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29 July 2009


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Christie Keith

JenniferJ, that LAS site is EXACTLY what I'm talking about! That article on "Are you dumping your pet?" is the most manipulative, propagandistic load of crap! That type of approach is so utterly doomed to failure it's hard for me to believe any organization would dare to link to it. Talk about counterproductive.


I was in a situation one time many years ago when I could not provide a home for my three dogs. Surrendering my dogs to a shelter was just unthinkable. Besides, I assumed it would be only temporary. Some weeks, possibly a couple of months.

I had them put up in a boarding kennel and paid them by the week. It was rough for me for a while living in a fleabag place/car sometimes.

I wonder why a boarding kennel is not mentioned in this article as a temporary solution. Most people who end up on the street will eventually get back on their feet again.

Boarding kennels are not that expensive.

Christie Keith

Okay, the post that sent me on my rant late last night was a Facebook post, so I can't link directly to it; the discussion began with this article:


but some of my fury related to comments in that discussion (although the reporter does, in fact, use the word "abandoned" to describe animals being brought to shelters).

Here are some bookmarked links from when I was researching the foreclosure pets piece that basically convey the same problem:










Christie Keith

Speaking of Facebook, I saw that Becky commented on Gina's post of this piece there as well as here, primarily objecting to my chracterization of "shelter workers."

I did not say anything about "shelter workers"; I said people in animal welfare organizations. The ones I've been the angriest at about their framing on this issue haven't been shelters at all -- well, one of them is PETA and I guess they operate a kind of slaughterhouse shelter.

The use of terms like "dump" and "abandon" to describe the act of bringing one's pet to a shelter is so ubiquitous in the animal welfare community that finding examples of it feels kind of like proving the sky is blue. I see it constantly, in online discussions, in the comments section of my article on foreclosure pets, here on Pet Connection, in rants on other blogs, in forums on pet websites... it's everywhere.

Gina Spadafori


Gina Spadafori

And a show-off, too.

Christie Keith

*wonders if she can get to 100 comments by correcting her translation word by word*


I may be mixing and confusing things, but I vaguely remember Calgary having an education program in place for people cited for certain animal law violations. So instead of just fining or reprimanding, you get more information to those who have demonstrated the need for it.

When we fall into the I want to judge and punish mode, we instantaneously alienate people. And people who are already maybe feeling some guilt or sense of failure over their animals are going to be defensive. Saying it again, the people giving up pets may be feeling frustrated guilty and dissapointed already, no matter how they act to the rescue or shelter, and that will make them very defensive.

This a point where a little sympathy and understanding, even if you really suspect that you are dealing with a total asshole, even if your performance is worthy of an Oscar, is called for. What is going on in that persons life is generally unknown, but this is a moment wherein we can improve the future. This person might have other pets, they will get other pets eventually most likely, we need them to feel comfortable that the rescue, shelter etc... is a good source of info to prevent future tragedy.

I have taken in a few dogs who were absolutely the victims of abuse and criminal neglect, and you just act like you see no problem until you get them out of there and then inform local authorities. And once I had the dog I was pretty damn blunt , but then you have to shake it off and concentrate on the positives, otherwise it will poison your perceptions of every surrendering owner and potential adopter and it's not a good frame of mind to live in.

Here is an article from someone who is getting caught up in the negatives. I don't know what the "selfish reasons" for not neutering were, but honestly, I would bet a big big chunk of change that this organization could be busy 24/7 with voluntary s/n without seeking out people who are choosing not to.


And here is LCAS' site which is incredibly hostile to anyone giving up a pet, period.

The fact that their name sounds like an official county agency probably leads many people who cannot keep a pet for various reasons to contact them, and I doubt very much they are treated kindly.


Mary Mary

Oops, I just realized that blog I linked to is PeTA disguised as someone named KP.

Never mind.

Ha! My sources are PeTA and a website you can't read. Do I know how to cite or what.

Christie Keith

Yes, Gina, but what the heck is a "branco"? Wait... I know! It means PACK!

