Animal shelters should be for 2nd Chances

Animal shelters should be for 2nd Chances

By Mickey Zeldes September 5, 2014

There are legitimate reasons to bring an animal to a shelter. If you find a stray animal, we serve as a central lost and found, giving the animal a safe place to wait until his or her owners can come to reclaim their errant pet. We actively try to find the rightful home for each stray animal that comes in our door, scanning for a microchip and sending out emails, certified letters and texts to alert people when their pet has come in as well as posting photos of strays on our Facebook page (Have you liked us yet? Become part of our network and help these lost animals find their way home).

When there are situations of cruelty, abuse or neglect, that’s what a shelter is for. We rehabilitate and care for these animals with the ultimate goal of finding them more responsible guardians. Fortunately, in our small town we don’t see much of that and the type of neglect that we more often see can be resolved with a vet care agreement or warning citation.

There are times when it’s understandable to surrender your own pet. Life can throw some unexpected curve balls at us, and circumstances can change in ways we can’t predict or prevent. Loss of a spouse, loss of a job or a home and other life altering changes can mean that a person truly can’t take care of a pet anymore. The hope is that every guardian has a backup home for their pets if they were suddenly unable to care for them themselves, but we know that’s not always the case (do you have a plan for your pets if something were to happen to you tomorrow?). So many people coming through our door to adopt shake their heads and say “I could never give up my animals,” but we try not to judge too harshly and understand that sometimes this is in the animal’s best interest. And that’s what the shelter is there for – to give these animals a second chance at finding a loving home.

What we’re not, or don’t want to be, is a convenient place to dump your dog because you didn’t train him and now are frustrated at his bad behavior. Or a place to get rid of your cat because she’s elderly and needs more care than you want to provide (and she isn’t “fun” anymore). Or a place to bring your pet when he’s sick or injured because you don’t want to spend any money on him. Really?

We recently got in a “stray” retriever that is 14 years old. Funny that the finder forgot the animal had a microchip that traced the dog back to him. But you can’t force someone to reclaim his or her pet, so here he sits. The dog is obviously having some age-related health issues and now has to spend his last few days in a scary kennel instead of being showered with love and taken to his vet to be euthanized with his caring owner at his side. I have to admit that makes me angry – and sad. People surrender their sick or behaviorally challenged animals to us and believe that relieves them of the burden of having to make that final decision. It throws it into our lap, and then we are criticized for making it.

In many ways, euthanasia is a gift we can give our pets. We don’t have to watch them suffer or have them go off to die alone. We can choose to humanely put them out of pain and be with our companions so they die surrounded by love. If you’re in a situation where you feel you can’t afford to do that last act of kindness, call us and we can help pay for that. Let’s make the shelter what it’s supposed to be – a place where adoptable animals otherwise just down on their luck get a second chance.

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