People want to save pets’ lives. Let them.

I am revisiting a topic today in order to reiterate my position and address the most common responses I receive whenever I post about it.  The issue is this:

So long as there are pets being needlessly killed in shelters, I favor giving shelter pets to anyone who wants them, provided the person hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty. We may not like all aspects of the home environment but if they are willing to save a life (and freeing up a space at a rescue in order to allow another life to be saved qualifies), let them.

Some shelters and rescue groups judge potential adopters negatively based on things such as physical appearance, income level or desire for privacy in their own home.  As long as the adopter hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty, fills out a basic adoption application and provides photo ID, I see no reason not to approve them for adoption.  There are a wide variety of people in this world who love pets. If they want to rescue a pet, they are the “right” kind of people.  By adopting to them, you are not obligated to go on vacation with them or spend holidays at their house.  You are saving a pet’s life.

But there’s more.  You are establishing a relationship with the adopter, thus giving you the opportunity to provide education and assistance if needed.  You are leaving them with the impression that saving a pet’s life is a positive experience.  They’ll tell their friends and family members.  You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

On the flip side, when animal organizations make adopters feel judged and turn them down, they drive those adopters to other sources for pets.  Pet stores don’t judge.  Flea markets don’t turn people away.  Irresponsible breeders make all comers feel welcome.  In addition, the would-be adopter is left with a bad taste in his mouth about saving a pet’s life.  He’ll tell his friends and family members.  That kind of publicity hurts shelter pets.

Many of the responses I receive whenever I raise this issue are from well-intentioned people who truly care about the well being of shelter pets.  I’d like to address some of those here.  (Note:  These are my summaries of typical responses I’ve received in the past.  They are not directly attributable to any person or persons.)

  • If we don’t visit the home and/or require a background check and/or [insert your arbitrary adoption requirement here], the pet is likely to end up being abused.  There are fates worse than death.

There are no fates worse than death.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.  The overwhelming majority of pet owners – I would go so far as to say nearly all pet owners – try to do right by their pets.  They do not beat, starve or otherwise intentionally harm them.  While there are people who may be able to provide a better quality of life for a pet if they received some non-judgmental education on the subject, that does not make them bad people.  And if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be a source for that education.  If you drive them away to an alternate source by making them feel judged, how will they ever benefit from your experience?  Do we want to rely on the pet store to provide them with support for the lifetime of the pet?  Do we want them to have an intact, unvaccinated pet from an alternate source or a neutered, vaccinated pet from a shelter/rescue?

  • If they can’t afford a high adoption fee, they will never be able to pay for vet care if the pet breaks a leg or has some other emergency.

Just because the adopter can’t come up with hundreds of dollars to buy a pet from your animal organization, it does not mean he would not work a miracle to pay for a vet emergency for a pet he developed a bond with at some future time.  And that’s if an expensive emergency ever arose.  I have owned many pets who lived their entire lives never suffering a broken leg or bloat or anything similar.  There is no reasonable basis for the assumption that the pet will require expensive emergency vet care and that the owner will be unable to pay for it when it occurs.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the pet will break a leg at some point and the owner will be unable to pay for vet care.  I go back to the premise that if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be the group the adopter turns to in a crisis.  You – who has a network of advocates, who knows how to fundraise, who has a reasonable vet your group has a good relationship with – you would be in a position to assist.  Or did you expect the flea market vendor to help out this pet in need?

  • Not everyone should be allowed to have a pet.  Why should my organization spend resources helping someone become a better pet owner when we can just decline their application and wait for someone else to apply?

While it may be your belief that not everyone should have a pet just because they want one, the fact is they are going to get a pet somewhere.  We try so hard to turn people on to the idea of adopting shelter/rescue pets, trying to get them in the door as it were, we need to think very hard before turning away someone who comes to us wanting to save a pet.  The reason your organization should offer people a hand up when needed is because you are dedicated to animal welfare.  You are performing a community service.  By saying yes to more adopters, you are freeing up space to help more pets.  And because you don’t honestly believe that an irresponsible breeder is going to support your community in the way you will.

