Dumping “Dump”

Some of you have probably seen Lake Superior State University’s Banished Word List for 2012.  (I note that “pet parent” made the list, without comment.)  One word I wish would disappear from every rescue post now and forever is “dump” when referring to pets surrendered by their owners to shelters.  I’ve written on this subject before but it’s something I come across daily and it’s grating on me.  So here we are again.

It is entirely reasonable for John Q. Public to draw the conclusion that a place which calls itself a “humane society” reflects the values of an actual humane society, such as what we have here in America.  A recent AP-Petside poll indicates that 71% of Americans believe that shelters should not kill pets but rather reserve euthanasia for medically or behaviorally hopeless cases.

Likewise, any animal facility with the words “shelter”, “prevention of cruelty”, “animal services” or similar is logically perceived by most people to be a safe haven for pets.  Even if a staff member counsels the owner during the surrender and/or has the owner sign a form stating that the pet may be killed, it is likely that the owner believes this is a remote possibility, only being mentioned to cover some legal liability.

It is completely understandable to me that most surrendering owners believe one or more of the following:

  • The people here love pets and although they might kill some pets, I’m sure those are sickly or mean animals – not like my pet.
  • My pet is so wonderful and as soon as the animal loving staff here gets to know her, they will fall in love with her and there will be no chance of her being killed.
  • People visiting the shelter looking to add a pet to the home will be instantly drawn to a nice pet like mine and she will probably be adopted quickly.
  • I’m so overwhelmed right now (because I’m losing my house/undergoing cancer treatment/barely able to keep my kids fed/whatever) that I really can’t conceive of this whole “we might kill your pet” notion and I just have to believe that these animal loving people will help us in this time of need and not hurt my pet.

Just because you and I know that tragically, too many shelter workers are not animal lovers and in fact, abuse and needlessly kill pets every day – it doesn’t mean that the typical surrendering owner knows that.  In fact, I think the AP-Petside poll clearly indicates the opposite.  Most people believe shelters are a safe haven for pets.  That’s why they are surrendering their pets there.  They don’t want anything bad to happen to their pets.  Whether they are genuinely unable or outright unwilling to keep the pet is irrelevant.  The important thing is that they care enough about the animal to take him to a place where it is believed he’ll be protected from harm.

This is not “dumping” a pet.

That said, there are some people who do dump pets, literally.  They work at your local pound.  They take in donations and pets from the public and then, behind closed doors, kill pets, toss their bodies into a dumpster and send them to the dump.  They kill pets and attempt to justify their heinous actions by providing phony “reasons”.  They kill some pets without ever offering them for adoption because they are too lazy to open up the entire shelter to visitors or get pets out to high traffic areas to be seen.  They kill because it’s easier than setting up and maintaining a cage for an animal.  They kill because it’s a power trip getting to stroll the kennel halls picking who lives and who dies.

There are any number of so-called reasons why those paid to protect our community pets kill them but there is one reason which overshadows all the others:  because they can.

Why is that?  How can anyone be paid with taxpayer money to fail at their job?

They kill because they can and they can because:

  • The public does not realize they are killing instead of sheltering and trusts them to do their jobs.

Please join me in dumping the word “dump” in describing owners who surrender their pets to shelters.  Instead of helping to “justify” the needless killing of shelter pets by blaming the public, take action to end the killing.

Leave a comment

52 Comments

  1. Daniela

     /  January 11, 2012

    I hate the word too. There are so many reasons to take an animal to the shelter that have nothing to do with not wanting responsibility for the animal anymore. And if someone doesn’t want the responsibility for the animal is it really a good idea for them to keep it? The big reason I can see is strays – not everyone can keep an animal that shows up at their door. You need someplace to take them where they will be safe until a home can be found for them

    Daniela

    Reply
  2. Liz

     /  January 11, 2012

    Let’s also get rid of the term ‘necessary evil’. I can’t stand when people say that.

    Reply
  3. mikken

     /  January 11, 2012

    And what does “dump” do for shelter workers except set them up for receiving “garbage”? Part of the problem with shelter mentality is that you start to see pet owners as the enemy, rather than the ally.

    Language like “dump” only increases that kind of thinking.

    Reply
  4. My local animal shelter considers all animals brought in by someone as owner-turn-ins if the person fed the animal that showed up by their house.

    Reply
    • Daniela

       /  January 11, 2012

      So what are you supposed to do? Starve it until you can capture it to take it in? That sounds cruel. How do they prove a person was feeding it?

