The idea of animal shelters is to provide a temporary home for animals until they can be adopted into their forever homes. However, the reality is that many shelters are forced to deal with overcrowding and limited resources. This often results in shelters warehousing dogs, which can have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental health. Generally, you will find that shelters warehouse dogs more than they do cats.
What is Shelter Warehousing?
Shelter warehousing is a term used to describe the practice of keeping dogs in shelters for long periods without adequate care and attention. This can occur when shelters become overcrowded and don't have the resources to provide proper care or outcome plans for the animals. As a result, dogs may be left in their kennels for days or even weeks without proper exercise, socialization, or medical attention.
Dangers of Shelter Warehousing
Increased stress and anxiety: Dogs are social animals and need socialization to maintain their mental health. When dogs are confined to a kennel for long periods, they can become stressed, anxious, and depressed. This can lead to behavioral issues such as aggression, excessive barking, and self-harm.
Health problems: The lack of exercise and socialization can also lead to physical health problems. Dogs that are not given proper exercise can become overweight and develop joint problems. They may also develop infections or other illnesses due to the unsanitary conditions that often occur in overcrowded shelters.
Reduced adoption chances: Dogs that have been in shelters for a long time can become institutionalized, meaning they may struggle to adjust to life outside of the shelter. This can make them less appealing to potential adopters, further reducing their chances of finding a forever home.
Euthanasia: Unfortunately, overcrowded shelters may resort to euthanizing dogs that have been in the shelter for too long. This is often done to make space for new arrivals or because the dog's behavior has deteriorated to a point where it is deemed unadoptable.
Causes of Shelter Warehousing
Shelter warehousing can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Overcrowding: When shelters are overcrowded, they may not have enough resources or staff to provide proper care for all the animals. This can lead to dogs being warehoused for long periods.
Limited resources: Shelters may not have enough funding or resources to provide adequate care for all of the dogs in their care. This can result in dogs being left in their kennels for extended periods without proper exercise or medical attention.
Lack of staff: Shelters may not have enough staff to care for all of the dogs in their care. This can result in dogs being warehoused for long periods without adequate socialization or interaction with humans.
Behavioral issues: Dogs that have behavioral issues may be more difficult to adopt, and as a result, may spend longer periods in the shelter. This can lead to them being warehoused for long periods without proper care.
Breed discrimination: Certain breeds, such as pit bulls or other "bully breeds," may be discriminated against and have a harder time getting adopted. This can result in them being warehoused for longer periods than other breeds.
Breed discrimination can also be prevalent when working with companies that provide home insurance. Many insurances and apartment complexes won't cover households with certain breeds.
Lack of public awareness: Some people may not be aware of the importance of adopting animals from shelters, which can lead to a higher number of animals being surrendered to shelters. This can increase the demand for shelter services, which can lead to overcrowding and longer stays for animals. On average, dogs spend 35 days in the shelter waiting for a positive outcome.
Economic hardship: Economic hardship can lead to a higher number of pet surrenders as people struggle to provide for their animals. This can lead to an increase in demand for shelter services, which can contribute to overcrowding and longer stays for animals.
Limited adoption options: If there are not enough adoptive homes available for the animals in the shelter, it can lead to longer stays for the animals. This can be due to a lack of public awareness, stigma against shelter animals, or other factors that make it difficult to find homes for the animals.
Breed-specific legislation: Breed-specific legislation can lead to a higher number of certain breeds being surrendered to shelters, which can contribute to overcrowding and longer stays for those breeds.
It's important to note that shelter warehousing is often a symptom of larger issues within the animal welfare system. Addressing these underlying issues can help to reduce the need for shelter warehousing and improve the lives of animals in shelters.
How to Help
As individuals, we can help by volunteering at local shelters, fostering dogs, and adopting pets from shelters instead of purchasing them from breeders or pet stores. We can also donate money, food, and other resources to support shelters and advocate for increased funding and resources for animal welfare organizations.
In times of overcrowding, animal shelters may face difficult decisions about when to euthanize animals in their care. To ensure that these decisions are made in an ethical and responsible manner, it is crucial for shelters to have a clear policy around euthanasia decisions in times of overcrowding. This policy should take into account factors such as the animal's age, health, behavior, and adoptability, as well as the resources and capacity of the shelter. The policy should also prioritize efforts to prevent overcrowding, such as promoting spaying and neutering, encouraging adoption and fostering, and working with rescue organizations to transfer animals to other facilities. By having a clear and transparent euthanasia policy, shelters can ensure that animals are treated with compassion and that difficult decisions are made in a responsible and ethical manner, even in times of overcrowding.
Shelter warehousing is a serious issue that can have a detrimental impact on dogs' physical and mental health. By raising awareness about this issue and taking action to support animal welfare organizations, we can help ensure that dogs in shelters receive the care and attention they deserve.