Local Animal Control Shelters, Good Guys or Bad Guys?

"I have seen more than one city shelter employee become visibly emotional..."

©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Before you abuse, criticize or accuse a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.” If you are ever inclined to question the folks who run our municipal animal shelters because they sometimes have to euthanize dogs, please consider the following. 

Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter municipal animal shelters nationwide every year. That’s 450 dogs every hour, 24 hours a day, every day of the week, every week of the year. 

Of the 3.9 million dogs entering municipal animal shelters, about 2/3 of the dogs enter the shelter as strays and about 1/3 are relinquished by their owners. 

Owners relinquish their dogs to shelters for the following reasons (ranked in order of frequency): they are moving, their landlord doesn’t allow dogs, they have too many dogs already, costs are too high, personal problems, and so on. 

Strays are picked up when animal control is notified of a loose animal. These are typically dogs roaming around a neighborhood with no form of identification (i.e., no collar with tags, no microchip).

Of the 3.9 million dogs entering municipal animal shelters, about 1/3 of the dogs are picked up by their owners once animal control contacts them, about 1/3 are adopted out by animal control and about 1/3 are euthanized. This means that in approximately 2/3 of cases, there is a good outcome (i.e., dogs are returned to owners or adopted out). In other words, two-thirds of dogs are not euthanized; that’s quite commendable considering the onslaught of dogs being forced into these shelters.

Keep in mind; these shelters are required to take every dog that hits their door, regardless of the circumstance.

And how about the people who work at these city shelters? I’ve had the privilege of working with municipal shelters and I can tell you the following about these professionals:

● They are extremely professional in their dealings with the animals and with the public.

● They do a great job of caring for the animals - medical, grooming, housing, feeding, etc.

● They never want to euthanize any of the animals. With the number of animals being forced on them every day, they have no choice; there is literally not enough room or resources to keep them all. I have seen more than one city shelter employee become visibly emotional about having to euthanize a dog.

● They are one of the few organizations on the planet that would like to see their jobs no longer exist.

Are city shelter employees good guys? Yes. They are the unsung heroes who find homes for 2/3 of the dogs that come through their doors. 

It’s up to us to make their life easier by neutering our dogs, not buying from puppy mills, equipping our dogs with collars that have identifying tags, microchipping our dogs, and ensuring our dogs are properly housed to avoid escape.

We can also adopt a dog from them too! They have plenty of sweet dogs of every age, size and breed that need loving forever homes.