OPINION: Animal shelters need more help to continue operations

Sarah Hoot, Copy Editor

Sarah_MugshotVisiting a shelter for the first time can seem like an overwhelming experience; there are barking dogs and mewing cats. There are animals that look like they would rather bite you than become your pet.

But imagine how those animals must feel. They were taken from their homes and put into a place with strange animals in small kennels by people they do not know. The “aggression” viewed by visitors is, more often than not, fear.

Just like that cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover,” don’t judge an animal by its reaction in the shelter.

I have personally volunteered at two different shelters, one over on the west side and the other here in Ellensburg. From my experience, a lot of the animals that come in are extremely sweet once you get to know them.

Bailey, one of the dogs I helped care of at the Ellensburg shelter, was a prime example of this.

He was a large dog, a German shepard mix. So that automatically made first-time visitors a little uneasy. He also lacked formal training, which meant he would jump up, run up to the fence and bark at people walking past.

However, volunteers and shelter workers knew that if you entered Bailey’s kennel and started petting him, he became the sweetest dog around. He would carry around a little rubber elephant like a security blanket, even when taken outside to play in the yard. Basically, he was a big baby.

Bailey is just one of many dogs that come through the doors of the Ellensburg shelter. According to Paula Hake, one of the shelter staff, the number of animals taken in is constantly fluctuating. Luckily, most of those animals get adopted.

Unfortunately, not all shelter animals get such happy endings. I am not a supporter of euthanasia unless the circumstances are so dire that it needs to happen, but many animals end up getting put down because there is just no room for them.

The Ellensburg shelter only has a 2 percent euthanasia rate, according to Hake, but not all shelters have the luxury of such a low number.

dogThat is why public help is so important. Most shelters receive donations, but that is not always enough; they need to find loving homes for their animals.

There are several benefits to adopting rather than buying your new best friend.

For one thing, adoptions are cheaper than purchasing. The Ellensburg shelter charges $80 for dogs and $50 for cats. The shelter includes spaying/neutering and the first round of shots if they are needed in the initial fee. Pet stores, on the other hand, don’t include shots, so you will have to take your new pet to the vet. Furthermore, shelter animals oftentimes require less training because they’ve already been someone’s pet.

Adopting also benefits the animals, too. They get a second chance at being somebody’s pet, they get to have a new place to call their own and they don’t have to live in a kennel anymore.

If you’re looking for a new best friend, head to your local animal shelter and find that special someone, because they are looking for love too and all it takes is that first meeting.