heard wrong.

Plus the volunteer who answered my friend's email was prompt and nice and helpful, so another plus.

All that said, sheesh... they honestly have to do better than this. A purebred small dog, young? Er... c'mon, guys! He should be flying out the door!

If this wasn't a barky breed and he wasn't so young I'd be trying to get my mom to consider him, but she's elderly and can't give him enough exercise, and I can't walk more than two dogs on a leash at the same time, and honestly don't have time to double my dog walking time. And a min schnauzer of any age would probably bark too much for our city home, although I'm sure an individual dog of that breed can be trained to be much quieter, as there seem to be a lot of them here in SF.

Hopefully he'll catch someone else's heart! I didn't really write this post to find him a home but to raise awareness of the issue of how shelters market their available pets, but it would be wonderful to learn he'd been adopted as a result of this, or just at all!


People abbreviate Sacramento with the name Sacto, not too great a name BUT an idea might be to show the current photo (he came in so sad) and then do an after shot (makeover, the shelter with a with PR) Get Sacto Boy in a more happy photo when, it goes without saying, HE IS FOUND A FOREVER HOME - could be an opportunity to increase adoptions not just for Sacto Boy....whatcha think?

Christie Keith

The Min Schnauzer rescue has done that with some of its "happy ending" follow up stories on its website... it's very moving!

Susan Fox

Which is why we have that law and the also the part that requires a four business day hold.

Your comment really supports Nathan's contention that we need a national law that takes the choice away from individuals and mandates appropriate action to save animals. Now they are at the mercy of people who have none.

Social Mange

That's sheer laziness. Petfinder will assign a random name to an animal if you choose that option when uploading the pic and info.

Terry Albert

Sob.... that sad little photo might be calculated to pull heartstrings so someone WILL adopt him. When I did rescue, we made up fun names, and some new owners even kept them. I fostered Bo Wiggly ( a Lab), Mudpie (A chocolate Lab), Zorro ( a black puppy) and Frosty Five Collies, who was so big and matted he looked like five collies rolled into one.

There is nothing like the love of an old dog. They are so grateful to be rescued...I have never regretted adopting an old dog, no matter how feeble. They tend to perk up and get healthy when they find themselves in a loving home. I hope your post helps this guy.

Christie Keith

I hope it helps him, too, but more to the point, I wish it would change how this shelter uses its PetFinder presence. This is one of the most popular breeds of dog in America. Give him a name and a one-liner, even if you have to use the pathetic photo (I know pet photography is very hard), and he'd be easy to place, even if he has special needs or challenges.

But who wants to get their pet from a gulag?

Christie Keith

And of course, the shelter is closed on Sundays, and closes every evening but one at 5 PM. That's convenient.


That's freaking pathetic. Could they try any LESS to get their animals into homes?

Susan Fox

Even I've heard about the Sacramento shelter and it's not good. The impression I get is that they Just. Don't. Care.

And this in California where the rescues don't have to worry about the animals being "held hostage" because the law allows them to "tag" any dog or cat for rescue regardless of what the people who run the shelter would like to do.

Don't you think that schnauzer rescue knows about this guy and will pull him if necessary? We have breed rescues contacting us all the time.

Not that that excuses their pathetic listing in any way.

I suspect that there will be a final, really ugly convulsion of resistance to the new No Kill paradigm because of its implication that millions of compantion animals have died needlessly. And if the public starts to really get that, watch out. Heads will roll. Jobs and retirement benefits will be at risk. Not to mention reputations.


That's why I *HAVE TO HAVE A SHELTER DIRECTOR WHO IS COMMITTED TO NO-KILL*. Yes, all these wonderful, incredible things can happen - but if you don't have that one thing - you are dead in the water before you even start. We don't have one here. Nuff said. Maybe I can move to Reno. Or Charlottesville.

Gina Spadafori

Mary Mary ... please share the lure you used to trap that bunny. I never would have thought of it, but now I'm adding it to my bag o' tricks.

Mary Mary


I used a big bag (gallon or so) of pee-soaked litter, from my foster bunnies' litter box. There were some poops in there too. Of course.

