Animal shelters vary greatly—by size, purpose, capacity, and their
treatment of the animals in their charge. They may be operated by the
government, by a local humane society, by private individuals, or by a
combination of these. Some are funded by donations alone, while others
receive tax money. Sometimes tax money comes with a stipulation that
some animals must be turned over to experimenters. Every effort should
be made to reverse such a policy, which is known as "pound seizure."
If you have concerns about your local shelter, size up the
situation by paying a personal visit—carry a camera to photograph
conditions for the animals. Find out which method(s) of euthanasia are
practiced. Although PETA only advocates an intravenous injection of
sodium pentobarbital, compressed cylinder gas is considered the most
humane of all gassing methods. If the shelter is gassing animals, try to
take photographs of the gas chamber and find out if the chamber is used
to kill young, old, or sick animals, who process oxygen and carbon
monoxide differently than healthy adult animals and should never be
How does your local shelter measure up? Every decent, caring animal shelter should have the following:
If you've witnessed specific examples of abuse or neglect at the
shelter—such as an injured animal denied veterinary care or animals
deprived of water for extended periods of time—write a detailed
statement, with approximate dates, describing what you have witnessed.
If someone you know has witnessed abuse or neglect, ask him or her to
compile a statement detailing the instance(s). Be sure to collect and
save any newspaper articles or tapes of news broadcasts relating to the
Now you're ready to begin campaigning for changes at the shelter.
Find out who oversees the shelter operation—city or county commissioners
are usually responsible for municipal shelters. Most private humane
societies are usually run under a board of directors. Some private
shelters have contracts with the city or county to take in animals, in
which case both the board and the elected officials are jointly
Begin your campaign by writing a letter to appropriate
officials—or make an appointment to speak with them directly—to explain
your concerns about problems at the shelter and suggest specific changes
that should be made. For example, if the shelter gasses animals, urge
them to contract with a veterinarian to perform euthanasia via
intravenous injection. Or you may ask that more funds be allocated to
provide quality care for the animals, training for animal control
officers, or structural improvements to an inadequate facility.
Click here for helpful tips on letter-writing and approaching local legislators.
Does your state Department of Agriculture oversee animal shelters?
Does it mandate shelter standards? If so, request inspection reports in
writing to detail any history of problems at the shelter. A copy of the
standards will enable you to cite any of the shelter's current failures
Investigate cruelty statutes (a good Internet resource is www.romingerlegal.com)
and local ordinances pertaining to animals, easily found at your local
library. If you suspect your shelter or the actions of employees at the
shelter are in violation of state or local law, include this pertinent
information in your letter to or meeting with officials, and notify law
Round up public support for your campaign by writing letters to
the editors of your local newspapers detailing your findings and how to
improve conditions. Start a letter-writing campaign to those responsible
for overseeing the shelter's operation, and ask concerned individuals
to sign and circulate petitions to present to officials.
Attend council or board meetings. Urge supporters to attend and voice their concerns.
Encourage local media to cover your campaign and the problems at
the shelter—copy any correspondence with officials to local media to
pique their interest. Click here for more details and campaign strategies.
Stick with it! Your campaign may be challenging but your
compassion and determination will make a difference for countless
animals who desperately need your help. You might be their only hope.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.