Wondering what a day in the life at an animal shelter is like? People often walk in to a shelter and think it seems like a fun and easy job playing with the furry faces and waggly tails. And it frequently is fun! But it also takes a lot of hard work.
Every morning, 365 days a year, the day begins at 5 a.m. Whether it’s frigid cold or steamy hot, kennel attendants hose down every dog run, clean out every cat and rabbit cage and make sure all animals get fresh food and water. No sleeping in for staff as hundreds of animals depend on them every day of the year!
If staffing is available, and animal volunteers plentiful, animals get exercised and extra veterinary care provided. All must receive vaccinations and worm and parasite treatments to prevent the spread of any disease throughout. Staff maintain records, process in-takes and adoptions and care for other animals such as birds, pocket pets and turtles that come in. They also upkeep the physical facility and its machinery and go on calls to pick up dead, stray or injured animals. They answer barking dog complaints or check out information on hoarders, cat colonies or a coyote of concern. Whether a non-profit, private or government-funded shelter, there never is enough money or hands to help the plight of homeless animals. And don’t forget: The building itself also needs to be maintained for the health and safety of humans and animals alike.
The most successful animal shelters are lucky enough to take it a step farther by educating the public about spay and neuter (and maybe even assist with the surgeries), holding vaccination clinics and teaching about proper adoptions – all while making their shelter appear friendly so that people will feel welcome and eager to adopt. This is especially difficult if they have a tight budget.
Sometimes more difficult than the day-to-day physical work, is the emotional toll working at an animal shelter can take. Those who work at such places generally really care about animals, so dispel the cartoon image of the net-carrying villain. Realize that animal control officers aren’t just “dog catchers,” but more accurately, an animal’s best friend – getting a dog safely out of traffic, freeing a deer from barbed wire or taking in a momma and her litter of kittens that were fending for themselves.
Additionally, staff are faced with people coming in with an animal by their side saying, “We can no longer care for him.” “He just isn’t trainable.” “Our life is too busy for a dog.” “The kids are allergic to the cat.” The shelter staff must smile while taking the animal into their care, knowing that in many cities, this will be that devoted pet’s last day of life as the shelter itself is out of room to care for even one more. What gets them through these moments is finding the right human for the right animal and making a forever match. That is what keeps shelter workers moving forward – happy dogs and cats going home with their delighted new families!
We give four paws up to these amazing people everywhere! People become animal shelter workers because they genuinely enjoy working with animals, to heal their own hearts after losing a precious pet or to get their animal fix since they currently don’t have one. Through their interaction, they learn the importance of kindness, responsibility and how even one person can make a difference. Saving lives has to be the greatest gift of all!