You know how sometimes there’s an idea that starts out good but then it snowballs into a dirty blob? For example, it’s a good idea to spread the word about keeping your cats indoors on Halloween. There are all sorts of comings and goings, kids traipsing around the neighborhood at night and yes – there is a tiny minority of people who are going to do tricks instead of treats and you don’t want your cat to be used in someone’s idea of a prank. Somehow this good idea got dirty blobbed into “shelters and rescue groups must not adopt out black cats near Halloween because Satanists want to sacrifice them in bloody rituals”.
Another one surrounds the notion that people should be aware of the responsibilities of pet ownership and avoid giving a pet as a Christmas gift to someone who might not want a pet or who might be allergic, or who might be under the impression that it’s fine if they aren’t home for 12 hours a day because a puppy can wait until they get home for a potty break. This is a good, common sense message to promote. But over time, this one got dirty blobbed into “shelters and rescue groups must not adopt out pets as Christmas gifts because the only people who would get a pet as a Christmas gift are those who will put him on a chain in the backyard on December 26 and leave him there until the day he dies”.
Any policy which denies a home to a shelter pet based on arbitrary criteria such as “It’s Halloween” or “The pet will be given as a Christmas gift” needs to be dirty blobbed into oblivion. As long as you are conducting your normal, common sense screening of adopters and asking the appropriate questions in order to ensure a potentially good match, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a holiday or not.
It’s understandable that shelters and rescues want to avoid so-called impulse adoptions which might not be a good fit. That’s why the normal screening process of applicants is important – to weed out those negative impulses which by the way, can occur at any time of the year. It’s good to remember too, as Bonney Brown pointed out in her seminar at the No Kill Conference this year, that people can have positive impulses. Running into a burning building to save a baby is a positive impulse.
I was glad to see that Pets Alive in NY is offering to make adopting a pet as a Christmas gift easy and fun – in a very responsible way:
If you are a parent and you have already told Santa it is ok for your children to receive a pet this holiday season all you need to do is fill out our application, get approved, come down and select your pet (within a week of the holiday). Pets Alive will tell Santa and we will drive up to your house on Christmas morning, (with the Pets Alive MAGIC BUS) and knock on your door.
::door opens, little boy looks up. There we stand in Santa hat, with clipboard, big MAGIC BUS behind us::
Us: “Hello, is this the house of Susie and Timmy So-and-So?”
Little Boy: “Yes. This is. I am Timmy So-and-So”.
Us: “Well, Timmy, get your sister, because we have a very special delivery from Santa for the two of you!!”
::We turn, whistle and out of the bus comes Santa’s Elf with Fido!! ::
Us: “Timmy and Susie – Santa asked us to take care of your new dog, Fido. He stopped by Pets Alive so that Fido didn’t sit under the tree in a box all night! He asked us to deliver him to you this morning! Merry Christmas Timmy and Susie from Santa and Pets Alive! ….. and Merry Christmas to YOU , Fido, for you my sweet little furry friend, have finally found your forever home!”
I love this idea. Every year some parents are going to give the kids the pet they’ve been asking for as a Christmas gift. If shelters and rescues refuse to allow adoptions of pets as holiday gifts, they are driving parents to alternate sources to buy the pet – and probably turning them off shelter adoption permanently. Pets Alive is employing their normal screening practices to ensure a good potential match between pet and family and making it easy for the parent to save a life while giving the kids the present of their dreams. No pet store salesman or flea market vendor is going to hold your pet for you until Christmas morning and then show up in a Santa hat – but Pets Alive will!
Good on you Pets Alive for thinking outside the box. I would love to see this idea catch on with other shelters and rescue groups. Some number of responsible people are going to give pets as Christmas gifts this year. Refusing to allow adoptions at Christmas will not change that fact but it will deny the pets in your shelter a chance at a good home. Why not consider each applicant on their individual merits and see if breaking the mold can get more of your pets into homes this holiday season?