All dogs decline in the animal shelter, but some develop problems faster than others. Dogs that come in with behavioral concerns are unlikely to have those problems addressed at the shelter. Dogs are traumatized by the shelter environment. 

When dogs develop chronic negative behavior in the kennel, aggression towards other dogs or people, or other problems, the Animal Services near me sends out a plea to individuals or rescues to help these dogs.

If nobody comes forward to help, Animal Services will have no choice but to euthanize. Continuing to house an animal who is suffering severely in the kennel without behavioral enrichment is not humane.

Wade displayed fearful growing behavior at Animal Services. I took time and got to know Wade at his pace. His behavior improved rapidly until he was friendly with everyone. He was soon adopted from Animal Services.

What does No Kill mean?

Many people are surprised to learn that even at a no-kill shelter, physically healthy dogs are sometimes euthanized. Thankfully the efforts of Animal Services, their fosters, and the help of private rescues, make euthanasia due to overpopulation largely unnecessary in Alachua County.

Dogs may stay at the shelter for 100 days or more, waiting to be rescued, fostered, or adopted. When there are more dogs than space, especially during quarantine, temporary kennels are set up to house overflow dogs.

Animal shelter staff works long hours to make sure that dogs get walked twice a day, play in the yard every so often, and have clean bedding and fresh water and food. Volunteers often help, sometimes working hours at a time to help walk, feed, and engage with the dogs.

Despite the best efforts of staff and volunteers, the shelter is no place for a dog to be for long. Without as much mental stimulation, physical exercise, and social exposure as they need, constantly immersed in the barking and smell of fear from other dogs, dogs decline rapidly.

Joel was extremely fearful at the shelter. He crouched in the interior portion of his kennel, afraid to come out and invisible to potential adopters. He displayed no social signals with people, so it was difficult to determine whether he was able to interact postively or not. He didn’t improve on outings, but with a dedicated foster he improved dramatically and was adopted.

Working with at-risk dogs

I loved Malone and he loved me, but I couldn’t save him in the end

By giving extra attention to the dogs who are declining the most, volunteers can sometimes help to save the dog. Fostering a dog who is displaying even serious behavioral problems at the shelter often resolves the behavioral issues, sometimes seemingly overnight.

Working with dogs who may be euthanized isn’t for everyone. You can’t save them all, and I can assure you that losing one hurts. However, if you want to help the dogs who need it most, your local Animal Services is the place to find them.

Helping any dog helps these dogs

Every dog at your local animal shelter or rescue needs help. Fostering or adopting any dog gives staff and volunteers more time to focus on the dogs who need the most help. If the thought of getting to know and love a dog who may end up being euthanized is unbearable for you, this is perfectly understandable for an animal lover. If you think you can save one or more of these dogs, know that there is a very real need for your help.

Nala was at the shelter longer than most dogs ever are. She never displayed problem behavior, so she was never at risk of being euthanized, but the sheer amount of time she spent there meant it was only a matter of time before she began to decline. She was taken by the Humane Society to an adoption event, and finally adopted, to all of our relief. It is largely due to the efforts of volunteers who took Nala for days and nights out that she was able to handle the stress of the shelter for such a long time.

What can you do?

By fostering or adopting a dog who is declining in the shelter, you can literally save their lives. By working with these dogs in the shelter or taking them for days and weekends out, you can provide more information about how they are outside of the shelter and offer them some relief from the shelter environment, which can buy them time. Save a life. It’s easier than you might think.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re not sure how to get started.

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