Open-admission shelters have a hard row to hoe. They take in all animals that are brought to them, relinquished ones and strays. They don’t have the luxury to pick and choose the pets in their care and seldom have the luxury of extra space. Sufficient funding is hard to come by, so they may have to scramble to keep their operations in the black.
The distressing fact is they often must use euthanasia to keep the population at their shelters at a manageable size to benefit most of the pets in their care. No one likes to euthanize pets, certainly not them. It takes an emotional toll on the people who work in open-admission shelters. And to top it off, they sometimes receive a lot of abuse from animal lovers for the work they have to do.
The blame lies not on the shelters, but on people who let their pets breed indiscriminately and then don’t take responsibility or those who abuse, neglect or abandon pets to a life on the streets. The life of a stray dog can be a cruel one, and many are brought to shelters in very bad physical and mental condition.
One of the best things happening in animal welfare is the increasing cooperation between open-admission shelters and rescue groups. Take the case of a dog named Sequoyah who was a stray in Bakersfield, CA. She ended up in an open-admission shelter and because of the crowded situation and her own timid personality, she wasn’t an ideal candidate for adoption. Time was running out for her as more pets were brought to the shelter and space was at a premium.
But here’s where the “happy” in my “happy tail” title begins. Volunteers from rescue groups regularly check on many open-admission shelters and take in adoptable pets for placement in foster homes and into other shelters that aren’t open admission and don’t have time limits on how long they can keep them. Crowded open-admission shelters also have forged transfer agreements with other animal welfare organizations that aren’t so overwhelmed.
Sequoyah, an Australian Cattle Dog, was placed in a foster home with a volunteer who works with Northern California Animal Rescue Friends, based in Elk Grove, CA. And thus she was saved through cooperation.
Colleen O’Brien of Oakland, CA, saw her listed on Petfinder. “Sequoyah was extremely timid when we first met her,” she says. “When we walked in the door, she barked at us, peed on the floor and hid under a chair. We weren’t deterred — we sat down outside to see if she would warm up to us. She relaxed a little and played with some of her foster siblings, and then at one point ran up to me, planted a kiss on my cheek and ran back to playing. The decision was made.” Colleen adopted Sequoyah.
It hasn’t always been easy for Sequoyah to adapt to life in a home. But she has become a well-adjusted dog, who is much loved by her family.
It’s a tribute to both the rescue groups who pull dogs from open-admission shelters and also to the shelters who cooperate with other groups to give the pets in their care the very best shot at a second chance. We honor both kinds of animal welfare organizations for the work they do.