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Does Managed Intake Promote More Abandonment?

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

We all know that there are cats - and now dogs - everywhere in need of help. Owners are having issues in their lives and they can’t care for their pets any longer. Some people are just tired of them and want them gone. And shelters are turning away animals.

Our animal shelters are full and would be overflowing if not for managed intake. Most shelters use a standardized formula, called Capacity For Care, to calculate the ideal number of animals it can take in. (Actual intake is often 10% less to allow for emergencies.) We are told this is all done to obtain the best possible result for every animal that enters the shelter, which really "should be" reflected in higher adoption and return-to-owner numbers and percentages as well as lower euthanasia results.

Our shelter data analysis from all over the US has been showing this is not really happening. While euthanasia is down some (through 2021 data), adoptions and return-to-owner numbers have not changed much, if at all. This means that the shelters and big national groups' reasoning for managing intake is NOT showing the positive results we should expect.

The other side of this that needs to be examined is what happens to the cats and dogs that don’t get a shelter’s help? These are The Unchosen Ones. Waiting lists allow a shelter to say we will help when we have room. And some shelters do. But too many are using waiting lists to discourage people from bringing their animals there or to avoid accepting strays. Many people won’t wait until their opening comes up and resort to abandoning their animals to the streets instead. In many areas, this is illegal. But then again, who will enforce it and charge people?

And shouldn’t our shelters be held to the same standard? If you have no room for an animal and therefore can’t help it, where are these animals to go? Rescues are full too now. This then promotes more abandonment. We all know that is what will happen. Shelters cannot direct people to reach out to equally-full rescues when shelters have the biggest sources of funding. It isn’t fair to put the care of the Unchosen animals on the community if they don’t have a say and don’t have the funding to do a shelter’s work.

The only real solution is that the sheltering community needs to work together, with each stakeholder having a seat at the decision-making table. And we must realize that humanely lowering intake through aggressive spay/neuter will improve outcomes and rid us of these diversionary tactics.


Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering. Click here to follow Proactive Animal Sheltering on Facebook.

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