|Forum Home > General Discussion > Running a shelter must remain an act of love|
I know that every now and then I tend to crack my bubble here and I have to thank my volunteers and friends for dealing with it when it occurs. The pressure of running a shelter tends to overwhelm me on occasion and the countless thousands of dollars spent each month on top quality dry cat and kitten food, roo meat, vaccinations, desexing, microchipping, worming, flea treatments, bathing, cat litter and medical emergencies is never recouped. I receive absolutely no funding of any type for the shelter and due to the large numbers of cats and kittens in my care I am unable to gain regular employment. This means that my superannuation that wasn't much to start with is eaten up every month with the shelter expenses and is not replaced, once it's gone it's gone. I have no pension or government benefits. However, am I planning on stopping? Definitely not. Why not? Easy, because if I don't do this, then who will?
However, I'm veering off the point. I went with a friend of mine the other day to another shelter when she had to surrender a stray pup that had wandered into her yard and refused to leave. The owners had moved out of their rental property and had left the pup behind. The pup wasn't microchipped and her own dog wasn't accepting it's presence. She was upset at having to hand it over but she knew that it was the best thing for the puppy otherwise it would end up in the pound.
My friend has 3 cats all of which played happily with the puppy and it with them. We informed the shelter operator that the pup got on well with cats and were tersely informed that "I don't do cats". That was the end of the subject and our information was rejected out of hand. Well my shackles went up instantly, but I held my tongue. You cannot be one eyed when running a shelter. You can't say you're a dog lover or a cat lover and completely dismiss anyone who mentions one or the other. A huge percentage of homes in this country have both a dog and a cat. It helps the animal to find a home (the right home) if you can tell people that it does or does not get along with the other animals. By dismissing the information out of hand all this person did was immediately limit the adoptability of the dog because prospective adopters would see a large breed pup and be less likely to adopt it if they didn't know it would get along with the family moggie or other dogs.
You also cannot be a caring shelter operator and spend no time whatsoever with a person who is clearly upset when surrendering an animal. You need to care enough to assure them that the animal is secure and safe and will be cared for until a suitable home is found. You cannot rush them out of there to get on with your day.
You definitely should not unceremoniously dump the puppy into a kennel surrounded by other large adult barking dogs when it first arrives and is nervous and scared in new surroundings and then grab it and without a word shove a tablet down it's throat, then close the gate and leave it whimpering in fear and walk away with the person who surrendered it in tears.
I know that running a shelter or fostering large numbers of dogs or cats can be overwhelming much of the time but a shelter operator is not only there to ensure the safety and well being of the cats or dogs in their care but also to show care for those people who are forced by circumstances to surrender an animal that they clearly care about.
My meltdowns are generally caused by the fact that I get sick and tired of being lied to eg we've tried everything to find the kittens homes but just can't do it. We don't want to have them put down, can you possibly take them? Sounds good until you ask how old the kittens are and you're told they're 8 weeks. Number one they shouldn't be away from their mothers for another 4 weeks and at 8 weeks how darned hard can anyone have tried to find them homes. So suddenly all the expense for caring for the kittens and getting them ready for adoption is stuck on me. But if I don't take them what happens to them. Do most of these people ever dream of supporting the shelter or contributing to to the vet costs of these kittens that they care so deeply about. Are you kidding? Of course not. Or, we've had a stray cat hanging around but we can't keep it, it's absolutely beautiful, can you please take it because everywhere else says they'll have to put it down. They arrive and you can tell right from the start that the cat has belonged to them for some time. Or then you have the people who have to hand over their much loved pet to find a new home. They've had the cat for 2 or 3 years and love it dearly. Have they vaccinated it. No. Have they desexed it? No. Naturally I get to do all of that at my own expense. Gee thanks so much. These are the types of situations that shelter operators deal with daily and it's no wonder that they become hardened and stop really caring because they end up not believing anything that anyone says. The problem with this attitude, although self protective, is that the only ones who really suffer are the animals in your care and the honest people who bring the pets to the shelter and are truly upset and traumatised themselves to begin with.
Now don't get me wrong, the majority of people who hand their pets into this shelter are wonderful people who have been caught out by various unfortunate circumstances. They really do care about their cat and want to do the right thing and be sure that they are safe while awaiting a new home. Many of these people have become good friends and continue to support the shelter in whatever way they can.
But the fact remains that if the shelter is going to continue to exist and carry on it's much needed work then people in general have to stop just relinquishing their responsibilities onto the shelter and realise that I definitely do not have endless resources to pay what should have been their vet costs in the first place.
In the meantime I will continue to care for the various cats and kittens that have ended up in the shelter and find them new and loving homes. They trust me and I refuse to let them down.