What is the difference between a Municipal and

a Private Shelter?


I get asked about this a lot so I wanted to clear this up.


  • Municipal shelters used to be called "the pound".
  • Municipal shelters receive taxpayer dollars.
  • As a result, they MUST intake ALL animals brought to them.
  • This creates a terrible situation when there is no more intake space.  
  • This can mean immediate euthanasia


‚ÄčEspecially ‚Äčfor "at risk" animals like older cats and dogs, and/or ones with health issues in order to create the space needed because Municipal Shelters are required to intake regardless of space, because they receive taxpayer funds. Fortunately many Municipal shelters have created their own foster care system (and at some even adoption centers), and/or work with private shelters for intake or foster of animals at risk for euthanasia when the Municipal Shelter is low on or out of space.


  • Private shelters receive NO taxpayer funding.
  • They rely COMPLETELY on grants and donations to run the shelter, feed and care for the animals, and pay staff.
  • They also rely heavily on volunteers because there is usually not funding for a large staff.
  • NOT ALL private shelters are No-Kill, nor are they necessarily a sanctuary.
  • Because they do not receive taxpayer dollars, private shelters can limit intake to ensure space.
  • They also have the option to given an animal unlimited time to find a home via space at the shelter or in a foster home, but some do transfer animals back to Municipal Shelters if they are not adopted within a certain time period.


Unfortunately this can be akin to a death sentence. Many private shelters intake from the "kill lists" at their nearby Municipal shelter and/or work with the local Municipal Shelter for temporary foster or intake.


Because private shelters struggle for funding, they cannot always intake an older animal with medical needs due to lack of funds to care for that animal, so these types of animals can remain at high risk for euthanasia.


Many private shelters are now rebranding as "Adoption Centers" to help avoid confusion with sanctuary organizations a nd Municipal Shelters).