As frustrated as many of us are with the shelter system, there are things we can do to make it better, and there are things people do to make it worse. I’d like to focus on the later. Oftentimes in an effort to help save a dog at a shelter, people will call in and place an IP (interested party) on a particular dog. That means the shelter staff is made aware that someone is interested in this dog, and they will hold off on putting it down. This is a valuable tool in order to save a dogs life, but a dangerous tool used the wrong way.
Let’s understand here that many shelters are forced to put dogs down due to lack of space. If new dogs are coming in and the kennels are full, and no one is adopting the current dogs, they will start killing the dogs that have been there the longest. I’m not sugar coating it here, this is the truth. In essence, this seems like the fairest method. Would it be fair to put a dog down that just arrived? One that had not yet even had a chance at potential adoption? Anyway, the reality is that if no one wanted the dog before, they assume that this is the best candidate to be put down.
When someone calls and puts an IP on a dog, that means another dog dies in that dog’s place. A dog whose time is not even up yet is arbitrarily chosen and killed in order to keep the dog, that apparently has interest, alive. However, and here comes the rub, many people then don’t claim this dog and let it be killed anyway.
To further complicate the issue, the constant stress from these people starts to wear on the shelter staff and they eventually turn a deaf ear to the pleas or rescues. Then, when these rescues really have an interest in a dog, they have a hard time getting someone at the shelter to listen.
The best advice I can give is be realistic. You can’t save all the animals in the world, let alone all of the animals in the shelter you are calling. If you are really interested in saving a dog, give it your all and stay focused. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and don’t leave your stress out on the shelter staff. If you think you’ve got it tough, imagine what they might be going through. Commit yourself to the task at hand and see that task through. Don’t let the next sad story sway you, keep focused. When I work on a dog that I am trying to save, I give it my all. I feel it’s my responsibility to stay focused on that dog until he is safe. Similarly, if I was trying to save a drowning child, I’d need to keep my attention focused on that child. If I start swimming toward the woman that is drowning, I run the risk of losing both of them.
If and when we need to call to save a dog, we should be 100% committed to seeing that that dog gets out. If we can’t do it, don’t place the call. Don’t endanger the life of the dog just beneath the dog you’re trying to save in order to make yourself feel better. Remember the shelter can’t kill an animal, we have the ability to get in there and rescue it.
If the shelter kills a dog, it’s because we couldn’t save it either. The power lies in our hands… let’s use that power wisely.