Why I Love My Adopted Shelter Pets (and why the Seattle Humane Society is a wonderful place)

Last February, my wife and I decided to get cats. We hummed and hawed for quite a long time before we decided that two would be how many would be ideal for us (neither of us has had a pet since 1998 or so). Then we needed to decide where to get our animals from. Growing up, my parents always seemed to know someone who had a cat that was producing kittens, so it was always an early adoption of a kitten from a family friend, and this is how I wanted to start searching. My wife wanted to adopt from a shelter – something that I wasn’t opposed to, but was very lukewarm towards.

So we ended up going to the Seattle Humane Society to start our search. Most of the cats we saw were already grown (i.e. not kittens anymore) and I was still not warming to the idea of adopting a ‘middle-age’ cat. There was one girl, Anna, who was instantly friendly to my wife, and while we were almost prepared to adopt on the spot, she was ‘bonded’ to a boy cat (they needed to be adopted together, and I’d been leery about adopting a boy since boys can spray indoors) and it was very close to Christmas, and we were going away and didn’t want the cats to be alone for well over a week. The woman at the shelter asked if we wanted to put a hold on them, but I told her that if they were adopted before we came back, it would be okay, because they would go to a home just as good as we could provide, and we could choose different cats.

So Christmas came and went, and we were ready to go and adopt. Anna was still there and available with her partner Baby. We adopted the two of them in early February and they quickly adjusted to life with us. They are (99.9% of the time) wonderful cats with strong personalities that make them welcome additions to our household.

So now I come to one of those Facebook posts that was semi-viral a few weeks ago, by an unknown author entitled Why We Do What We Do from a page by a person/organization called Advocate for Saving Dogs. I will repost the text of the article here in case the link doesn’t work if you don’t have a Facebook Account:

A Letter from a Shelter Manager – anonymous in North Carolina

I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays”, that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are; “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving too that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would”. How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her”. Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! “She’s tearing up our yard”. How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog”.

Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.

Those dogs just don’t get adopted. It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”.

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.

My point to all of this DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!

Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this and it made me want to adopt”. THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT.

The picture associated with the story is of a pile of dead cats, stacked like firewood. I haven’t been able to verify whether the story is true or not (that’s what happens with an anonymous author), but I think it is innocent enough, and brings home a very important point, that it doesn’t matter. It’s fundamentally changed how I look at how I will adopt future pets for the rest of my life.

The picture and story really stuck with me for well over a week. I would look at my adopted cats, and picture them on the top of that pile. They had been in the shelter for almost three months when we adopted them, which is far longer than the anonymous author says pets will stay in his. The Seattle Humane Society will try to keep animals for as long as possible, and we’ll be forever grateful that they had such a policy, and I’m sure Baby and Anna will agree that they had such a policy that allowed them to find a forever home with loving people to take care of them for the rest of their lives.

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