You’re not just going to kill it, are you?

Those were the words spoken by the woman as she handed me a small cardboard box. I smiled politely and explained that the baby bird would be tube fed every few hours until we could transfer him to the local wildlife center where he would be rehabilitated and released.

In addition to baby birds, I have been handed the 100+ pound unsocialized backyard dog…boxes and boxes of kittens…the bunny burned to the brink of death in a hillside fire…the cockatiel that landed on someone’s window sill and, of course, the guinea pig that “my daughter doesn’t want anymore.”

I work in the kennels at an urban animal shelter where we care for some 18,000 animals each year, including almost 200 rabbits. We are The Pound.

For too many people, the word pound conjures up images of a filthy, foul-smelling, dimly-lit building filled with panicked animals waiting to be put to death by unfeeling killers. But this is not the place that I know. The place where I work–though far from faultless—is a shelter, a refuge. It’s a place where a dog who has lived at the end of a chain in a yard experiences a warm, dry place to sleep, adequate food, clean water, kind words and gentle hands. It’s a place where a forgotten bunny who has spent night after night in a tiny, barren cage in the garage recieves a big, clean cage, a litterbox filled with hay, toys, gentle pats on the head and slices of apple…and a chance at a new home, a better life.

But what about animals being destroyed at the Pound? Yes, animals die at the shelter. A lot of animals. They die humanely and quickly, held by caring, skilled hands. They are not killed by the wheels of a car, or by the jaws of a hungry raccoon, or by the slow devastation of disease.

And then there are those whose happy, healthy lives are cut short because time has run out and no one has come to adopt them. I do wish that the rabbits at my shelter had a longer stay, a better shot at meeting the right new people. I wish there was more public awareness that rabbits can be adopted from shelters and that there were more HRS foster homes to take in bunnies.

The Pound is a dumping ground. Those of us who work and volunteer at shelters must make decisions for the animals that nobody wants. We’re an easy target. And I would be happy to be out of work.

Katie Dinneen

Katie Dinneen is the Co-Manager for the San Francisco House Rabbit Society

House Rabbit Journal Volume III, Number 8, Summer 1996