A Tale of Two Kitties, or Fenris rants about his visit to a shelter.

I was looking around for a new cat, and went to several shelters today. Let me start out by stating the following: I have the highest respect for shelter-workers. It’s a hard job, the pay is low, the work can’t be entirely pleasant and most shelters are understaffed. Frankly, it’s not a job I could do.

That said, despite the hardness of the job, I expect basic professionalism and courtesy, even in the face of hard working conditions.

I went into the shelter at 10:10 am. The posted opening time is 10:00. I tried to enter the dog and cat area, and found the door locked. A bored looking guy (not a worker) told me that “they” had said that they were still cleaning the cages. I asked him if he knew how long it would be. He shrugged and said “I barely got told that they were cleaning. I haven’t seen anyone since.”

I went to the counter and (eventually) the worker stopped answering incoming phone-calls long enough to address me “What do you need?” he asked, without greeting or introduction.

I asked him if he knew how long it’d be before the shelter would be open. He shrugged and said “I dunno. Maybe 5 more minutes?”

I thanked him and sat down to wait. 20 minutes later, I was still waiting (along with a small crowd who’d gathered. Apparently the day after a holiday is a popular time to adopt.) I asked again, he again said “I dunno. Maybe 5 more minutes?”

At 10:50, the doors finally opened and everyone who hadn’t left (about 4 groups of people) poured into the shelter. I tried to look at the cats around the 3 people who were changing their litter, giving them food and water, etc. Apparently they were just starting on the cats.

I wrote down the number of several I was interested in getting more info on and went back to the front desk, which now had a 6 person deep line. There were three workers there (plus one in a back office). One was filling out some paperwork for a customer, two were answering phone calls and one was actually helping people. After about 20 minutes more in line, and the line only having shrunk by one person who’d gotten tired of waiting and left, I got disgusted myself and walked out.

I went to the Denver Dumb Friends League shelter where, although I didn’t find the right cat, I had an exceptional experience with an employee there who was knowledgeable, courteous and helpful.

I know which shelter I’m going back to.

Suggestion 1:
The customers who are there are more important than the customers calling in. If one of the two must be sacrificed (ideally, neither would, but it’s better to pay attention to the customer in your store, not the potential customer), don’t get the phone.

Suggestion 2:
If there’s a wait or a problem, let the customers know. In the 40 minutes I’d waited, the guy behind the desk never once apologized for the delay, gave us an update, etc. A little info or just a “I’m sorry, we’re having some unexpected issues. We’ll be open as soon as possible” would have gone a long way towards appeasing those customers who’d left.

Suggestion 3: The way this shelter was set up, it would have been easy as pie to only allow access to some of the cages. Why not? For that matter, why not let people into the cat area while the dog area is being cleaned? (Although I grant that there may be safety considerations I’m not aware of.)

Suggestion 4: The number one goal of a shelter is to adopt pets, I assume. Given that, again, all the other crap should be secondary. It doesn’t take 3 people to clean out litterboxes in the cat room. Even if the people weren’t trained to do the actual adoptions, they could have gotten two of 'em up front answering questions, looking up histories of the animals or even answering the phone.

At least six people/families didn’t adopt at this shelter who might’ve otherwise done so if a bit of common sense was used. Most people don’t mind waiting if they’re kept informed (I recall a study by an airline about this. In one case, they handed out free snacks during a delay, but didn’t say anything, in the other, no snacks but lots of info on why there was a delay and what was being done. The people who were given info were much happier than the people who were given snacks and rated the quality of the service much higher.)

What’s funny is that I saw 4 of the 6 people/families who’d walked out at the second shelter. I struck up a conversation with one of 'em who said much of what I’d said above.

There are asshole customers, no doubt about it. But I wasn’t and neither were the other people who’d left. It would have taken so little effort to appease us, I can’t understand why they didn’t.

Fenris, bracing himself for the inevitable “Customers SUK and it’s HARD to deal with the public. Plus they don’t get paid much” rebuttal

Be glad the litterboxes were being cleaned, Fenris.

I used to work in one of the cat rooms at an animal shelter. Those places are indescribably filthy. In fact, I felt like taking in all those animals just to get them out of that room. The floor was never cleaned. There were nearly 100 cats in a windowless, airless room the size of my goddamn dorm room. There was one litterbox for 100 cats, and it went for days without being emptied. It got so bad that the cats eventually started shitting on the floor, which was only cleaned up (with a paper plate and paper towel, might I add, the floor wasn’t disinfected) before prospective customers showed up. The cats would get bored and cranky and swat at each other, and the wounds would be completely ignored. I wish I could have reported that shelter to some higher authority.

Fenris-if this is how they treat potential pet adopters, makes me wonder how they treat the animals!

