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How do No-Kill Shelters really work?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hi all, not sure if this topic is in the correct section of the forums. Mods, please feel free to move it if this is not in the right place.

My question is, how do No-Kill shelters really work? What enables them to be no-kill? Do they screen all newbies for the cuteness factor and only take in those deemed to be absolutely adoptable, hence turning away animals which are old/sick/with recurrent injuries?

I'd love to hear from people who have first-hand experiences (have passed an animal to such a shelter, work at such a shelter, know people who work at such a shelter).
post #2 of 27
I can tell you how the shelter I worked for was. We basically took in any cat/kitten dog/puppy that was brought to us. Unless it was picked up as a stray, the person surrendering had to pay a fee per animal. Upon intake the animals were vaccinated and quarantined until they were seen by the vet, and all cats tested negative for FIV and FeLV. If a cat tested positive or was terminally ill, it would have been euthanize immediately. Basically, as far as illness and injuries went, the shelter had a great relationship with two vet clinics in the area and was able to get care at a discounted price. Most times, if there was an illness or injury that was going to be way out of the shelters budget the one vet usually did the surgery at cost, bless his heart.

If the animal was aggressive in any way it was given time to settle in, and most times was able to be put into foster before being declared "unadoptable". In more than two years that I worked there there was only one animal PTS for it's aggressive behavior. It was a cat, and after a week of extreme aggressive behavior, not even being able to even open his kennel to clean it without being attacked, he ended up scratching a volunteer pretty badly and the director decided he'd be PTS and tested for rabies.

I hope that helps. it's nearly 5am, too, so I hope it even make sense!
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Whiteforest, thanks for the reply and the explanation. Yes, I think you made perfect sense

I didn't suppose no kill shelters could afford palliative care. FeLV or FIV positive doesn't mean a death sentence. Neither do some terminal illnesses. But terminal illnesses do cost money to treat if something happens to the kitties. Quite a sticky problem.
post #4 of 27
I'll move this to the Cats SOS forum. The people who know rescue often visit here and can give you their info.
post #5 of 27
As far as FeLV and FIV goes the shelter's stance was if tested positive they are PTS "for the good of the herd". During my time there there was only one litter of kittens not PTS for being FeLV pos. There was a man who was willing to foster them until their quality of life was no longer good.
post #6 of 27
In large poplated areas a "no kill" Shelter is still a kill shelter. They turn people away. I have even seen it from a "low kill" shelter. This is still a really sore subject for me because I worked at one of the highest kill shelters in a 200 mile raidius. And while we struggled the tashmahall of Humane Societys was turning people away to us, with our directions. So how would they be considered "Low kill" if they knew we would end up euthanizing it? Makes sense yet?

It's early and I don't have time to get into specifics, but in my opinion there is no such thing as "no kill". Cause somebodys getting euthanized.
post #7 of 27
As Breal76 said, "no kill" shelters in large cities may only be able to claim to be no kill by not accepting new animals when they are full.

I know of a no kill shelter here in Houston and it is truly no kill. It is a private operation and the woman running it doesn't turn anyone away. But, her facility is cramped and overcrowded. The animals were well cared for and she certainly wasn't in violation of any animal welfare laws but many of the animals looked quite stressed to me. They were free roaming inside a house, not caged, but there was no place they could go to get away from each other. I was very distressed seeing how they were living.
post #8 of 27
The shelter I worked for was in a somewhat rural area. We almost never sent anyone away because when we did we ofter found the animals running lose, or tied to the mailbox overnight anyway. There were no other shelters for people to turn to. We had the facilities for about 15 dogs and 50 cats, but always had double that in house.
post #9 of 27
This is true about turning animals away. We are a small, foster-based rescue. We can only take in as many animals as we have room in our foster network. We do try to refer people to other rescues like ours, to help them avoid high kill shelters like a local pound. We and other groups also periodically comb the higher kill shelters looking for adoptable animals who need a chance. When I say adoptable, I mean not aggressive ... fear aggression is one thing ... outright aggression is another. Yes, that can be viewed as subjective, but we do the best we can.

Or maybe simply their "time is up." You know, been there the time the shelter has to keep them and they are on the PTS list. And a group like ours would be their last chance.