Christie Keith

I clicked on the "Italian" button and was able to more or less translate it, as follows:

Of the dog it's said, "He's man's best friend," a "faithful friend," "ready to sacrifice himself for his owner," and has a heart of gold.

But the opposite is also true, so we speak of "the cur," "the beast," "killer," "weapon." In any case, this animal has a strong emotional impact on us, whether positive or negative.

There is no doubt: Thanks to the structure of the pack, the wolf has developed a very targeted social intelligance; for a wolf, it's vitally imporant that he be able to correctly interpret the state of mind of his (packmates?). This is one of the legacies he's given to his descendent, the dog. They are in fact able to perceive the state of mind, mood, of a human and react accordingly. In no other domestic animal is this characteristic so well developed.

Do you want a dog? In the future, before acquiring it, you will be required to attend a theoretical behavior (?) course. Moreover, within a year after obtaining the dog, you will have to participate with your dog in training, to learn the requirements and the behavior of the animal and to learn to control (it) in varied situations of daily life.

This requirement will be in force from 1st September 2008. If you already have a dog, you will only have to take the theoretical course if you obtain another dog. If you get your first dog after the autumn of 2008, you will be required to attend the theoretical course and training before 1st September 2010.

Mary Mary

Get this! Switzerland passed a law in Sept. 2008 that requires all new dog owners to complete training!

I am having a hard time finding original sources on it. Here's a blog post: http://blog.helpinganimals.com/2008/04/switzerland_rules.php

Here's the Swiss website about it:


It won't translate to English. I want to know what it says.

I know many of you are not a fan of legislation. But isn't there some way that this could be done in the US that would be FAIR and productive instead of punishing?


Shelters also do a really bad job of outreach before the fact. I've tried on numerous occasions to get my local shelter to provide information to tenants in foreclosed properties, but I've never even gotten a response. Under federal law most tenants now have at least 90 days before they have to leave foreclosed properties. Lenders frequently try to fool tenants into leaving earlier for a small cash for keys payment, but tenants aren't obligated to take the money, and most tenants with pets need the 90 days more than the money. But, oh, my local shelter gets support from Wells Fargo, a major foreclosing lender, and wouldn't want to offend them.

Kim Thornton

On a related note, just got my first bit of negative mail on the no-kill column, explaining to me that I've been duped because those shelters don't screen homes, don't do home visits, and don't keep track of the return rate, so they're really just part of the problem...

Gina Spadafori

Everyone's to blame except shelters.

It's not their fault, even when directors choose clean empty runs to programs and services that would get more animals out alive and fewer coming in.

It's never their fault. It's always "bad people" and now it's "no kill."

When something isn't working, try something else. Trying harder at what's not working is not the answer.

Change starts with accepting that you have a problem. You may only be part of the solution, but not acknowledging any culpability? Doesn't work, and won't get the change.

Gina Spadafori

People think nothing of letting their cats spew kittens. In fact, everybody seems to just think it’s so darn cute.

Comment by Becky — July 29, 2009

That's more than judging. It's factually untrue. In fact, the overwhelming majority of pet-owners spay-neuter.

But in making such a statement about what "people" do, you make the point that the shelter industry sees everything as the fault of "all those people who ..." and then roll out the barrels of dead kittens to make the point.

This does nothing, accept allow shelter staff to feel better about killing for population control.

But it isn't changing the fact that the shelter industry isn't reaching the small percentage of people who aren't neutering. And in fact, if the shelter industry would quit blaming people and realize that in many ways a "aren't" is different from a "won't" neuter, they'd be a long way to getting more pets altered.

It's about low-cost, free or incentivized neutering, taking into the neighborhoods of people who need the services -- and don't have a way to get to them or afford them.

This is not "shelter bashing." It's recognizing that you have a population you need to reach and you're not getting to them, either with the message or the services.

The solution isn't more blame -- it's change.

And by the way, if you think most people think unneutered pets are swell, try walking around with a large intact black dog. I do, and I can't tell you how many times people "helpfully" suggest he should be neutered.

Why is that? Does he have a behavior problem? Is he not well-mannered? Is he fathering unplanned litters?

No? Then get over your hang up with my dog's balls. They're not causing any problems.

