When we look at how an animal shelter performs, we typically judge them by how many animals are adopted / rescued vs. how many animals are killed. These numbers may seem simple at the surface but are often skewed by a veil of deceit.
Typically this should be a simple approach: The shelter took in 100 animals, 90 were adopted, 10 were killed, the shelter has a 90% LRR (live release rate). Many shelters that don’t want to play the games will use these numbers, but they are often then criticized because other shelters have a lower “kill rate”. So how do they achieve this? Since I’m not one to over-explain, this might be the simplest outline available.
If a shelter is using a program that boasts a no kill or low kill program, there may be more to the numbers than the simple equation offered above. These shelters will take into account the number or “healthy adoptable animals” they killed. For example a neonate (under 8 week animal) is not adoptable, aggressive dogs are not adoptable, old / sick dogs or cats are not adoptable, and this list goes on and on. So therefore this number is deducted from their kill numbers. If this shelter takes in 100 animals and adopts out only 40, of the 60 remaining, 25 might be sick, 15 are labeled as aggressive, 15 are neonates. This shelter only counts 5 as being killed “per se.” Now this shelter is operating at a 95% Live Release or 5% euthanasia. This places this shelter in the very top of the game. BUT is it honest?
Shelters that kill for space are frowned upon because on the surface it seems WRONG! So instead shelters are forced to pad their numbers. Better to say that the animals killed were not adoptable. Or is it. I say NO!
I’ve had this discussion / argument over and over again. I would prefer to be honest and say YES, we had to kill these animals because there was no room and no one adopted them instead of lying on the souls of these animals that had to be killed and then their behaviors or health lied about. Don’t get me wrong, if there is an animal that is a danger to society (a true danger) I have no problem killing it (same for a person in my opinion – but I digress).
If I lie about an animal’s health and say that this kennel cough was a serious illness and the animal was justifiably killed or the dog that barks at his kennel door is aggressive and again justifiably killed – NOW I have a big problem. Let’s put the focus onto the public and give them the chance to adopt, let’s show that shelters do have good dogs and cats and other animals. Let’s strive for shelters that really shelter. Let’s make shelters a place that will treat illness with medicine and behavioral issues with training. Shelters that will work with the public and a public that will work with shelters to reduce the number of animals that are killed there. Let’s strive to shut down backyard breeders and dog fighters, work with feral cat groups and look for a society where animals are safe, humans are compassionate and people work together for a common good. Let’s open our eyes to the honesty that may hurt but will lead to a solution instead of putting our heads in the sand.
Transparency may not be easy to look at, but without knowing the truth we may just think that everything is OK, when it really isn’t.
This is written to those who stand by and criticize those doing the work. To those that scoff and moan how much better things could be done. Those that point fault at the actions of others and contribute nothing in the process.
Critics exist in all areas, but here I would like to address those in my own backyard. The people that criticize rescues doing the hard work of rescue. People that have given their last drop of sweat trying to save animals at risk. To the critics of these people I say SHAME ON YOU. The person who is overwhelmed with work, bills and heartache trying to save “just one more” doesn’t need to be criticized by someone on the outside complaining of the way the job is being done. To the critics of the shelter that is overrun with intakes and not enough room, the employees who try to figure out a way to save a dog for one more day in hopes of the perfect human may be showing up… these people don’t need the outside critics showing up to protest that this shelter is forced to kill pets in order to make room for the 25 that are lined up at the front door, they need help – not critics!
It is the critics that lend nothing but hot-air to the problem. They complain and criticize a job they have never done – a job they could never do! They feel they can do better, but yet they never “do.” I have seen people criticize others to the point that these people quit and fail. The people that protest the person who has too many animals in their rescue, yet they don’t offer to take one out. The critics that lay blame at the poor conditions that animals live in at a rescue / shelter, yet these critics don’t step up to volunteer or donate to make it better. To all of these people I say, Shame on You!
Last weekend I taught another Shelter Rescue workshop at the Ventura County Animal Shelter and the turnout was great. We had over 30 participants. Many were volunteers from VCAS, others came from near and far to participate.
Participants learned dog handling, marketing, training and adoption skills. Everyone came away feeling inspired to save more lives. VCAS has graciously partnered with us to allow us to continue to provide this life-saving training on an ongoing basis. We are currently gearing up for our next training and will be announcing that on our Facebook page very soon.
