Why Are Shelters So Expensive?
Shelters are expensive because they're labor intensive. They also require significant physical plants that are operated round-the-clock and need constant maintenance. And they consume great quantities of food, litter, medicine and other supplies.
The city's three shelters - in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island - house a total of 1,085 animals. The Manhattan and Brooklyn shelters each house 500 animals; Staten Island, 85 animals. They are always full. Often, they have more than a full house. That means
- 1,085 animals have to be fed and watered every day.
- 1,085 cages have to be cleaned every day.
- Thousands of water and food bowls have to be washed every day.
- Hundreds of litter boxes have to be changed every day.
- Hundreds of dogs need to be walked every day.
Every animal who comes in to the shelters has to be vaccinated. Every animal has to be treated for ear mites, worms and other parasites. Any animal who comes in sick or wounded gets medical attention. Because diseases spread so easily in the close confines of a shelter - even the cleanest shelter - a large segment of a shelter's population is treated for illness every day.
Every animal has to be entered into the shelter's record keeping system and tracked for the entire time he or she stays. An animal goes from a receiving cage to a holding cage to a cage where he or she waits for adoption. At any stage, an animal can make a stop in an isolation ward if he or she comes in with, or comes down with, a contagious illness.
Every day, the shelters have to have staff available to accept animals from the public from 8 am to 8 pm. Every day, the shelters run adoption centers from noon to 7 pm. And on many days, shelter employees take animals to off-site adoption centers and events.
Every day, spay and neuter surgeries are performed for those animals who have found a home or are going on to a no-kill shelter or a foster home with a volunteer rescue group. And, sadly, every day, 80 of those not lucky enough to find a home are put down.
The average stay for an animal is seven days. If an animal were in a private boarding facility in the city, that stay would cost $189 for a cat and $343 for a dog.
This summary just begins to skim the surface of what an animal shelter must do and the costs it must bear. The care of animals is a 24/7 job. The shelters must be heated in the winter, cooled in the summer. And because keeping the animals healthy is a big priority, shelters must be cleaned, from top to bottom, every single day.
Every animal who can be kept in his or her home saves the city money - and gives other animals a better chance of finding homes and staying alive.