Christie Keith

Sorry, folks, I don't normally post and run, but I'm dealing with a family situation (my mom is ill, as I think most of you know) and can't reply right now.

I'll come back with a link to the article that triggered this rant (one of many I've read) and some replies ASAP!


Mary Mary wrote: That happens here too. It is so frustrating.

Yes, and I remember one year that we spent $12,000 promoting that event!

Our state VMA will not allow us to sterilize owned pets, so they shut down our Prevent Another Litter program, where we called our "repeat offender" surrenderers, and offered to sterilize all the pets in their home. We kept data showing that these people had never taken their animals to a veterinarian, but the vet community still felt that this was taking their business.

Frankly, I think we should all be just giving away free cat sterilizations to anybody who want them, instead of squabbling over who's doing them. Cat numbers are a huge problem all over the country, and we have to get a handle on that.

Actually, I think that we should put social pressure on those people who let their cats have kittens willy-nilly. I want to gag when someone wants to show me their cute kittens, but I smile and am polite. I think we as a society should make that unacceptable, and people would be a little embarrassed about it, like we've made it unacceptable in most places for dog owners to walk away from a pile of poo....

Nice to know others out there are similarly frustrated. It's a good field, but man-- they grey hairs!

Mary Mary

"...Actually, I think that we should put social pressure on those people who let their cats have kittens willy-nilly. ..."

Ah, but that would be judging, right?


Mary Mary wrote "Ah, but that would be judging, right?"

Yes-- you got me! So tempting!

Seriously, though, people think nothing of letting their cats spew kittens. In fact, everybody seems to just think it's so darn cute.

And if I told them about the barrels of dead cats that I've seen in shelters, they'll just blame the shelters, and not see themselves as part of the problem.

Until we get the community involved, and get them to set some community standards, it won't change.

I do see it as similar to the dog poop problem. It certainly hasn't made the problem of stray poops go away, but most people know that leaving them behind is a social no-no.

I'd like to see us set similar community standards that say it's really not okay just to let your pet run wild, get knocked up and poop out kittens.

When we all turn away, don't say "ooh" and "ah", and just change the subject, maybe they'll learn? Maybe??

I'm encouraged that adopting a rescue dog has become quite the virtuous thing to do, and owners really love getting all the feedback for rescuing a pet.

I have no problem with responsible breeders and purebreds-- am just saying that it's a huge change. I remember when training clubs not only frowned on mixed breed dogs, but wouldn't even allow them in the building, but I'm old.... ;-)

Gotta run. Nice chatting with y'alls!



I respectfully disagree that it's a matter of semantics only. Abandoning an animal is NOT surrender or relinquishment. It's turning the animal loose, leaving it with no food, water or shelter. Leaving a foreclosed house and leaving the dogs behind. In the shelter world, we absolutely make a huge distinction between the people who are responsible and bring their pet in for surrender, and those who just literally abandon them. And I absolutely agree that pet owners who need to surrender their pets should be treated with absolute respect.

Sheltering is frustrating. For example, we are overwhelmed with adult cats so we promote a big cat adoption event-- only to find that although we've increased adoptions, we've also increased surrenders, which does not help the numbers problem. But when people bring in their cat during the event, because they figured this was a "good time" to bring us another cat, we smile and are polite. And we'll be polite again when they bring in the next litter. And the next one.

Mary Mary

".... we are overwhelmed with adult cats so we promote a big cat adoption event— only to find that although we’ve increased adoptions, we’ve also increased surrenders, which does not help the numbers problem..."

That happens here too. It is so frustrating.


Speaking as a trainer and someone who is involved in foster / rescue I have to say that I think there is a lot more sanctimonious, holier-than-thou behavior in this kind of work than there ought to be. Like it or not, the behavior of some people involved in shelter / foster / rescue work towards those who give up pets and, in some cases, even those who want to adopt them - is pointlessly judgemental and nasty.

A lot of wonderful people work to help pets in need - but the field also attracts a small and quite vocal subset who are much more focused on their own personal sainthood (and on vilifying everyone who doesn't meet their impossibly high standards) than on doing the job well and serving pets' - and pet owners' - needs.

