According to the Humane Society of the United States, thousands of puppies and kittens are born each day as a result of uncontrolled breeding of pets. Each year between six million and eight million dogs and cats are brought to shelters. About half of those animals are euthanized because there aren't enough homes for them.
Approximately three million shelter animals are adopted each year. Animal shelters are located in large cities and small towns throughout the United States, and working in them can be both rewarding and hard.
On the positive side, many shelter workers do their best to educate the public about spaying and neutering their pets. Some shelters offer programs to school groups with the intent to educate the children about responsible pet ownership.
The Northeast Animal Shelter, located in Salem, Massachusetts, brings shelter animals that are comfortable being around children into the classrooms. The Animal Mission of the Midlands, in Columbia, South Carolina, conducts shelter tours for school children. The Animal Mission is home to farm animals, exotic animals, and cats and dogs. The workers here teach school children, and other visitors, about responsible pet care and the importance of taking care of all animals.
Many shelters have information on hand to educate the public about the benefits of spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering allows dogs and cats to live longer and healthier lives. The workers also teach the public that spaying and neutering dogs and cats makes the best economic sense. Many communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted animals.
Shelter workers spend a lot of time on the telephone. When the workers enter a shelter in the morning, they usually see the red light on the answering machine flashing, alerting them that a few calls came in during the night.
People call to say they found a stray dog or cat. Others call because they want to adopt a kitten or puppy. Then there are the calls that come in from people telling the shelter that they no longer want to keep their pet.
Out of all of the animal careers, shelter workers have the highest burnout factor. That is because most dogs and cats that enter a shelter do not get adopted. Most people prefer cute and cuddly puppies and kittens over older dogs and cats. However, the environment at shelters is slowly changing for the better. There are several no-kill shelters, where dogs and cats are not euthanized. The workers at these facilities try their best to get these dogs and cats placed in good homes.
The shelter worker often counsels these callers about behavior training for the dog or cat, which often helps change a pet owner's mind. The shelter worker also explains the shelter's policies regarding adoption and euthanasia. All shelter workers hope for the best. They want to convince callers that they should keep their pets.
The Humane Society of America estimates that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 shelters in the country. A growing number of people are working to eliminate euthanasia in shelters. People are getting involved with their local shelters. Many shelters organize volunteers to walk and play with the in-house dogs and cats. Shelter workers spend a lot of time with the public — they don't just work with animals.
When an animal is adopted, the shelter worker feels rewarded knowing that the dog or cat is going to a good home. Unfortunately, when animals are returned, abandoned, or brought into the shelter because an owner no longer wants to care for it, it does take a toll on the emotions of the shelter worker. Long hours, limited resources, and low wages are other reasons why so many people who work at shelters burn out and leave.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in April 1866 by Henry Bergh, an aristocrat and son of an American shipbuilder. That first ASPCA was based in New York City. Right after it opened — just nine days later — the first anti-animal-cruelty law was passed by the New York legislature. The focus of this law was to prevent cruelty to farm and work animals, primarily horses.
The need for shelters in small towns, large cities, and rural areas throughout America is large. People who are drawn to working in shelters do it because they care about animals.
Many are in this business because they want to rescue stray dogs and cats. It takes someone with a thick skin to work in a shelter, and shelter jobs are plentiful. If you are looking for job opportunities in this area, contact your local shelter or log onto AnimalSheltering.org.