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264shelter2There are misconceptions regarding the purpose of Animal Control Shelters (also known as dog pounds).

Usually they are facilities funded by city or county agencies.  What most people do not understand is that originally, the only purpose for animal shelters was to protect humans from loose, dangerous, sick animals, not care for them.  In the last couple of years many people have formed volunteer groups that help foster and identify rescue groups locally, to get out as many animals from the shelter and into rescue or be adopted. They are not the same as organizations that are dedicated to finding, rescuing, giving necessary, normal medical care, finding safe home for temporary foster care with the ultimate end of finding private loving homes for these animals.

 The history of American animal shelters (dog pounds) is a reflection of our growing human relationship with the animals in general.  I was stunned to learn that until the first American humane society was opened in 1866  (known today as the APSCA), unwanted animals were caught placed in cages and drowned. Why?  My impression was there were so many strays many covered with ticks, fleas, and Rabies would have been a great fear.  This practice was considered normal.

Then along came  an animal lover by the name of Henry Bergh, who decided to dedicate his entire life to the interests of what were considered "dumb animals" due to the harsh treatment and life of the carriage horses in New York City.  In response to this treatment, he formed the Association of the 264shelter3Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) during a time when he was faced with indifference, opposition, and ridicule, with animal welfare considered a waste of time by most of society. His movement developed today into one of the most beneficial organizations for the care of animals. 
In April 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was born. Nine days later the first anti-animal cruelty law was approved by the New York legislature. This first law was designed to prevent cruelty to farm and work animals, primarily horses. The humane society later succeeded in passing laws to protect cats and dogs from animal cruelty.

In 1894 the humane society took over animal control duties in New York, and created animal shelters and promoted the practice of animal rescue within the city.
By the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 U.S. states had passed animal cruelty prevention laws and humane societies and animal shelters were opening across the nation.¹


It was not until the 1960 and 1970s that animal advocates began developing private shelters. And it was not until this time that strays were beginning to be removed from streets with small attempts for them to be placed in private homes. There began to be less concern over them being a public health risk with more focus over the animals' welfare.²


Sadly for some reason many people still do not understand that many of our Public Animal Shelters in the USA are not staffed or funded to do more than what the original intent was "the only purpose for animal shelters is to protect humans from loose, dangerous, sick animals, not care for them. "  As 264volunteers1our attitudes have changed towards our pets in many places the public have demanded more from these shelters and many places now have organized volunteer groups who spend many hours caring, walking, reaching out to the communities around them seeking comfort items like raised beds, food, and safe foster homes, and a thousand other "little" but greatly needed items.
Shelters are just now beginning to reform into "no kill" shelters but only when there is local support to do so... Do you ever volunteer to help out at your local shelter? When animals are taken in, they rarely have a medical history. If there is one available that indicates medical aid or veterinary care has been given; this information is passed on to the new owner.


The Animal Shelter cannot guarantee the health or temperament of an animal adopted from the Shelter. Usually the shelters will contact a breed rescues as soon as they arrive, If it is an owner surrender. If not when the dog comes off the stray hold required by law. Only when dog gets to rescue that anyone is able to care for the dog ² There is usually only public money providing the barest amount of funds available for minimal care. Without  the volunteers and their supports their plight would be even worse. Did you know the Sound pressure levels in some shelters regularly exceed 100 264poordog1dB, creating a health problem for people and animals? No wonder just being in a shelter can traumatize many of the dogs!  One employee expressed that he did not like having to euthanize the animals, but he knew that it was still better than a life on the streets where the animal could die from disease, being hit by a car, or even being picked up by someone who would abuse them or use them as a bait dog.


In many areas, shelters are being helped by organized volunteers, working towards turning them into "no-Kill shelters, which are trying to raise the adoption rate high enough have the luxury of not euthanizing animals. It is rumored that  some shelters, because they turn away needy ones whom they deem unadoptable cause unwanted pets to be dumped on the street. Many keep waiting lists, Where do these unwanted animals go?  The lucky ones will be taken to clean open-admission facilities that have responsible policies about euthanasia and adoption.


Animal shelters vary greatly—by size, purpose, capacity, and their treatment of the animals in their charge. They may be operated by the government, by a local humane society, by private individuals, or by a combination of these. Some are funded by donations alone, while others receive tax money.  Many do not have A/c or heat unless private individuals pay for it, the public money (taxpayer money), may not be available.

264volunteers3The Animals who are accepted into no-kill shelters may be warehoused in cages for months, years, or the rest of their lives, until they find someone to adopt. When there are volunteers, these animals may find their way to local approved foster homes, be provided basic vet care and human love in a home setting.  Where there are not enough homes or volunteers, some of these dogs may be kept at these shelters and becoming more withdrawn, depressed, or aggressive every day—further reducing their chances of adoption. Although the volunteers work very hard to find foster homes and forever homes sometimes there just may not be enough money or volunteers to handle the number of animals in that region.  Or the dog's temperament  or health issues, make them harder to place.


Some public animal shelters around the world, euthanize animals that are not adopted within a set period of time (usually 1 to 2 weeks); others have a policy of only putting down animals that are in distress due to age or illness. Most private shelters are typically run as no-kill shelters. Most shelters will test the animals to see what type of home would be most suitable for living before they are placed for adoption. The last numbers I saw indicated that there were about 5,000 shelters in the USA.


In 1824, organized dog welfare began in Britain, when the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was developed. This Royal organization is still in existence today, finding its way to the United States by 1866.


The Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now fondly known as Montreal’s SPCA) was the first humane society in Canada, founded in Montreal in 1869 by a group of prominent citizens.

During the early years, the primary concern of the SPCA was improving the treatment of work horses. Beatings, overloading, starvation, lameness, and harness sores were common cruelties inflicted upon work horses in those days.
264volunteersfoodOur social media friends  recently responded to a question about supporting local Shelters.Jackie Taylor:  "We don't have any human family, so we always volunteer on the holidays, so most of the shelter staff can take those days off to be with family. And I AM the bleach queen and scrub down some of the empty runs to get them ready for the next critter. "

Linda Barbaro:  "Donna. Please continue to encourage people to volunteer at their local shelter and be active in working for shelter reform."
BTN: "Good point Vicki Greene, these shelters are always in need of paper towels, dog food, cat food, blankets, raised dog beds (made of PCV pipe frames) just ask how you can help. Many keep lists"


¹Association of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)