These are the ones that can end up sucking the souls out of good shelters and rescue groups. And because they see themselves as waging their own personal rescue jihad, they can also be incredibly difficult to change or get rid of.


Rats-- I just read that the HSUS Foreclosure Pets Grant program ran out of money. It issued grants between March 2008 and May 2009. Sigh....


After every article I've read like this come the comments from smug, sanctimonious dickheads saying that THEY would never 'abandon' their pets. Walk a mile in the shoes of the people losing their houses, and then talk about what you'd 'NEVER' do.

I did my University placement at a woman's shelter, and almost universally those woman staying in their situations longer than they wanted to or should have if they had pets, because they didn't want to leave them behind, and had no one else to take them in.

I heard from so many of those women who finally took their pets in to the shelter, because they were afraid what their husband/bf would do to the pets if they were left behind. It was shocking how many of them told us about being lectured by the shelter staff on responsibility, or at the very least suffering through a display of huffing and eye rolling.



Thank you, Christie for posting this. I haven't read all of the comments yet, so don't know what has been said. But I have been saying this to people that will listen for a long time. Shelters are there to help, not condemn. Otherwise, they are a "pound" and just a clearing house for death.

If rescuers and shelters can not be humane to the humans that need to give their pets up, then they need to get out of the business. And I totally agree with the quote from the petfinders founder. By the time most people get to the shelter, they have already tried everything else that they can think of.



"abandonment" or "surrender"... the public makes no distinction. It's an academic debate, IMO, like the one about "kill" vs. "euthanize".

The issue is whether shelters are trying to help people who might want to keep their pets, as so many do... and whether they are being honest about what will happen to the pet once it is in the shelter.


Here's an NPR story that I found, and it talks about the HSUS Foreclosure Pets Fund program, which assists people with temporary boarding, emergency medical care, or other needs.


In the story, the HSUS rep condemns abandoning pets. If someone understood abandonment as synonymous with surrendering a pet, this would sound very judgmental, indeed:

"Abandoning pets, for any reason, is not only irresponsible — it is illegal," Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for companion animals at the HSUS, said in a statement. "Pet owners may feel financially unable to care for their pets or are overwhelmed by a sudden move, but there are many alternatives to leaving pets behind."

Here's another great article:


In that story, one shelter worker says that in her area, relinquishments are not up, but instead of saying that they're "moving" (#1 reason for surrenders), they're saying it's because of the recession....



Most veterinarians I know do quite a lot of pro bono work, but they do not want it advertised for fear that they'd be overwhelmed with non-paying customers.

It's always been my policy as a trainer to never turn anybody away, and I know other trainers who have the same practice. I don't advertise it, but I listen for clues that suggest they're worried about finances, and will offer. If anybody asks, I figure they have a reason to ask, so I don't require any proof of need.

I'm not aware of any charity/outreach being done by the APDT.

I am aware that in my own behavior practice, I'm seeing almost all aggression cases now, and my assumption is that it's because people are only spending money on things that can't wait. And the cases are more severe, suggesting that people are waiting longer before getting help.

Original Lori

Question: Do trainers do "pro bono" work like some lawyers do? I mean besides answering the questions that everyone asks when people find out they are a trainer. Say for instance does APDT have an outreach/charity arm?


Other Pat: I've seen things like this story referenced by the AP in about the Arizona Humane Society:


What perked up my ears on Christie's story was the specific use of the word "abandon", and realizing that shelter staff make a distinction between abandonment and surrender, and that may not be clear to non-shelter folks. If you listen to the above story on AZHS, the shelter rep says that their abandonments are up by 91% and they just want people to instead bring those pets in. Some are being left behind when people foreclose. We had a cruelty case this winter where several dogs were found after an foreclosure, all starving, including some puppies. That's abandonment. I've seen these stories about the recession and abandoned pets, and saw them from this perspective. I haven't read any that included owners who felt they were treated badly by shelter staff, although I do believe that happens. It seemed more likely to me, though, that the shelter folks are addressing the true abandonments, and are being rightly critical about that, because it is just not okay to move out and leave pets behind to fend for themselves, or just open the door and let them go. Sometimes interviews and articles makes that distinction clear, but sometimes not, and we may not realize that our comments about people who abandon pets are being translated to also criticizing surrenderers. (Also, I'm sure there are some jerks out there!)

