Are Shelters BAD for Dogs? – The Surprising Truth

There are a lot of heated debates about whether or not shelters are bad for dogs.

But are shelters bad for dogs in the grand scheme of things?

Shelters can be bad for dogs if they’re neglected in any way. Otherwise, they can be a safe space for homeless animals where they can rehabilitate for adoption.

In this blog post, we’ll explore whether or not shelters are bad for dogs as well as both sides of the argument, and let you decide for yourself!

Are Shelters Bad for Dogs?

Shelters that are not taking care of dogs can be bad.
If a shelter doesn’t do its due diligence to prevent overcrowding and care for the dogs, shelters can become stressful places for dogs.

It’s important to remember that all dogs are individuals with their own unique needs and personalities.

As such, not all dogs will thrive in a shelter environment.

However, there are some important things to keep in mind when considering whether or not a shelter is the best place for a dog.

Shelter Environment

Unfortunately, many dogs end up in shelters because their owners can no longer care for them.

While shelters provide a safe environment for dogs, they can also be stressful places.

The constant noise and commotion can be overwhelming, and the lack of human interaction can be frustrating.

As a result, some dogs become anxious, withdrawn, and even depressed. Others may become aggressive or hyperactive.

While shelters do their best to provide a safe and nurturing environment, they may not be the best place for all dogs.

Dogs that are older or have special needs may do better in a quiet home environment.

Shelter Conditions

Most shelters do an excellent job of providing a safe, clean environment for dogs while they wait to be adopted.

But, it’s important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with shelters.

Dogs in shelters are at risk of exposure to diseases and parasites, and they may also be exposed to toxic chemicals used to clean the premises.

If you’re considering adopting a dog from a shelter, have the animal examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Watch this video on what an outbreak of disease can do in an animal shelter:

Shelter Population

Finally, shelters are often overcrowded and understaffed.

This can sometimes result in poor care for the animals in the shelter, and it can also lead to behavioral problems in the dogs that are housed there.

When choosing a shelter for your dog, if you can, be sure to visit the facility and meet with the staff.

euthanasia in shelters

Do dog shelters kill dogs?

Unfortunately, this can be the case.

While most shelters work hard to find homes for every single animal that comes through their doors, in worst-case scenarios, a dog at a shelter may need to be euthanized.

This usually happens when a dog that has been abandoned or rescued is too dangerous to humans and other animals.

It can also occur if the dog is too sick, or too injured.

Unfortunately, in some cases, dogs will be euthanized at shelters due to overcrowding and underfunding.

Read our related article, Does the Animal Shelter Put Dogs to Sleep? to learn more about why this happens.

Benefits of Shelters for Dogs

Are shelters all bad for dogs?
For some dogs, a dog shelter may be the best experience they’ve had.

Are shelters good for dogs? They certainly can be.

With all the negatives out of the way, let’s talk about all the benefits of dog shelters.

  • When stray dogs find themselves in a dog shelter, they’re given a safe place to sleep, food, water, toys, and playtime.
  • If an owner surrenders their dog, they are giving their dog the chance to find their perfect forever home rather than abandoning them somewhere unsafe.
  • Most shelters will also work on training dogs that have never been trained before, addressing behavioral issues. Shelter dogs can also be good candidates for service work.
  • Shelters will provide the appropriate medical care. This is a wonderful benefit for those dogs that have not been taken care of appropriately.

While this list is not exhaustive, the main benefits of health, purpose through training and finding their forever family give shelter dogs a new lease on life.

Read More: How to Surrender Your Dog to a Shelter. If you can no longer care for your dog, there are safe options available. Learn more.

Alternatives to Shelters for Homeless Dogs

Are there alternatives to shelters for homeless dogs?
Rescue organizations and foster homes are great alternatives to shelters for homeless dogs.

In the United States, an estimated 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters every year.

While shelters provide a vital service for homeless dogs, some alternatives may be more suitable for some dogs.

Besides your local city shelter, there are rescue organizations that specialize in re-homing dogs, which can be an option for owners who are unable to keep their dogs but don’t want to take them to a shelter.

These organizations often have foster homes lined up in advance, so they can place dogs directly into loving homes rather than keeping them in a shelter environment.

Many people believe that shelters are places where homeless animals go to find their forever homes.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

If you plan to surrender your dog, consider the alternatives of rehoming or rescue organizations with foster homes.

Read our related article, Where Can I Surrender My Dog for Free? for more advice and information.


Overall, the research indicates that shelters are not bad for dogs and may even be beneficial for dogs in some ways.

And the consensus among animal welfare professionals is that shelters are not bad for dogs.

Shelters provide a safe and clean environment for dogs, and staff members are typically very well-trained in handling and caring for dogs.

In addition, shelters usually have a lot of experience with socializing dogs, which can be beneficial for shy dogs.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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