      Daniela

      Reply
  5. alice in LALA land

     /  January 11, 2012

    pet parent.. and fur kid.. and ‘responsible breeder.. and back yard breeder …and puppy mill.. and so on but this is great.. language matters..this is a wonderful post..

    Reply
    • CristyF

       /  January 11, 2012

      Responsible breeder is a valid phrase. Those types breed dogs for health and temperament primarily. Without people breeding dogs for health and temperament, what you have left is two people who throw two dogs together just because they are “cute” and this could result in dogs who are carrying terrible genetic diseases or who are born with temperament issues making them unsafe. My family has had two dogs from bad breedings, one of them is fear aggressive and cannot be taken in public (this is a lab, her temperament is completely incorrect for the breed) and a terrier who died at six years old from a brain disease we could not cure or treat that is not genetically uncommon in terriers.

      But I notice, you also add “backyard breeder” and puppymill. What would you propose those who specialize in animal husbandry be called?

      (and btw I never use dump in relation to people giving up their pets to shelters. I always use the phrase “owner surrender”).

      Reply
      • Minerva

         /  January 12, 2012

        PUPPY MILLS ARE NOT “ANIMAL HUSBANDRY!!!!!!!!!!” They are beyond cruel!
        And are one of the main reasons so many shelters are so overcrowded.
        And many owners do “dump” their animals at the pound because they
        DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM!
        Go volunteer for an animal rescue for a few weeks so you can
        learn the truth.

      • Jennifer

         /  January 12, 2012

        BYBs and Puppymills should be called Commercial Breeders-only in it for the money! Many times they will give away for free or turn them in to an animal shelter or rescue their unsold pups so they do not have to feed or vaccinate them. Many commercial breeders who are USDA licensed will sell their leftover unsold older puppies at dog auctions. They will also sell their breeding dogs when they are not producing enough puppies due to age and if their puppies are no longer selling well.

        Definition of animal husbandry from the Miriam-Webster dictionary-a branch of agriculture concerned with the production and care of domestic animals.

  6. Jennifer

     /  January 11, 2012

    I do not like the word and only use it for people who release their animals on the side of roads or in rural areas.

    Reply
  7. Karen F

     /  January 11, 2012

    Facebook should use one of their special “updates” and make it impossible to use this word in rescue listings. The world would be a better place.

    Reply
  8. “It is completely understandable to me that most surrendering owners believe one or more of the following…”

    You list out several assumptions that are incorrect in my experience as a volunteer at an open admission municipal shelter. I do agree that negative trigger words are not helpful, but I do not agree that most people surrendering their animals to open admission municipal shelters are loving owners trying to find a loving solution to their situation. We see senior and sick animals that owners had no problem with other than the expense and time to take care of them. It is rare that they cannot do it financially or otherwise (we have offered financial support in several cases), it is that they do not want to do it. They are not loving owners asking us to take care of their animal, they don’t care what happens to the animal and almost never follow up to find out how their pet is or if they have been adopted. This is not the behavior of a loving owner who is truly concerned about the welfare of their pet.

    It is rare that a young dog is surrendered to our shelter, but we have MANY young strays. Many of these strays are found either running the streets or at a local park which is a known popular dumping ground for pets. I think that many of the young “strays” we receive, even outside of the park, are dogs that have intentionally had their identification removed and been let loose.

    Some people do have real hardships that require them to surrender their pet. I agree that this is not dumping, but in my experience, this is the exception and not the rule. In the volunteer work I do, I do see a lot of people dumping their pets.

    Reply
    • Again, the bottom line being – it is impossible to “dump” a pet at a safe haven. Sure you can dump a pet on the side of a rural road in the country or in a dumpster (as many kill shelters do) but taking a pet to a safe place for protection is not dumping IMO.

      Reply
      • When there are enough safe havens to support the homeless pet population, I think I could agree with you. The reality is that today the homeless pet population far exceeds the number of available kennels, fosters, and available adopters; no-kill or otherwise. Even if you do surrender your animal to a shelter defined as a “safe haven”, you have now taken up one of the finite spaces at a safe havens and another animal will be going to a non-safe haven shelter. It is just the reality of the math.

        I am personally of the opinion that when you take a pet in to you family, you are now responsible for that animal for life. As you know this is typically a 12 – 18 year commitment that far too many people take lightly and decide to bail early. If we had safe havens where children could be dropped off after paying a small fee when they are no longer convent, would we have the same empathy for the parents? Some of the parents may have true hardships that we can empathize with, but I would have a hard time empathizing with a parent who just got bored of their child once they got too big to cuddle or decided it was too much of a hassle to have a child because they made it harder to travel during vacation.

        No doubt, many many many shelters need to be reformed, but even if we were able to make every shelter in America a no-kill, our problem would not be solved. We also need to educate the public on their responsibility as a pet owner, implement spay neuter programs, discourage breeding and obtaining animals from breeders, etc. I agree with you that the shelter system needs to change, but the public needs to change too and I am not personally willing to give a free pass to owners who surrendered their animals because they don’t take their responsibility as an owner seriously.

        I should also note that I do rescue in the North East, so that is where my perspective is coming from. You appear to be working out of the south, which I know is a very different situation are far as rescue goes, so that could account for our different views on this subject. Either way, I appreciate your perspective and you taking the time to respond.

    • When I first got into dog mushing, a musher said to me: *The shelter is only for trashy dogs…*
      Something about your post D really bothers me. I just realized what it is. We are each unique…dogs and people alike!
      YOUR definition of responsible is different from mine. My dog’s definition of fun is different from yours.
      I had a foster dog at the vets office and a musher friend said: *That dog is weak…* and proceeded to try and give me a lesson on body structure and conformation. I replied: *Does that mean she should die?* No response.
      And that’s the thing….some people think YES, a defect, a fault, is cause for death. This is an inherent human mindset and it’s a crutch which the world of sheltering uses extensively to support killing.
      I get the whole *we can’t save them all* paranoia thing, believe me, I LIVE in that space! My solution has been, okay, then I’ll just save this one…and that one…and, well, here’s hoping my hubby doesn’t divorce me, and those people with the frostbitten Dane find somebody else to help them, or I’ll be saving that one too.
      The people with the Dane SHOULD have dumped it months ago! But they didn’t call me until after it had run away (again) at 40 below, and now his balls are frozen in addition to his ears. But they didn’t call me back after I told them that no, I didn’t want to keep their dog forever, my plan was to get him neutered and rehome him. I do rescue, and they didn’t like the idea that their dog needed rescue!
      Should I have lied and said I wanted their dog forever?
      Why do rescues say they only want *forever* homes for the pets they take in?
      I have a dog out on trial and it isn’t going so well. She may come back. But I am REALLY grateful that the dog has the opportunity to experience a different life and a different family and is living in a house instead of being stuck on a chain because every heated space I have here is filled with old or even more hairless animals that can’t live outside at these temperatures.
      p.s. the foster dog out on trial is the *weak* dog mentioned above. Responsible mushers destroy the animals that don’t suit their needs…I was angry at the breeder because he killed this dog’s brother rather than give him to me. But, that was his choice. And now, having had the sister in foster care for four years, I’m wondering if maybe it might have been easier/better if he hadn’t killed her too.
      Except no. She’s alive. She’s remarkably happy (if somewhat shy and neurotic) and she deserves to live. They ALL do. Just because *shelters* are too lazy/greedy to do the work required to save them all, does not mean that these animals deserve to die.
      But until we can stop judging the people (as much as the animals) we won’t be able to fix the problem.

      Reply
      • ezbuddy

         /  February 23, 2012

        I agree completely with D.

        There ARE folks who “dump” dogs at shelters or wherever. And I can’t stop judging those who have every excuse in the world to not care for a dog & dumps them to good or bad “shelters”. And I can’t stop judging those who would kill a dog because it is weak or doesn’t suit their needs.

        When someone takes a dog as a “pet” or additional family member, they aren’t allowed to change their mind & no longer care for him/her. It’s a lifetime commitment they should be aware of from the beginning.

        I can think of no better word than “dump” unless it’s abandon. Either way, the dog loses and I’m having a hard time NOT judging them.

  9. Jessica C

     /  January 19, 2012

    I agree with you, Shirley. I wouldn’t say ‘dump’ when referring to a shelter. What would be a good term to use in it’s place?

    “Give a dog to a shelter”?
    “Drop-off a dog to a shelter”?
    “Adopt out a dog to a shelter”?

    Reply
    • Danielq

       /  January 19, 2012

      How about relinquish.it implies you would prefer not to do it but you feel it is for the best

      Reply
      • Jessica C

         /  January 19, 2012

        Sounds good, Daniel. Thanks. I usually say “drop-off” as an antonym to adoption, but that term tends to imply that you will be picking him/her back up, so its good to hear other perspectives.

    • How about a generic “brought” or “took”?

      Reply
    • ezbuddy

       /  February 23, 2012

      That only fits “nice” folks with good intentions. I just can’t see ANY nice reason, no how, no way possible I could EVER give up any of “my” dogs to a real “shelter” or any place. What “nice” person could?

