What Are Open Admission Animal Shelters?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that over 1.5 million cats and dogs are euthanized every year in America's shelters. Open admission animal shelters help to end animal abandonment, homelessness and unnecessary euthanasia. These shelters have revolutionized care for animals that don't have a place to live by finding them homes while also lowering the number of animals that are euthanized.

What Are Open Admission Shelters?

Open admission animal shelters take in abandoned, owner-surrendered and stray animals. They then work with the pets to find them forever homes so they won't be on the street or euthanized for population control. Some pets may need medical or behavioral rehabilitation, and trainers will work with them to develop the skills to manage aggression or overcome shyness.

There are many different programs that allow these shelters to stay functional. Promotions for animal adoptions (from social media sharing to the Gifford Cat Shelter's kitty 5K in Boston, Massachusetts) are a huge driver in rehoming pets and supporting the mission of a shelter. Foster programs also take care of vulnerable pets while they are awaiting adoption, explains Petfinder. Finally, shelters work to establish spay and neuter programs in their communities and ally with animal control officers to develop community feral cat strategies and kitten nurseries.

Bearded man hugging a gray cat closely to his chest.

Why Do Open Admission Shelters Sometimes Euthanize Animals?

Unlike limited admission shelters that euthanize animals as a means of population control, open admission animal shelters only put animals to sleep that are extremely sick, suffering or unable to be rehabilitated enough to be adopted. However, that doesn't mean some animals aren't euthanized after being admitted to the shelter. Best Friends reports that "the benchmark to achieving no-kill is when a community saves at least 90 percent of the homeless animals it takes in." Pet euthanasia happens only in situations where animals are suffering from a severe injury or illness and a veterinarian decides they'll experience a poor quality of life. Similarly, an animal with extreme behavioral issues that doesn't react well to rehabilitation may also be put down.

The good news is that shelters aren't the only organizations leading the open admission movement. According to NPR, some cities, such as Los Angeles and New York City, have started initiatives for a citywide goal of saving 90 percent. Best Friends' ultimate goal is for the entire United States to stop unnecessary euthanasia by 2025.

How to Help Open Admission Animal Shelters

If you're interested in supporting an open admission animal shelter near you, there are many ways you can get involved. The easiest ways to help are by donating goods, giving your time or providing financial support. Shelters are always in need of healthy food and treats for their pets. They also need blankets, toys, leashes, collars and other useful items you might not think of, such as laundry detergent.

If you have the energy and time to volunteer, do it! Shelters are often in need of volunteers to play with animals and take them on walks. There's also a lot of dirty work that needs to be done, such as cleaning enclosures or bathing a dog or cat. Volunteers are also helpful during adoption events or with non-animal tasks, like marketing or social media management.

Finally, don't underestimate the good a financial donation does for an animal shelter. No monetary gift is too small when the organization is responsible for all veterinarian visits, vaccinations, flea and tick medications, food, utilities and boarding for many animals at a time. Plus, it costs money to list these animals for adoption and get the attention of their local communities.

The last thing that you can do is to adopt. The saying, "when you adopt you're saving two lives," is true — when you adopt you not only help save the life of the pet you adopt, but you also clear room for another pet to be rescued and saved at the shelter. Adoption should never be only an emotional response. You should always do your homework and make sure you are prepared to adopt. There is nothing worse for the pet than getting adopted, only to be returned shortly after because the owner wasn't prepared for the work associated with caring for the pet. Shelters of all sorts are limited in size and resources for admitting animals, and while open admission shelters will do what they can to accommodate as many pets as possible, adoptions are the best way to help them distribute their resources most effectively.

Open admission animal shelters are thriving, but they still need our help. Euthanasia rates have been plummeting steadily for decades, and with volunteering and community efforts there's hope that they will go even lower.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.

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