If you want to learn the skills to save lives, please have your shelter or rescue contact us so that you can participate in our training.
One of the best parts of the weekend has to be knowing so many dogs will be saved as a result of this workshop. Both directly and indirectly. Some of the dogs were saved right in front of our eyes.
For all of you who would like to learn the skills to save more dogs’ lives, think about joining us at the Ventura County Animal Shelter in Camarillo this weekend. VCAS is hosting our Bound Angels Shelter Rescue Workshop and we are planning on this being a regular event.
All participants in the event must be either working in rescue, volunteering at a shelter or humane society or be an active shelter employee. The workshop teaches all of our life-saving skills including videos, photography, social media and marketing as well as canine handling, evaluation and training skills. This is a boot-camp training and will be 5 hours per day for two days (Saturday and Sunday).
There are only a limited number of seats still available and it is first come first served. If you can’t make it to this workshop consider getting your name on the list for future workshops. Please use our contact page to submit your name, rescue affiliation and contact info.
If you’d like to learn more about our Shelter Rescue Workshops, click here.
I look forward to seeing you there…
First off, let me tell you the question: How do we ever solve the problem of all the dogs in the shelters?
Now that you know the question, you’ll have to ponder the answer… and to many there may be no answer. No way to ever see that every animal is safe, that they all get rescued and to be sure that every animal is loved for their entire life. It can be a pretty daunting task, and many give up. The problem is that every time a good person gives up, many more dogs die. I said a long time ago, “you can’t save all the animals in the world, but you can save one.” That has become my slogan and my mantra. I know that every life I touch and each life I save is saved because I care. If I didn’t care or if I gave up, that life might not be saved. Then I focus on the home-front and know that my dog has a forever home with me, and even if we have to live in my car, we will be together until one of us dies.
Now, onto the question at hand, what is the answer? Well there are a few. There are several things that have to happen to solve the pet over population situation. Let me first say that in this country we don’t really have an “overpopulation” problem, we simply have too many pets that people don’t want in particular colors, breeds and temperaments. There are people buying and looking for dogs all the time. And to simply state we have an overpopulation problem, does not address the issue. We have, in many cases, an ignorance problem. We have people who get dogs and don’t understand them or even grasp the concept that this dog will grow up. We have people who don’t train their dogs, don’t spay / neuter and others who are just plain idiots, those that breed their dog with the neighbor’s dog in order to show their children the miracle of birth. I would think it better to have a child watch a sex film, and then take them to the hospital and have them watch the birth of a child. That is more along the lines of what would make sense. Seeing a dog hump another dog and then 8 puppies born would not be realistic. People who do this are down right stupid. Dog breeding to show a child the miracle of birth is senseless. Unless of course you want to march your child down to the shelter a few months later and show them a barrel full of puppies, dead puppies. The one’s that didn’t get a home because of all the people exploring the miracle of child birth with their children. Read more …
I’ve worked with many shelters both here locally and across the US. One thing that is lacking in all shelters is volunteers. With the exception of a small humane society in northern Arizona, most shelters have a skeleton staff of volunteers that can be relied upon. Most people want the glamour of saving dogs but don’t understand that it takes a team effort to do this.
When I train shelters through our Shelter Rescue Program I explain that there are many roles that can be filled with volunteers including handling dogs, training dogs, working with fearful dogs, photographing, video shooting, social media and networking, outreach off-site adoptions and so much more. Some people may think that it’s too difficult to help in a shelter that is killing animals, but it is these shelters that need your help the most. Volunteering at a humane society that is no-kill is a feel-good way to go, but the hard work is to help those animals that are at risk. Through our programs we’ve proven that these animals can be saved, and we’ve proven it with our programs and our training, not with lots of money. Big orgs will throw a lot of money at the problem, but the truth is that the solution lies in grass roots efforts. These are things that almost anyone can do.
The people that have trained with me have learned that oftentimes we have to put our egos aside and look at the animals we’re helping. For example, everyone wants to take a dog out and start training: SIT, DOWN COME, etc. Others want to put a leash on a dog and take him for a walk. I’ve shown that these dogs need more engagement, socialization and structured training – that training saves lives! Read more …
On my way out of the shelter I saw something that just broke my heart. Walking in a single line heading into the shelter was a kennel worker with an old dog on a leash, following them was an elderly man and behind him and older lady carrying a blanket. The employee said goodbye to the man, the woman (with tears in her eyes) dropped the old blanket into the plastic trash bin in front of the shelter. I noticed the old dog looking back at the man and woman as they turned back toward their grey car. As the kennel worker walked the dog through the front door of the shelter he handed the leash off to another employee. That’s where I first met Indigo, a 16 year old dog who walked slowly but every so intently. I believe he knew what was to come before the girl ever uttered the words to me, “Indigo is a 16 year old dog dropped off for Owner Requested Euthanasia.”