Hey, we have had cats that were nutsy - not properly socialized... one in particular who was really hard to handle... and he got a home!! He loved somebody ( didn't bite/scratch/claw them) and someone loved him! We just keep working with them.. and looking... till we find them a home. We have had some animals 3 years .. .so I guess that would make them long-term fosters.

I know with our group, we just try to do the best we can with very limited resources and an all-volunteer network of supporters.

I also know there are some rescues here who will take FIV and FeLV positive cats and try to place them. Honestly, I don't know offhand if we have ever had a positive cat before... I would have to ask our founder.

We have nursed very sick animals back to health - with the aid of some good-hearted vets - and found them homes. And yes, it costs $$$. So when people get all up in arms about paying a $120 adoption fee for a cat, I start listing off all of the services we have provided for them... which would amount to more than double what we're charging. If you're a good pet parent, you have to do all these things - there is no such thing as a free puppy or kitten.

And we don't have the fundraising machinery of the Michigan Humane Society.

Some shelters -- if an animal comes in and its "old" it is PTS; disabled in any way -PTS, motherless young kittens or an orphan - PTS. That is not true with us.
post #10 of 27
At our shelter we do not accept cats when we are full, but that is because we can only care reasonably for so many animals. We do take on very difficult and feral cats. Some are rehabed, some live with us for life and on occasion a feral cat may be sent to a farm that we work with. The farm has heated barns food, water, and warm places for this winter. We do on occasion have to have a termanilly ill animal put down when our vets deem that it is suffering. We currently have a brother & sister pair that have CRF. They are treminal and probably will not get a home, but we buy the KD food from the vet & sub-q them regularly. We do everything we can to make them comfortable just like you would your own cat. In the end they will probably have to go to foster care for their end days, but they are not suffering so why end their lives? There is always a chance someone will be willing to do what it takes to help them. As far as FeLV & FIV, we handle each case as it comes. Some cats we are able to find homes for. We recently found a forever home for a FeLV positive cat with people who just lost 2 FeLV positive cats. The problem with keeping them in the shelter is that not only can they infect other cats (though rare in that controlled enviornment) much worse is the likely hood that they will become sick. The one illness that is beyond our scope is diabetes. We have tried in the past with very unfortunate results. We can not give insulin consistantly enough to prevent the progression of the disease. So those are the only cats we turn away. We activly try to help people find help for thier diabetic cats, but we know we can not properly care for them. So yes no-kill is no-kill because they turn some animals away, but we never turn them away for behavioral issues, or most medical issues.
post #11 of 27
Addie, do you know how the Michigan Humane Society works as far as euthanasia? I planned to volunteer there when I started college, but they wanted me to sign a contract that I agreed to support their breed-selective "termination" policy [i.e. all pitt/pitt mixes not claimed by their owner will be euthanized]. We adopted Gus from there last year and the worker told us "good thing you got here when you did, we were just about to move them out of here" and I'm not sure if they were being moved to one of the other facilities for some reason, or if something worse was happening.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteforest View Post
Addie, do you know how the Michigan Humane Society works as far as euthanasia? I planned to volunteer there when I started college, but they wanted me to sign a contract that I agreed to support their breed-selective "termination" policy [i.e. all pitt/pitt mixes not claimed by their owner will be euthanized]. We adopted Gus from there last year and the worker told us "good thing you got here when you did, we were just about to move them out of here" and I'm not sure if they were being moved to one of the other facilities for some reason, or if something worse was happening.
I have heard that if they are overloaded and a cat or dog hasn't "moved" in a certain amount of time, they euthanize. I don't know if it's true or not.
I can ask around and let you know if you want.
post #13 of 27
I have found several animals that I've turned over to a 'no kill' shelter. One was a dog that had been hit by a car. They asked for nothing in return from me and accepting him for immediate vet care and rehoming when available. They also took found kittens from me, but did ask if they were friendly and litter trained (both were).

I got my baby from the same shelter; she received wonder vet care for the basics and some care for her permanent injury. I give them money regularly even though they don't solicit for it.

