If your shelter or rescue is narrowly focused (e.g. you only adopt out a specific breed), low volume (that is, your breed is not in need of frequent rescue and/or available rescue resources are greater than the need) and the animals have a good quality of life (including daily individual attention and exercise with a person) – then by all means, be as choosy about adopters as you see fit. Get the very best matches you can for your animals. Hold out for the best possible homes. Because even if that best match never comes along, the animals can live out their lives being well cared for in rescue and no animals are being left in bad situations because you are turning down adopters.
But for many shelters and rescues, turning down adopters means death for shelter pets. If your shelter or rescue accepts all comers (or at least tries to accept as many as you can responsibly handle), sees that there is a need greater than the available resources, and/or keeps animals living primarily in cages without daily individual interaction with a human, holding out for that best possible match is unethical. If an adopter who has not been convicted of animal cruelty wants an animal, is willing to provide ID and fill out an application, let the animal go home. Never be afraid to exercise common sense!
The Amarillo Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rejects more adopters than it accepts. When a couple in their 70s, current pet owners and former Chow owners, applied to adopt a Chow Puppy from the Amarillo SPCA recently, they were lead to believe they would be taking the puppy home with them. They met all the requirements the shelter laid out, including purchasing a doghouse especially for the dog and scheduling a grooming appointment. But when it came time to take the puppy home, the couple was refused. The shelter wanted to know who would care for the dog if the husband died. And although the couple had a plan in place (care would transfer to the wife and then to their daughter if necessary), it wasn’t good enough for the shelter.
As with all the ridiculous roadblocks thrown in front of adopters by shelters and rescues, the Amarillo SPCA justifies their refusals by saying they’re doing it for the animals. Ack – if I had a nickel… The still unadopted Chow puppy is being forced to grow up in a shelter – for his own benefit, ya know. And meanwhile, pets on the streets and in kill shelters are being turned away and put into the dumpster because the Chow puppy, and all the others whose adopters were refused, are taking up cage space. Doing it for the animals. Yay.
This may come as a shock to the Amarillo SPCA and other groups with similarly stupid adoption standards, but every person who applies to adopt is going to die. Guaranteed. No one knows when anyone else is going to die. Refusing adopters because they are going to die at some unknown date is ridiculous. If you want to know who is definitely going to die today, knock on the kill room door at your local pet killing facility. There you can find pets who would be delighted to take the cage your group freed up by letting an animal go home with an adopter who wanted him. And you can explain why you are refusing people who want to help you save lives and how you’re doing it for the animals.