The start of a new year did not put an end to the crisis that our shelters are facing. We’re coming into 2024 with an additional 250,000 pets in the shelter system. Effects from the housing crisis and shelter staffing shortage continue to challenge shelters. However, the good news is that our nation’s animal shelters and the public can choose to create an environment where the community chooses shelter pets first.
Positive choices for shelters:
- Shelters need to choose positive messaging about the wonderful pets in their care to bring adopters into the shelter. Too much doomsday messaging about overcrowding, as well as many shelters having to euthanize for space, drives some adopters away. Staff must work harder than ever to create a positive experience to attract visitors and create better outcomes for their pets.
- Shelters must choose to prioritize the well-being of pets when transferring pets to rescues. In 2023, BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Animal Incident Management team was deployed to save pets from several heartbreaking cruelty cases due to failed “rescues.” To prevent this disturbing trend from continuing, shelters must do their homework and understand where their pets are going, choosing the safety of each pet over clearing space.
- To maintain the community’s trust, shelters must choose to act responsibly for the pets in their care before adopting them into homes. Every pet going out the door must be deemed safe. If dangerous pets enter the community through the shelter, it can cause irreversible reputational harm, and adopters will not return.
- Shelters can choose kindness and compassion for each other. We are all in this together, and the industry is losing veteran staff to compassion fatigue and burnout. Choosing to support each other is lifesaving, not just for the pets but also for the people caring for them.
While our shelters are faced with the choices above, I am also asking YOU, the public, to make the right choice by adopting from and supporting shelters. Here’s how you can help.
Positive choices for the community:
- Make the choice to dispel the myth that there are only large dogs and adult pets in the shelter. Our shelters have a diverse population from small to large, puppies and dogs, kittens and cats. Looking for a “Doodle” or a Corgi? How about a Labrador Retriever? You will find one in an animal shelter.
- Choose to help change the inaccurate messaging that pets in shelters are “damaged.” Many pets in our animal shelters are there because of the housing crisis. They were beloved family pets who are house-trained and desperate for a companion to replace the one they lost due to housing restrictions or breed discrimination. You will find puppies or kittens who are just beginning their lives. Unlucky, yes. Damaged, no.
- Make the choice to spread the word that shelters are positive forces in our community. While we work hard to get and keep pets out of shelters, thank goodness they exist! Many shelters, public and private, offer community programs like food pantries and touch hundreds of pets annually that never reach the shelter because they intervened to keep families together. Shelters are the first point of rescue, and without them, homeless pets could be subject to injury, illness, and predators—it’s much happier for a pet to be in a shelter than on the street. You can help change the stigma of shelters being sad places.
I am asking each one of you to make the right choice in 2024. Choose to visit your local animal shelter if you are looking for a family member, and tell friends and family to do the same. Give a shelter pet a chance. I promise you will not regret your choice.
Until every pet has a home,