A mail carrier recently made a gruesome discovery while making her rounds in rural Michigan: the bodies of three dead dogs lying in the middle of a dirt road.
At first, she thought that the dogs had been shot, but an examination of their bodies revealed that they had died of blunt trauma, likely from being hit by a car. A fourth dog was also hit but later found alive.
Authorities were able to track down the owner, who confessed to turning the dogs loose near a state park after they were turned away by no fewer than three animal shelters. Because he claimed to have taken the dogs to shelters, he was not charged with abandoning them. “[He] tried to do the right thing,” said the local sheriff, in essence giving people carte blanche to abandon their unwanted animals as long as they try to do the “right thing” first.
So who, then, is responsible for these dogs’ deaths? Certainly the man who abandoned them in the woods to fend for themselves and certainly the unknown person who hit them and drove off without a second glance. But the shelters that refused to take the dogs in—leaving their owner with animals he did not want and with few options, none of which were good—also bear a lot of the responsibility.
When shelters throw up roadblocks to surrendering animals by implementing “limited-admission” or turn-away policies—including surrender fees, waiting lists, and refusing to take animals they deem “unadoptable”—it’s a dereliction of duty. They’re basically delegating their job to people who are less equipped—or not equipped at all—to handle it.
When shelters do this, bad things happen to animals—far worse things than a painless injection of sodium pentobarbital. Just a few other recent horror stories in which animals were abandoned include the following:
- A man in Minnesota allegedly threw his unwanted dog out of a car window after being turned away by the local humane society.
- A cat in New York was put in a carrier and thrown into a dumpster because the local shelter had a long waiting list and a $25 surrender fee.
- A Chihuahua in Florida was reportedly abandoned in a crate next to a dumpster by a man who said that he couldn’t afford the local shelter’s $20 surrender fee.
- A cat in California was strangled to death by his owners because the shelter had a waiting list and a $150 surrender fee.
What You Can Do
More and more shelters across the country are tossing commonsense safeguards out the window and adopting misguided, shortsighted, and downright dangerous limited-admission or turn-away policies—and animals are suffering as a result. If your local animal shelter has implemented policies that make it difficult for people to surrender unwanted or stray animals, share this story with shelter management and urge them to keep their doors open to all animals.