Mary Mary

Emily S, you write,

"Unless the shelter is really “no kill” and the surrendered/abandoned pet will find a new home, shelter employees don’t have any moral standing to condemn owners, do they?"

What if someone works there because they are trying to help improve things? If there are 50 employees, does each one of them share equal blame for each euthanasia?

Maybe if I wanted to be morally pure I wouldn't help ANY of the shelters until they join hands and form one of those no kill communities I read about. But I won't hold my breath.

In the meantime, yes I will continue to judge irresponsible behavior as irresponsible. When animal owners come directly to me to take their pets for behavior issues (people mistakingly think I run a rescue) I do my best to KINDLY and patiently give them solutions and work with them on their problems, do home visits, etc. About 75% don't want to put any effort in. Yes, I have a pretty low opinion of that. I don't think I have to be morally perfect to judge laziness as such.

Gina Spadafori

I'm sure Christie will be in here soon to comment on her post.

Becky ... the paragraph key is your friend.

Mary Mary


I develop/implement programs on a volunteer basis with several shelters and there is no question, you guys get it from all sides. I have tremendous respect for people on the front lines. I could never do it.

I especially could never work in the admissions area. Do you have people bringing in litters of puppies and, when asked for a donation to cover expenses, explain that the LITTER is a "donation?" That's one of my favorites.

As for empathy being a staff training issue, I used to train crisis response workers and it takes a lot more than training. It takes practice and practice and practice. And to some degree, a natural ability to project a poker face/voice when you want to scream, cry or hurl. I think young people apply for jobs at the shelter because they love animals, not because they want to be social workers. And all of the sudden they are dealing with the ugly underbelly of human nature, right in front of them, sometimes daily.

I read somewhere recently that of all dogs brought to shelters for behavior problems, NINETY PERCENT had received no obedience training. Where does this idea come from in our culture, that you can have an animal in your home and it will be EASY? Especially a dog! I don't remember this attitude from my childhood ... but then again, I grew up in an area where hunting dogs were kept outside in pens. Dogs were for utility, not members of the family.

So whose responsibility is it, to provide and encourage (demand!) that dog owners get training? In my fantasy world, I would place that burden on the "distributer" of the dog. Breeder, pet store, cousin Jim who let his dogs have a litter and gave the puppies to family and neighbors, and now the pups are adolescents and uncontrollable. So the puppies don't flood into the shelter when they are small and cute but when they are a year old and a total menace.

I found this a few minutes ago at http://www.naiaonline.org/articles/archives/saveour.htm:

"A study printed in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association determined that the following factors increase the chances that a dog will be surrendered to a shelter:

-- lack of veterinary care,

-- dog obtained at little or no cost, [ie, Cousin Jim's OOPS litter]

-- dog lives mostly outside,

-- dog needs more care and attention than expected,

-- family is divorcing or moving,

-- family has changed financial circumstances, and

-- dog is noisy, destructive, or soils the house."

One of the shelters here charges a $200 adoption fee for puppies up to six months old. That includes not only all the standard vet care + spay/neuter -- it also includes obedience training classes. That is a step in the right direction, but not all shelters have the resources to offer this. Many don't even spay/neuter before adopting out the animal, which blows my mind.

I understand that none of this has to do with foreclosure surrenders.