We did not know the gender of the stray rabbit. Kim had been trying for several days to trap the bunny, using a Havahart wire trap with fruit (smelly banana pieces) and hay inside. The rabbit would go near, but not IN the trap.

I told her to try two things:

1) Cover the trap with a blanket or throw rugs, leaving the open ends exposed, to make the trap a dark alluring tunnel. Most rabbits cannot resist a tunnel.

2) To put the freshly used rabbit litter inside the trap. I thought she would just pour the litter in but she actually put the entire plastic bag in there! Too funny. It worked anyway.

I figured the stray rabbit would wonder "Now just WHO is this that was on my turf and going into this odd above-ground burrow to do her business?"

Within a day, she was in the trap yelling, "Release me at once! Release me at once, I say!"

The litter I use is called Woody Pet. It is basically wood stove pellets, and it's the cheapest and most effective litter I've ever found. It is safe to use on your garden too ... just let it mellow for six months first, or the urine will burn your plants.

I felt sorry for the bunny after she was all set up in her cage at the shelter. She'd had a very large territory and now has a cage that is roomy but still. A cage. She was very, very calm for us. Obviously had been handled a lot by someone. Sigh!

The shelter staff immediately treated her fleas and pulled out the ticks, which I reminded her when I was talking to her at the cage. And as I tell all the rabbits I pull from the streets, I explained that she was now safe. Warm, dry, safe.

Anne T

To start, there might be a volunteer at the shelter with a better camera that can deal with low light conditions. I know not all of us are good photographers, and taking pet pics can be so frustrating, but that one is Dog awful!

As for names, sheesh. How hard is it? "Rahm", because he's a terrier and has that potential, "Woe Is Me", because he looks so full of that ( Wo or Wow for short), "Amore" because in the right forever home, I bet he has a lot of love to give! Not naming the dog is more than just one black mark against the shelter, it's rife with callousness and indifference. Shame on them.

Anne T

ps: Does this shelter release to Rescue? We all know that in spite of it not being in the best interests of the dogs, cats or other pets, many shelters are adamant about relinquishment to a specific Rescue. Something about getting more $$$ for purebreds, I think?

Susan Fox

Anne, California law requires them to release the animals to rescues. I think the law applies to any city or county-run facility. Christie?


I am a member of the schnauzer rescue group that was contacted by Christie. We do rescue any in shelters that will let us. We are contacted by many of the shelters and also keep our eye out on the internet. Our webmaster gave him the name Sacramento boy. He puts the dogs up on the website almost immediately.

Sometimes we send adopters directly to the shelter itself.

Since October of last year we have rescued approximately 25 schnauzers.

Our club, the Miniature Schnauzer Club of Northern California has been doing rescue work for over 40 years.


For a name - how about Te Amo in memory of a rescued chihuahua who recently passed on after a long happy life (dearly loved and missed) - (I love you in Spanish) -

Anne T

Susan, I had no idea about CA. Where I live, it's not mandated by state law, so it's up to the shelter whether they choose to work with Rescue. Some do, some won't and are quite nasty about it.

Susan Fox

Where the heck is schnauzer rescue? Any indication that they've been in touch with the shelter and are monitoring the little guy?

Christie Keith

I just emailed a rescue contact in Sacramento.

Update: He is already on their website, same photo, but they called him "Sacramento boy" instead of by his number.


they called him “Sacramento boy” instead of by his number.

I hereby dub him "Sacbo"!

Mary Mary

Oh!!! Shelter names! This is my #1 obsession. I work in marketing so I am always arguing that names MATTER.

They matter to the people browsing Petfinder -- if they want a female, they may blow right past "Bud," thinking it's a boy name. AND they matter to the volunteers. At the shelters where I volunteer, we work events with multiple animals in a room at one time and we simply cannot keep track of who is who, especially with the new admissions. If the animal is named "Joe," it's pretty clear to a volunteer helping a member of the public that the animal is a boy and helps us to keep the "sale" moving along.