Guin, Daowajan, from what I could see, the place was spotless and the animals seemed well-kept. The animals seemed…stressed(?) though. More so than usual at other shelters ( the Dumb Friends League shelter I went to afterwards, to name one). At the DFL shelter, the animals were…mellower.

Another bit of stupidity at the first shelter: the way the place is set up it’s like a Roman Numeral III: a short central hallway with three (or four?) long rows perpendicular to the short hallway with pens on either side of each long hall.

Why in the world would you put the dogs that bite, with big: DANGER!!! BITES!!! DO NOT TRY TO PET!!! warning signs at the front of one of the aisles? Shouldn’t you put the potentially (or actually) dangerous dogs, for their sake as well as the potential adopters in the back, where they can be left alone, fenced off and left in peace and quiet?

The big problem, as far as I could tell with my limited perspective, was a complete lack of management. It looked like they had enough people to go around and, except for the doofus at the front desk who wouldn’t get off the phone long enough to give updates, most of the people seemed harrassed, directionless and confused, but decent.


Is that REALLY what it’s called - the Denver Dumb Friends League?

At first I thought you were just making up a name because you couldnt remember the actual one - like, saying the convention was the ‘Society for Stupid and Ugly Customers,’ if all the convention goers were stupid and ugly.

But then you referred to it a second time in a seemingly straight-up fashion, so I must know:

Denver Dumb Friends League?

Why Dumb?

Did a Dumb Family (ha ha) leave a lot of money to the shelter? Do Denverites really like alliteration? Are all the people associated with the shelter really nice and really helpful and really dumb?

Please inform, and sorry for the hijack.

Sneeze, catlover of the highest degree

My guess is that “Dumb” is a reference to the fact that dogs and cats cannot talk, and that they are the “Friends” being referred to.

Fenris, I’m not sure what relevance this has, but do you know if these were employees or volunteers? At the animal shelters around here, I can’t imagine them having many, if any paid employees.

From Merriam-Webster Online:

So, there you have it. It’s a perfectly good word that describes the fact that animals can’t speak.


Yeah, dumb is a perfectly cromulent word. Yeesh.

Yup, that’s their name. I’m pretty sure that the Dumb Friends League is nationwide. In this case, Dumb=Mute.

From their site:

And remember, the DFL was the good shelter. I’ve specifically not given the name of the shelter I didn’t care for.

You can read more about 'em at http://www.ddfl.org

LaurAnge: I don’t know if they’re paid employees or volunteers. I’m guesing, based on the ages that at least some of 'em are volunteers. But even if they’re volunteers, they should be expected to do a better job than they did yesterday.

quixotic78: Not only that, but it embiggens me.


This applies to all customer service establishments everywhere. I have worked behind the counter, I have been the person calling in, and I have been the person waiting there while the twit behind the counter takes 11 phone calls.

Here is how easy it is:

Phone rings. “Hello, this is Name of Business. I’m with a customer right now. You can call again in 20 minutes, or give me your name and number and I’ll call you back within the hour.”


Phone rings. Answering machine picks up. A voice says “You’ve reached Name of Business. Our hours are 11-5. Our staff are busy assisting customers in the office. Please leave your name and number and someone will call you back within the hour.”


Have someone whose main job is to greet customers and answer the phones.

Simple, elegant, obvious. Like all the plans that will be implemented when I am in charge.


Thanks for the explanation : )

Fenris, you still looking for a cat? I have a friend who, due to really, really miserable circumstances (her fiance has brain cancer, she has to drop everything and move across the country to take care of him) has to give her 1 year old kitty away. She’s been spayed, and has all her shots. I was hoping to take her, but it turns out I can’t. She’s a little tortoiseshell, really nice kitty.

I talked to the friend this morning, and she’s planning on taking the kitty to the Humane Society today if she can’t find someone to take her. We’re up in Longmont, btw.

I agree with Magdalene. When I worked at an animal hospital, there were times when it would get real busy (like the day after a holiday), and we’d have lots of people in the waiting room, for appointments, or to buy something, or ask a question, and the phones would be ringing off the hook. We’d tend to the people in the lobby first, if the phone rang and you had to pick it up, you’d say, “Excuse me”, answer the phone, and then tell the person you’d be with them in a minute and put them on hold. Sometimes one of us would “man the phones” and catch all the calls, while the other staff helped the customers. If we had an emergency come in during appointments, we would let all the clients who were there waiting know, and give them the option of waiting or rescheduling. We were all courteous and polite to a fault, and it seems like that’s becoming more and more unusual these days.

Fenris, does the PetSmart in your area have cats for adoption? The one in my area does- they have a deal worked out with a local rescue organization where the cats stay at PetSmart, and are given all their vaccinations, dewormed, and spayed/neutered, and the money you pay goes to the rescue organization.

Good Luck!