All Sales Final?

On the opinion page of a NY paper, the secretary of the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center Board of Directors writes:

Unlike some organizations, we are not selective as to admission based on age, breed or adoptability status. In fact, it is not unusual for Hi-Tor to receive animals adopted on impulse from other organizations that do not readily accept the animal back if the adoption is unsuccessful.

I wonder how often this happens.  It’s hard to tell from the wording (it’s “not unusual” that it happens) but the fact that it’s mentioned perhaps indicates it takes place often enough to note.

I’m trying to picture the typical scenario at both ends – the shelter not “readily” accepting the pet and the intake at Hi-Tor.  For example, how does Hi-Tor know the adoption was an impulsive decision – the owner tells them so?  If Hi-Tor really is surrounded by shelters who regularly adopt out pets “on impulse” and then don’t “readily” take the pets back – well, that would sure suck being them.

But I guess I’m wondering what happens when the supposedly impulsive adopter comes to his senses and tries to bring the pet back to the shelter.  Is the shelter offering advice to the owner on how to overcome whatever obstacles are preventing a harmonious home life?  That’s not uncommon and I certainly have no problem with it as long as it’s made clear up front that yes, if you still decide after our talk that you want to return the pet, we’ll take her.  After all, many people – especially first time pet owners – benefit from the voice of experience during those rocky, first weeks of pet ownership.  It’s always worth a try to at least see what the problems are – if nothing else, the information will be useful in making the pet’s next placement.

The part I’m having trouble picturing is a shelter outright saying “No” to an adopter attempting to surrender a newly adopted pet – or at least the adopter having the impression that the shelter means “No, we won’t take her back”, regardless of whatever the verbiage used.  Is this like the infamous “You break it, you bought it” Pottery Barn reference made by General Colin Powell?

I’m just not getting it.  If you are an animal shelter and someone wants to bring back a pet they adopted from you, under what circumstances would you ever justifiably say no?  I can’t think of any.  Even if someone came back 5 minutes after leaving the shelter saying, “Fluffy doesn’t match my car upholstery like I thought she would”, I would expect the shelter to take Fluffy back.  Actually, especially then, because that person really isn’t someone I’d trust to take good care of Fluffy.

My thinking is that, if this is a regular occurrence at Hi-Tor, it is possibly based on misinformation.  Perhaps the adopters feel guilty about surrendering a pet so they make up a story they think reflects less poorly on them than whatever the real story is.  Or maybe this isn’t something that happens often at Hi-Tor but rather it happened once, and sort of grew into a fish tale over time.

Maybe some of you can offer some additional insight.  I can’t quite get my mind around the idea.  I think the way the whole paragraph was worded just rubbed me the wrong way.

3 thoughts on “All Sales Final?

  1. The phrase is “no backsies.”

    Maybe Hi-Tor should name names. Cuz that would be, you know, somewhat verifiable then.

    Shame on those private nonprofit rescues that only rescue pets that they know how to handle, are of a breed or species they have some special expertise in helping, or are the kind their potential adopters come looking for.

    We should all stop doing that and leave them in the public shelters.

  2. This is not an uncommon occurence at my shelter- meaning we will sometimes get in animals that were recently adopted from another organization. In my experience, however, it’s not the other shelter saying ‘no’, it’s the inability to get a hold of the other organization (for example- a few weeks ago i got in a american bulldog from a couple who had grown concerned that she was acting aggressively to the wife and child in the home. The other shelter was closed Sundays and Mondays, and they (rightly so) didn’t feel it was safe to wait until wednesday to return the dog).
    In my experience it’s either the urgency of the situation or the lack of patience of the adopter that has the animal coming to us instead of being returned (we’re open 7 days a week).

    But when that happens, we contact the other organization to see if they want the animal back. If yes- great, come and pick him up. If no- that’s fine, we’ll proceed as normal

  3. Our local SPCA has a questionable intake policy. AC takes in all the animals, and then the SPCA picks and chooses who gets out – the rest are put to death, as the local AC has no adoption program in place and regularly refuses to allow local rescues to help out.

    Add that to the fact that the SPCA also does not perform any screening, aside from a questionnaire that aims to determine the energy level they are prepared to deal with – which is used as a “suggestion”. They perform no screening because “anyone who is looking to adopt a shelter pet is obviously a well-meaning person”. Riiiiiiight.

    And finally, include the tidbit that they refuse to take the dog back. Frequently dogs are adopted and then serious behaviour/medical issues are discovered during the free vet checkup that the SPCA provides a voucher for – and even then they will take the dog back, but refuse to give any kind of refund or credit towards another adoption.

    Needless to say, after learning all of this new adopters who are way over their heads frequently contact local rescues – they realize that private rescues in our area use homes to house, assess and rehab dogs that need help. They realize that our screening process is about ensuring a good fit with the adopted pet. WE realize that some groups take this too far, turning away potential adopters for technicalities (frequently for reasons such as small children or lack of fencing – good reasons if you have a dog that has a questionable relationship with kids or is a known runaway, poor reasons when they are offered “just because we said so”) however there is a middle ground.

Leave a Reply