      It’s still abandonment.

      Reply
      • Jessica C

         /  March 9, 2012

        Well, Im not saying that I would. Ive had my dog for 10 yers (since she was 8 weeks old) and would never even dream of giving her up. Shes like a child to me. I wouldnt give her up for a billion dollars.

        But, as Shirley has pointed out many, sometimes OTHER people are okay with needing to give away a dog to a shelter because situations change. For example, someone who is going into the army, cant leave a dog at home, and has no one to take care of it. Thats what shelters are for, to give the dog/cat a safe haven until they are adopted out. The words adopt/donate/give/take/etc are just semantics, I was just curious as to how she would word it.

  10. Leslie

     /  January 22, 2012

    I couldn’t agree more! It almways annoys me when someone pours invective on the pet owner relinquishing the pet; invariably that person says something about how they’d never give up a pet and they’d live in their car if necessary. Really? If you lost your job and your home, and if you didn’t have family or friends to fall back on, you would need to spend every possible minute looking for another job and a safe place to stay. While you could probably live in your car during this process, how could you care for a pet? What if you also had children—would you refuse to take shelter for the night in a place that wouldn’t allow you to bring your pet with you even if it meant your children would spend the night out in the cold? What would happen if you found a temporary job that would allow you to buy food but wouldn’t provide enough money to rent an apartment; do you leave your pets in the car while you’re at work and risk their death from heat exhaustion in the summer or freezing in the winter? Or do you decline the job because you don’t have any way of caring for your pet while you’re gone, knowing that it might mean that neither you nor your pets have anything to eat? Is your pet really better off starving to death at your side than having the chance at a better life with someone else?

    Reply
    • ezbuddy

       /  February 23, 2012

      Oh I see, your dogs haven’t meant as much to you as mine has to me. I would do everything you just stated that you wouldn’t do for your dog. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. What ever it takes, the kids(dogs) remain with me. Period.

      If it required begging on street corners, I would do it, but I would never abandon them to anyone else’s “care”.

      Reply
      • While I respect your sentiment, I simply don’t buy that as a standard for behavior. Our society has created a safe haven (imperfect as it is) for children such that if a person has to live in their car, they can relinquish their children to a system of care and get back on their feet. That exists because we don’t really want unemployed people to abandon the hunt for jobs so they can care for their toddlers in cars. We want them to be able to get back on their feet and eventually support the children and get into a home.

        So are you really suggesting that the shelter system’s failure to effectively serve the same purpose that the foster care system serves renders the person in need “irresponsible”?

  11. John Richardson

     /  January 23, 2012

    To be honest, I hear the word ‘dump’ mostly from rescue volunteers, not shelter workers. A lot of the same people think they’ll impress me by telling me “I hate people” when I go cage to cage outlining what, if anything, I know about the history of a given animal. Hate doesn’t do any good. I’ve met some nasty people working at shelters, eg those who angrily complain “What? I have to PAY to get rid of my dog???”. I’ve met clueless people who range from more or less innocently ignorant to just plain “don’t give a damn” types. But I’ve also met a lot of wonderful people w/o whom none of our animals would have found new homes, plus a lot of great owners who came racing to the shelter to reclaim. No, you don’t become a greater animal lover by hating people.

    With that in mind, may I suggest that the no kill movement stop the relentless hatred directed to people who work on the front lines, ie shelter workers? I’ve worked as a shelter volunteer (and I do mean WORKED, which quite a few but by no means all shelter volunteers can say), done a lot of home fostering and have of course adopted many dogs myself, including three “problem children” from my current home shelter. But it is the work I do as a shelter worker that makes the biggest positive impact and of which I am proudest. And many of the very tip top best people I’ve ever worked with in rescue were other shelter workers.

    Words are easy. Work is hard. Let’s get to work. TOGETHER.

    Reply
    • Eucritta

       /  January 23, 2012

      The trouble is, the no-kill movement tried this. Cooperation requires both sides to work in good faith, is the thing. If one side won’t – and this is sadly the case with all too many traditional animal control facilities – then real progress will not occur.

      I’ve worked as a shelter volunteer too, though it was many years ago now. What I learned in the process, aside from how to properly clean kennels and cages, was that people in shelters are no different from people outside of them. And the sad truth is, if a shelter is staffed by assholes, they’re no more likely to be cooperative than the assholes in your neighborhood.

