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22 Things Animal Shelter Workers Will Never Tell You

Our job is 50% cleaning up poo and 10% getting bitten. But we love it. H/T Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.

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1. We get bitten a lot, especially while we're training.

Instagram: @hollyy_parkerr

It's an occupational hazard, especially when you're working with nervous dogs and doing something uncomfortable like cleaning their ears. But you get much better at reading signals and body language as time goes on, so you get bitten less often.

2. And cats can be even more dangerous than dogs.

Cat bites and scratches are more likely to become infected, as cats' sharp teeth penetrate really deeply, injecting bacteria into our skin. This is why we often have to roll them into a "purrito" to give them medication.

3. We hate it when people say, "I wish I got to play with animals all day."

Yeah, all we do is play with them. It's not like we also have to clean out dozens of kennels and cages, feed the animals, bathe them, give them medication, spend time socialising and training them, have meetings, or interview potential rehomers.

4. And we get really annoyed when people say things like "the poor dogs must be so miserable in kennels."

Instagram: @cyprusdogs

Or, even worse: "It's no life for them, they should just be put down." We spend as much time as possible training and playing with the dogs. Yes, they sleep in kennels, and sometimes they get a bit stressed, but they're not sad – they're loved.


5. About 50% of our job is cleaning up poo, but we don't mind.

Dog poo is particularly gross, but it's such a constant part of our job it doesn't even bother us anymore. It helps that we can usually just hose kennels out, though.

6. But it's never OK to call our work unskilled.

We receive training and often have access to seminars, books, and development courses. So bear in mind that the person standing in front of you in the grubby, paw-print-covered T-shirt may well be an expert on feline nutrition or dog behaviour.

7. It's incredibly hard to resist taking animals home.

Which means most of us have a heck of a lot of pets. Sometimes we kid ourselves by saying we're going to "temporarily" foster a cat or dog we're particularly fond of, and then end up permanently adopting them.

8. A surprisingly large number of visitors just start sobbing as soon as they come in.

They're overcome by emotion when they see the cages and react to the fact the animals are behind bars. It's OK though, they really are fine and well cared for.


9. The very best part of our job is having a previously terrified animal start to trust you and begin to bloom.

Watching dogs and cats transform from terrified things into happy, friendly, and loving pets thanks to our hard work is wonderful, and it's what motivates us the most. The first time the animal you've been working with for months approaches you voluntarily, purrs when it sees you, or lets you pat them is amazing.

10. It can be hard to say goodbye to dogs and cats you've looked after for a long time.

It should be the best part of our job, and sometimes it is, but you miss them when they leave. We often have a lot of say in who gets to rehome our charges though, and watching them go home with the "ideal" family really helps soften the blow.

11. So we love it when people bring our ex-residents in for a visit.

People sometimes think that we won't remember them, but we almost always do! What's even better is that they almost always remember us, particularly the dogs.

12. Loads of people return pets they've rehomed without even giving them a chance.

Bringing a new pet back after a day or two just because they peed on your floor or barked at the neighbour is pretty poor behaviour. They need (and deserve) at least a few weeks to find their feet – Adaptil plug-ins are great for helping dogs settle.


13. We're always really disappointed when visitors think Staffordshire bull terriers are "vicious".

Every day we see staffies being passed over by customers who believe the media hype that they're dangerous. They don't believe us when we tell them that the smiley, child-friendly dog in front of them is perfect for their young family – rather than the nippy Yorkshire terrier they've set their heart on. (We really do know best).

14. It's even more disappointing when pets get passed over because they're "ugly".

It's can be a bit infuriating when we put a pedigree fluffball up for adoption and it gets snapped up in an hour, especially when the less cute (but equally loving) dog next to it has been with us for over a year. Unfashionable pets deserve homes too.

15. We occasionally have to turn down potential adopters.

Some pets and owners really aren't suited for each other. If we know a dog has separation anxiety and you're planning to leave it alone most of the time, we can't let you have it. The same goes for young couples who have only been dating for a week and decide to get a puppy together. Maybe leave it for a few months!

16. A few customers won't take no for an answer, and try to fib and bully their way into getting a pet.

They often fixate on one particularly "cute" (but wildly unsuitable) or pedigree pet, then ignore all our comments about it. They argue, lie, shout at us, and patronise us to try to convince us we should let them have it. Funnily enough, that never works.


17. People often try to rehome puppies and kittens as surprise Christmas gifts in December.

It's great that they want to adopt a pet instead of buying one, but a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. Bear in mind that the person you're planning on buying for might not want an animal, or might want to choose their own. We almost always ask people to come back in January instead, with the person the pet will be for.

18. But what's worse is the people who dump their pets just before Christmas, and their excuses.

"My mum's staying and she doesn't like dogs," is one excuse. "Her food is too expensive and I want to be able to buy presents" is another. It's pretty shocking.

19. Although the excuses people use at other times of year are almost as shocking, to be honest.

"My new girlfriend doesn't like her," "He got too big", "He barks when we leave him at home for alone eight hours straight" (no kidding), and, worst of all, "She got too old." Our job definitely makes us question human nature a lot of the time.

20. We cry at work way more often than you'd think.

Instagram: @lanirose__xo

We're tough and used to dealing with difficult situations, but some cases are particularly hard to deal with. When starved, abused, terrified, injured animals come in, it can be deeply sad, especially if they then have to be put to sleep.


21. But our passion is stronger than our heartache.

Our job might be hard, pooey, and sad at times, but we do it because we genuinely care about animals and we know that they need us. We're always there for them, and the passion and love we have for our furry charges help keep us going.

22. And meeting people who genuinely love animals and want to adopt them definitely brightens our day.

Instagram: @mrtwocats

One of the best parts of the job is dealing with genuine adopters who are willing to listen, accept our advice, and who go on to rehome a dog or cat you know they'll love and pamper forever. You guys more than make up for everything else.

This post was put together with the help of staff at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home in Scotland. Click here to meet their cats and dogs, or you can donate here.