Municipal animal shelters need community support
Just over 24,000 animals entered the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter in 2019. Of the total, 20,550 of those were dogs and cats. These numbers tell the same story most municipal shelters face across the country, especially in the Southern regions.
Open admission municipal shelters face constant overcrowding with more animals coming in than there is space to hold them. Open admission means the shelter must take any animal that walks in the door from their jurisdiction. There is no such thing as the inn is full.
Unfortunately, the result is euthanasia. Carrying this burden for the community also comes with criticism. Municipal shelters often are blamed for euthanasia rates when it’s a community issue. Shelter employees are just the ones responsible for doing it. Tough job and huge responsibility.
Due to the hard work of caring staff and partnerships with nonprofit organizations, the number of lives being saved continues to improve each year, and the number of euthanized is decreasing. Still, frequently, shelter employees wonder whether they are doing enough.
How do we end the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable pets? The answer is simple. Get involved. The next time you think about criticizing the local animal shelter, ask yourself what you can do to help change it. Donate, volunteer, adopt, and spay or neuter your pets. Do your part to keep animals out of the shelter and in homes. The shelter should be reserved only for animals that truly need to be there.
If you really want to know what’s going on at your local animal shelter, go visit and ask questions. Take the time to try to understand exactly what the issues are and educate yourself on the problems. I know at Oklahoma City Animal Welfare we encourage visitors to come see what we do. I love the opportunities I get to show people around the shelter and talk about the work we do.
One of the most unfortunate things about criticizing the local shelter is the only harm it does is to the animals. Most municipal animal shelters are doing the best they can with the resources they are given. They just need more.
Fortunately, there are many volunteers, foster parents and nonprofit organizations that do step up do their part; however, there is never enough. I know we are extremely fortunate at Oklahoma City Animal Welfare to have a growing number of volunteers and partnerships to assist in our life-saving work.
To find out more about Oklahoma City Animal Welfare and what you can do to help, visit the shelter at 2811 SE 29, or go to www.okc.gov/animalwelfare.
Jonathan Gary is Oklahoma City Animal Welfare superintendent.