The single greatest reason so many dogs in shelters are killed is that shelters do a very poor job of trying to rehome dogs.
This is not just my opinion; it has been demonstrated time and time again by the folks in the No Kill movement, who always see a decline in killing, and an increase in dog adoptions, when real effort is put into lowering barriers, increasing advertising, taking better pictures, telling better stories about the dogs, and doing even the most rudimentary training.
And yet, as Dana McMahann notes in an article for NBC news, too often what folks face when they visit a rescue are black and white rules that seem divorced from reality or experience:
Katie (first name only used at her request), a longtime dog parent in Indiana, wanted to adopt a dog after her family's passed away. She went to a local rescue specializing in Labs and Golden Retrievers, the breeds her husband had while growing up.
"The application itself was eight pages long," she told NBC. "It asked some normal questions, like my background owning a pet. It also asked about any medical conditions we had, whether we were planning on having children, what our jobs were, and what our schedules were like. I thought those were a bit much, but I answered them."
Their application was rejected. Why? "The staff member told me it was because I was not 'a stay-at-home puppy parent,'" Katie said. "If we wanted to adopt a dog from this organization, I had to quit my job. That seems rather impractical, especially if we're going to be paying for dog food and vet bills."
So what's the solution?
From a prospective pet owner's side of the table, it's to simply go elsewhere; find a rescue where the folks in charge are actually trying to have a conversation, and are not on a power trip. And, to be honest, it is a power trip for some folks on the rescue side, many of whom actually know very little about dogs and are leaning on artificial check lists removed from reality as a consequence.
On the rescue side, not only do the hours of shelter operation need to conform to the real human schedules of prospective adopters, but so too does some nod be given to reality. People have jobs, not every yard has to be hard fenced (dogs have done fine on slide cable runs for a 100 years), and many of the folks coming to a shelter are not new to dog ownership.