A lot of animal advocates are under the impression that animal shelters are required to open their entire facility to the public in order to show they’re not being secretive in their actions. While this would be ideal, it’s not the law, even in shelters who are government funded.
This article is about shelters in general and Whitfield County Animal Shelter in Dalton, Georgia. The shelter is said to have a very high kill rate. It’s also alleged animals come out “injured” who were fine when they went in. The photo above was posted at the shelter recently, causing those who follow the shelter to question their motives.
There may not be any motives at all. Or there may be. Who knows? An animal shelter, in general, is there for public safety reasons. To work with rescues or to offer animals for public adoption is a bonus. Unfortunately, Whitfield DOESN’T adopt to the public.
In the state of Georgia, rescues who work with a shelter are required to have a Georgia license with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and be incorporated with the Georgia Secretary of State. Rescues are inspected and have to keep current records on everything they do. It’s meant to ensure the animals go to a safe place and not a disreputable person operating under the guise of a rescue.
As for having portions blocked off from public access, this too is done in animal shelters across the country. For example, quarantine rooms for contagious illnesses, as well as bite-hold quarantines are areas off limit to all but shelter staff.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture has given the choice of whether rescues or potential adopters are allowed in the back rooms. What’s done in one county may not be done in another, depending on who’s over the shelter.
Unfortunately, word going around is Whitfield is no longer allowing rescues into the back to take photos of the cats and dogs available. I don’t like this. I also don’t like shelters that don’t encourage public adoption. A family can carry the memory for years to the day they visited the local animal shelter and adopted a special pet into the family.
Shelters that ban adoption aren’t helping anyone, including the animals in their care. They’re also making enemies and losing trust within the animal advocacy community.
Since adoption and rescue are an added bonus, and only public safety is required, there may not be anything we can do to change things without attending a lot of Whitfield County Council meetings. Council leaders tend to prefer to do what they’ve always done for as long as they can get away with it and most aren’t open to new ideas. It could take years for Whitfield to decrease the animals being killed while in their care.
How do the readers feel about shelters who operate as Whitfield does? Does anyone have any suggestions on how we can change things? Sound off in the comments.
P.S. Michael has written about the First Amendment and animal shelters which was inspired by this page and a comment by a visitor.