Does Your Favorite Shelter Make the Grade?

The members of Care2 awarded Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) of Durham, N.C., the honor of America’s Favorite Animal Shelter and a cash prize of $10,000.  Do you know what it takes to be a “top” shelter or rescue group?  They are not all alike.


 IAR was voted #1 because they see the big picture to stop pet overpopulation.


Jennifer Naylor, President of IAR, explained in a recent interview why her organization stands out. “The statistics for homeless pets in North Carolina are horrible.  250,000 animals are euthanized a year and in Durham only 4 out of every 10 animals in the shelter find adoptable homes.” 


Two years ago IAR discovered the answer to pet overpopulation was community-wide spay/neuter programs.  “We wanted to tackle the front of the problem,” said Naylor.  The group began a low-cost spay/neuter program called C-SNP for low-income pet owners.  With the help of veterinarians and a mobile van, volunteers target specific areas and transport pets to and from the spay/neuter van.  “We try to eliminate any barriers pet owners have about getting their animals fixed.  Most of them cannot afford to take time off work, so we help,” said Naylor.


The group also runs a TNR (trap, neuter and return) program for feral cats.  IAR has completed 1,000 spay/neuters since the C-SNP program began. The prize money will help fund this program and the foster/adoption project that IAR has run since 1994.


Here is a checklist to see how your favorite shelter stacks up to IAR:

  • Are the housing conditions clean, humane and safe?
  • Have any health problems been noted?
  • Are pets vaccinated?
  • Are pets Spay/Neutered?  (Vouchers are not enough)
  • Has the temperament of the animal been evaluated?  (For instance, is the pet good with children?)
  • Are pets socialized?  (Some shelters teach basic obedience, leash walking and housetraining.)
  • Does the organization ask where you will keep the pet, how many hours you work, and your prior pet experience?
  • If you rent, do they want to see a letter from the landlord?
  • Has they discussed the cost to own a pet?
  • Do they offer a “meet and greet” with the pet and other four-legged family members? 
  • Does the shelter offer support for behavior problems with the pet?
  • Do they offer a return policy?


Most shelters will answer yes to most of these questions, but if an organization is hasty in adopting an animal, or cannot answer the questions, walk away and report them to animal control.  Homeless pets deserve the very best care until they can be placed with a new family.