Where does Animal Control End and Animal Welfare Begin?

One of the most difficult questions to answer in animal sheltering is where does Animal Control Services end and Animal Welfare begin? For example, many cities have an Animal Control Organization that enforces laws, picks up stray and nuisance animals and provide a holding building for stray or surrendered animals. Many of these same organizations provide temporary housing for these animals for the minimum period of time: 3 days for an animal not wearing identification and 5 days for an animal wearing id (typical state mandated holding periods). At the end of the set time period the animals are adopted, transferred or euthanized.

If an Animal Welfare group is providing Animal Control duties they will often provide a higher or deeper level of care, including: behavior assessments, intake exams and vaccinations, s/n services, microchipping, foster care, extended hold periods, medical and behavior assistance, etc – no matter how long it takes. But when a city has been set up under the taxpayer funded Animal Control model, where does an animal welfare component come in?

Boarding animals is expensive business. The quality of care determines the cost per night. In a basic, progressive shelter that cost is around $25/night. By the time the state mandated holding period is up a city has already spent $75-$125 on an animal. If the animal was undernourished, sick, injured or aggressive they require more than the basic level of care and cost {the city} even more. But if we say it costs on average $100 per animal just to board and feed them and a city has 5,000 animals coming to its animal shelter – that’s a half-a-million dollar expense the city has to cover.

That’s significant. Many cities cannot justify or come close to covering this cost. This is not unusual. Even non-profit shelters that contract with cities and municipalities often have to take less per night per animal than it actually costs to provide their care. So for example if it costs a shelter $25/night for an animal they may need to negotiate a contract with the city that comes in at $20/night (or less) depending on how fiscally challenged the municipality is. This is not to say that the quality of care for these animals is any different because the city can only pay so much – but instead that the animal lovers of the community are willing to offset the remainder.

And this is where we can draw the line between Animal Control and Animal Welfare. The animals deserve to be cared for in a humane and caring manner and need to be housed until transport or re-homing can take place. But the city cannot afford to do that, so community animal lovers need to. Animal lovers need to work together to provide for the animals in the communities – we cannot sit back and watch while the government dictates what is good and bad for animals when they don’t have the experience, knowledge or concern necessary to make educated decisions.

There’s bunches of resources available online for anyone wanting to go this route. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can provide when working with Animal Shelters and Animal Control Organizations is to respect the people you’re working with. If you walk in with an attitude that the organization is broken…you won’t find any allies. But if instead you walk in and help, listen and spend time communicating – a lot can be accomplished.

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