The shelter dilemma
Is it possible to find passion and a profitable partnership in the world of lost and abandoned pets? Some veterinarians have found a way.
May 01, 2008
At first glance, it may seem like private practitioners are on the same team as shelter personnel, animal control officers, and rescue groups. Everyone wants the best for the pets who wind up in their facilities.
But beneath this unified surface runs an undercurrent of suspicion. Shelter staff worry that veterinarians are badmouthing them when treating pets adopted from their facilities: "This disease should have been diagnosed. This animal had to have been sick at the shelter." In turn, veterinarians worry that shelters tell folks that private-practice doctors are heartless profitmongers because they have the audacity to charge for their services when so many animals need help.
Are you ready to break the impasse? Do you want to help but don't know how to balance animal-welfare needs with those of your business? Well, many of the shelter personnel we talked to want just one thing from you: A listening ear. They have stories to tell. They're reaching out. Can you spare a minute?
The big, fancy shelter
In Wayside Waifs' lobby, a receptionist sits at an information desk, signs point toward dog and cat adoption areas, and, on this day, a volunteer explains to a new adopter that a resident dog's behavior issues stem from abuse by a previous owner. Unlike many animal control facilities and shelters, Wayside Waifs can afford a staff of more than 50, including four technicians and two full-time veterinarians who maintain protocols for behavioral assessment, disease treatment, and other health considerations.
Courtney Thomas, director of operations, has been working at Wayside Waifs since 2002 and knows that reality. This shelter is Kansas City's largest and one of its finest, but it's not immune from the problems every shelter faces. "The moment an animal walks into a shelter, it's potentially exposed," Thomas says. "The best we can do is vaccinate on intake, cut down on stress levels, and do our best to limit the spread of disease."