Monday, January 24, 2011

Kitty! And Animal Shelter Policies

Check out my new kitty! He's so cute!
It may seem that I'm pet crazy, since I just had a post about my fish, but it just happens that I managed to get new pets in close proximity to one another.  I'm not keeping this one though, and if you want him, you can have him.  He is, in fact, my newest foster baby and the first one I've had in Michigan.

Because of my lack of money and my unusual schedule, both resulting from my graduate student status, I can't really afford to keep a pet of my own.  I do, however, love having animals in the house.  To solve this issue, I volunteer for whatever humane society is in the area as a foster mom for cats.  I'd foster dogs too, but they're not allowed in my apartment.

When I lived in Charlottesville, VA, I volunteered at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CASPCA).  The cats I got were primarily ones with minor illnesses and health problems, the kind that they didn't want spreading to other animals in the facility.  I had a lot of cats with colds and ear infections.  Like this one!
This lovely lady, originally named Posey, was later dubbed "Paula Deen", due to her minor chubbiness.
Here in Michigan, I work for the Humane Society of the Huron Valley (HSHV).  This cat, Stewart, is the first I've gotten, and was fostered out because of his extreme dislike of the shelter.  The first picture I received of him from the foster coordinator, who referred to him as "Turtle Kitty" for hiding under his bed, is below.
While it looks funny, it was actually a pretty serious problem-- he had stopped eating and was losing a lot of weight.  Even after a few days with me, he spends most of his time hiding under the bed and still isn't eating nearly as much as he should.  I've been referring to him as "ShyGuy", especially when he finally creeps out from hiding and then runs away as soon as I look at him.  Hopefully he'll recover the rest of the way soon; when he does come out, he's a great cat.  When you pet him, he leans so far into your hand that he'll actually lose his balance and tumble over, which is really funny to see.

I've been lucky with regards to the humane societies located near where I live.  Both have had great, newly renovated facilities with lots of space, light and air for the animals.  They're actually cheerful places to visit and volunteer, which makes it easier to deal with all those homeless animals and their overwhelming cuteness.  One thing that differs between them, however, is that CASPCA is a no-kill shelter, while HSHV is what they refer to as "open-access".  I'm still not completely sure how I feel about this, so I'll hash out some of the pros and cons for you.

Obviously, the largest pro of a no-kill shelter is that animals are never put down, unless they are terminally ill or injured to the point of no recovery.  Not having to euthanize animals is the goal of any good shelter but is an explicit and solid commitment of no-kill shelters.  Many institute a number of programs to decrease the number of homeless animals in the community, such as rescue services and free spay/neuter clinics.  Others work to keep pets with their owners, through measures such as pet food banks and behavioral classes.

The downside of a no-kill shelter, however, comes from the fact that, in addition to these admirable and very useful programs, the shelters often limit the number of animals they take in.  If they already have five hound dogs, they are likely to turn away another, as its chances of being adopted in a reasonably short period of time are low.  This puts a lot of pressure on other shelters and resources in the area and often just moves euthanization somewhere else.

In contrast to this, open access shelters never turn away animals, allowing them to act as a resource for anyone.  They also provide some essential functions, like euthanizing animals that are a threat to community safety.  And, like I said before, any good shelter, even if it's open access, strives to avoid euthanizing animals.

I guess when it comes down to it, whether a shelter is no-kill or open access is not the factor that is going to affect my support for it.  What is going to change my opinion is the number of programs they have in place to help animals and people in the community, whether that is through rescue programs, spay/neuter clinics, pet food banks or more.  In the end, those say more about the good the shelter is doing than what title it has.  And as much as he didn't like it there, I like to think HSHV did a good thing for ShyGuy by bringing him to me!
What do you think about the no kill vs open access divide?  Do you have strong feelings one way or the other?  Or do you agree with my more case-by-case view of things?  There's this awesome little link below that you can hit to let me know!


  1. I have no issues with shelters that do euthanise or put down animals.

    When I lived in Chicago, the shelter I volunteered at definitely would put down animals (Anti-Cruelty Society - ACS). However, the one thing I really liked about it was that they did do everything possible to try and get the animals adopted. Moreover, they had an extensive interview process for adopting pets, which included checking to see whether your building would allow pets as well as your expectations in regards to pet owning in order to avoid the animals being abandoned or brought back later on, which is something that the CASPCA doesn't really do, at least not for cats.

    Also, to be fair...I did notice that volunteers tended to amass quite impressive amounts of pets with various issues that would for the most part render them 'un-adoptable' in most people's eyes. I had a fellow volunteer who had adopted both a three-legged cat as well as another that had brain-damage and hearing issues.

    Moreover, I do agree that with no-kill shelters, the burden of putting down an animal is often just shifted onto another facility, which is not exactly ideal either. The other thing that I really don't like about no-kill shelters is that they will, in my experience, often 'over-admit' the amount of animals that they can actually properly take care of in order to avoid turning them away. For instance, at the CASPCA just having crates and crates of kittens in the hallway, or having all the dog pens full with not enough staff or volunteers to walk them. In essence, I think all the animals suffer to some extent when this happens.

    Anyways, these are my two cents =)

  2. Also, your foster kitty is super cute <3