      Reply
      • John Richardson

         /  January 23, 2012

        And if a high profile movement is similarly staffed with, ahem, people who make assumptions and hurl insults first and get to know you later if at all, then where are we? If you are announcing that the No Kill movement has done all the positive outreach that it ever intends to and has written off all shelters because of bad experiences at some, then, well, welcome to the world of insufferably arrogant irrelevance. If you’d like to work with someone who has managed a truly STRICT no kill shelter and now works at an animal control shelter and knows the upside and downside of each, give me a ring. If you’d like to work someone who can approach some people as an “insider” in a way that “outsiders” because of the reflex resistance that some insiders have to outsiders, give me a ring. There’s good and bad in shelters. There’s good and bad in rescue. And there’s good and bad in advocacy. How about if the good of each try to work together to improve the bad of each?

      • On an individual, personal level John, I believe in this idea. On a national level though, no kill advocates have been betrayed, time and again, by the “we all want the same thing so let’s work together” carrot holders. So when you talk about it on a grand scale, it naturally brings up bad memories. But if I meet you (or anyone), it’s a level playing field and let’s see what we can do.

      • Eucritta

         /  January 23, 2012

        Good luck with that.

      • John Richardson

         /  January 23, 2012

        “Betrayed”??? Just who do you think you are such that people on the actual front lines of this crisis day in and day out could possibly be said to have “betrayed” you? You DO understand that “working together” does NOT mean that No Kill advocates stand on the sidelines telling shelter workers what to do and shelter workers shut up and just do as they are told, right? And what exactly has the No Kill movement done to reach out to shelters? I’ve been in the business, first at a strict no kill and now at an animal control shelter, for the past 11.5 years and all that I have seen from No Kill advocates is a bunch of books and website tirades. Words don’t save ANYTHING or ANYONE.

      • Is this your idea of working together to bring out the best in each other John?

      • John Richardson

         /  January 23, 2012

        I’m not the one who said “we already tried it and it didn’t work” or that anyone “betrayed” anyone. If you want to start over, cool. But cooperation is a two way street. No one unilaterally dictates the terms of what cooperation means. But shelter workers DO stand in positions of responsibility w/r/t the animals in their care and the safety of the public to which animals are adopted. Such real world considerations WILL be part of what any sane shelter worker will consider before implementing anything. If that’s not good enough for “activists”, then get active for real and start your own animal control shelter. You can hardly do worse than some. But you may very well find yourself not doing as well as some of the shelters you now excoriate.

    • John, how do you work TOGETHER when shelter management either kills the volunteer program, or turns a blind eye while union employees back-stab and thwart the non-paid volunteers?
      If I had a dime for every time I heard a shelter employee (manager or otherwise) say: “Nobody here LIKES to kill animals”…and yet, what still happens? SOMEBODY is killing animals!
      The betrayal comes when you volunteer to help–and while you are out in public promoting Animal Control at a community event, helping to raise awareness and promote responsible pet ownership–a paid employee of said tax-payer funded governmental department kills an animal you had specifically offered to take. (One that you live-trapped as a feral, but relinquished thinking Animal Control could perhaps find the owner or an adopter easier than you could.)
      I found out that they killed the dog because another *rescue* person was also interested in the dog, and they were afraid this shy dog would get loose from her. Oh, and I already had enough on my plate, so they did me the *favor* of taking this *burden* of an animal out of circulation, permanently.
      Well, it was true, my plate was (and is) full.
      John, what’s your phone number? I’d love to give you a ring…

      Reply
      • John Richardson

         /  January 24, 2012

        My shelter has a volunteer program that no one is killing. I work face to face and over email with volunteers all the time. I of course also work face to face and, on my own time, stay in communication with other shelter employees all the time. And as I said in my original post, I started out as an adopter, foster person and shelter volunteer. Indeed, I’ve done volunteer work elsewhere even after I became professionally involved. I’ve seen it from all sides and, believe, a LOT of the culture conflict between employees and volunteers is the fault of certain segments of the volunteer community who bring a high and mighty superior attitude coupled with a low work ethic and low handling competence into the shelter. At the shelter that I used to manage with minimal help, we had volunteers who would come in just to crinkle their noses at absolutely everything, do little to nothing to lighten the load and constantly undercut all the progress that was being made in making some very difficult dogs become more adoptable by expressing their “love” by letting the dogs tug, pull and act out every which way, not infrequently getting themselves, other or other animals bitten in the process. Other volunteers came in, asked questions before issuing edicts, lent some REAL help that freed staff up for more specialized work that was hard to keep up with (I used to do 55-75 hour weeks just to keep up) and never caused an incident with the animals. These latter volunteers were always greeted with enthusiasm, but were too modest and unassuming and focussed on making themselves useful to ever parade around as the favorites they in fact were. The former group of volunteers never ever understood why they should have felt lucky that their presence was even tolerated, but they DID parade around the shelter as though they owned it. I would urge ALL volunteers to look at themselves when trying to figure out why relations with shelter staff and management are not what you desire. First, are your expectations even reasonable? Second, what are you doing to earn the respect you seek? What are you doing that might be undercutting it? And no, it is not a one way street. I talk to workers frequently about how THEY make things worse needlessly because of how some of them interact with volunteers. I have to challenge myself constantly as well. I’ll spare you the details here, because I’m not talking to shelter workers. I won’t publish my work or private telephone number. But you can email me at home at bedbugacres@gmail.com

