Our Country is Experiencing a Shelter Crisis

Many years ago when I was a teenager, we used to go to the Best Friends Strut-Your-Mutt 5K races with my aunt and that’s where I first heard about the No-Kill Movement. I was too young to really understand the horrors that happened behind the scenes at shelters when they were overwhelmed with animals and in all honesty, part of me wishes I never grew up and learned about it.

But in order to make change, one has to learn about the horrors to help improve them. Over the last decade or so, many of our shelters in Utah have slowly become No-Kill, which, simply put, means they don’t euthanize animals because there is no room. Unfortunately, that status is in jeopardy.


In 2020, many people found themselves at home with much more time on their hands, and so began the age of the pandemic puppy. People adopted in droves, brought the puppies home and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, puppy socialization was difficult at best, which lead to so many dogs having behavioral issues later in life. 

Now that offices are opening back up and society is returning to normal, those dogs are finding their way back to the shelters. Whether it’s from owners passing away, not having the time for the dog any longer, having the kids grow up and the “new wear off,” or behavioral issues and beyond, this has contributed to the shelters filling up. Add to that the lost dogs, abandoned dogs, backyard breeders who can’t sell puppies, etc. shelters across the country are in crisis mode and many are beyond full. For our local shelters, that means they are at risk of being forced to return to the horrors behind the scenes. To be blunt: Euthanizing innocent animals just because there is no room.


We as a community, cannot let this happen. We have to help wherever we can, but not everybody can, or should, adopt a new pet. If you aren’t prepared to bring a new animal into your home, there are many other ways you can help. Every little bit helps, so let’s talk about what other things you can do besides adopting a new family member.


These first few are the most obvious, but are still worth mentioning. Shelters need volunteers all the time. Cages need to be cleaned and refreshed, dogs need to be walked and animals need to have visitors. Many shelters and rescues have programs where you can take a pup on a field trip or an overnight trip just to get them out of the shelter. Look into those opportunities if this option speaks to you. 

If you don’t have available time, you can always donate a few dollars or send a gift from a wishlist. That is always helpful and the easiest to do, so if you have a dollar or two, consider donating it to your local shelter. 

Lastly, do a supplies drive, or just look around your home for extra blankets, newspaper, shredded paper, Styrofoam coolers, puppy pads, food tins, toys, etc. Give your shelter a call and see what materials and supplies they need. They may also need office supplies donated to help the front desk stay stocked. There are many opportunities to help in this area. 


Are you wanting to adopt, but just can’t make the commitment or want to see how your kids or other animals do first? Many shelters and rescues have foster programs to help keep the animals out of the shelter. It’s better for their mental health and it helps keep the shelters from getting so full so quickly. Reach out to your local shelter and see if they have a foster program. Many of them will allow you to take an animal overnight, for weekends, and even over the holidays. It is an amazing way for you to test the waters and help your shelter at the same time. And it helps the animal too!


We’re in the age of social media, so a great way to help your shelter or rescue is to share their posts. Share the available animals and get the word out for adoption events, specials, and who is available where. The shelters and rescues don’t have a dedicated social media person most of the time, so members of the community can help immensely in this area, especially if you are younger and know how the various platforms work or if you have a good following. Get the word out and help your shelter by sharing their information!


It’s always a nice gesture to take some goodies to your shelter. The staff and volunteers work so hard to help these animals and so many times they have to skip lunch or only have a chance to grab something small. If you have the chance, take some goodies and drop them off.  It can be donuts, a veggie tray, a sandwich tray, drinks, etc. Try to focus on something easy to grab and not too messy. Hand sanitizer may also be a good thing to take with. 


Watch for legislation to help animals and your shelter and make sure you support those bills by voting for them. These can be anything from punishing animal cruelty to allowing residents to have more animals in their home if they are fostering. Keep an eye out for these and if you are the political type, reach out to your shelter and see if there are bills and legislation you can help them get in place. 

What can you do with your own pets to help the situation

In addition to helping your shelter, there are several things you can do with your own animals to help the situation from getting worse. When dogs and cats get out, many times they end up at the shelter. Here are several things you can do to protect your own animal and help the crisis situation as well.


If you have a fenced yard, make sure your fence is secure and tall enough to keep your dog confined to your dog. If you have a breed like a husky who can jump or dig, this is especially important. Go out with your dog to supervise if needed.

If you don’t have a fence, it is imperative you go out with your dog to make sure they don’t get away.  Don’t rely on tying them to a tree to secure them. Work toward installing a real fence in your yard, but stay away from invisible fencing. “Fencing” that relies on vibrations, beeping, or shocking your dog when they get to the perimeter is not the way to go. It causes behavioral issues and in many cases your dog will bust through and then not be able to get back in, or it will allow another dog into your dog’s territory and not allow your dog to get away from them. These units cause more harm than good, so save your money and put it toward installing a real fence.


Every animal should have a microchip registered back to his/her owner. If your animal doesn’t have a microchip, get one as soon as you are able. Many companies will offer free microchips several times a year, so keep an eye out and get our pet microchipped.


If you have a husky or other animal that escapes (or even if you don’t), get a GPS for your dog. They hook to your dog’s collar and if they get out, it makes it much easier and quicker to find them. I’ve personally tested many of these units and the most affordable one with the best functionality is the Tractive GPS (https://amzn.to/3R5kgRu). It is very affordable and has a small monthly fee to a huge peace of mind. Watch for sales and you can get one for less than 30 dollars. 


Most cities have an ordinance that requires you to license your pet. This isn’t just to be a pain or take your money, it is to create a database to help get your pet back to you if they end up at the shelter. It’s important and in your and your pet’s best interest to get them licensed, so make sure you have done that. 


If you are interested in breeding, you need to be licensed and have education and professional experience on how to properly raise puppies so they are healthy and behaviorally sound dogs. There is so much more to breeding than getting a stud dog for your female to get her pregnant and then letting mom do the rest of the work until you can sell the puppies. Unlicensed breeding should not be a source of income or a side hustle. It directly contributes to the shelter crisis, so please, if you are considering this and don’t have a license or education in dog behavior, stages of development (that start before birth), training, and so much more, and if you haven’t worked with a licensed breeder to understand everything that is involved, please do not breed your dog. Leave breeding to the professionals.


If your pet is not spayed or neutered, make this is a priority for your pet. Getting this surgery is important for behavioral issues in many dogs and it protects your pet from accidents happening from stray dogs coming into your yard. Many places offer low cost or free spay and neuter clinics, so look around at resources in your community and get this done for your pet.


If you are thinking about adopting an animal, make sure you have done your research and are ready and willing to have that animal for the entirety of their life. Pets shouldn’t be gifts without the person knowing about them beforehand, and they shouldn’t be temporary. If you are interested in a guided walk through of preparing to adopt a new dog, visit our online course, Preparing For Your New Best Friend (https://trainingtoat.com/train-treat-workshops/) to learn what you should consider and make sure you are ready to adopt.

If we all come together and do everything we can to help this situation, we can make a difference and change the trajectory of the shelter crisis, which will save the lives of innocent animals. Please reach out and help your shelter today.

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