As an animal shelter volunteer, rescue organization leader, or animal foster parent you want to save all of the animals. You simply can’t, and if you try you are putting yourself and the animals you are rescuing in danger. You can however make a difference for the animals you can help: ones that would not have had help if it were not for you.
When a shelter is at capacity, here are some of the reasons we want to but can’t save them all. Please understand that even though we desperately want to care for these unwanted animals we can’t. The emotional stress you are feeling at the moment you find a litter of six puppies that no shelter can take because they are full, and you cannot keep, we understand, we are dealing with the same stress at a much larger scale.
The emotional stress of wanting to save them all, compassion fatigue is an occupational hazard of our work with animals this work requires that we compassionately and effectively respond to the constant demand to be helping those who are suffering and in need. What is compassion fatigue, compassion fatigue is normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do. How do we combat the inevitable burn out? The constant mantra I cannot save them all, but I can save these. Instead of asking for help, ask yourself what can I do? If a shelter is full take a breath and call the next.
What does it mean when a shelter is full? The United States Department of Agriculture sets building capacity limitations, for all shelters for the safety and wellbeing of the animals held at the facility. If the capacity limitations are reached, that shelter legally cannot hold any more animals. If the shelter was not in compliance with regulation they are subject to: “The Commissioner may deny, suspend, or revoke any license required by this chapter, subject to notice and hearing, in any case in which he finds there has been a violation of this chapter. All proceedings for denial, suspension, or revocation of a license shall be conducted in conformance with Chapter 13 of title 50, the “Georgia Administrative Procedure Act”. In order to stay open shelters must be in compliance, yes one tiny kitten could close a shelter for hundreds of animals.
Just like everyone else shelters have monetary restrictions. Many shelters rely on donations from the public to pay, building fees, water, electric, vet bills, food cost, bedding, housing, medicine, and office supplies. This sometimes limits the number of animals they can care for. So that one tiny puppy could be the tipping point, leaving hundreds of animals without.
How you can help? As frustrating and upsetting as it maybe to be told a shelter cannot take an animal, please be kind. We want to help with all our heart and soul we just can’t.
Control the pet population by having your pet Spayed or Neutered. This helps reduce the number of unwanted pets. In turn controlling the number of animals with in the shelter. So we can always say yes we can take this unwanted animal.
Adopt! Adopting from a shelter instead of purchasing makes room at the shelter for other animals.
Fostering! Taking these animals into your home helps take some of the workload off of regular volunteers at the shelter. It also helps shelter animals learn to be pets taking away their stress and anxiety.
Donating! Making sure that the shelter has all the funds it needs to operate.
Volunteering! Caring for the animals is a 24 /7 365-day job. Helping care for them helps everyone involved with the shelter not just the animals.
Educating! Urging a friend to adopt, or spay / neuter there pet is educating. Sharing this article on social media, is educating. When you ask someone or help someone understand animals or animal welfare, you are a voice for animals because they don’t have one.
Sponsor! Sponsoring an animal can mean many different things. You can choose an animal to help find a home and work tirelessly to find that animal a home, or you can pay the adoption fee or part of one, on an animal so they can find a home faster. Helping that one animal is in turn helping all the animals.