I work with several shelters that admit domestic rabbits, my species of choice [SOC]. One has a policy to never repeat names. So you end up with emotionally disconnected names like "Polonius" (Shakespeare character) for a little dwarf girl bunny. If a litter is admitted, they might name them all after the characters of some book, including science fiction novels with obscure, alien-type names. This seems to bother no one but me.

Another shelter tends to name them after objects ... gender-neutral names like "Oreo." UGH! I see so many Thumpers and Oreos and Buns!

Yesterday I picked up a very young bunny with gorgeous blonde fur who had been trapped in suburbia. She'd been living in several back yards for at least a month. I counted four ticks and 400 fleas. Anyway, as I drove her to the shelter, I considered naming her "Gilda," for golden, then decided it was too old lady. So she will be Kimberly, which to me feels like a pretty young girl's name. This is in honor of Kim, the kind woman who recognized that she should NOT be living outdoors and who trapped her for me.

I like to give them human names, first and last names. It makes people smile when they hear it. "Thurston Howell" for a big white boy bunny would be cool.

And the breed misidentification is an issue with rabbits too. We have a problem with every rabbit being labelled a "Dutch." That's the breed that is solid brown or black on the lower body with a white band around the shoulders and a white triangle on the face.

But on the shetler website ... rabbits that are huge and pure white (New Zealand), pure white with black eyeliner (Hotot), velvety furred (Rex), white with spots and butterfly markings on the nose (English Spot) ... they are all called Dutch.

That is like labelling every dog -- Pit Bull, Maltese, Golden Retriever, St. Bernard, Poodle -- as a Lab. It would be clearly ridiculous. Well to the rabbit people, this Dutch thing makes us nuts!

The fabulous news is that the shelter staff IS open to our help and corrections. I just marvel at how obvious this breed thing is to me, but not to a non-rabbit person.

OK I'm done now. Thanks for the opportunity to spew about this.

And Susan -- "And the staffer who brushed off doing it became the shelter name hog who had to name everything. She may have named the brooms for all I know."

HA!! "name hog!!"



That is heartbreaking and this is only one doggie, so many, many more all over this nation. I hope someone sees your post and will help him out. Thank you for posting and keeping us informed.

Anne T

Christie, granted I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the recent posts ( occupied with cat newly diagnosed with CRF) and do little anymore for rescue except send money, dog clothes and transport when needed, but I am curious what negatives you see about such legislation? If a Breed Rescue can take a dog, provide it with a foster home instead of a kennel, and provide volunteers who will make sure there is appropriate training, what do you see as a Down Side? Am I missing something, if so, what?

Christie Keith

We've had the law requiring shelters give dogs to a rescue group that's willing to take them instead of killing them for years. Shelters still dick around with rescues. Some are proactive and call them, others are entirely passive and the rescues have to check the shelter EVERY DAY to tag the dogs they want -- and in a place like Los Angeles, where there are many shelters, that can be absurd.

Anne T

"Your comment really supports Nathan’s contention that we need a national law that takes the choice away from individuals and mandates appropriate action to save animals. Now they are at the mercy of people who have none.

Comment by Susan Fox — May 5, 2009 @ 4:41 pm "

Amen, Susan, amen!


Regarding the Sacramento Facility on Bradshaw.

I pulled a border collie/corgi mix from the Sacramento County Shelter in February this year. The Shelter staff was cooperative and grateful that I pulled him. He was then placed w/ the Sacramento Animal Independent Rescuers and eventually found his "forever home".

Based upon my experience, the Sacramento County facility at Bradshaw is quite willing to work with rescues. They have someone usually assigned as the "rescue coordinator".

Christie Keith

Anne, I don't mean the existing law we have in CA about working with rescue groups -- I mean Nathan's proposed legislation for how shelters operate. Still mulling that one over.


I don't know what Christie's thinking about, but here's some of what bugs me: how will rescue agencies be chosen? If licensed, by what process -- and would it shut out reputable small-scale private rescuers? Or, if it's not a rigorous process, what if the only available, licensed rescue agency in a given area isn't, but rather some place run by hoarders or con artists that only looks good on paper? Would the shelter have the option of refusing them, and turning to someone out of area?


