A worker helping someone look at dogs to adopt at a shelter.

Are Shelters Humane?

6 mins |

Domesticated animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, and others are dependent on loving human caregivers to keep them secure and healthy. Some of these creatures are fortunate enough to find permanent, loving homes, and some have to live on the streets or in shelters. Are shelters humane though?

Animal shelters vary widely from one another. A shelter that genuinely cares for animals would never turn away an animal in need, even if it meant taking in sick, injured, aggressive, old, or dying animals. Open-admission shelters must euthanize unadoptable animals in order to provide refuge to every animal in need. The other option, which is to turn them away, is harsh and puts the animals in danger.

What Is An Animal Shelter?

A woman holding a dog at an animal shelter.
Some, but not all, animal shelters look like this one.

Sadly, there are a lot more animals who need a loving home than there are humans who are ready or able to give them that support for the rest of their lives. 

Animal shelters are special buildings or spaces designated for the temporary care and protection of strays, animals confiscated by law enforcement in cases of cruelty, or abandoned animals. Shelters provide comfort, care, and the opportunity for adoption.

There is at least one animal shelter in almost every American city. In addition to having a large staff and volunteer base, shelters must also adhere to numerous municipal, state, and federal laws and regulations.

The size, function, capacity, and methods used to care for the animals in their care vary widely between animal shelters. They could be run by the state, a neighborhood humane society, private citizens, or a combination of these.

What Do Shelters Do? 

Animals that are temporarily housed in shelters are prevented from roaming the streets where they can struggle to obtain sanitary food and water, get hit by cars, be assaulted by vicious animals or cruel people, or encounter other dangers.

In the United States, there are currently thought to be more than 62 million dogs and more than 64 million cats. Millions of them struggle to survive as stray, homeless animals, so shelters are their home where they can receive loving cuddles and consistent meals.

Fearful animals are calmed down, sick and injured animals receive care or a peaceful end to their suffering, and the animals’ living spaces are kept dry and clean in professionally run facilities. Also, animals are promoted for adoption and prepared as needed. 

A good, honorable shelter has sympathetic, well-trained staff for animal care, as well as volunteers. It consists of a lot of space, individual cages and rooms, and a hospital and isolation place.

Moreover, shelters often hold public educational campaigns for adoption, spaying and neutering, and many related topics.

Are There Different Types Of Animal Shelters?

Animal shelters vary widely from one another. Unwanted and homeless animals are fortunate enough to end up in a classic, high-intake, open-admission animal shelter staffed by knowledgeable, compassionate individuals. 

Many unfortunate animals wind up in dismal kennels that are nothing more than overcrowded shacks with no walls or other forms of weather protection, where they are frequently left to perish from sickness, exposure, or conflicts with other animals.

“No-Kill” Vs. “Open-Admission” Animal Shelters

“Open-access/admission”, “limited access,” “high-kill,” “no-kill,” etc. labels may not always indicate how compassionate and humane a shelter is run. None of these terms have exact definitions, and there are no guidelines for how organizations should use them.

Every year, almost 7.6 million companion animals find their way into animal shelters in the United States. It is natural to assume that they will not have the same future and path.

Even if the animals are violent, ill, severely injured, elderly, in a terminal condition, or may not be able to find a new home, an “open-admission” shelter would never decline an animal in need.

Sometimes this means that open-admission shelters must put unadoptable animals to sleep and provide euthanasia in order to provide refuge to all animals in need. Turning them away is an inhumane alternative that puts the animals in great danger.

The majority of people believe that “no-kill” means that no animal taken in by the organization is ever put to death. The luxury of euthanizing fewer animals is afforded by “no-kill” shelters because they turn away needy animals they deem unadoptable.

Is There A Difference Between Animal Shelters And “Rescues?”

Government funding supports facilities known as animal shelters that take in stray animals. Kennels house the animals there, which protect them from the elements and allow adopters to see them.

Animal rescue organizations are like animal shelters in terms of their goal. However, since they don’t receive government financing, they are managed and supported by volunteers or private owners.

When choosing between an animal shelter and an animal rescue, keep in mind that both are excellent organizations out to save animals that require temporary or new homes.

Reasons For So Many Unwanted Cats And Dogs

A significant pet overpopulation issue has arisen as a result of unrestrained breeding and negligent pet owners. Many owners don’t spay or neuter their cats and dogs, which causes them to procreate and possibly generate huge numbers of kittens and puppies.

People buy pets from pet shops and private breeders. They also buy companion animals without comprehending that they are a long-term commitment. When their faithful furry friends eventually become “too much work,” “uncontrollable,” old, or unamusing, some owners abandon them.

Why Are Animal Shelters Important?

Shelters are essential for addressing the effects of pet overpopulation. Additionally, they contribute to reducing the transmission of disease and the possibility of injuries like bites or scratches from these stray animals.

They offer shelter from the elements, comfort from misery, food, drink, medical attention, and a kind human presence for the animals. These creatures would frequently have no other options.

Important Things To Think About Before Adopting

Adopting an animal as a pet entails making a lifelong commitment to provide for and spend time with the animal. Think about the time and money necessary for adequate animal care before adopting. 

Will someone have the time and perseverance to work with the animal and train it? Is someone willing to cover the costs of food, toys, grooming items, leashes and harnesses, immunizations, and veterinarian care, which includes spaying or neutering, flea treatment, deworming, and others?

The laws governing animal “ownership” at the municipal, state, and federal levels require understanding. Most municipalities mandate annual licensing for dogs and cats.

What You Can Do

Never purchase a dog, cat, or any other animal from a pet store, website, or breeder. In order to avoid contributing to the crisis of animal overpopulation, animals are spayed or neutered at reputable animal shelters before being adopted.

Since many shelters are non-profit organizations, they depend on gifts and donations as well as adoption fees to survive. Food, newspapers, or even your time would be highly appreciated, as would any donation. If you want to donate or volunteer at an animal shelter, get in touch with them.

Final Thoughts On Whether Or Not Shelters Are Humane

The problems that animal shelters advocate for and are working on, like overpopulation and keeping animals off the streets, for their own sake and for ours, have to be taken seriously by everyone in the community. 

So, are shelters humane? We would say that they are some animals’ only option, and they do a humane job of providing a home for those animals. 

But what do you think about shelters and whether or not they are humane? Let us know in the comments below!

Sandra is a veterinary undergraduate student based in Macedonia. She combines her two passions: veterinary medicine and writing, and she also tends to raise awareness about animal welfare as much as she can. As a student, she has attended many seminars and conferences related to the veterinary profession, and currently, she is focused on veterinary content writing. Although she owns a cat, she strongly claims that “dogs are her favorite people”.