Updated: Feb 8
Question: Does it benefit the animals or is it about something else (improving shelter numbers and outcomes, raising more donations, etc.)?
In my previous blog, I mentioned this question as one I have come to use as a litmus test to see if what is being pushed in animal sheltering models really has the animals’ best interest at heart. You may think it all goes together and benefits the animals. That is not necessarily true.
Here is an example. Some EXTREMELY good salespeople captured the ears of our shelter decision-makers and now managed intake is at work in almost all US animal shelters. It is easy to think that taking in only so many animals at a time will provide the best possible outcomes. It may for those animals. However, it is a different story for the animals that languish on waiting lists or ones the shelters will no longer accept such as healthy cats. I call these the Unchosen Ones.
Shelters now expect community assistance with the Unchosen Ones, such as rehoming animals yourself or you finding a home for a stray. They say cats can survive just fine on the streets. Are the Unchosen Ones second-class animals? We, as members of the community cat nation, know the Unchosen Ones all too well.
Also, by picking and choosing the most adoptable animals for intake, a shelter can easily raise its Live Release Rate and decrease its Kill Rate. People then view the shelter as a success, albeit an artificial and orchestrated one. This increases donations too as people love to support “success”.
Little mention is made of addressing sterilization of these animals any more, so they continue to reproduce. Even if a shelter endorses a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program, who pays for the surgeries? Many shelters with clinics offer feral cat pricing (at reduced cost) but most are not free. The community is expected to pay somehow.
We can do better and we MUST do better for our animals. If it's truly about the animals, then turn down the reproduction faucet humanely through spay and neuter. Why is spay and neuter being overlooked? Is it the money? It’s not sexy enough? Without spay and neuter, how will anything change? It's the only way to humanely FIX our overpopulation crisis.
Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering.