What is an Animal Shelter?
What is an Animal Shelter? (A Comprehensive Vet Reviewed Guide)
An animal shelter is a place where animals without a home, those left behind or not wanted, are given a temporary place to stay and receive care.
Many times, these animals are discovered on the streets, and these shelters offer them food, water, medical attention, and shelter from harsh weather conditions.
The people who run these shelters include experts and dedicated volunteers who aim to reunite lost pets with their owners, provide a safe haven for animals requiring help, and make these animals ready for adoption. This article will thoroughly explore what an animal shelter is, what it does, and why it's important.
What is an Animal Shelter?
An animal shelter provides temporary housing for stray, lost, abandoned, or voluntarily surrendered animals, mostly dogs and cats. According to the ASPCA, more than seven million homeless animals end up in shelters yearly, and fewer than half of them are adopted into forever homes.
Most shelters aim to find new homes for these unwanted animals, offering a diverse range of animals for adoption, including kittens, puppies, purebred pets, and others.
Since the 1990s, shelters have evolved their roles, taking the lead in controlling the pet population, advocating pet adoption, and researching the health and behavior of shelter animals. These shelters often house animals that are already trained for home living and can coexist with other animals.
The very first animal shelter in the United States was established on April 14, 1869, thanks to the efforts of Caroline Earle White and a group of women activists in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
Initially, it took in stray dogs and cats, but it later expanded its mission to include horses, which were essential for transportation at the time. This shelter, now known as the Women's Animal Center, still exists today as Bucks County, PA's sole open-intake shelter, offering adoption services, training, and veterinary care.
Types of Animal Shelters
Animal shelters come in various shapes and sizes and serve different purposes while caring for animals. These shelters can be managed by the government, local humane societies, private individuals, or a combination of these entities.
Their funding sources may include donations or government funds. Let's explore some common types of animal shelters:
1. Municipal Shelters
These shelters are government-funded and run by local authorities. They provide a range of services, such as pet adoption, animal control, and vaccinations. Municipal shelters are typically obligated to accept all stray animals. For example, the Los Angeles Animal Services, owned by the city of Los Angeles, offers adoption services for various animals, from dogs to lizards.
2. Full-Service Private Non-Profit Shelters
As the name suggests, these shelters are operated by non-profit organizations. They offer a wide range of animal services and usually have an open-door policy, meaning they accept all animals in need.
Some of these shelters may have "SPCA" in their name, and each may have its unique mission. For instance, the Humane Society Silicon Valley is a private non-profit animal shelter in California. Besides adoption services, they provide spaying and neutering services and a pet pantry.
3. Private Shelters with a Municipal Contract
These are private animal shelters that have a contractual agreement with the local government to manage animal control responsibilities.
4. Open-Admission Shelters
Open-admission shelters welcome all animals, regardless of their health, age, or behavior. The government or local humane societies often oversee seriously ill and aggressive animals. Hence, open-admission shelters are required to accept all animals brought to them. In some cases, they may have to euthanize animals that are too sick, injured, or aggressive to be adopted.
5. Limited-Admission Shelters
Limited-admission shelters have the flexibility to turn away animals when they reach full capacity or if a particular animal is not a good fit for their facility. These shelters may specialize in certain types of animals, like cats or dogs, or they may only accept animals from specific areas.
Why Animal Shelters Are Important?
Animal shelters are essential in our communities because they consistently work to achieve various important goals, such as reuniting pets with their owners, providing shelter to animals in need, and offering educational programs for both children and adults. Here are some compelling reasons why animal shelters hold significance:
1. Protecting Public Safety and Health: In communities where there is no animal shelter or rescue group, the situation can strain municipal resources. This absence can result in numerous animals freely roaming city neighborhoods, posing a serious risk to public safety and health. Animal shelters play a crucial role in maintaining order by offering a safe haven for these animals.
2. Improving Pet Health: Animal shelters not only provide shelter but also deliver top-notch veterinary care to the animals under their care. Furthermore, they guide new pet owners toward veterinary clinics for post-adoption care. Through their commitment to excellent pet care, animal shelters promote the well-being of pets, thus contributing to healthier communities and helping stabilize the pet population.
3. Educating the Public: Animal shelters serve as centers of education, offering programs for both youngsters and adults. They provide hands-on volunteering opportunities within the shelter, as well as opportunities to assist with tasks like marketing, social media, and spreading valuable information through word of mouth. By engaging with animal shelters, people have various ways to learn and grow.
4. Addressing Pet Overpopulation: Irresponsible pet ownership and uncontrolled breeding have given rise to a severe problem of pet overpopulation. This situation has led to a growing number of stray and homeless dogs and cats. Animal shelters are vital because they are at the forefront of addressing the consequences of pet overpopulation through responsible pet management.
How Animal Shelters Help Animals?
Animal shelters play a crucial role in assisting animals in various ways. Here are some essential ways through which animal shelters support animals:
1. Providing Safety and Comfort: Animal shelters offer a safe and cozy refuge for animals without homes and those rescued from abusive situations. They supply nourishment, clean water, medical attention, and protection from harsh weather conditions. These shelters also aid in reuniting lost pets with their owners and finding new homes for animals that are homeless, lost, or in search of a caring family.
2. Controlling Pet Overpopulation: Animal shelters contribute to curbing the problem of too many pets by spaying and neutering animals before they are adopted. This proactive step reduces the number of unwanted animals and minimizes the necessity for euthanizing animals each year.
3. Halting Cruelty in Breeding Facilities: Animal shelters are instrumental in ending cruelty in mass breeding facilities by rescuing animals from these places and giving them a secure and affectionate environment.
4. Offering Medical Care: Animal shelters extend medical care to sick and injured animals. They boast skilled professionals and dedicated volunteers who administer medical treatment and rehabilitation to animals in distress.
5. Educating the Public: Animal shelters also focus on educating the public about responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, and the significance of spaying and neutering pets. They provide resources for pet owners, including guidance on pet care, training, and behavior.
6. Finding Permanent Homes: Animal shelters facilitate the process of animals finding permanent, loving homes by carefully matching them with caring families. They offer adoption services and follow-up programs to ensure that the animals continue to receive proper care in their new homes.
Animal Shelter VS Animal Rescue
Animal shelters and rescues both help animals, but they have some differences. Let's look at these differences:
Animal shelters are important for our communities. They offer a safe place for animals that are homeless or unwanted. They help lost pets find their way home, give shelter and care to animals in need, and find them permanent homes.
They also teach people about pets and work to make sure there are fewer homeless animals. While there's still more work to do, both animal shelters and rescues are making a big difference in animals' lives every day.