A few days ago I discussed a very important topic on Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family” about common frustrations people find when they go to an animal shelter.
Throughout my many years at animal shelters I discovered something troubling…. too many visitors and too few employees.
The city may be different, the dogs may be different…but the visitor to employee ratio was always the same, leading to frustrated visitors walking out saying “It’s easier to just go buy a dog!”
CLEARLY this is the absolute opposite of what many of us animal advocates are working towards….so while MANY things need to change in order for the system to be fixed, I can at least offer a few tips I’ve learned the hard way!!
I hope these help and please let me know if you have any others I can add!
1-Plan ahead and leave ample time for your visit!
Oftentimes shelters are bustling with human visitors asking questions, dropping off animals, arguing about getting their animals back, etc…
This means the staff members are spread extremely thin and (while they’re doing their best) they may not get to you and your needs for a while. SOOOOO “pack your patience” and give yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to plan Bobby’s baseball practice at noon and swing by the shelter at 11:00am to find your new dog/cat.
2- Take advantage of the kennel cards!
Every shelter uses some sort of kennel card to identify each animal. They are usually affixed to the cage and serve as their “dating profile” (for lack of a better term!)
You can learn some helpful information about each animal from these cards, BEFORE having to track down an employee.
You can oftentimes find out their sex (if it says Male/Female, the animal has usually not been fixed yet. Once they’re fixed, the kennel card will say Spayed/Neutered).
You can find out why they ended up in the shelter (stray, owner surrendered, evidence case, etc…) and when the animal will be available for adoption or fostering. Legally, shelters need to hold on to a dog for an amount of time (every county is different) if the animal is found as a stray. This is so that the rightful owner has enough time to come looking for the animal before it can end up in someone’s home or in heaven.
If there’s an animal you want to see in a play yard or if you have further questions about a specific animal, make sure to snap a photo or write down the animal’s ID (on kennel card)!
DO NOT go wait in line for 30 minutes to get help and then say “I want more info on the white, fluffy dog.” They will look at you like you’re insane! There are TONS of white, fluffy dogs and they can only give you more information if you bring them the animals ID!
3- Don’t judge a book (or dog) by its cover!
Oftentimes animals in their kennels are exhibiting behaviors that they wouldn’t do in a natural setting. They are stressed, confused, etc..
They may be barking/loud/stir crazy or the opposite, they may be extremely mellow and in the corner hiding. This does NOT mean that that’s how the actual dog will behave once it’s in a home environment.
Always ask to take the dog to the play yard or a meet and greet room to see it in a different environment…and remember the rule of 3!
It’s a phenomenon that’s happened with every dog I’ve fostered/rescued. They always tend to blossom/transition after 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months!
4- Explain to your kids what to expect BEFORE going!
if you’re bringing kids, talk to them first about what the shelter is like (in a good way.)
It can be loud and overly stimulating and you want it to be a positive experience and not a traumatizing one!
Another fun way to make them feel involved is to have them bring something to donate to the shelter. Towels, bed sheets, bath mats, blankets, etc…
It makes kids feel excited about the experience and invested in it. It’s also a good learning lesson.