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What Is In A Name?

By Immydog
People often assume that the name posted on an animal care facility expresses the organization's policies regarding the animals in their care.  This could not be further from the truth.  The name of an organization says nothing about their policies. In many cases, the name itself can be a misnomer.
What Is In A Name?
The term "humane society" or "SPCA"  in the title of a local organization functions independently from the well known national organizations HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) or ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  While both groups supply vital resources in the aid of animal welfare and animal rights, only the ASPCA actually runs shelters throughout the country.
There are no distinct definitions or requirements for a group to use the words animal control, animal shelter, humane society, animal welfare society, animal rescue, city dog pound, etc. The title of a group does not indicate what their policies are. Whether you have found an animal you need to turn in, you want to volunteer, or you are forced to relinquish your own pets, YOU HAVE TO ASK QUESTIONS~ IMPORTANT ONES!
  • Is there a hold period once I hand this animal over, giving time for the owner to find and claim it?
  • If the animal is not claimed, are they euthanized at the end of the hold time or placed for adoption?  Some animal shelters don't even place animals for adoption.  Relinquished animals are immediately euthanized, and strays are euthanized after their required hold time if not claimed.
  • Do you euthanize for space? When the kennels are full, some agencies are forced to euthanize the animals that have been there longest to make room for new incomers.
  • Is your group No Kill? Even the term "no kill" can be taken too far. Some groups opt not to euthanize despite an animals health condition, in favor of natural death.  Although these are not common, they do exist. If their group is no kill, ask what they do if an animal has a terminal illness.
  • Is your group licensed by the state if required?  Does it have what is required by law to function as a shelter or rescue? You can call your department of agriculture to be certain the license is current.  Some states, however, do not require a license.  In this case, you can ask the shelter for the name of the veterinarian they use, to be used as a reference.
  • Will the animal be spayed or neutered before being adopted?  Some shelters adopt intact animals out with a contract to be spayed/neutered by the adopter. To me, this is a risky business.
  • Where do you post your adoptable animals? Make sure their animals are seen!  Petfinder.com is just one of several great resources for visibility of adoptables.  Adoption events are also a great local resource.
  • Are animals housed at this facility, or in foster homes?  There is good and bad to each of these options.  On site housing, involves animals temporarily housed in cages rather than temporary homes, but when you go to meet animals they are all in one place.  Foster homes provide the animal with a temporary family, and education on housetraining for the animal.  While this is ideal, some states do not recognize foster homes, and if you want to meet a few different animals, it may mean several trips for you and your family. 
  • Are adopters screened before an animal goes home with them?  How a person cared for their animals in the past is a good indicator of how they will care for the pet they are interested in adopting.  Screening often includes checking veterinary references, landlord checks, and personal references.  Some shelters adopt to whomever can provide the adoption fee and has interest in that animal.
There is a broad spectrum of animal shelters and rescues.  Don't judge their abilities by their name. High kill, Low Kill, No Kill... You won't know if the stray you found has a chance at life unless you ask a lot of questions.  If you don't like the answer, then find a group with whom you are more agreeable. Once you find that group, you should continue to support them by donating, volunteering, and spreading the word after they have helped you.
They cannot do it alone.
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