Denver CO

Saying yes to adopters

I am a critic of pet rescues that make it difficult to adopt.  Mind you, I volunteer and work for rescue organizations.  I criticize and drive the organizations I am aligned with to open up their application/adoption process, but still help out if they don’t.

I look at the problem from the number of pets needing homes.  3-4 million pets are killed in shelters each year.  The most dangerous place for a dog or cat in the U.S. is an animal shelter.  The irony is not funny.

As rescuers, we spend a lot of money, time and energy working with pets that were abused, neglected and mistreated in many ways.  This leads us to have an emotional attachment to the pet we save or foster.  And herein lays the problem.  We think we are giving up “our” pet.

But we’re not.  We are making room for a pet sitting in a kennel in a pound, on a kill list, being fed, watered, walked and socialized intermittently.  The best shelters in the U.S. are hard pressed for resources.  Some to a great job some do a horrible job.  Some kill more than 1 in 2 pets that walk through the door.

I believe our job as rescuers is to get pets into a good home as often as possible.  A great home?  When possible.  The perfect home?  When possible.  A bad home.  Never.

But there are not that many bad homes.  We have to change our perception of unacceptable.  When there are no pets sitting in a shelter days or minutes from the Blue Solution (that’s a lethal injection), gassing or worse, it is up to us that know to get those animals out of danger and into a home.

I believe a vast majority of adopter candidates will provide better than a shelter.

We can do more good for more animals if we engage less than perfect adopters, educate and network with adopters after they save a life for us.  In this way, we can move more animals out of the shelters that will kill them anyway, and try to improve their lives over the course of the time they are with the adopter.

I am not going to deny this has gone wrong before.  Just the other day, a rescue friend was talking about a dog that was adopted by a woman.  Her boyfriend was left alone for a few days, the dog annoyed him and he drowned the dog.  This is a heartbreaking, terrifying story for any rescue organization or shelter.

But it is uncommon.  I would never discount the horror of this act.  I would never ignore the fact that we should pursue people that commit cruelty to animals.  But I cannot say by adopting out hundreds of animals that would have been killed for simply being in a full shelter, we must not reject someone that does not live up to our standards of proper pet care.

Pets with special medical needs will have to be given to the right person that understand the issues and is willing to take on that care.  When they have special needs, we need to insure they go to someone with the means and will to take care of this.

If a person believes a cat can live outdoors part of its life, we should let it be adopted.  If the person is going to love the cat, feed the cat, take care of the cat, we should consider this through meeting them.   Cats thrive to the tune of millions in the U.S. without humans in their lives.  Feral colonies exist because cats can live outdoors on their own in a multitude of climates.  If they are not quite aware of all the things they should do when owning a pet, we can educate, coax, train and monitor an adopter.  Over time, we may just develop a new foster family or multiple adopters.  Rejecting them is a missed opportunity that could help now and in the future.

As rescuers, we never want to take a pet back.  We want to find the right family for the pet.  If it comes back, we should study what happened.  Di we, as rescuers, give the wrong pet to the wrong family.  Would another pet have been better for us?  We cannot blame it all on the people we like to criticize.  We should look at how we improve our policies and procedures to insure we are matching our pets up well.

If a dog goes to a house, was well fed and taken care of but didn’t work out.  It’s almost like we had a foster.  For one month, six months, a year.  If there is no abuse (I have never seen a dog returned abused from someone we adopted out), it could have been worse.  We could have not saved another dog in that time because we were overwhelmed with fosters needing homes.

A person that would cage a pet, treat them similar to a shelter is not acceptable.  I want to be clear I am looking for good homes.  But if I held someone to the standards that my pets live by, I would be wrongly passing judgment on someone that could save a pet’s life.

My pets eat mostly home prepared food.  They have the run of the house and can go in and out as they please.  The have health insurance.  The never stay at a kennel; we have an in house 24 hour pet sitter when we leave town.  I believe this is how a pet should be treated.

But there are six dogs on a kill list right now, that are posted on this site, that need a home or they are going to die.  Given the choice between death or a home that will leave them alone 8 hours a day while working, spend time with hem on nights and weekends, insist they are kennel trained for during the day, feed them some  ill-named ”premium” dog food, and generally give them a good if not great life.  I choose life for the dog.

We put time, love and money into our charges.  It makes it hard to separate ourselves from the individual animal we are trying to find a home for.  But I say you have to think more of the pet that is not there.  The one behind the chain link kennel door, ears down, eyes imploring upward, and on a list we would never want to be on ourselves.

Rescues have the right to make the final decisions about who can take that pet home.  I abide by those rules with the organization I work with.   But I will never stop pushing us to lower the number of healthy pets in shelters being killed until we get to zero.

If you are a potential adopter, please don’t give up when adopting.  I was rejected the first time I went to a rescue.  Within three years I fostered 15 dogs and adopted 4 times.  Because no is not something I would accept.  And I encourage you to annoy a shelter or rescue if you think you would be a good pet owner.  And if they disagree, force a dialogue, we all should compromise to rescue one more dog or cat.

Bark Away!