  12. Cee in Ontario

     /  February 21, 2012

    John, good leadership and good management are needed. An organization that relies heavily on volunteers trains them and makes sure they are qualified for the positions you need them to fill. It doesn’t criticize them for the failure of the organizations’ leaders to manage them properly. I know of animal rescues that criticize their volunteers publicly. Know what? They now have trouble getting enough volunteers.

    The problems shelters have are common to many shelters and the concerns the public has are valid (a shelter tour, http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-tour/).

    The shelters that have turned things around are doing so by putting the common sense programs in place (the No Kill Equation, http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/no-kill-equation/) where Volunteers are a mandatory part of that. There is a growing list of successful open-admission no-kill shelters (this is one blog tracking them, see http://www.no-killnews.com/?page_id=8).

    John, maybe you should speak with people like Brent Toellner. His group, the KC Pet Project, took full control of the Kansas City, MO Animal Shelter as of January 1, an open-admission shelter.

    He writes:

    “One significant thing that is helping is embracing the many very strong rescue groups and volunteers in this community. While they haven’t always been embraced, we are embracing them.”

    http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2011/12/preparing-for-takeover-and-a-small-christmas-miracle.html

    There’s a wealth of info on every topic imaginable and if you are committed to success, you will find others willing to help you and share what they know.

    If your job is to get more animals adopted, return more lost pets to their homes, put pet retention and training programs in place, etc, then it’s essential YOU are always looking to improve your way of doing things. The worst thing you can do is to stop learning.

    Reply
    • John Richardson

       /  February 21, 2012

      Where I am now, we ARE committed to success and are doing well, but are working to do better. Our reclaim for stray dogs is over 60%. Our euth rate is under 10% despite the fact that we are not immune to the problem of having a population that is often over 50% Pit Bull and includes other large and/or old dogs known to be harder to adopt out. We have worked with about 100 different rescue groups just in the period that I’ve been there. Our animals get out frequently. We socialize difficult dogs. I initiated a “behavior hold” program to keep and work with dogs whose early on behavior would have them failing any temp test known to man. We have a graded system where dogs and volunteers are evaluated so that volunteers don’t get in over their heads. We still had some problems of late with some dogs getting worse because volunteers were allowing them way too much leeway on lead. So we are adding a new level to our program, have put new restrictions in and I and two trainers will be doing more advanced training. This is all really just commonsense stuff.

      Where I used to be, a TRUE no kill, I worked hard to ensure that dogs, some of whom almost never got out under prior management, all got out every day. But the volunteers were WAY out of control and empowered by board members who were at least as naive as the volunteers were to be that way. So you are right. This was a profound failure of top management. But that doesn’t mean that some volunteers who bring in a rigidly hostile, superior attitude and refuse to learn because they assume they know it all already are above criticism. You need procedures for disciplining volunteers and, if necessary, letting them go.

      As I said before, respect is a two way street and the knee jerk response of some to assume that all issues that arise between volunteers and staff are always unilaterally the staff’s fault is ignorantly and frankly childish. BOTH groups need to act in a mature fashion, and that includes admitting that it is indeed a lifelong learning process. You don’t become an expert simply by working for years in one place in one way w/o seeking out any new ideas from anyone outside your tight circle and I’ve known shelter staff alarmingly resistant to understanding this. But you also can’t come in from the outside, never having worked a day in a shelter anywhere, assuming that because you’ve read around on websites and exchanged some emails that you know just what your local shelter really needs. You have to understand your local shelter and what they are doing and have tried or are trying to do and what brute real world facts are really limiting their ability to do better before you can even have a halfway useful opinion on the matter. Too many people approach shelters who seem to have been ENCOURAGED to adopt this ludicrously extreme form of arrogance by their peers and that really needs to stop.