Lori, That's always the goal-- to do outreach. As a trainer, I know that most of our students aren't the conscientious puppy owner ensuring a good start for their puppy, but are more often owners with rowdy, out-of-control adolescent dogs that are at prime risk for surrender, according to research done by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. Hopefully people will use their veterinarian as a resource if they're having any problems. Most surrenderers are a combination of personal crises plus something about the pet's behavior that they can no longer tolerate. Most owners don't realize that their veterinarian is a good place to start if they have a behavior problem. Also, financially strapped owners may not seek the services of their veterinarian or a trainer. Many shelters have free behavior helplines that are staffed by specially trained volunteers. I'd love to see PSAs that would actively go out and offer help to pet owners. We all agree that the best outcome is to keep pets in their homes. More and more people are seeking information first on the internet, and may not be able to sort out the good information from the bad. Or they may try to fix a more serious problem without professional help. Aggression, for example, really is not a DIY project...Trainers may not be aware that someone contacting them for "obedience classes" may actually be considering a surrender, and seeing coming to class as a last-ditch effort-- when we're busy teaching them to get their dog to Sit straight and do square corners.... Many trainers are oriented toward teaching competition obedience or performance skills, and either not interested or not educated about dealing with pet issues. They come to us because their dog is barking, house-soiling, chewing, running away-- and frankly, most training classes aren't going to cover any of those issues. My first dog was a separation-anxiety dog, and my trainer didn't know what to do, so she told me that teaching basic obedience (square corners, straight sits, etc) would help-- it didn't, and the punishment-based methods made him more anxious....Some of it, though, really depends on the owners themselves to pick up the phone and seek help. If they start with their primary care veterinarian, that's at least a start.


Like the Other Pat, i assumed Christie's post was aimed at the inaccuracy of the journalists - BUT to be fair to Becky, it wasn't explicitly clear - Christie wrote:

"Nearly every day, some animal welfare person is quoted in some article about the crumbling economy’s impact on animal shelters. And most of them use the word “abandoning” when describing people bringing their pets to animal shelters because they have lost their homes or jobs."

Re-reading it, i guess i don't know if

"And most of them" refers to the aforementioned "animal wellfare person", or the aforementioned "article".


Unless the shelter is really "no kill" and the surrendered/abandoned pet will find a new home, shelter employees don't have any moral standing to condemn owners, do they?


Sarah, I don't think I'd characterize the point I was raising as "inaccuracy of the journalists". Rather, I was saying that Christie was writing about what she has seen. The articles she has read that quote shelter workers as using the term "abandon" to characterize what owners are doing when faced with lose/lose choices in this bad economy. It's not inaccurate - it's an observation. And the fact that she sees it in the media means that this observation (and the attendant perceptions that result) is shared by others who also read these articles. Which formed the "jumping off point" for the rest of what she wrote.

Becky objected. What we don't know (yet) is whether or not Becky ALSO encounters articles in the media which quote shelter workers as using the term "abandon" to describe owners who can no longer afford to keep their pets and turn them over to shelters.

The point I was trying to make was that if Becky is seeing these same kinds of articles with these same kinds of quotes and disagrees with the perceptions being created, then I think she should be sure and contact these media sources to make the same kinds of points she's making here in order to hopefully reach the same audience reached by the original article.

Whereas if Becky is NOT seeing those same kinds of articles, then maybe things are better where she is than where Christie is. In which case, it would seem she has valuable knowledge to share towards to goal of making things better everywhere.

We all know how the media tends to run to the "easiest" sources (as an example, their regrettable tendency to go to PeTA for commentary on anything animal-related). If the sources they're picking are causing them to disseminate bad information, then we need to counter that.

And if the sources they pick are giving them good information, but about bad situations, then we need to respond to that as well.

Because Christie read what she read. And if she's reading it, then others are, too.

Original Lori

Becky--You're on the front lines...what do you think about trying to catch the pet owners earlier in the decision, before they feel like they are at the end of their rope?

PSAs maybe? What other alternatives could we offer them?

Concha Castaneda

We had two cats just show up and live in our yard for 5 weeks. We already have 4 inside and outside cats. This was tipping the balance! We put their picture up on Craigs List. No one claimed them. We figured people moved out and just left them to fend for themselves. We shouldn't have fed them I guess. But we did. We tried to take them to Cat Welfare and they wouldn't take them. I considered dropping them off at a farm where I knew there were cats living in the barn. Our whole household was turned upside down. These abandoned cats chased our cats, bit them and us as they were starved for affection; and we lived in hell until someone finally took both of them off our hands. I wouldn't pay a dime towards Cat Welfare or any organization that takes public money on the pretense of saving animals now that I know how they operate. Really...people are cruel, and sometimes desperate. But shelter people take the cake...and the icing on the cake.