I looked with despair at the dog walking along the cement sidewalk on this sunny day. He stopped along the way to take his last smell of the grass next to the walkaway that led to the last building he would see in this life. He marked the grass with one last long pee. I asked the employee if I could take a quick photo of Indigo and say hello – she complied. Read more …
Recently there seems to be much attention on temperament testing dogs in shelters here in LA. The controversy is necessary because of the implications to the innocent- the shelter dogs.
In short, temperament testing a dog involves putting a dog through a series of tests to see if he will bite. There is a lot more to it than that, but the bottom line is: If the dog bites – he dies.
So why do it? Critics to temperament testing have been against the idea of the test since day one, yet everyone wants to know certain things:
• Is the dog good with other dogs?
• How is the dogs with kids?
• Is he friendly?
The question remains, “How do we know if we don’t test him?” Read more …
For some reason rescue people feel like they have to interrogate people who wish to adopt and assume that everyone is evil. I’m not delusional in thinking that everyone is great, but I also know that in order to save lives, sometimes it is a crap shoot. I know that there is no one that could provide a home as good as I could to a dog, but if I wait for “that” someone” for every dog, I’ll never get one adopted.
When I taught martial arts, years ago, I was perplexed when it came time to promote my first black-belt. I called my teacher and told him, “None of these guys are as good as me. How can I promote them to the rank of black belt.” He told me, “Judge them on their merits and skill-set, not yours.” That lesson stuck with me for years. I see this when I teach people how to train their dogs, some people don’t really get it, but they are trying. That deserves credit.
I don’t know why it is, but for some reason when it comes to handling and saving dogs there is an amazing amount of ego that gets into the mix. Everyone, dog trainers and rescuers in particular, think that the only right way is THEIR WAY. This is annoying, wrong and it costs animals their lives. Read more …
I’m not sure if it’s right to blame dog owners for their naiveté, but I want to put this in writing to all past, present and future clients. In fact, reading this may sort some of you out from ever training your dogs with me. Other trainers tend to bend the truth a little bit in order to get you to sign up for 10 sessions, but I won’t be that guy.
The truth is that no one can ever train your dog if you don’t participate, and signing up for a 10 pack of dog training sessions will not assure your dog ends up well trained. I hope those of you who live in other parts of the world will also take note on this topic and see to it that you understand this important point of dog training.
When you start training your dog you’ll feel that this it’s sort of like painting your house – that’s to say that once you paint it, you can sit back and enjoy it once it’s done. Dog training is not like that. Once you start training your dog it is something that you should continue for the entire life of your dog. Sort of like working out; once you get into shape it’s gonna take a bit of work to maintain it, maybe not as much as the initial phase, but it’s still work.
A dog trainer is similar to a coach or teacher. He can give you the tools to train your dog, but you have to make it yours. It is something you should do even on the days when the trainer is not there with you holding your hand. Imagine that, you’ll have to do some work on your own. If you believe that training 1-hour once or twice a week is enough, STOP NOW!
The exercises you learn are taught to you and your dog during the training session – now it’s your job to practice and perfect this until your next session. Here comes the important part – once your dog learns it, he needs refreshers from time to time. Yes, your dog will get sloppy, so once the training sessions are over you need to keep practicing. Imagine if the Olympic athlete reached his goal and then stopped training. What’s the chance that he would be able to duplicate the feat if he didn’t continue training? – I’d say very slim!
So when it comes to dog training, get the basics, polish them and keep on training. There’s nothing more unfair to a dog than training him and then expecting him to remember things that he’s not reminded of. I have a mental list of all of the things my dog can do and I review them every week. Each and every day we do a form of training and at the end of a week everything is covered. If you want a well-trained dog, make it fun and continue the training. It’s like learning a language, if you stop practicing the language chances are you won’t be able to converse in that language after a year or so. However, the good news is that is comes back quickly.
Be fair to your dog and keep him focused. Using training as a form of play is the best way solidify your relationship.