      Reply
    • John Richardson

       /  February 21, 2012

      I should add that one of the reasons that the volunteer program where I am now is working is because the woman in charge brings mix of ambition AND humility to the project that is very refreshing. We work together to challenge all staff and all volunteers to question what they themselves can do better and not just moan about what they wish “the other side” did better. (There should be no “sides”, of course, but building a team mentality itself takes work, not just words.) And we challenge each other. Often the first version of her latest new idea does indeed have a fatal flaw that she didn’t see because of her lack of hands on operational experience. But there is usually a golden core to the idea that can be retained and some modified version of the idea can indeed be implemented. I consider her one of my very best colleagues and the feeling appears to be mutual.

      While we did have some very good volunteers at my prior locale, what we never had was someone like her, who could hold the reins on the volunteer staff and consult properly before doing. There are some volunteers who have caused needless misery, but working WITH the head volunteer, we’ve been able to curb problems a lot more quickly and effectively than ever happened at my old place. Conversely, She helps me identify problems with the staff that I can take to management for rectification. It’s by no means all rainbows and lollipops at this point, but I am impressed with the progress and proud to be a part of it.

      Oh, and I know Brent and have had several conversations with him.

      Reply
  13. Cee in Ontario

     /  February 21, 2012

    A quick search turned up these resources:

    “Volunteers can be a huge asset for your organization – if they are managed properly.” ~ Maddie’s Fund

    “The Value of Good Volunteer Management”

    http://www.maddiesfund.org/Resource_Library/The_Value_of_Good_Volunteer_Management.html

    “Maricopa’s Volunteer Conference
    A community conference with good success.”

    http://www.maddiesfund.org/Resource_Library/Maricopas_Volunteer_Conference.html

    “Building Support for the Mission”

    http://www.maddiesfund.org/Resource_Library/Maddies_Institute/Building_Support_for_the_Mission.html

    “How to thank volunteers”

    http://www.charityvillage.com/cv/research/rvol8.html

    Volunteer Recruitment, Relations and Management articles,

    http://www.charityvillage.com/cv/research/rvol.html

    Reply
  14. Cee in Ontario

     /  February 21, 2012

    Example of a successful municipal volunteer program with Animal & Bylaw Services – PAWS Pal Program:

    “Animal & Bylaw Services is looking for experienced animal lovers to socialize our cats and dogs who are waiting for their forever homes. Volunteer candidates must be over the age of 18, confident in working with animals and prepared to commit to a minimum of one year.”

    Learn more about volunteering with PAWS Pal Program, includes a volunteer program video,

    http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/ABS/Pages/Volunteering/Paws-pal.aspx

    Note: “We are not currently looking for new volunteers. Thank you for your interest in our volunteer program.”

    Reply
  15. here’s a post on Facebook… it clearly states why this dog was “DUMPED”.. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=378639712206876&set=vxywtia.1347451273.1347451274.376583339079180&type=1..

    Please help share this dog.. he doesn’t deserve this.. Shame on that owner.

    Reply
  16. Kship

     /  April 13, 2013

    I volunteered for years at my shelter and then an opportunity to work for them came open- I quit my amazingly well paying full time career to chase my dream of working in an animal shelter and making a difference- it is WORK- physical, mental, and emotional! It makes me sad that under the opinion of the “no kill nation” I am considered a murderer and an animal abuser- and I am certainly none of those. I wonder how many hours, days, months, and years the person that accuses me of being an animal hater gives to her shelter? I wonder how many thousands of dollars a month she relinquishes in hopes of helping just one more animal… I am not the problem- and my coworkers are NOT the problem.

    Every single one of the people I work with has had some kind of mental breakdown at some point simply because the pressure and sadness in working in a shelter- even a no kill shelter- is insurmountable. My gut turns every time we get someone in “surrendering” AKA dumping the leftover puppies from the litter they sold on Craigslist… it kills me to no end when we have someone dump their elderly dog on us because they can’t afford to feed it- even after we offer them a huge bag of good quality food, flea prevention, and a free veterinary visit to get free arthritis medication… and then walk out to see them smoking before they head home free from the burden of the beautiful little soul they just dumped. The money they spent on cigarettes could have been spent on dog food.

    You say pet owners are not the enemy… I say shelter workers are NOT the enemy! The hatred for shelter workers that is spewed on this page is rediculous… perhaps if you got off your high horse and stuck your hands in the trenches of animal rescue you would start to understand the complexity of the issue.

