Animal Shelters: An Imperfect Solution

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the SPCA. At orientation, they gave us a run down on what the SPCA was trying to accomplish and how we would help them. Certain tasks seemed more fun than others (walking the cutie pies versus doing paperwork), and I was excited to find out that I could come in at any time and walk whatever dogs I felt comfortable with. I couldn’t wait to meet all the dogs and take them out for their daily excursions.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really a good fit for the SPCA. I’m not a really strong or well-balanced, and physically demanding tasks can be tough for me. This made it incredibly difficult for me to walk the dogs. I realized how out of my depth I was when I introduced myself to one of the bigger dogs. He was incredibly energetic, and when I looked at the lead in my hand I realized he could rip it right out of my hand. The policy is to use slip leads, even if it’s a normal lead with a clip, so the dogs don’t get hurt. I didn’t have a proper slip lead and that meant I had no loop for my wrist. I felt awful, but I knew I needed to back out of the kennel.

Overall, volunteering was a bad experience for me. I felt incapable, unwanted, and the stress of being in a new place got to me in the end. Yet I want to go back. I don’t want to go alone next time, though. I think if you’re going to volunteer, you should do it with a friend to make the whole experience easier to handle. But I really hope I can go back sometime because my heart broke for the dogs in there. They need to be taken care of, and they need to have human interaction so they’re more likely to get adopted.

One of the reasons I want to go back to the SPCA and not look for another shelter is because it is an open admission no kill shelter. This means that they accept any incoming animals and do not euthanize them to make space. It gives me great peace of mind knowing that if I become attached to a dog, the only reason I won’t see it the next week is because it was adopted. They do euthanize animals with illnesses and injuries that cannot be treated and animals that are a danger to themselves and/or others. I know some people might be against any euthanasia, but I personally believe that this is the most humane option.

Unfortunately, an open arms policy can sometimes cause issues. Overcrowding is a common issues, which is typically solved through euthanasia. In the case of the SPCA, it could be that certain dogs get more attention than others. The dogs that are considered very well behaved usually get the most human interaction. Even in my case, I couldn’t withstand the onslaught of affection from the overly energetic dog. I was pretty sure most other people couldn’t handle him either because there was a large pile of poop in his kennel. I felt terrible leaving him alone because I knew that leaving him wouldn’t allow him to practice being somebody’s dog. He needs to be walked to learn how he should behave on a lead.

This is a very common problem in many dog shelters. More often than not, a dog will behave one way at a shelter and another way at home. There was a dog at the SPCA who was give a pillow and promptly ripped it to shreds. He was a very sweet dog, but after seeing that I would never consider adopting him. But if someone never got a chance to see that happen and was never told that he behaved that way, they might adopt him and leave him home alone only to come home to shredded couch cushions and pillows. These kinds of behaviors are often unknown or overlooked in shelter dogs because they are never in a home environment. There are foster programs that are trying to help reduce this problem, but I have a feeling that, again, the already well-behaved dogs are the ones getting let out of the kennel. I understand that fully. I wouldn’t want to risk a dog ripping up my pillows or eating my plants or lunging at a child. But these dogs need to have opportunities to do these things so they can be trained not to do them. They need to be given a chance to be better.

Volunteering is a keep part of solving this problem. The dogs need interaction, training, and foster parents in order to get ready for their forever home. I hope to prepare myself and go back someday to help those dogs. They deserve a better tomorrow.

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