Things I’ve learned from Volunteering at an Animal Control Shelter:

Things I’ve learned from volunteering at an Animal Control Shelter:

  • Those dual food and water bowls are a bitch to use. For example: if you want to give an animal fresh water, you can’t just dump the water out because the food will spill as well. Thus, separate bowls are the smart and easy way to go. Plus, it’s less time consuming and can potentially cut down on food waste (and food is money).
  • Never underestimate the necessity of an extra poop scoop.  You can’t use the same one for every cat box either. If some cats are sick, you don’t want to cross-contaminate. If you see a cheap poop scoop at the dollar store BUY IT. Stock up. Because they start to break after you wash them.
  • Big cats are easier to give baths to than little kittens. Unless, of course, the big cat is feral or one of those crazy water-hating cats. But I’m SERIOUS. Those kittens have little exact-o knives on the ends of their feet. With a big cat, you have more to hold on to. Or, maybe all the bigger cats I work with are just supper mellow.
  • Wear jeans – never shorts – because those kittens need attention and they’re willing to come UP to you if you don’t come down to them. Plus, when you’re cleaning, expect to have a kitten on your shoulder or in your hair. Or both. AND LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT BECAUSE SOON YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE BACK WITH THE SICK CATS AND BE SAD AGAIN.
  • You can never have enough Dawn soap – to wash animals and dishes with. Without soap, you run out of reusable supplies quickly. ALWAYS HAVE SOAP. And, always wash EVERYTHING. Don’t spread sickness around.
  • Ringworm isn’t caused by a worm. It’s caused by a fungus no worse than athlete’s foot. Yet when animals have it, animal control sometimes puts them down because it takes about a month to get rid of and some medicine – and they just don’t want to mess with it. If an animal has ringworm, don’t freak out. Just wash your hands well before you handle yourself or another creature. No need to treat the infected animal like a leper – your kind face may be the last s/he sees.
  • No matter how much you sweep and mop, you will still have a dirty floor. And it will likely be covered in poop and pet hair. But believe me, that’s the least of your worries. HOWEVER, be sure to sanitize your shoes when you get home. Don’t let your own pets smell or rub on them, lest they catch what the animals have there.
  • Feral cats shouldn’t be there. Animal Control should turn people away who bring them in if they don’t have a proper feral cat TNR program. Put them back where they found them. Even better, animal control should tell people how THEY can Trap-Neuter/Spay-Release it. Check out for why feral cats are part of the environment and should be treated no differently than any other wild animal. It makes me BOIL WITH RAGE to know that perfectly good cats are put down simply because they aren’t ‘adoptable.’
  • You start to hate people who bring in animals instead of finding a home for them on their own. The animal control I’ve been volunteering at is more than willing to take information about found or lost dogs and cats and help that way, but there is no need to dump the animal on them. Why can’t we help each other out instead of risking that animal’s life by being put down? If you weren’t going to REALLY help the animal, then why did you pick it up in the first place? You’re no good Samaritan by picking it up and delivering it to death’s door. It’d be better if you walk on by. There’s already enough animals here at the shelter that need attention.
  • One person on staff at ANY animal control is not only cruel to the animals but cruel to the human. One person should not be responsible for so many animals and should not have to rely on volunteers to do the most basic things for the animals (like give them food and water). It is not only animal abuse (for neglect) but it puts too much pressure on the employee. When that employee is relying on others they feel unable to do their job. Which is the truth because no human alive could handle so many animals. But, if that employee complains, animals get put down. And then s/he feels bad once again.  Your city’s animal control should be a no-kill animal shelter or not exist at all.
  • Animal control is a sad place to be but you always want to go back. Because you can’t abandon those you’ve invested in. Humans have caused this pet overpopulation problem and we need to fix it – fix it by stopping all breeders. Stop puppy mills. Adopt don’t shop. Spread the word. As long as an animal needs a home THEY NEED HELP.

I know that some of these annotated points might be controversial, and I’m fine if you want to point out how I’m probably not properly supporting an ideal situation (like with the feral cats). But, I’ve learned that life is hard and you have to be reasonable.  There is no EASY final solution to this problem. That’s what makes it so heartbreaking.

I just wanted to keep the discussion going because, as the ASPCA’s logo says, “We are their voice.” And how true it is.


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