Becky, what Christie started her article off with was the fact that she sees these quotations (shelter workers talking about people "abandoning" their pets) in newspaper articles about the effect of the economy on pets.

Do you ever see these same quotations? If you do, do you make a point of writing to the reporter or the paper outlining the same points you've outlined here?

Because Christie is offering up a commentary based on observations she has made. If you've made the same observations, then it would be more effective to work to change the message at the source (the media putting out these quotations), don't you think?

And if you HAVEN'T made these same observations, it doesn't mean Christie (or others) have not. But it could certainly be a "teachable moment" if - in fact - things are better where you are. Because figuring out why that is - and spreading those learnings - would be very useful, and very good for the animals.


Just one more thought: Yes, shelter folks do get upset when people abandon their pets-- and I'm using the word in the way we use it-- when people just drop off the pet, no info, no anything. When we see that, what we see is people dropping them off in the middle of the night, sometimes literally throwing them over fences. I've seen dogs with broken legs, tied overnight in the cold, abandoned in boxes to freeze overnight. Who wouldn't be upset about that? But I've also cried with surrenderers who really do love their animals and are devastated that they cannot keep them, and yes, they do frequently struggle for months. We wish they would call us or their veterinarian for help to avoid it, but usually people's lives are in chaos on several fronts, and the dog has to get in line. There are plenty of crusty rescue or shelter folks who love animals and hate people, and are judgmental and critical of surrenderers, but IME those people are already are dysfunctional, burned-out, or well on their way to burn-out. That's not our best practices. I hate being represented by people in my field who are bad at their jobs and make us all look bad. The saddest place in a shelter, IMO, is the receiving department. By the time people ever get there, they've emotionally distanced themselves, but they can also feel ashamed and defensive, because it's not what they wanted, either. I've offered many times to help with behavior issues, only to have the surrenderer turn me down, because they've made their decision and it's too hard to reconsider. Shelter staff aren't trained to meet humans' emotional needs, but it would be great if there were funds for a staff social worker, because these owners do need grief counseling, too. An owner surrendering is different than those who literally dump their pet and drive off. We all have lots of horror stories. One is a person who came late at night after hours, pounding on the door. The lone staff person politely asked him to please come back in the morning when they opened. The guy walked back to his truck, took a black lab out, put her in front of the truck, and drove over her. So, we actually do hate people like that..... Also, shelters don't pay much, so they're usually staffed with young people in their first job who may not know much about the world, and want to blame someone for an animal losing their home. That's a staff training issue, though.


I'm just trying to present another part of the picture, especially when the word "abandon" was used, because in sheltering it means something very different than surrendering a pet. And yes, abandonment is not only illegal, but it's also not cool. Pets deserve more. Another piece of the puzzle is that at a surrender, owners are extremely emotional, and when they are asked for information about things they've tried, they can feel quite defensive. For example, if they come in saying they're moving and can't find anyplace that accepts pets, and the shelter worker offers some suggestions, that could be interpreted as being critical, or suggesting that they didn't try everything-- when in fact, that shelter worker may have actually been offering help. Same with surrendering a pet with a behavior problem-- if we ask what they've tried (we need to know what worked, what didn't), we're trying to get specifics, and they're trying to convince us that they've "tried everything". The reality is that they're emotionally done, whether or not they've actually tried everything, and they do feel terribly guilty. If we offer behavior information at that point, they may feel judged-- but we still need to offer, because it just might avoid the surrender. And shelter people are among the most defensive folks you'll meet, because we are criticized from all sides. Owners who want to surrender a pet and are told that we're full will be angry. If we tell them that we'll receive their pet even when don't have room, and the pet is likely to be euthanized, they'll be mad at us-- rather than taking that pet home and waiting until we're not full. Owners bring in dogs that have bitten someone badly, and insist that the dog is adopted to somebody else. If we explain that we can't place dogs with a serious bite history, they'll be furious, and if we offer to help when they keep the animal in the home, they feel criticized. Animals bring out the most intense emotions in people, and they're not always pleasant. Just trying to add another perspective, because we really are trying to help.


