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  1. Ugh! That was hard to read. I would think they can do more to partner with rescues, to seek help from local groups like churches and scouts and school groups to increase the number of dogs of saved from death. They seem to have a lot of employees. I wonder if they are just accustomed to how many dogs are routinely destroyed and thus do not try to do more? So sad…. Thanks for visiting and sharing. >

    1. They seem to be stuck, pushing the blame to the community and the limited intake shelters and rescues around them. It’s been this way for so long, I’m still not sure what will bring change at this shelter, but I know they need it. There’s no excuse for that many deaths when help is all around them.

  2. Good intentions are not enough. It is time for this shelter, and others like it, to learn about and then embrace a different culture to end the killing. The answers have been known for a very long time and while I am not angry about his, per se, I do see it as a betrayal of the public trust. Any shelter which remains in the dark ages and does not proactively seek new ways to function should be ashamed of itself. I would be happy to send Debra a free copy of my book if I thought she would read it.

    1. I thought of you often as we toured this shelter. It will take the same Herculean effort that you all made in Huntsville to bring change here. But it will start with people being willing to work with Debra and be her partner not her adversary. That is a big challenge in the face of these numbers.

    1. How to help this shelter? Here are my thoughts…

      What shelters have done in this remote and impoverish area is to be very proactive. One shelter drives a dozen dogs to a Petco in a large city every Saturday and holds an adoption fair. They are able to find homes for at least five dogs almost every week. It’s a lot of work, but they’re determined. This shelter is San Luis Valley Animal Welfare. They have a huge place and are able to keep many of the dogs who come in, so that’s kind of extraordinary. They are awesome people. They — with all their intrinsic challenges — LOOK for dogs in high kill shelters in nearby New Mexico and go get them. it’s a chain.

      The two “urban” ( ha ha ) shelters Valley Human League and Conour Animal Shelter (in my town), are both non-kill shelters with the kinds of facilities that would probably curl your toes, but they, too, work very hard to adopt their dogs out with well organized relationships that allow transport to other shelters in populated areas. This is an important part of dog shelter in a place like this.

      All of them have a very active social media presence and I think that’s a big help in building community involvement and loyalty because they depend heavily on local donations to keep open. I don’t think a week goes by but which a thank you or plea for help doesn’t emanate from one of these shelters. They tell people how to help — Amazons deal, for example. The key to their survival is community investment.

      They also worked out a deal with two low cost or free spay/neuter organizations. Colorado has a group that offers free spay or neuter to certain breeds including (but not only) pits. The other organization will offer spay or neuter for free if the people really can’t pay ANYTHING. Once the word got out, people lined up for it, started asking “When?” It was amazing to watch.

      This woman at this southern shelter seems demoralized and overwhelmed. I don’t blame her. It isn’t helping the dogs, though. She probably needs to be replaced and/or helped by a young, enthusiastic, energetic, idealistic younger person as well as having more money to deal with more dogs and a wider range of situations. I think your suggestion of working with some shelters in the north is a good one. I don’t think one bad experience is anything more than one bad experience. <3

      1. P.S. Look for these shelters on Facebook. You can see a lot of the action. I think the San Luis Valley is pretty comparable to the worlds you’re traveling through except it doesn’t have as many people in it.

      2. All good ideas. MARL has tried a few of them, but whether it’s a shortage of staff, resources, or enthusiasm, I don’t know why they haven’t continued them. They need a good blast of energy and change, but mostly they need to overcome their belief that it has to be this way. It doesn’t.

  3. Fortunately, I am not a director of a shelter, so I do not have to make decisions as to which animal will live and which will die, but I have been to many shelters in the Carolinas where these decisions are made on a daily basis. Some of the directors or their staff (or volunteers) work closely with rescue groups–both local or those that ship animals north–they have regular adoption events, do fund raisers for needed supplies, and post attractive photos of available pets. These shelters have much lower euthanasia rate.

    A case in point is the shelter in Chesterfield County, SC which at the time was being run by the Sheriff’s Dept. It was closed for several months in 2011 when it was discovered that 5 of the employees were shooting dogs and burying them at a shooting range across the street. The case made national news and the community got together to rectify the horrific situation. They brought in a new director, a retired law officer from PA, who turned the place around. “James McGonigal stepped into the Chesterfield Co. Animal Shelter when frustration was high and expectation were low. The shelter had a high 90 percent kill rate. Under his leadership, it now has a high 90 percent save rate. And, five years after those dogs were found shot dead in a landfill, the shelter that once didn’t even have walls, is now a one million dollar facility.”

    The opposite has happened to a shelter in southern NC which was built by a group of concerned citizens who raised money for what was then a state-of-the-arts facility. They hired a very dedicated and competent staff who did all they could to save the animals under their care. While the original group and board were active the shelter thrived; however, over the years things changed and the county took over the shelter and hired their own director. Animals have been neglected and abused and the shelter was fined. One news article read, the “If the shelter doesn’t correct the violations it it will be considered in willful disregard or violation of the NC Animal Welfare Act…. If that happens, the shelter’s license could be impacted, and they could get fined up to $5,000 per violation.”

    A last example is a small rural shelter in Anson county, NC where Maureen, the director, is a one person animal savior. She is constantly on the phone with rescues to “get the dogs out,” often driving many miles to meet transports (on her own time), taking dogs to vets (often paying for them out of pocket), and even keeping several “unadoptables” herself. I don’t know how she can go at this stressful pace. With teachers the burnout time these days is about 4 years. I’m not sure about shelter directors. I quite sure she won’t make 42 year mark like Debra at MARL. You are a saint, Maureen. Thanks for all you do.

    1. It really does come to leadership, plain and simple. And that’s, sadly, something that is very difficult to affect. I’ve been to Anson and met Maureen. she has some great programs and does a lot with what she’s got. Looking forward to going back there again soon.

  4. Thank you for your fair and honest appraisal of open admission shelters. There are things that can be done and are beginning to be done in sheltering, but the points made here are all true. It’s a community problem, not a problem of bad people working at shelters, as many people would have you believe. I’ve worked in shelters for 12 years now, in behavior.