Not to mention that some California shelters are notoriously anti-"name that breed or type". Dogs entering these shelters may be deemed aggressive for just jumping up to greet someone or making eye contact.

Yes they are supposed to release to rescues, but the law only requires them to release to 501c3s, they can choose to work with non-501c3 individuals or organizations, but are not beholden to it.

MOST of the shelters I've visited or pulled dogs from have been great, waived any fees, provided whatever records were available and a few have really gone above and beyond to get the dogs what they needed to make it to us. And to them a great big "THANK YOU!!" but there are a notoriously bad shelters out there which need an extreme makeover starting with management and it can't happen soon enough.

In general, our rescue has not had any major problems with the shelters in Sacto. It's the laws they have supported, including limit and pay-pay-pay-or-spay laws that need to be dumped in favor of more positive, community based efforts and initiatives.

Mary Mary

There are a lot of "rescues" in my region that advertise on Craigslist that smell a lot like puppy flippers.

They have no formal name, no website, etc. Just ads with photos and text that reads "AKC [insert breed] rescue puppies. First shots, wormed. $200" or similar.

Often not a word about spaying or neutering contracts. I live about 100 miles from the Amish Puppy Mill Belt. I would imagine it's pretty easy to drive out there and buy -- oops I mean rescue -- a bunch of "AKC" purebred puppies for next to nothing. Sell them I mean adopt them out for even $100 a head and you have your cigarette money for a few weeks.

That is one thing that bothers me about this proposed legislation. The whole "what is a rescue?" question. Also, as has been argued here many times, there are often far-reaching consequences for each new law, outcomes that you might not think about in the short run.

I also wonder if imposing this new restriction on shelters will actually increase the kill rate because, as they struggle to comply, they start turning more animals away. I have not thought this one all the way through.

I don't understand how rescues work, really. The way I rescue is this ... I find a rabbit dumped in the street. I admit her* to the shelter, get her spayed at the shelter. She never spends more than one night at the facility. I take her home (or find someone else to) and I foster her as long as it takes to find a home ... my record is 14 months. I pay for all food and supplies, but the shelter pays for her vet bills and advertises her on their website.

*to date, the strays I've rescued have all been females. Probably because their hormones make them so aggressive, and their owner "sets them free" out of frustration.

Susan Fox

I was referring to the proposed national law. But some previous posters seemed to be curious about the California law and I think Eucritta was expressing concerns about how the national law would be implemented vis a vis shelter animals.

But then, maybe we're all confused ;-) and need to start over again on the new No Kill Conference report post that we are all anxiously awaiting. Hint. Hint.

Susan Fox

If a new law required that the rescues be 501(c)3s, that would be, well maybe not a disaster, but it would seriously restrict the pool of people who could pull animals.

Our county shelter releases animals to "private" rescues all the time. They are sometimes jut one or two people who hava a name of some kind (For Paws, etc), a passion for animals and the willingness to take them in, work with them and find them new homes. They don't have the time, expertise, energy or resources to handle the overhead required by a "real" non-profit.

As ususl, for this law, as with anything else, the devil will be in the details.

Christie Keith

I'm a bit confused by this thread, but maybe that's on me, LOL.

This is not a new or proposed law in California. It's been the law for many years now. And I'm not aware of it being proposed anywhere else.

What Nathan is proposing is something completely different. It's the Companion Animal Protection Act, and it's here:

This is the approach I'm mulling over, not the long-established California law that shelters cannot kill animals if a rescue group is willing to take them.


Send that shelter your ad. They may not publish it but someone WILL read it, and maybe just maybe it will set the wheels in motion for a little more compassion on the part of those who post such sad sad pictures of equally sad little critters.

Kim Thornton

If I get some other things done this morning, I'll try to add a little more later today too unless I see that Christie has been able to post something from the jury room floor.

Christie Keith

Yes, as in... right now, LOL. But they say there is free wifi in the jury waiting area so I'm bringing my laptop!

Gina Spadafori

Hint all you want ... it may be another day. Christie is reporting for jury duty today. :)

Christie Keith

The legislation thing is still giving me some problems. I'm still thinking about it.

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