We'll conclude National Shelter Appreciation Week with a mythbusting post, covering common misconceptions about animal shelters:
Myth: Shelters can raise the money they need to humanely care for homeless pets through the fees they charge for adoption.
Fact: On average, it costs more to provide shelter, food, and necessary medical care for an animal than a shelter can recover through adoption fees. If adoption prices are too high, fewer pets will get adopted, so shelters usually cannot raise adoption prices to cover their overall cost. Shelters depend on donations and fundraising to make up the difference.
Myth: Only "No Kill" shelters deserve support.
Fact: According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are up to 8 million dogs and cats entering shelters in the U.S. every year, but only about 4 million are adopted. Many of the others will ultimately be euthanized as animal shelters do not have the capacity or means to humanely care for them.
A shelter basically has two options in dealing with this reality. The first option is the approach of many "no kill" shelters. Many of these shelters take in only the number of animals that they can care for--limiting the ones they accept to those they believe are most readily adoptable, leaving the others to be cared for by other organizations. Other shelters accept all animals, no matter how many animals they already have or whether or not the animal seems likely to be adopted.
Shelters often work together to transfer animals between shelters to make sure all available space across shelters is used. The unfortunate reality is that euthanasia will not be eliminated until there are enough homes to take in the number of homeless animals entering shelters each year.
Myth: Euthanasia is the animal sheltering communitys responsibility to eliminate.
Fact: Euthanasia is not a problem that the animal sheltering community can solve on its own. Euthanasia will be a heartbreaking reality as long as there are more homeless pets than there are adopters or capacity in animal shelters to humanely care for them.
As a current or prospective pet owner, you can help eliminate euthanasia a few ways: be responsible-- spay or neuter your pets so they do not contribute to pet overpopulation. Microchip and ID tag your pets so they will not use valuable space in a shelter if they get lost. The next time you are looking for a new pet, adopt one from your local shelter.
Myth: If my pet gets lost and ends up in an animal shelter, it could be euthanized immediately.
Fact: For any shelter that takes in stray animals (animals brought in by someone other than their owner, including by members of the public or animal control) there is an established hold time before the animal may be adopted by a new owner or euthanized. The period, which is set by local law, allows the animals owner a chance to find him.
In some communities, strays with a microchip have longer required hold times.
(NOTE: With widespread budget cuts, holding times are being cut in many locales. The best way to prevent your pets from being euthanized when brought to a shelter is to tag and microchip them. Find out more in The Cat's Meow's Guide to Pet Recovery.)
Myth: Most of the animals in shelters are "undesirables" with behavioral or medical issues. Buying a puppy and starting "fresh" is the safest route to go when choosing a new pet.
Fact: It is not in the shelters best interest to adopt out pets that will be returned to them. Most shelters incorporate behavioral testing / assessments in determining which pets are adoptable, and to what type of family. Medical attention is also given, and any known conditions are disclosed to prospective adopters.
If you haven't already done so, check out 10 Ways You Can Support National Shelter Appreciation Week.