HouseforCats.jpg

The End of Animal Shelters

Our journey into the future begins…

Let’s paint a picture

I wish I had a picture to show you but lacking that I will try to paint a picture in words for you.  Use your imagination to picture the following:

House for CatsImagine a building with “Adoption Center” on the sign out front. Inside are large rooms where dogs or cats of similar size live.  These are quiet rooms filled with couches and chairs for people and soft beds for the animals.

A volunteer first explains that these are quiet rooms where the animals live and mingle.  There are no cages and the animals enjoy their comfy surroundings in large groups of 10-20.

Dog Pack-8Outside are open areas where dogs can play and blow off steam during the day. Volunteers walk all the dogs in pairs so they learn to walk under control and get plenty of exercise. It’s also part of their socialization.

If you’ve just come to spend some quiet time with friendly pets you can go in and read or just sit quietly and enjoy the furry company.  Children are asked to go play with the puppies and kitties in the play rooms where they will have close supervision.

If you find one you’re interested in you are instructed to notify a volunteer who will take you and your dog (or cat) outside or into a play room where you can play or just get acquainted.

People and animals are carefully matched up with the help of counselors.  All adopters are lead through a basic course on leadership to help ensure the animal receives proper care and exercise.

There are no adoption fees, no medical costs and every animal is neutered. Each adopter gets a package containing a free bag of food, collar, leash, a shot record and proof of rabies vaccination.

Adoptions are a time to celebrate.  Out rolls the red carpet and the new partners are walked out with lots of fanfare. A week later the adopter receives a follow-up call to ensure all is going well.

So what’s so different about that?

The new model

First, this is not a shelter as we know it.  This is an adoption center where all is geared toward marketing – the presentation and adoption of animals in their best light.  Unlike the current dreadful prison model, this attracts people;  they want to come visit. Not only do animals get placed far more quickly, but they are calm and balanced, ready for adoption. Visitors are eager to spend time here. Being a fun place, volunteerism becomes contagious and spreads like wildfire.

Golden Retriever - Auntie Shelley & The Who-1There are no cages;  the prison model is gone. Calm, confident dogs and cats relax in the company of other balanced animals. These are all well socialized pets, ready to go home and fit right in. Each communal showroom is a homey environment built to show off the animals’ best qualities.

This adoption center is fully supported by a caring community.  There are no out-of-pocket costs for adopters.  All is paid for by the community of animal lovers. All fees have been paid – every animal is free.  Each adopter is encouraged to become a contributor in one of the many programs, but the adoption process is not contingent upon financial giving. Most importantly, this adoption center does not need to fund its operations itself. Special fundraising efforts are for emergency situations or capital building projects only.


In the next post let’s take a closer look behind the scenes to see the operational side and what makes this so different from today’s shelters.

4 thoughts on “The End of Animal Shelters

  1. This is already being done, probably best at shelters around Maddie’s Fund, those in Richmond, VA and other shelters that have worked full time, and hard with Rich Avanzino. The key is multipronged: 1) ensure that any and all animals can and will be taken in; 2) ensure that any and all animals in shelter have a full veterinary exam, are vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered before ever making it to the front; 3) background checks for potential adoptions, including checks for violent crimes, gun crimes, and violent automobile crimes; 4) work with existing organizations like HSUS, PETA, ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund for ideas, and perhaps, SOME financial support; 5) not everything Nathan Winograd suggests is gospel, and some of it is just wrong, don’t depend on him for information or great ideas; 6) keep adoption fees reasonable, not free, but under $100; 7) ensure life long low cost medical care, and returns without questions at any time in the animals life; 8) work with local rescues and shelters to get the best animals adopted quickly from less comfortable situations.; 9) sponsor special education programs for hard to adopt breeds, like American Pit Bulls, bull dogs, American Stanfordshires, et al. ; 10) always work with people and organizations in getting animals adopted quickly and well.

  2. Christa, I have travelled around the coiuntry and researched a huge number of shelters and have found only one that really approaches this model – it’s the Schoharie Valley Animal Shelter in upstate New York. I would love to know the names of all those shelters you state are using this communal showroom model. Please let me know, okay?

    As for the rest of the points or challenges, I ask that all be patient as we work through the details of each phase. This is meant as a quick glimpse, an overview only. When viewed in the light of our current cruel prison model, of course this will seem almost silly in comparison.

    The key to safeguarding our companions in the adoption process is through screening, not fees. I challenge any shelter in a community with multiple shelters and rescue groups to prove they communicate with the others to share information on predators. This is a building block in this model, along with a very proactive campaign to dismantle dogfighting rings. Chicago is making a weak attempt with the help of HSUS’ well-hidden reqward program, as is NYC and LA. Not until the rescue community gets fully involved will these cruds be identified and outlawed from adoptions. That is the beauty of all shelters and rescues working together and being linked by computer – they can share information between each other. But right now animal welfare groups are too competitive and divided to work together like this. This model changes that totally.

    Please stay tuned. There’s a lot more fun stuff to come. We’ve just begun, as I wrote at the beginning of this post. Thanks – enjoy the journey.

  3. I , like Christa, see some small shelters doing this, but they are always near a traditional shelter that can get the overflow from the streets.There is a fellow in the midwest who wrote a book and goes into a long stories of the dogs he has saved, St. Louis Stray Rescue I believe. When reading his blog one can easily forget the unmentioned dogs. He talks about saving 200 dogs in 11 kennels, that would be communal for sure. Maddie’s fund has the adoption center is SF, but they pull from AC and turn away the public, what they don’t pull of AC is destroyed. I do love the picture, but think it will show better framed :)

  4. Actually, to correct you both, not one single shelter in the United States is doing this. The closest to “communal living” is the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley in New York. Lake Shore Animal Shelter in Chicago is trying to do this but they hired a doggy day care center for now. Their adoptable dogs are showcased at Outsitters Day Care.

    What you’re missing is the importance of the number of animals that can be housed together safely and effectively.

    The key ingredient in this recipe is what to do with the animals that are not ready for this communal living – these are the animals left behind in the open-admission shelters who are killed every day.

    Three posts subsequent to this one show in detail how this can be solved. It will never be solved by a shelter hiring a trainer to handle this workload individually.

    Go to this later post and read how these two aspects work together to accomplish what no “no-kill” shelter ever will = http://www.arc-na.org/rehabilitation

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