Updated: Feb 8
Let’s answer the obvious question first: What is a de facto animal shelter? It is in fact, or in effect, whether by right or not, where a person or organization acts as an animal shelter. They do not have a “shelter” designation. There is no word “shelter” in their name. They don’t have the financial support of a shelter. They don’t have paid staff. But this is the reality when animals have been turned away from the real animal shelters.
It is happening everywhere. A person finds a cat and calls their animal shelter for help. They are told the shelter has no room or will have to place them on their waiting list. The finder can either care for the cat in the meantime and try to find its owner – if there is one – or let the cat go. After all, as shelters are telling people, cats can fend for themselves outside just fine. They will most likely find their own way “home”. (I believe this as much as I believe that unfixed cats won’t reproduce on the streets while they fend for themselves.)
The shelter may refer finders to local rescues. Individuals may try to help the street cats. But NONE are shelters and NONE should be expected to pick up the slack from where our shelters are failing.
Managed Intake was a shelter decision. And it was based on the idea that the entire community needs to help. That requires the community working together. This current sheltering model ignores this. Instead of sitting down with all community partners to discuss and plan a course of action, shelters simply dictated they would house a certain number of animals and not care about the rest – The Unchosen Ones. Out of sight, out of mind.
Working as a team requires working together for one shared goal: helping homeless animals. Will it require that dogs face the same fate to make people understand and care, especially since many people think this is an acceptable outcome for cats?
Happy Holidays! The sheltering system needs to do better for our animals and it starts with US!
Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering.