10 Things You Might Not Know About Animal Shelters

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

When I adopted my cat recently, I couldn’t help but be in awe of all the people who either volunteered their time or made it their career to work at the animal shelter.

I also realized there are probably plenty of things I didn’t know about caring for lost, surrendered, or otherwise homeless animals. For instance, I walked in thinking I knew exactly which cat I wanted based on the listings I had seen online. Sure, they said she was a bit of a tough case, but I was positive it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Then I finally met her face to face and I knew she needed someone with much more experience than me to make sure she was properly taken care of.

That visit made me respect those staff members all the more — something that has continued since digging in further to what it’s really like to work at an animal shelter.

Take a look below to see exactly what you might not know about shelters and their workers.

And be sure to SHARE all the info with your loved ones!

Thumbnail sources: Flickr / Humane Society of Jefferson County, Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Navy

1. They Aren't All Sad And Gloomy

Working at animal shelter: man hugging dog

There are cases that can break the hearts of caretakers at the shelter, and sometimes it comes from multiple different animals in a day, but the employees aren’t constantly walking around depressed or feeling like prison guards. In fact, there are plenty of reasons for them to smile, like reuniting a lost animal with its loving family.

2. They Aren't Always Playing, Either

Working at animal shelter: cat playing

Just as many people assume it’s all fun and games for those taking care of shelter animals, but as anyone who has spent time as a volunteer can tell you, many of the animals have found their way into the facility following trauma. This can make it a true effort or even a struggle to acclimate the poor things to a healthy environment.

3. Staff Injuries Can Happen Often

Working at animal shelter: dog gets treat

Whether the animal has behavioral issues or simply gets too excited, scratches and bites are a common occurrence. On top of that, according to Petful, shelter staff members are also exposed to fleas, ticks, rabies, and Lyme disease on a regular basis.

4. Adoptions Can Be Bittersweet For The Caretakers

Working at animal shelter: boy hugging cat

Obviously, they all hope every single animal that crosses their path finds its way into a happy, safe home, but it can be hard to say goodbye after spending even just one day taking care of their cute faces.

5. The Animals Aren't "Defective"

Working at animal shelter: shelter dog

Some people still believe that every animal that ends up in a shelter is a lost cause and won’t ever be a “normal” pet. While some critters require more care and attention due to special circumstances, they are all capable of love with the right family.

You might also be surprised to learn that, according to reports by PetMD, roughly 25% of the animals in shelters are also purebred.

6. They Need Your Donations

Working at animal shelter: dog and woman

You might think adoption fees are priced to put cash back in the employee’s pocket, but they actually receive far less in their paycheck after all of the funds are focused on providing the best care for the animals and upkeep of their facility. Several shelters struggle to keep their doors open, which is why donations and volunteers are so essential.

7. Most Staff Members Aren't Veterinarians

Working at animal shelter: dog and vet

Yes, they have plenty of knowledge they pick up while caring for the animals, and some may have even attended veterinary school, but they don’t have all the answers when it comes to more serious medical questions they frequently hear from new owners. If they recommend you talk to a vet, they aren’t just brushing you off.

8. Employee Emotional Burnout Happens A Lot

Working at animal shelter: cat laying down

It’s an incredibly stressful work environment, especially when you see animals who have been treated cruelly that repeatedly end up in the facility. Sometimes families give up on them or they suffer from health issues. These situations contribute to an unfortunately high turnover rate for employees with “compassion fatigue.”

9. Too Many People Ignore The Signs

Working at animal shelter: kittens in cage

You wouldn’t think a sign as clear as, “Don’t open cages,” would be difficult for folks to understand, but exasperated employees and volunteers have had to chase after too many animals who have made their escape from someone doing exactly that. Even worse, a person might end up scratched or nipped at if the animal is afraid and acting defensively, so it’s better for everyone to simply follow the rules.

10. Overcrowding Is A Big Issue

Working at animal shelter: two cats

In the amazing shelters that don’t euthanize, animals can wait weeks, months, or even years before finding their perfect family match, which can lead to some uncomfortable crowding when new critters join them each day. This is why they encourage families who are able to foster a pet for a short term to do so as often as they can.

Did we miss anything most people don’t realize about animal shelters and their workers? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your loved ones!