There’s a lot of secrecy and misinformation in how animal shelters in the U.S. operate. This may come as a surprise to many of you who believe a shelter is there to find a home for stray and unwanted animals. While this is the goal we all wish for, the reality is that shelters are a place to throw away your pet, or to bring a stray to for it to be killed. If people knew how most kill shelters operate, they’d be shocked, wondering how these shelters continue to operate above the law, even when the laws set forth to govern them are broken.
Animal advocates have made it a top priority to expose bad animal shelters. These are the shelters who kill before the hold time decided by the animals codes for the state in which they operate are fulfilled. The shelters who would rather kill a dog or cat at closing time rather than wait just five more minutes for the owner or a rescue to arrive and save that animal. The shelters who label any frightened kitten as ‘feral’ and immediately kill it.
When this happens, it creates an angry mob on social media. How dare that shelter director do that! Get us that director’s phone number and email so we can call and complain! Guess what everyone? That shelter director with the bad attitude doesn’t give a flip about your opinion. You can email or call all day long voicing your opinion, and it’s not going to do a bit of good. Because in most cases the local government is responsible for the hiring of that director, and it’s going to take a lot more than a few angry people to get that director removed.
There are whistleblowers at shelters who want to report inhumane and illegal treatment of the animals housed there. Shelter directors have gotten sneaky, creating ‘gag orders’ threatening staff and volunteers with termination should they cause trouble by telling the truth. This article on PoC explains this problem quite well.
To change written policy at your local animal shelter, you have to be willing to go the extra mile. You can do this by emailing, calling and faxing the city or county government that controls the shelter in your area. Council meeting are open to the public, and members of the community have the right to speak before the council for an allotted time.
This is currently happening at a shelter in my area. Greenville County Animal Care Services, located in upstate South Carolina, is a high-intake, high-kill shelter, In 2014, 20.7% of dogs and 53.4% of cats taken into their system were killed. Despite being offered help for the shelter to go no-kill, the shelter director in Greenville, Shelly Simmons, really hasn’t expressed much interest in going no-kill. Unfortunately, this is the norm for most shelters. There are good shelter directors out there, and according to studies done by the no-kill movement, the success of a shelter depends a lot on whether the director is interested in saving lives, or only earning a paycheck.
An upstate South Carolina group called Let ’em Live Upstate-No Kill Movement are working with rescues, businesses and individuals to bring positive changes to the community. Along with animal advocates who are attending each and every council meeting, we’re all hopeful Greenville County Council will have the blinders ripped from their eyes and see what’s happening. I’m not singling the shelter in Greenville out, as I’ve discovered far worse shelters in North Carolina.
This YouTube video showing animal advocate Tami Desmond is an excellent example of what must be done for change to happen. Tami, along with others, are getting their three minutes in to present shelter problems to the ones who have the power to correct them.
If you don’t consider yourself a public speaker, join a group and stand in support of whoever is best at speaking out for changes. A small following is always present at the Greenville council meetings, and a few of the council members are taking notice and learning about things the shelter has kept out of the public eye.
During the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with some very famous animal advocates. Shane and Sia Barbi, ex-Playboy models, are two of my very favorite people. These ladies are amazing, and I consider them very brave in the manner in which they speak up. When something is going wrong anywhere in the country in the animal world, they literally get on the phone and speak with leaders in the community who have the power to make changes. They’ve even reminded a few mayors that it would be in their best interest come election time to help the animal shelters in their community
This article on the Barbi Twins website offers a solution to the problems facing animal shelters today. Please take the time to read 5 Reasons Kill Shelters Don’t Work. It’s too long for me to go into in this article, but it shows there are answers. The main thing is to get involved. Educate your community about what’s happening, and understand there are ways to help when we join together as one voice.
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