Why We Need to Refrain From “Saving Dogs From the Shelter”

It’s 5 o’oclock PM on a Saturday.
I’m tired. I’m haven’t eaten anything yet. I’ve been working at the shelter non-stop all day. I’m about to finally clock out and head home when someone walks in to surrender two dogs. Rocky and Pebbles are waiting in the car. Their owner got a promotion and is moving, and he “can’t bring them with him to his new place.” I take a deep breath, and continue to impound his dogs. After this, I get a phone call that a couple of our puppies are sick. They need fluids and medication until a doctor can see to them in the morning. So much for leaving on time. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Today was my 20th birthday.

I am not telling you this because I’m upset that I had to work at the shelter on my birthday. I love my job. I love working with the homeless or unwanted animals. It’s probably my second most favorite place to be, close behind home. I am telling you this to show you how completely dedicated I am to helping the 300+ stray animals who end up in our shelter staff’s care on a daily basis.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am not the only one on staff who skips through lunch to continue working. I am not the only staff member who works on a birthday. And I am certainly not the only one there who is completely dedicated to the stray animals in our care.

When I finally get home that day, and I logged onto my facebook, and saw a familiar face on my screen. It was a dog who had come into the shelter, not too long ago. I remember him because he didn’t look so good when he came in. We gave him a bath, put him on medication, and tried our best to make him as comfortable as possible. Blasted across this dog’s picture were the words, “Free at last! Saved from the shelter!”


A common phrase in rescue…. we’ve all said it before. But for some reason, I felt a sting when I saw it.

“Free at last. Saved from the shelter.”

I’m sorry….Saved from… what exactly? Free from…what exactly? 2 meals a day, play dates in the yard, and medical attention? A bed to sleep in, a clean kennel, and the opportunity to find a new home?


Look. I know that our open intake shelter isn’t the ideal, “safe” place for any dog. We want to get them adopted or into rescue programs as quickly as we can move them through. Shoot. We just took in 800 animals in July. One month. Scary.

But the shelter is not a jail or a hellhole, and it shouldn’t be implied to the public as such… intentional or not. Animals can be saved and freed from lots of things: abusive homes, life on the streets, neglect. The animal shelter is a haven for the unwanted and neglected. Does every animal coming in make it out? Unfortunately, the numbers coming in are too large. Am I going to encourage you to swing by and casually drop off your personal pet there when they are no longer wanted? Of course not. But every animal who comes into the shelter is provided the very best care and attention possible.

If anything, when an animal is adopted or pulled by a rescue, another cage is opened. And another animal is able to fill that cage. And so… the shelter is able to do its job. It is able to “shelter.”

I do not believe that the common phrase is used to intentionally show ill-will toward the animal shelter and its employees. Or at least, I’d like to hope so. Like I said, every one involved in rescue has said this before. If it’s not “saved from the shelter,” it’s “busted out of jail” or some other sort of phrase.

Maybe I’m just being nit-picky. I’m sure I will get a lot of flack for this post. But the sting was there…and I’m sure it’s been there for other shelter employees as well.

There are alternative ways to express our excitement about adoption, without implying that the shelter is a place animals need to be “freed” from. Please, lets be considerate with our word choices.

In the mean time, here are a couple pictures of adoptable pit bulls from our shelter. They seem pretty durn happy to me, but you can be the judge of that 🙂

save5 save8


7 thoughts on “Why We Need to Refrain From “Saving Dogs From the Shelter”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and dedicating your time to these animals. I for one appreciate all that you do to show love and compassion to homeless pets. If I were able I’d adopt every one of them 🙂 Believe me my Chihuahua Amigo has got it made

    • I also have a apple head chihuahua. His best friend is a red nose pit bull. Lol he is 3 lbs probably less and he thinks he’s the boss. Lol wish we could post pics. 😉 ♡

  2. Everything you said and more! I love that you called it a haven – a place of safety and refuge. I think the better caption would be “FROM A HAVEN TO A HOME!” Thank you for your hard work and dedication, and Happy Birthday!

  3. I understand totally what you are saying and where you are coming from. God knows you are a god send for those animals. But as a person who had a pit bull. That was rescued, what we mean is we saved them from “maybe” being put to sleep. That is all. We know yall do all that is humanly possible.
    I hope that helps some. To know that we aren’t by no means judging the shelter. But only the real possibility that if they are not adopted, they will probably die.

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