October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month and in celebration of that fact I'll be writing some posts specifically about bringing home a new dog. The first thing I'd like to discuss is where to adopt your dog from: rescue or shelter? So, what's the difference between a rescue and a shelter? Typically the term shelter is reserved for a physical facility where dogs are kept, versus keeping the dogs in foster homes which is what many rescues do. And within the category of "shelter" there are two kinds of shelters: "no-kill" and open admission shelters (commonly called "kill shelters").
First and foremost, there is a serious problem with society's view of these two different types of shelters. I often get asked if someone should support a "kill" shelter, or if the rescues I work with are "kill" shelters, like the person doesn't want to support this awful thing, but the truth is that open admission shelters are a valuable, necessary part of society and do some of the toughest work out there in animal welfare and rescue. Notice I said open admission shelters, which is the proper label, not kill shelters. The real difference between kill shelter and open admission shelters is that the latter must take every single animal that is surrendered or brought to them, whether that dog is from an owner, found as a stray, or some other situation. It is illegal for them to turn any animal away, which means that sometimes they have no choice but to euthanize for space. When you have 200 kennels and 250 dogs, eventually logistics will become a problem.
Additionally, a no-kill shelter doesn't even necessarily mean "no-kill" in a literal sense; typically it means that shelter has a live release rate of 90%, which means that a possible 10% of animals taken in can be euthanized if they are deemed "unadoptable" (typically due to behavioral or medical reasons). No-kill shelters do not legally have to take in animals and are allowed to pick and choose which animals to pull, choosing the youngest, cutest, ands healthiest animals to re-home. A few good articles to read about this topic can be found here and here.
Please understand, I'm not saying the above to belittle the work of anybody involved in rescues; all parties, both open admission and no-kill entities, are very important and the more ethical, responsible people we have involved in rescue work the better. However, I wish we as a society would stop calling them "kill" shelters (which makes it sound like a terrible place where cruel people work and "kill") and start truthfully calling them open admission shelters and appreciate them for the work they do.