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The Shelter Manager's Letter

The following shelter manager’s letter is by an unknown author. I edited it for clarity, and also changed the word “it” to "he" or "she", and the word "pet" to "dog’". The information in this open letter is really important, so I wanted to share it, but I didn’t feel right doing so without making those changes. I explain the reason for this in the article The Problem With The Words ‘Pet’ And ‘Owner’.

I am posting this (and it is long) because I think our society needs a huge wake-up call.

As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all - a view from the inside, if you will.

Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don't even know - that puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when he or she is not a cute little puppy anymore.

How would you feel if you knew that there's about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter he or she is going to be dumped at - purebred or not! (About 50% of all of the dogs who are ‘owner surrenders’ or strays that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.)

And there’s no shortage of excuses. The most common excuses I hear are:

  • We are moving and we can't take our dog. (Really? Where are you moving to that doesn't allow dogs?)
  • The dog got bigger than we thought he would. (How big did you think a German Shepherd would get?)
  • We don't have time for her. (Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs!)
  • She's tearing up our yard. (How about bringing her inside and making her a part of your family?)

They always tell me: “We just don't want to have to stress of finding a place for her”, and I think: how stressful do you think being in a shelter is for the poor dog?

They say: “We know she'll get adopted - she's a good dog.” Actually, the odds are that the dog won't get adopted. That’s right…dead dog walking!

Your dog has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop him or her off, sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn't full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If your dog even sniffles, he or she will be killed.

Your dog will be confined to a small run or kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying dogs. Your dog will have to pee and poo where he or she eats and sleeps. Your dog will be depressed and cry constantly for the family that abandoned him or her (that’s right: your dog will be crying for YOU - the very person who cared so little that they dumped him or her in the first place. Ironic, isn’t it?).

If your dog is lucky, I will have enough volunteers that day to take him or her for a walk. If I don't, your dog won't get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of his or her pen with a high-powered hose.

If your dog is big, or black, or any of the ‘bully’ breeds (eg. Pitbull, Rottweiler, Mastiff, etc) he or she is pretty much dead when you walked through the front door. Those dogs just don't get adopted.

If your dog isn’t lucky enough to get adopted within those first 72 hours and the shelter is full, he or she will be destroyed.

If the shelter isn't full and your dog is well-behaved enough, and of a desirable enough breed, he or she may get a stay of execution…though not for long. Most dogs get very kennel-protective after about a week and are then destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this highly-stressful environment.

If your dog makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are he or she will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will then be destroyed because shelters just don't have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Enter the Grim Reaper…

Here's a little Euthanasia 101 for those of you who have never witnessed a scared animal being ‘put-down’.

First, your dog will be taken from his or her kennel on a leash. At this stage they always act like they think they are going for a walk - happy and wagging their tails. That is, until they get to The Room. At that point they will change their demeanour.

Every one of them freaks out and puts on the breaks when we get to that door. It must smell like death, or they can feel the sad souls who are left in there. It's strange, but it happens with every single one of them. Your dog will be restrained, held down by one or two vet techs (depending on their size and how freaked out they are). A euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose. With any luck your dog won’t panic from being restrained and jerk his or her leg: I've seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood, and near-deafened by the yelps and screams.

And don’t fool yourself. They all don't just "go to sleep" as so many are fond of saying. Sometimes they spasm for a while - a long while. They gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all finally ends, your dog's corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back, with all of the other animals who were killed, waiting to be picked up like garbage.

What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You'll never know, and it probably won't even cross your mind. This was just an animal, and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out. I do every day on the way home from work. I hate my job, I hate that it exists and I hate that it will always be there unless people make some changes and realise that, while it’s bad enough that they’re dumping dogs at the shelter, they are also affecting the lives of those who work at the shelter.

Millions and millions of animals die every year in shelters worldwide and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can, but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday - more animals than there are homes for them.

My point is: DON'T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER ANIMALS DIE!

Hate me if you want to, but reality is what it is and I’m just telling you the truth.

I only hope that in writing this I have maybe changed even one person's mind about breeding their dog, or taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog from anywhere but a shelter, pound, or rescue organisation. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say "I saw this letter from a shelter manager and it made me want to adopt".

That would make it all worth it.

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SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!

Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.
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