There is an older cat I saw there in 2005; unfortunately, he was still there two years later :sad: It makes me think they truly do keep them open for adoption if possible.
post #14 of 27
If you find out, I would like to know. I hate to think that his 6 little black littermates that we left behind might have been PTS. But I'd like to know for future reference. During school I'm only about a mile from the Detroit MHS facility, and it's always so busy it's impossible to talk to the workers there.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteforest View Post
If you find out, I would like to know. I hate to think that his 6 little black littermates that we left behind might have been PTS. But I'd like to know for future reference. During school I'm only about a mile from the Detroit MHS facility, and it's always so busy it's impossible to talk to the workers there.
I don't know about the Detriot area shelter, but my sisters dog came from a MHS facility. She was also going to take the dog she is currently trying to rehome to that same facility and she was told that he would be put down right after a vet check because he had mange. I also know the dog my sister got had been there a while and they were super happy when my sister wanted her because she was about out of time. I can't speak for all of the shelters, that is just the one I know of.
post #16 of 27
As far as I know, they are all the same, i.e. run by the same board.
post #17 of 27
Okay I am back from and I want to eleborate a bit on what I said (I have a reason!). I had once worked at a high kill shelter. Now I work for the County pound/shelter. I hate being called the pound because it's such a negative term. We are very advanced in our progression contrary to popular belief. We are one of the only shelters in the State of Oregon that implements Open Paw training on our dogs. We do not euthanize for breeds. They are all temperment tested 2 days after they come in. It's not just a five minute test either. The animal behaviorlist spends at least an hour with each dog. She's amazing. If a dog is aggressive towards people it's euthanized, if it's just plain scared it's transfered to rescue. We just had a dog in the news because he was turned into a drug police dog and he made a huge bust! Cats are the same story. They get health exams and their behavior is assessed on a daily basis. I must say working there is just Wonderful!

Especially from where I came from. An underfunded, underspaced over untilized shelter. It was an open door, no appointment needed shelter. It was awful. On any given day during kitten season we would recieve a 100 animals. Mostly cats. When they were owner released and we were full I would put the euthanasia sticker on the release form just to show the owner the pet they are about to surrender is going to be euthanized. It NEVER PHASED THEM! That made me a very angry and bitter person. There were moments when I would collapse to the floor crying about how heartless people were. And when I would hear "Oregon Humane sent us, they are out of room." I would looked at the stacked of cat carriers we had piling up with cats in them, all signed off...thinking "Because we have so much?" I will never forget the last dog I held for euthanasia. He was a black lab. They called me in to hold him because he was too wiggly and his tail was wagging away. I scratched his back and told him "I love you." and down he went. Not even one minute after this happened I was sent back to receiving to take in more animals. You have no idea what I have seen and what still haunts me. It's why I say for this area. There is no such thing as no kill.

I had a woman surrendering her cat question our euthansia policy once. I told her we can't find homes for them all. She asked rudely "Why not?" I just said "You know how you couldn't find a home for your ONE cat? Well try finding homes for a 100 cats today, and then another 100 tomorrow and then maybe 80 the next day." She has nothing to say after that and took her cat back with her. Good for me.

One dog was surrendered to us because "they had no time". The dog was obviously and outdoor dog and undersocialized. She surrendered the dog. The dog was scared out of his mind. He was signed off for euthanasia to be done next day. The woman didn't even care about giving him away. Throw away. I walked him back to the kennel. He collapses to the floor. I have to pick him up and take him to kennel. He wonders "why did my family leave me here?" And yet the next day she called because she had a change of heart. Came in to get dog. When that dog saw her he was so happy he peed on the floor. I cry to this day still thinking about that dog. Because that's how they love you. They have no idea the sin the owner commited on their behalf or the betrayal that went on. That dog just saw her and lit up like life had begun all over again. All was forgiven.

