Some shelters finding ways to keep pets in their homes

The woman’s dog lived outdoors at the end of a chain, with only a doghouse for shelter. He had some serious medical issues. Neighbors complained to the city that the dog was neglected.

When officers responded, they confiscated the dog and gave the owner citations totaling more than $800. But the officers took an extra step. They called the Jacksonville Humane Society in Florida to ask if the shelter would work with the owner, saying, “We think she really loves this dog; she just doesn’t have the resources.”

Their instincts were right on, says JHS Executive Director Denise Deisler. “The woman dearly loved her dog, but she’d never received any information about what might be proper care for a dog and why he might be better off in the house than in the backyard.”

The owner agreed to work with JHS, which provided the dog’s medical treatment, and all charges and fines were dropped. They provided the owner with a crate and a bed and bowls, and she moved the dog into her house.

“This woman now has a more appropriate relationship with her dog; the dog is now healthy, and he’s not sitting in a shelter,” Deisler says. “A dog who’s been in a backyard his whole life is not typically the first dog who gets adopted.”

Imagine if your local shelter could keep up to half of the pets brought to them in their current homes. Jacksonville is just one place where that’s happening. Deisler and shelter executives like her are passionate about retention: keeping pets in homes by removing barriers that might otherwise land them in the shelter.

Instead of just accepting pets brought in for surrender, they offer practical assistance and advice. Take medical care. Many people surrender animals because they can’t afford needed veterinary care. “We have incredible luck with keeping animals out of the shelter by offering medical care,” Deisler says. “My stance is that if they surrender to a shelter, we’re going to end up paying for medical care, anyway. Why not pay for it and let them go back home?”

Other retention efforts include boarding dogs for people who are temporarily homeless or are seeking crisis shelter for domestic violence. They’re able to offer that service by partnering with a local boarding facility and exchanging publicity for its boarding services. They may pay the pet deposit on rental housing if lack of it is the only thing preventing a person from keeping a pet.

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Colorado is one of a number of shelters that offer training classes and behavior advice to people whose relationship with a pet is faltering because of behavioral issues. Its full-service veterinary clinic has a subsidized program for people whose income might not permit them to afford treatment for a pet. Some shelters have low-cost or free spay/neuter programs or pet-food pantries to help out people who may have lost a job and are struggling to feed a pet.

“For us, it’s almost anything goes,” Deisler says. “If you really love your pet and want to keep your pet, we will do whatever we need to do to keep that pet with the people who love him. We’re not judgmental.”

The buzz

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, air carriers must report to the Department of Transportation more incidents that involve the loss, injury or death of an animal during air transport. The new rule, announced in July by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, expands the reporting requirement to include all U.S. carriers that operate scheduled service with at least one aircraft with a capacity of more than 60 seats and redefines “animal” as all cats and dogs transported by the carrier, whether those animals are being transported as pets by owners or as part of a shipment by a commercial breeder.

Previously, the rule did not apply to breeder shipments. The DOT publishes reports of incidents in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, available at