Shelter Animal Myths, Part I

Posted by Pia

Why Animals End Up at Shelters

I'm happy to report that overall, people seem to be getting better-educated about the amazing animals that exist in our country's shelters and rescue groups. However, myths about shelter animals still exist. And the fears elicited by these myths only deter otherwise well-meaning people from finding their new best friend through adoption.

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Chardonnay and Pinot

Pinot is the black male on the left, Chardonnay, on the right, is quite outgoing, playful and brave -- big dogs don't faze her!
Lauren's Zoo, Mobile, Alabama.

So I'm calling on all of you animal lovers out there to help me dispel these destructive myths! Are you in?

First of all, it may be helpful for people to understand that most animals wind up at shelters through no fault of their own. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, moving is the primary reason family pets are relinquished. And landlords that don't allow pets are one of the biggest obstacles for renters with companion animals. (Big kudos to any landlords out there who accommodate our furry family members: Research actually shows that this makes good business sense, too -- but that's a topic for another post!) Similarly, shelter personnel report that many companion animals are relinquished because an owner has died or is relocating to a senior facility that prohibits pets.

Other reasons topping the list include the cost of regular pet care, a lack of time, and allergies. Additionally, animals given as gifts (bad idea!) often end up at the shelter either because recipients are unable to keep them or the animals grew up and no one planned for them getting bigger. And it is a sad fact that litters born to unaltered animals often wind up in shelters en masse -- all the more reason to adopt from the shelter, as they typically come already altered!

Finally, one of the most avoidable reasons that loyal family pets find themselves at the shelter is because they got lost and did not have a micro-chip or tag to facilitate a reunion with their family. I cannot overstate the importance of having both a tag and a micro-chip! So many well-meaning people proudly declare that their companion animals don't need to have identification because they never leave their side. But unforeseen events can happen: Gardeners can leave gates unlatched by mistake, a fire engine can spook a pet to run, natural disasters can strike with little notice, car accidents can send a frightened pet running, and tragically, animals are even stolen at times. You get the point.

Needless to say, these perfectly adoptable animals are ending up at shelters through no fault of their own! So it's up to us to help them get into loving homes and to take the necessary steps to keep them from entering the shelter in the first place. Next week we'll look at the myths that exist about shelter animals THEMSELVES and together we can begin to debunk them one by one!

So I'll ask you once again... are you in?

In Kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (11)

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    I agree that having a micro chip is one of the best ways to be found if you are lost. Tags are so good just to let others know who you are and that you have your shots. I find it hard to believe how many people are afraid of Chow Chows and will not get near one. If I am ever lost, hopefully some like my mommy and daddy, who are not afraid of Chows, will find me and get close enough to read my tags. My tags have my name, cell phone where someone can be reached, my address, my vet’s number, and of course, my rabies shot information. Hopefully, this information, along with my “chip” will get me home safely if I do get lost.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • Dr. Pia

    I asked my mom if we could get a kitty and she said 4 dogs are enough. We do however donate to the Animal Humane Society and have made a donation for for the fund Martha has set up. Mom also has a credit card that a portion of the sales goes towards helping the animals. We're trying to do our part.

    I have to say, I'd love one of those little fur balls to play with :)

    Dr. Pia, today is my 4th birthday. I'm going to ask mom to donate some dog food to the local shelter around the corner instead of buying me a present. I have to say I have plenty of toys and I'm fed only the best food. Those dogs and cats in the shelters just break my heart. Mom said if we lived on a farm she'd bring them all home.

    F & S - did you hear it's my birthday today. Yes I'm 4 years old today but don't look a day past 2.


  • great article! hard to believe that senior facilities prohibit pets, when it is a known fact that pets extend the life of a senior.
    (Dr.Pia quote: "And it is a sad fact that litters born to unaltered animals often wind up in shelters en masse")....WHAT CAN I SAY! sad indeed...we need to be responsible pet owners!

  • Hi Dr. Pia & Ladies,
    When I was at the vet's last week, Mom and I noticed they have this big television and when not showing movies to help pass the time for those having long waits (I met some friends going through chemo and their parents were waiting a long time) they have a dvd in of all the employees and their furry families and their stories. I would have to say that the majority of them were adopted. That was so good to learn.

