Funding of Animal Shelters

The funding of animal shelters is an area that I don’t think about much but it may be important to the style of working at a shelter and the attitude of the staff. The number of animal shelters is a symptom of a failure in society in respect of our relationship with companion animals.

Is it fair to say that if a shelter is funded by local government, meaning the taxpayer, the attitude of the staff is going to be different to a shelter that is funded by charitable donations?

I am informed by Dee (Florida) and by my research on the internet that most animal shelters in the USA are funded by local government. I am sure there are some private, charitable, shelters but I’ll proceed on the basis that most are funded by the taxpayer. In short they are what we in the UK call “public bodies”.

As far as I am aware, most animal shelters in the UK are funded by charitable donations. I could be wrong but I don’t know of any publicly funded animal shelters. These are what I would call “private organisations”.

There are no formally prepared statistics on how efficient animal shelters are either in the UK or the USA. For example, how many cats are euthanised at shelters? Perhaps the percentage of cats and dogs euthanised is a measure of success and efficiency? Certainly in the USA there has been a huge decline in the percentage of cats and dogs euthanised at shelters since the 1970s. The following figures are estimated and come from HSUS:

USANumber of pets at homesNumber cats and dogs euthanised at shelters
1970s67 million12-20 million
2013135 million (dogs and cats)2.7 million

This is a success story. However, the general view is that when a place is funded by the taxpayer there is lower efficiency in the workplace and motivation can also be at a lower level than in the private sector. This is because there is no competition. Bad work practices can be created under these conditions. This is the reason why in the UK the railways were privatized (it is a failure, however!).

Charitable organisations are possibly more efficient that public bodies because they are commercial enterprises and they are competing with other animal charities for funding. However, charitable are not accountable to the public, which can also result in poor management.

It is almost impossible to find reliable information on euthanasia rates at UK shelters. The RSPCA says that for dogs that had “rehoming potential”, in 2009, 3 percent were euthanised. That figure is no better than the USA figure. In fact it is a little worse. However, I don’t know if the RSPCA is representative of other charities.

I’d like to know the figures from Cats Protection in the UK, if they have them. They are a very good organisation.

Conclusions? Well, it is not possible to come to a conclusion as to whether animal shelters are better run when funded by charitable donations compared to the taxpayer through local government. This is because there are no measures on efficiency because no one is keeping records and making them public. This is a weakness with animal shelters.

Apparently in the USA, there is an ongoing attempt to build a national database of animal shelter statisitics so that figures can be tracked and shelters can work more in unison. It is called the “the Asilomar Accords“.

5 thoughts on “Funding of Animal Shelters”

  1. So are the staff in these government funded shelters employees being paid or are they volunteers?
    I always think volunteers are more likely to be animal lovers and to be kind and compassionate than people doing it for their living are.

  2. I only see some small differences between our local Humane Society (so called no-kill) and our local shelter. Most have to do with aesthetics rather than the actual running of each place. In my observations, I do believe that the HSUS may keep slightly better records. I say this because they take the time to gather some history about their adoptees and will post the info. In contrast, the shelter can’t provide anything. I think it is important that people are informed about whether cats/dogs came from a one pet home, a home without children, etc.
    On the surface, I find the HSUS presents a cleaner, more welcoming facility. I. also, find the staff to be friendlier and more courteous.
    I, actually, think the HSUS is this way because they do rely on donations. Public contributions and their reputation is very important to them. Whereas, the shelter will get money from me whether thay are nice to me or not.

    • I have one word YES. And it is an estimate. It could well be a lot higher. It is legalised mass slaughter and an modern phenomenon, a symptom of the domestication of animals gone wrong.


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