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Essential Qualities of a Good Shelter


Your Animal Shelter

Animal Shelters and Humane Societies should serve as cornerstones for their communities efforts to end dog and cat overpopulation. The following qualities are essential to a humane, effective shelter.

  • Active, preventative programs aimed at reducing the number of animals who must be killed; e.g., aggressive public education campaigns about dog and cat overpopulation, efforts to implement differential licensing which rewards owners of neutered animals with lower license fees, spay/neuter subsidies and referrals.
  • Spay/neuter surgery strictly required for all adopted animals. Best way to ensure compliance: neutering all animals before they go to new homes.
  • Adoption process and policies that place the animals well being first.
  • Clean, comfortable surroundings; skilled, compassionate care; a sound program of hygiene and health care.
  • Painless method of euthanasia for animals who are not adopted. Acceptable: Intravenous injection of a barbiturate solution by a veterinarian or a properly trained and certified technician. Not acceptable: high altitude decompression chamber, electrocution, carbon monoxide (except under highly controlled conditions), strychnine poisoning, shooting, intra-cardiac injections of alert animals.

The Name Game

Whats the difference between the humane society, the animal shelter, animal control, the SPCA, and the other humane society? Maybe nothing. It depends. A brief look at titles and types:

Humane Societies
Humane society and SPCA are generic terms for organizations that work to protect animals. The use of these terms in an organizations title simply reflects the groups choice of a name. The name alone doesnt indicate any special affiliation or accreditation.

Most humane societies are privately funded through donations and fees and receive no state funding or federal dollars. Many humane societies operate their own animal shelters. Some contract with local government to be the animal control agency for the community. Because they are independently operated, the humane society in your community may be very different from a similarly-named organizations just a town away.

Municipal animal shelters
In some communities the animal shelter is an arm of local government. Many such shelters are staffed by animal control officers who are charged with enforcing animal-related statutes. Funding typically comes from local government and fees.

Please note: For simplicitys sake, the terms animal shelter and humane society are used interchangeably here.

Adapted from The Hands-On Handbook
Produced by PAWS, PO Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046

Courtesy of

424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700



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