    Zoe-Happy Birthday #4!!! How neat to give some food to the local shelter instead of a gift. You are a nice lady.

    Love & licks,

  • Another wonderful article Dr. Pia. I'm looking forward to adopting a dog hopefully next year or the following year. I'm starting a company so I want to make sure I have the time and the resources to be a good doggie parent. In the meantime, I'm reading up on the breed of dogs I think will match my lifestyle the best.

    Happy 4th B-Day Zoe! What a sweet girl you are to donate dog food to the shelter instead of a birthday present for yourself.

    Basil, you take care of yourself and I hope you're getting better everyday.

  • Did everyone see Wanda's beautiful little expression on her little face?! Oh, I could just scoop her up and take her right home! What a pretty little girl she is! Little Heather Ann is a tricolor calico like my Mandy, but her hair/tail is much longer/fluffier respectively than my Mandy's. Without her little dotted nose and if she had white furry little cheeks, she'd look very similar to Mandy - pink nose included! (For any pink-nosed kittiekittie owners, you KNOW that that little pink nose can act as a barometer - mischief-wise! [giggle] )

    Happyhappy birthday Zoehoney! I hope you had a wonderful day - running and playing, and being your happy little self. It's a moderate day, here in Maryland, so I hope it's not too awfully hot for you today. If so, maybe in the cooler evening hours you can get some frolicking in!

    It's wonderful to hear Dr Pia's voice today, as well as all my other anipals'! I enjoy so much everyone's input and reading each individual story.

    Mandy wants me to remind everyone what day it is...that's right - Meow Monday!

    'Til tomorrow (God-willing),


  • Hi Dr. Pia, Thank you for filling everyone in on why so many of our animal friends wind up in a shelter. I agree it's not their fault but we all have to help in any way we can to get them into loving homes like I have. What a wonderful world we would have if all animals were in loving homes! Happy Birthday little Zoe. I turned 5 in June but I don't know which day is my birthday so I just celebrate all month. Best wishes to F & S. Love, Dudley Do Right xoxoxoxo

  • H Dr. Pia!

    How's "BG" (Pickles), your lovable canine? Say "Hello" from Shoeboy! Thanks.

    Can't tell you how great this new line up of adorable new friends are! Yes I can...They're GREAT! Each and every one have a home waiting somewhere, I just know it! Each and every home needs a little more love and little more tail-wagging (and purring), so these precious pals are waiting to fill the void.

    I'd like to encourage all of the ones who are "home-hopeful" and waiting: Wanda , Pinot & Chardonnay, Heather Ann. What lucky kitties to be listed on the Daily Wag's "most wanted"! And the "Mighty Dogs": Jazz, True and Curlie Sue...there's a big back yard with your name on it! Hang in there everybody!

    Dr. Pia, Mom has a friend in Ft. Meyers Florida. She will give them a call and relay the message about Curlie Sue(who is also in Ft. Meyers),needing a home. It's great to be able to help! Thanks!

    PS. HEY F&S! :)

  • "Happy Birthday Dear ZOE!!!" Hope you get cake! I'm sure your mom will have a nice party. I'll celebrate with you Shoeboy-Style...watermelon, watermelon, watermelon.

  • There are sometimes other ways to donate to animal shelters. For example, my employer allows me to take payroll deductions from my paychecks so I can give to the Animal Humane Society on a regular basis. I never miss the income and I can feel good about it all year long. They handle the transfer of the contribution and it should be itemized on my W-2. This is the first year I have contributed this way so I am still figuring it all out but for me it has been a great way to do it.

  • I have recently adopted a female chihuahua. I fell in total love with her when I first seen her online. I drove 43 miles to really get to know her, in which by the way, her name is Angel. We bonded instantly. However, Angel does have Patella Luxation, in which her knees pop in and out. It does not bother me in the slightest. Angel is the sweetest and most different chihuahua. She looks like a mini dalamation, but is all chihuahua.

    Last year, I adopted a golden retriver name Buddy. His story was a sad one. His previous owner was moving, and had scheduled a date for Buddy to be euthanized. Three days after I adopted him. He is a great dog, a little hyper, but a wonderful dog. He does not have a mean bone in his body, and loves everyone. In fact I took him to the shelter to adopt Angel, and right away, they got along.

    When you adopt, you are saving a life.

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