  • So you’re saying we should give pets to Michael Vick?  After all, he wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty.

No.  Again, most everyone who applies to save a pet’s life is going to try to do right by that pet.  The Michael Vicks of the world are the rare exception, not the rule, and policies should be geared toward reasonable expectations.  But to answer the question, if someone who has publicly confessed to torturing dogs and whose confession has been corroborated by testimony from multiple witnesses in federal court applies to adopt a pet from you, turn him down.  We do not want to supply additional victims to people we know for certain are sadistic animal freaks, regardless of whether they have an animal cruelty conviction on their record.  But this would be a very unlikely application to come across and there is no need to make a policy specifically to weed out Michael Vick.

  • Are you talking about my shelter/rescue group?

If your shelter kills pets or your rescue group pulls pets off death row as space becomes available in your facility or foster network, yes.  If your group is narrow in scope, such as a breed rescue which typically handles a small number of pets with none at risk of being killed, no.

  • So we shouldn’t bother trying to match the pet to the adopter?  Just give any pet to anyone, even if a 90 pound elderly woman with a walker wants a 120 pound dog-aggressive Mastiff with no leash training?

Continue trying to make the best possible match between adopter and pet while bearing in mind that the pet someone falls in love with may be the right match, even if it doesn’t strike you that way at first.  I can not stress enough the value of establishing a positive relationship from the outset so that the adopter is open to hearing your suggestions.  When adopters understand you have both their best interests and the pet’s best interests in mind, they will be far more receptive to your input.  If they feel they are being deemed unworthy, they will seek a pet from a source which does not make them feel that way.

  • I adopted from a group that charged $450 for the pet, visited my home, conducted a background check, had me fill out a 20 page application and sign a contract stating that they can take the pet back at any time if they feel it’s warranted.  I’m fine with all of that.  It shows me they care.

Good for you.  Not everyone feels the same way you do.  Many people, including me, would be turned off by these policies and would be unable and/or unwilling to pursue the adoption.  And since shelter pets are being killed, purportedly for lack of space to house them, I want everyone to feel included in the adoption pool.

Last I checked, there are not mile long lines of potential adopters leading to the front door of every shelter and rescue in this country.  Let’s value the ones we have, even if they are different from us in some ways.  Let’s embrace the community we have and work towards making it the community we want it to be.

56 thoughts on “People want to save pets’ lives. Let them.

  1. I think you are spot on with this article. Sometimes we go overboard in trying to protect. My daughter filled out several apps several years ago, trying to adopt from rescue groups. Major question, “is your yard fenced in?” No. We live in a VERY rural area and we own 7.5 Acres. My neighbor owns 6.5 Acres. His dog comes to visit us almost every day. We are well off the road and we only let our dogs out when we are outside and supervising. That one question always seemed to eliminate her from the adoption pool. She ended up purchasing a dog from a breeder.

    1. A friend I have had since childhood tried, on my recommendation, to adopt from 3 different rescue groups. She was turned down by 2 and the other never responded to her repeated requests for information about a specific dog she was interested in. She ended up buying a dog from *&^%$#@ PETLAND. She is an excellent pet owner, but the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth still, a decade later.

      1. The FB friend I posted below is a friend from childhood as well; someone that I always remember having a well-treated dog around.

  2. “Let’s embrace the community we have and work towards making it the community we want it to be.”

    And this is key, I think. Community. Shelters/rescue groups tend to see themselves as single entities, rather than members of the community.

    That single entity attitude can set you up for the us vs. them mindset that becomes so unhelpful in the rescue world.

  3. I saw this very post come through my FB feed a couple of weeks ago… Seems my old friend was turned down because he didn’t take his old dog to the vet “enough”. That “old dog” managed to survive to EIGHTEEN! This is a small town humane society that is surely strapped on space and money – a couple of phone calls would have verified that this guy was a LIFE LONG resident of the community and was a great home for this dog.