    Shelter reform IS needed… it was needed decades ago- but the way to change shelters is not from a soapbox, not from a blog, and definately not from a place of hatred towards anyone or anything. Shelter changes are made from the inside- from within the community, and from within the local government. Grassroots is the way to go. Many years ago the shelter I work at now was a high kill shelter- they came in, waited five days, then died. Everyone knew which dogs were on death row because they were the “pet of the week” in the local newspaper… advertised as adoptable on Monday, killed by Friday. Years of hard work and sleepless nights and endless fundraising and volunteer recruitment and tearful spilling of guts and passion for no kill in our community by a group of insiders has created a no kill shelter that continues to do great work in the community.

    Dumping does happen- the people that dump their animals don’t deserve the luxury of calling it something else- they should not get to deflect their irresponsible actions no more than we as shelter workers should get to deflect the responsibiliy we assumed when taking on that animal. I find it interesting that you say it is OK for someone who surrenders (dumps) their animals, but then smear the name of shelter workers (the people that DO take responsibility and DO put in the hard work) through the mud!

    Reply
    • John Richardson

       /  April 13, 2013

      Excellent post Kship. I also started out as a volunteer, but wanted to make a real difference. So I became involved professionally. I understand the importance of volunteers and often go in on days off precisely to do things volunteers do, eg walk dogs (especially those that have issues that preclude most staff and volunteers from handling). But I also understand the critical importance of staff – and NOT just adoption advocates like myself, but the rank and file workers w/o whose efforts to provide daily care, ie cleaning and feeding, NOTHING would get saved.

      Even those workers who need some re-educating are best reached with respect and understanding. Our dog euthanasia figures have plummeted over the past several years and we did this w/o “no kill” proclamations. NO ONE is happier about this than the staff who remember the bad old days.

      Cat euths are still too high but are coming down because of staff and volunteer COOPERATION. Yes, there has been some friction between staff and volunteers. No, it is not all the volunteers’ fault. But no, it is also not all the staff’s fault. It generally takes problems on both sides for their to be a breakdown in relations. And there must also be EFFORT on both sides and RESPECT from both sides towards the other for progress to be made.

      I will never join a movement that demonizes staff, volunteers, public or ANYONE. No one group created the problems and no one group can fix them all by themselves.

      Reply
      • It’s heartwarming to see those enabling the needless killing of pets patting each other on the back. You guys really are on the same team. How wonderful for you.

      • John Richardson

         /  April 14, 2013

        Do you understand the term ‘libel’, Yesbiscuit? I’ll leave it at that for now, but not for long. Meanwhile, in a few minutes , I will be heading into the shelter on my day off to monitor a crowding problem on the dog side to see what overnight animal control intake was so that I can share with the myriad rescue people I alerted to our problem, only one of whom even kinda, sorta responded so far. We took in well over 1600 dogs last year, 45 of whom were put down. We accomplished this almost entirely through owner reclaims and direct adoptions. Rescue plays a vital but statistically small role in this turnaround on the dog side. Because our volunteers have set up an in house rescue program for cats that works with the staff, rescue is belatedly playing a much larger role in driving euth stats down on the cat side, but rescue pulls are still considerably fewer than direct adoptions. I work WITH staff, volunteers and public and congratulate all others who do so. But you are so filled with hatred and arrogance and ignorance of what is really going on, you feel that a perfectly acceptable response to a call for less fighting and more cooperation is to post a defamatory falsehood, including one about someone who uses his real name and whose record in saving animal lives is a matter of public record. We’ll see where this goes. I am all for working together, but won’t coddle evil in any of its forms.

      • I am so filled with hatred and arrogance and ignorance. And candy.

        http://cheezburger.com/7294135296

      • mikken

         /  April 14, 2013

        Don’t forget the cupcakes!

      • Zing!

        On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM, YesBiscuit!

    • Kelley

       /  August 29, 2013

      Excellent, well stated and I totally agree.

      Reply
  17. mikken

     /  March 24, 2014

    There was a woman in the shelter yesterday with her young daughter. They were surrendering two cats.

    The woman spoke kindly to the cats in the parking lot, filled out the paperwork, left a donation to help care for them, and then went out into her car and cried. And cried.

    Her husband died unexpectedly. They are losing their house. The only apartment they can afford only allows for two pets and they had four.

    She did not “dump” her cats on the shelter. She used the shelter as it is intended – as a safety net. And fortunately, these cats will be safe and well until they’re adopted, no matter how long it takes.

    Anyone who thinks badly of this woman who has already lost so much and did the best she could for her family, you can go jump off a cliff.

    Reply
  1. “Doing the best they can” | FixNC

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