I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about going to these shelters. I had heard that they were overcrowded and old. With too many animals, often comes overwhelmed staff who, despite all of their great intentions, struggle with care and customer service. It also comes with stressed animals that do not always behave nicely in their kennels due to excess noise and boredom. As animal welfare workers, we strive for the best. But, often, governmental animal control agencies lack funding and volunteer support, and the volume of animals that come through their doors is extraordinary. This dramatically influences the care provided and the meeting of what is called the five freedoms.
Originally created for working/farm animals, the five freedoms are what shelters strive to provide for the animals in their care. The five freedoms are:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4. Freedom to express normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear or distress
Being at a shelter in the first place makes it difficult for an animal to meet all of the five freedoms. But with the help of the community, supporters and volunteers, we are seeing facilities get better and better. And that is what I saw at the County facilities during my tour.
We started our morning in Lancaster. While the facility was on the older side, all of the kennels were clean and had bedding. The staff met us with a smile as they continued to do their morning cleaning. This particular shelter is in a more rural area and also houses farm animals that are in need. During my tour, I learned about an animal cruelty case where they confiscated many horses from deplorable conditions. I also witnessed one of the horses and her hours old foal. It was a beautiful sight and she was an awesome mom. They were happy to share that the case was over and that they were going to be able to start adopting the horses into loving families.
Next, we went to Palmdale, a brand new shelter, that was very welcoming and open. I was particularly impressed with the volunteer support for this facility. Due to the recent Clear the Shelters event, there were few animals in their care. They were gearing up to transfer in animals from another one of their shelters to relieve overcrowding and to have animals available for that community’s adoption needs.
We ended our tour in Castaic, a small shelter close to a county jail where I learned about their plans for growth and that this shelter is used to house horses during disasters. The Castaic center was also light on animals due to proactive adoptions and transfers to other shelters that have a larger capacity.
I am so thrilled that I was able to personally see the great work being done by my partner organization. I encourage everyone to learn for themselves about their local animal shelter, and, if possible, volunteer their time, donate and adopt from a shelter. Working together and supporting organizations that need help is the best way to change and continue to grow.