I guess I never understood how one gives up an animal. I have been homeless. My dog cost me 2-3 thousand dollars worth of damage. Give or take. Yet not at any moment did I think "Gotta get rid of the cats and dog." I never knew until I worked for a shelter that giving up a pet is an option. If only the rest of the world were as clueless as I once was.
post #18 of 27
There are some heartbreaking tales on here. Things work differently in the UK, we dont officially have kill and no kill shelters, although some are known to pts anything, including kittens. One of my current fosters was turned down for that reason - he is old, partially blind, deaf and liver issues (although the other rescue didn't know that when they turned him down, they just turned him down!!), but he will have a home here for however long, and he isn't the first terminally ill foster I have had this year. We do sometimes have cats for years, my longest foster was 14 months. We do take on a decent amount of oldies, although I know some rescues in the area wont touch them, but we also do manage to rehome quite a few, the eldest being 14. Pretty much all our oldies come to me, so they can have a home environment until they are ready to be rehomed, and if unhomeable, they live their life out here. WE are lucky that oldies are my passion though, or we wouldn't take in nearly as many. We do take in aggressive cats, i have had a couple of those, although we have had to euthanase one this year due to aggression issues, we tried for a few months iwth her, but she got worse. The only problem with us though is that when we are full we have to say no, and who knows what will happen to the cats then, but we have to stick to a sensible limit spacewise, and we are also a home run rescue, so dont have as much space as some rescues. I Try to just focus on what we can help and try not to think about the ones we say no to (the fact I generally have cats in every room of the house means I am not very good at saying no!! I have even started to use my kitchen now).
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everyone, for the information. I think anyone who works at an animal shelter deserves my respect. Breal76, you mentioned a lot of truly sad stories. I'm very sure you've been through a lot working at that high-kill shelter. The problem lies with all these terribly irresponsible owner. My good friend used to volunteer at our local SPCA and she said someone came in to dump a dog. When asked why, her reason was truly mindblowing - that they had refurbished the house and the dog didn't match the furniture anymore.

I really hope that one day, I'll have enough funds to open a shelter for unwanted animals. Those with behavioural problems, those who are old and just need somewhere with dignity and love to die in peace, those who don't look good enough to be adopted... I wonder if I can ever do that.

Meanwhile, lets hope animal lovers can somehow push the message through to the general public that if you're not prepared to care for an animal for all its life, for goodness sake, don't get one!
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by BabyWukong View Post
[font="Georgia"]. My good friend used to volunteer at our local SPCA and she said someone came in to dump a dog. When asked why, her reason was truly mindblowing - that they had refurbished the house and the dog didn't match the furniture anymore.
[FONT]
While visiting with my aunt over thanksgiving, we were talking about my pending kitty adoption. She actually suggested I look for one that matched my furniture


Here is an interesting article about the kill (humane society) shelters vs. the no kill shelters/rescues in our area - http://www.citypages.com/2008-08-20/...als-last-year/

I'm going to look for a cat at the humane society this weekend, and am contemplating volunteering there, but I just don't know if I could deal with putting animals down.
post #21 of 27
To my way of thinking, the difference between most no-kill and kill shelters is that the no-kills control their population at the front door, and the kills control it at the back door.

At our local shelter, we don't have a set time policy. We DO euthanize any pit bull that isn't reclaimed by its owner; this is an ordinance by the 3 towns controlling the shelter that they can't afford the liability insurance if they had a different policy. Animals that are terminally sick or fatally injured are put to sleep immediately. However, I HAVE seen them do very serious vet work, such as surgery on a cat with a fractured pelvis. If a cat has serious socialization problems, positive FeLV tests, such things as that, they will be put to sleep after being kept the required 3 business days (which usually means they're a the shelter for a week). Any that can be adopted will be put out front for adoption; once they're out front, they may stay for a long time. Our Ella, for example, had been in cages almost continually since Hurricane Katrina.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
To my way of thinking, the difference between most no-kill and kill shelters is that the no-kills control their population at the front door, and the kills control it at the back door.

