Pets column: Where do shelter animals come from?What is the first thing you picture when you think of an animal shelter resident?
By: Amy Miller, For the Budgeteer News
What is the first thing you picture when you think of an animal shelter resident?
Is it a dog? A cat? Purebred or mixed? Is the animal happy and healthy? Or do you picture a dirty animal who has just been rescued from the streets, sadly staring out through kennel bars?
If it is the latter, you are not alone.
Every day I meet people who cannot bring themselves to step into the shelter because they are afraid to face the sad animals they imagine beyond its doors.
It is unfortunate that these presumptions keep some people from visiting the shelter, although those involved in animal welfare cannot blame this reaction entirely on skewed public perception. Many national ad campaigns for humane organizations feature lonely, feeble-looking
animals. The abused, the sick, the pets with “only one day left to live” tug at heartstrings when organizations seek adopters or ask for financial
One of the major challenges shelters now face is changing the community’s assumptions of how and why animals end up at the shelter.
Of course, in animal rescue there will always be pets who need medical care or are malnourished, traumatized, scared or aggressive, and require special help. While animal shelters exist in part to care for stray animals or those with special needs, these organizations often serve pet owners who need their help as well.
The fact is that many animals in a shelter’s kennels were once be-loved companions, but circumstances made it impossible for their families to keep them.
According to Animal Allies Humane Society’s records, more than half the cats and just under half of the dogs in the organization’s adoption program were taken in as surrenders from the public in the first half of 2013.
Every day, Animal Allies receives phone calls from people who need to find new homes for their cats and dogs. According to the shelter’s lead veterinary technician Brooke Anderson, the most common reason people need to surrender their animals is because they can no longer afford to give them adequate care. A close second is those who have had a change in their living situation, often a move to a rental where pets are not allowed.
The animals who find themselves at the shelter for these reasons are not brought in because they were misbehaving or aggressive; they are simply looking for a new family to care for them.
Many are well-trained and housebroken. Also, for those seeking a specific breed, the Humane Society of the United States reported in 2009 that 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds.
If a heartbreaking image is the first that comes to your mind when you think of a homeless animal, try instead to picture them happy and healthy, waiting for the next step in their lives. Better yet, stop by Animal Allies in Duluth or Superior and see their eager smiles for yourself.
Amy Miller is the marketing and communications manager for Animal Allies Humane Society. She lives in Duluth with her husband and three adopted pets: dogs Maverick and Goose, and a cat named Buddy Love.