Not sure where all the anti-shelter animosity comes from. When we talk about "abandonment", that's actually a legal term, which is different from "surrendering" a pet. Abandonment is illegal in most states, and it's dropping off an animal without leaving information about the surrenderer or the animal. A surrender is the owner coming in to the shelter, providing their contact information, giving as much history as they have, and complying with the organization's surrender policies. Most shelters that have resources will try to provide behavior services as outreach to avoid surrenders whenever possible. Being judgmental of surrenderers is a "newbie" error, and not where most experienced shelter folks are coming from. We provide a safe place, but we do whatever we can to help people keep their pets in their homes. Please don't paint all of us with the same brush. There are people who are bad at their jobs everywhere.

Original Lori

Wow. This wasn't anti shelter! It was a bringing to light a certain behavior that is occurring in shelters by some employees. It was a "let's get this out, discuss it, and figure how we can do better. Just because there are "people who are bad at their jobs everywhere." that means we shouldn't talk about how to make them better? Sometimes things that hit close to home are hard to read.

Eric Goebelbecker

Wow. This is a very powerful and brave posting.

I've had to help a couple of families find rescues to surrender dogs to because of the recession. They were very upset and wanted to make sure their dogs were actually rehomed and not euthanized. Fortunately my area hasn't been hit quite as hard as other parts of the economy, so I haven't had to deal with it often at all.

It's really easy to just focus on the animal side of the equation. Thanks for the perspective.


I haven't read the article, but i was wondering if it mentioned (assuming you get your dog from a reputable breeder...) asking the breeder to take care of your dog while you get back on your feet?

I think there's often a lot of generalization going on. We blame the "shelters" we blame the "populace" when in fact, if we absolutely need to place blame, it should be placed on the individual. Of course many shelter workers are angry - they are on the front lines and it wears almost everyone down sooner or later. And of course many people are anrgy at the shelters because all they see are numbers of dead animals and don't see the shelter workers crying behind the scenes at a dog that was brought in due to a cruelty seizure. I think, in general, if we had more compassion for each other, we could concentrate on the real issues.


Breed rescues can also sometimes provide temporary care, particularly if owners can contribute a bit to care. If it's more of a housing issue than a financial issue, offering to pay a modest board can help.

People do need to be aware that they may need to sign the dog over to rescue temporarily for insurance and liability reasons, and that if they disappear and cannot be contacted for a excessive period of time, which should ALWAYS be determined in writing, the dog/s might be re-homed.

Again,the terms of these arrangements should always always always be spelled out in writing and signed by all involved


Has anyone heard of a newsletter called The Peeing Post? The writer doesn't believe in no-kill sanctuaries but believes dogs should be euthanized rather than turned over to any type of shelters to find new homes. It made me so very

angry I deleted the item but if any of you locate the article, it will set off a whole 'nother set of bells and whistles. The article writer lived in Denmark and now resides in Canada.

Christie Keith

In San Francisco, rates to board a cat start at around $20 a night. A large dog costs as much as $80 a night, although I've seen rates much lower. If someone has a medium sized dog and a cat, let's just round it out to $50 a night.

That is $1500 a month. And remember -- it could be a LOT more if you had, say, a Labrador retriever.

I guess "not expensive" is, like most things, relative.

Additionally, many of these people have children, jobs, are moving into housing that doesn't allow pets (as many, many rentals don't), and it's not a situation where they'll be on the streets for a few weeks. It's a complete lifestyle change with no end in sight.

I agree: It would take a lot, it would take an apocalypse, for me to let my dogs go into a shelter. But I have no kids, and I live in a place with very mild temperatures. One of the shelter workers who told me she'd "live in my car before I'd give up my dogs!" lives in ARIZONA, where it regularly goes up over 100 degrees in the summer. How the hell was she going to live in her car with dogs? What was she going to do with them during the day?

Of course, that has nothing to do with your suggestion, but apparently I'm still ranting, LOL.

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