At our local shelter, we don't have a set time policy. We DO euthanize any pit bull that isn't reclaimed by its owner; this is an ordinance by the 3 towns controlling the shelter that they can't afford the liability insurance if they had a different policy. Animals that are terminally sick or fatally injured are put to sleep immediately. However, I HAVE seen them do very serious vet work, such as surgery on a cat with a fractured pelvis. If a cat has serious socialization problems, positive FeLV tests, such things as that, they will be put to sleep after being kept the required 3 business days (which usually means they're a the shelter for a week). Any that can be adopted will be put out front for adoption; once they're out front, they may stay for a long time. Our Ella, for example, had been in cages almost continually since Hurricane Katrina.
Hmmm... I am wondering if you're painting the no-kills as kind of self-righteous because "they don't put animals to sleep" but actually euthanizing at the front door. I know you love your shelter work. And I understand your frustration. We HAVE to say no to people if we have no room in our foster-based set up. The problem isn't with the "no-kill" shelters and rescues, the problem is pet overpopulation, and human idiocy and callousness in their view and treatment of animals. And unless THAT changes, or we have unlimited funds or we have unlimited space ... yes, animals will be turned away. And sadly, I don't anticipate any of that occuring.
post #23 of 27
We are a no kill but we have a mandate for stray and abandoned cats who would be euthanised if it wasn't for us. The way we see it is, dont get an animal if you can't care for it. We take in surrenders when we have space on a needs basis (they aren't cute any more doesn't cut it unless we are empty). When it comes to strays however, we take them in unseen, regardless of medical problems and as long as they are not so aggressive or so sick/injured that our vet recommends they are PTS (rare) they come over to the shelter after a week at the vet for health checks, vaccines, speuters etc. They stay at the shelter or in foster until adopted. Once they come over to the shelter it is unheard of for them to be PTS unless they suddenly fall ill (we did have one case this year of a really sick kitten).

We have a team of people who work socialising the ferals that are brought to us and we have a really good success rate (I say with Autumn sitting asleep in my lap).

Almost every vet in the city works with us on pricing so that we can afford to help injured and sick animals, we have had two this year that cost us a fortune when they came in with broken bones.

We also have people who will hand feed kittens and took in several litters of motherless kittens this year especially, the most recent litter is just up for adoption now.
post #24 of 27
Very informative thread. Thanks to everyone who posted here. I was asking myself the same questions as the OP this year when I was looking to donate some money to help some needy animals. In my city, we have the big government-(under)funded shelter that kills about 2/3's of the animals it takes in and we have a somewhat smaller no-kill organization. Most of my animal-loving friends donate to the no-kill shelter because, well, they're no-kill. But it seems to me that if everyone donates to the no-kill shelter then the city shelter will have to put down even more animals. In the end, I gave some money to the city shelter, some to the no kill shelter and rescue groups, and a bit to the local feral cat society (whose trap-neuter-release program sounds like it could actually make some impact on the problem).

At the end of the day though, it seems that the no-kill shelters provide a temporary relief valve, but I doubt they change the overall trend. This isn't to say the no-kill shelter people are bad -- not at all. It just seems that for every cat or dog they save another comes in behind and gets put down. The two big systemic factors seem to be the animal birth rate and the adoption rate. If the first is far greater than the second (which it is in my city) then many animals will be put to sleep each year. Until we can change either the number of births or the adoption rate, the problem will persist no matter how many beds the no-kill shelters have.

Does anyone know if this problem is universal in the developed nations, or have some nations come up with solutions to these problems and the U.S. is lagging behind?
post #25 of 27
The problem isn't with the difference between kill and no kill shelters (I personally would adopt from kill shelters, but we dont work like that in the UK), it is with Joe Bloggs who dont neuter, allow their cats to have kittens (or dogs) and then give them to people who do the same and will just dump them when they become too much trouble. They dont see the heartache when things go wrong, and volunteers who do these kind of things out of the goodness of their hearts picking up the pieces.
post #26 of 27
I find the whole pet overpopulation problem so depressing. It's so sad. I work full time but thought maybe I would also volunteer at a local shelter but I don't think I could handle it. I am in awe of you that work in that field or volunteer with animals. I don't think I could personally handle it. I would want to save everyone and bring everyone home.
post #27 of 27
Technically no-kill shelters still do kill. But i suppose if the animals are terminally ill, or extremely aggressive they have to do what they have to do.

There was one kitty who was very old, and not eating much. I spent many days in the quarantine room trying to cuddle him and coax him to eat. Then i'm told that he is going to be pts because he had Fiv. I bawled my eyes out when he wasn't there the next day.

I wish there was a way to keep them all alive and give them all homes, but there isn't.
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