Spring is the start of our busiest season here at the shelter. We start getting kittens, surrenders increase as people move, and the warm weather sees more cases of animals abandoned on the streets. As our residence rates increase here at the shelter though, so does visitation. More people start coming in, and more often. Families who had decided to wait until summer vacation to get a pet start coming in to look at what’s available and people considering a dog see the warmer season as a great time to take action, when “walking the dog” is especially pleasant. So what does that mean for those of us who work for the animals here at the shelter? It mean it’s time to share our top tips for visiting the shelter so that both visitors and animals have the best experience possible. Well, not just OURS…we asked the animals too!
Bartholomew from the Cat Adoption Room would like you to please pay attention to animal body language when you visit. If a cat hides under the bed or moves away from you he may not be in the mood to cuddle. If a cat flattens his ears, hisses or swats than he is scared and wants you to give him space, not move closer. The cat rooms can have tens of visitors a day and that can be overwhelming, especially towards the end of the day.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: If a cat indicates that he’s not interested and you keep pressing he may bite out of fear. If a cat bites a human, even if it’s because he was provoked, we have to remove the cat from the adoption floor for a 10 day mandatory hold. That’s a State of Massachusetts regulation. So in some scenarios a human’s bad action can cost an animal it’s ability to be adopted for 10 days. PLEASE pay attention to a cat’s body language!!
Lola in the Dog Adoption Room would like you to only ask to see an animal if you’re serious about adopting. If you take an animal out “just to play” or “just to look” she won’t understand and then she can get super stressed when we have to put her back in the kennel. That stress will manifest as anything from excessive barking to jumping, or unruly behavior. She can also get tired after being taken out several times and it will change the way she interacts with another family, who may actually be interested in adoption.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: We want our animals to present their most accurate personality and it may not seem like you’re 20 minute walk or play time will alter that but trust us, it does. Especially if 5 people all want to see the cute dog without being serious about adopting and then a 6th person comes in who’s actually interested the dog may be too tired to play, too “done” with people to be friendly, or even so stressed that she acts out. This might cost her the right forever family because when they arrived she wasn’t presenting her most accurate self.
15 year old Zestey from the Cat Lounge would like to remind you to please NEVER scruff an animal in the shelter. (Scruffing is picking up an animal by the skin at the base of the neck.)
Shelter Human’s Perspective: The cats in our care may have medical issues that visitors know nothing about. An older cat may have arthritis, for example, and scruffing her could cause serious pain or even damage! If you scruff her, hurt her, and she bites you out of pain or fear, she’s the one who gets taken off the adoption floor and put on the mandatory 10-day hold. Scruffing a rabbit or guinea pig can actually break their backbone and even kill them.
Kyler and Karliah the love birds would like you to know that bonded animals have to go home together. We cannot separate them no matter how much a person only wants one.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: Nothing to add here, it’s just how it is.
Greta the bunny in the Smalls Room would like you to know that your fingers look like carrots to small animals and hot dog pieces to cats and dogs so if you stick your fingers in the cages you may get nibbled.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: Just don’t do it! We tell people all day long not to stick their fingers in the cages but they still do and remember, if a person gets bitten, even if it’s because they broke the rules and stuck their fingers in a cage, the animal is the one who may be penalized with a 10 day hold.
Mamas in the Cat Lounge would like to remind you to sanitize your hands in between animal interactions.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: You know how quickly a cold can spread in an office or school? Things can spread just that quickly in an animal shelter. That’s why we put such a premium on cleanliness at the APCSM and why you’ll see hand sanitizer in every room. Please use it!
Boo in the Dog Adoption room would like you to know that if you yell at him to stop barking he’s going to think you’re talking back to him and just bark more. In fact if you yell at a dog to do just about anything in that room, surrounded by other excited barking dogs, he’s going to think you want to have a barking contest and get really excited about it.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: The Dog Adoption room is a room full of dogs who are super excited to see people, any people, and they’re going to voice that by barking and running and jumping in their small space. To get a true feel for an animal’s personality you should pay attention to Broski…
Broski in the Smalls Room would like you to talk to shelter staff about the type of animal personality you’re looking for and your lifestyle to see if they can point you in the right direction of a match.
Shelter Human’s Perspective: We spend a lot of time with the animals in our care and so we know who needs a super active family, who would be good with kids, and who special needs that need to be considered. Come talk to us about what your looking for or ask questions about an animal you’re interested before you ask to take it out of the cage. It can save you both stress if it turns out not to be a match and might even pair you up with a great pet that you hadn’t considered.
If you have questions about a rule or policy that the shelter has we’d love for you to ask us about it. There’s always a reason we have a specific policy, whether it’s something we’ve learned from years of experience in shelter work or something we decided to implement after an incident. At the end of the day we work for the animals in our care and their health and safety is our top priority.