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Photograph of a dog at a no-kill animal shelter in Washington, Iowa
A cat in an animal shelter waiting for adoption

An animal shelter is a facility that houses homeless, lost or abandoned animals; primarily a large variety of dogs and cats.

The goal of today's animal shelter is to provide a safe and caring environment until the animal is either reclaimed by its owner, placed in a new home, or placed with another organization. Many progressive shelters temperament-test animals before they are put up for adoption (PUFA) to determine the appropriate home environment.

In the past, they were more commonly referred to as "dog pounds", a term which had its origins in the pounds of agricultural communities, where stray cattle would be penned up or impounded until claimed by their owners.

Some animal shelters euthanize animals that are not adopted within a set period of time; others have a policy of only putting down animals that are in distress due to age or illness.


Types of shelters

There are several distinct types of animal shelters.

The Glocester Town Pound, built in 1748 in Glocester, Rhode Island, is the oldest surviving town pound in America

Animal control agency

Animal control agencies, also known as municipal shelters (or "dog pounds"), are usually nonprofit organizations that are contracted by cities to enforce animal-related ordinances, and to provide animal-related services. In addition to housing animals, many animal shelters also provide education services for pet owners/adopters, low-cost spaying and neutering surgeries, vaccinations, veterinary care, and behavior training or resources.

Open Door Shelters

A shelter that accepts all animals that come to their door without a waiting list and without a fee. A true "Open Door" shelter does not require a fee at surrender (although they will ask for a donation.) An "Open Door Shelter" does not discriminate.

Animal sanctuary

Emma, at the Seattle Animal Shelter

Animal sanctuaries will look after animals for the rest of their natural life, without necessarily attempting to find them any other home. Many of these establishments will take in animals that are not adoptable, such as Feral animals (unsocialized cats), wild animals, abused pets requiring special/unique care, or animals with medical/behavioral concerns that make adoption of pet difficult and possibly unrealistic.

Rescue organization

Animal Rescue Organizations are not animal shelters, but share the same goal as animal shelters in placing homeless pets with adoptive families. Animal shelters are characterized as having a physical location dedicated to housing and caring for many different types of animals, whereas most rescue groups work with one specific breed or type of animal and have volunteers who keep the animals in their homes until adoption, also known as foster care.

Rescue groups often obtain animals from local animal shelters, with the larger of these groups often transporting animals from locations that have a high number of homeless animals to locations where animals are more in demand. Rescue groups are often tied to national breed clubs for a given type of animal.


A No-kill shelter is an animal shelter that does not put an adoptable animal to sleep. Euthanasia often occurs when an animal is unadoptable, usually because of untreatable medical or behavioral issues. This includes young puppies and kittens that need almost constant care and would otherwise need to be put to sleep. A No-kill facility can arrange for these animals to be cared for in foster homes until they are old enough to return to the shelter where they can then be adopted. [1]

See also

External links


  1. ^ Irvine, Leslie. (November 2003). The Problem of Unwanted Pets: A Case Study in How Institutions "Think" about Clients' Needs. Social Problems. University of California Press.


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