We don’t like to talk about it, but shelter dogs don’t live an easy life. Our columnist talks to two shelter managers about the realities of dog adoption.

Owners who leave their pets at shelters often ask about euthanasia, but the fact is that living in a shelter is very difficult for dogs. “Dogs who move from home to home become disorientedjust like a child moving from one home to another would be,” says Edward Lim, manager at PAWS shelter.

“You’ve got to understand that for a pet who has lived in a private home, it’s shocking to be in a pound with lots of other dogs. They have to learn to defend themselves against bully dogs, and they can see freedom but they can’t get it.

“Also, they can get very depressed from being dumped by their family. For many dogs, it takes a while before they can trust people again. We have some dogs in here that will never be able to trust humans again – they’re with us for life.”

While shelters try to find homes for all their animals, the sad truth is that animals that have been in the shelter for a year or more can be institutionalised. Like orphaned children, it takes a special person to help them become accustomed to living with a family again.

“When the dog has been used to living in a pack, it can be frightening to be alone,” Lim points out. “A dog in that state might bark, chew things or act up at first. It takes compassion, education and tolerance to settle such dogs. That’s not a job for a first-time dog owner.”

As such, responsible groups don’t allow just anyone to adopt any pet. Careful screening ensures that pets are matched correctly to new families. For new owners, a young dog that’s easily socialised and already toilet-trained is ideal.

These sweet-natured dogs from SPCA Penang are looking for good homes.