7 Things Animal Shelters Wish You Knew

If you’re an animal lover, it probably breaks your heart to visit an animal shelter and see all the homeless dogs and cats. This might lead you to criticize some of the shelterís practices. “Why are the adoption fees so high?” “Why canít I just go play with the kittens?” While no organization is perfect, there are valid reasons behind many common complaints. Here are seven things animal shelters want you to know.

1. The animals are not damaged

Iíve been volunteering at my local shelter for years and have seen animals in varying conditions. But not once would I call them damaged. For starters, there are many reasons animals find themselves in a shelter, and often itís not their fault at all. People might have to give up the perfect pet because of unforeseen life events, or the animals come in as friendly strays. Some might have physical or behavioral issues, but with the right care most can become happy and healthy companions.

Furthermore, you canít judge animals by their behavior in the shelter. Despite staffís best efforts to make them comfortable, the shelter is still a strange, scary place. And everyone responds differently to that kind of stress. A dog barking excessively in a kennel might be perfectly calm on a walk. And a cat hiding in its litter box might become the friendliest member of your household.

2. Please obey the signs

A grey and white kitten reaches a paw out of its cage at the animal shelter.

The instructional signs throughout an animal shelter arenít just there for decoration. Youíll most commonly see a sign asking people not to put their hands in the animalsí cages. That isnít just for your safety.

Although a bite could spell some serious consequences for both you and the animal involved, itís the spread of disease thatís especially concerning. Sickness can run like wildfire through a shelter, devastating the animals inside and the staffers who care for them. Because animals donít always show signs of illness when they arrive at a shelter, they might not be quarantined in time. Not to mention several animal diseases are communicable to humans, as well. So respect the signs because they could be a matter of life and death.

3. Yes, the adoption application is long

Many people get frustrated when they have to share their life story to adopt a pet. They feel as though theyíre doing the shelter a favor in giving an animal a home. And thatís true to an extent ó if itís the right home.

Shelters know their adoption process can be tedious, but they have good reason to make it so. While the majority of people honestly just want to find the perfect furry friend, there are plenty who try to lie their way through an adoption and would end up doing the animal more harm than good. Even if you do have the best intentions, the adoption process might show shelter staff that a specific animal wouldnít be right for you. By all means speak up if you feel youíve been wronged, but do accept that a comprehensive adoption process is in the animalsí best interest.

4. Your lies aren’t so cunning

Shelter staffers have heard it all: “I just found this dog (who happens to be registered to my address),” “My landlord said I could have five cats,” and so on. They know youíre lying. If you have to surrender your pet, be honest about it. For one, the staff might be able to help you figure out how to keep your animal. But if you do surrender it, itís in your animalís best interest to share as much information as possible about it with the shelter.

Moreover, if you try to lie to adopt an animal you shouldnít really have, the adoption process will weed you out. And instead of allowing you to adopt if the right situation comes along in the future, the shelter will likely hesitate to ever give you an animal. But if youíre honest and make friends with shelter staffers, theyíll work hard to find an animal that suits your needs. “Research different breeds and ask shelter staffers for guidance ó they’re experts at making perfect matches!” the ASPCA says.

5. Volunteers are integral pieces of the operation

Woman walking a shelter dog

Probably not a day goes by that staff doesnít hear, “I wish I could adopt them all!” Of course every shelter employee wishes all the animals could have homes, too, but wishful thinking isnít going to make that happen.

If you feel so moved that you wish you could open your home to dozens of animals, instead ask a shelter employee how you can volunteer to help the mission. “Volunteers are the backbone of any successful non-profit organization,” according to Best Friends Animal Society. People who donate their time, money, skills and items are what truly will get all those animals into loving homes.

6. Adoption fees aren’t a rip-off

Adoption fees average about $50 to $200, according to Best Friends. And unlike at a breeder or pet shop, youíre getting more than just the animal for that fee. An adopted pet likely has already had a health exam, received shots and a microchip and is spayed/neutered or will be at a discount. Plus, the animal potentially has some training and a behavioral assessment.

Often, the adoption fee doesnít even cover what an animal cost the shelter to take care of it before itís adopted. And when you consider those fees also have to pay for the shelter staff and operations, as well as the care of all the other homeless animals, you start to feel like what youíre paying isnít enough at all.

7. Every day is full of extremes

animal shelter dog smiling next to a food bowl

You might not always catch an animal shelter staffer in the best mood, but thereís probably a very good reason for that. People who work in shelters experience extreme highs and lows on a daily basis. In fact, many shelter workers burn out due to the stress of the job. Thereís the inherent danger of working with unfamiliar animals combined with seeing gruesome cases of neglect and abuse. And then thereís the sadness of watching wonderful animals get passed up for a chance at a home.

But then there are the extraordinary joys of the job. Staffers watch sad and neglected animals transform into lively, happy creatures. They applaud when longtime shelter residents finally find the perfect homes. And they know that theyíre changing lives every single day.

Main image credit: AwaylGl/Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Emma L
Past Member 3 months ago

thank you

Emma L
Past Member 3 months ago

thank you

Berenice Guedes

Never buy always adopt!!! I assure that it will be more rewarding!

hELEN h6 months ago


Lisa B
Lisa B9 months ago

i wish shelters could hang this up by their counter or door.

Maria P
Past Member 10 months ago

Thank you

michela c
michela c10 months ago

Don't shop, ADOPT (but...think carefully so as to be sure of your choice and... be patient!)

Gino C
Past Member 10 months ago

thank you

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson10 months ago

Thank you.