    “Once upon a time(yesterday), I found an old dog online that was needing a home to live out her senior years. I wasn’t really looking for a dog but the picture of the dog really hooked me. I called the humane society an was told I’d need to fill out an application before I would even be able to look at the dog. After some grumbling I filled it out and faxed it in for review. I was declined. The End.”

  4. My husband and I went to a local rescue to adopt a little dog posted on Facebook When we got there, I heard an employee ask another potential adopter a long list of questions regarding housing, property, children, and a lot more I forgot. All the animals in this place were well hidden behind walls and doors, not to be even seen unless escorted. We asked about the little dog, and this place asked for the dog’s name! I did not know the dog’s name, but I did give an accurate description…breed, color, size, etc. They said it was not in their place (though advetised it was). We were sent to another place to see is she was there. They did not even know where this dog was! A few days later, they got very defensive, saying it was in “foster”, and that we could arrange for a meeting at their place (of course). We will not go back to this place, again. They don’t want you to adopt. They apparenty just want a lot of personal information…and where does that go???

  5. You’ve actually touched on something I wanted to ask about here — what is a good minimal requirement on an application. Are we talking simply name, address, and driver’s license?
    I volunteer with a group that takes animals from our local shelter as well as from a network of fosters. We have different contracts for each group. The shelter just has the basic application — fill out the form and you can take that animal home that day if you’d like. The foster network requires a vet check, a contract (cats kept indoors, NOT declawed), and may make a home visit. I’ve seen some people get frustrated at the second one and leave without adopting an animal they showed interest in. I can see the merits of both — with fosters, I really do understand their desire to pre-screen a little and to have that peace of mind. I know that the shelter needs to move pets quickly because time is of the essence for them. It seems like these systems work well together.

    1. I hope others will weigh in with their opinions but my thinking is that the adoption application should be as brief as possible and serve two purposes: a record of who you gave the animal to (verified by the photo ID) and a conversation starter on pet care. For example, asking a few pet related questions on the app gives the shelter a chance to talk about things like home environment without sitting there interrogating the person. e.g. “I see here your kitty died last year. I’m sorry for your loss. My oldest cat is 10 and I hope we will have her a long time still. Was yours very old?” or “You wrote on your application that you are not planning to take your new dog to an obedience class. Are you hoping to find one who has already been leash trained? Because of the 2 dogs you indicated you liked, I can tell you that Buffy is pretty good on a leash but Sally hasn’t had anyone to teach her leash manners yet and she does tend to pull quite a bit.”

  6. When I was still fostering for the humane society, they allowed me to do adoptions. I really like the idea of a vet check and a couple of my fosters did not go to adopters whose vets gave them a two thumbs down. I agree, though, about the fenced yard, psych evaluation, and other invasive conditions. I’ve sent a few fosters to less-than-perfect homes, but it was better than having them killed.

  7. I could not agree more! The only groups that can afford to be as choosy as they want are – like you said – breed specific rescue groups who don’t see very many of their breed needing homes. Also, of course, responsible breeders have every right to be as picky as they want – they ARE ultimately responsible for those animals and they know it. Not to mention they are the ones who have put so much time, energy, money, blood, sweat and tears into that litter.

    But every other group – when the alternative to them quickly placing animals in homes is that animals will die – need to get a clue.

    Plus, in the long term the only way to encourage people to adopt instead of buying a puppy – and then to adopt AGAIN when they want another pet (i.e. repeat business) is to make the adoption process as pleasant as possible.

  8. I remember not too long ago where I seen a potential foster say she never heard back from the rescue after they stated that it wasn’t as nice as the places the people they usually let foster. This was in a city that publishes a substantial kill list every day. Another rescue chipped in, with pride, that they reject 2/3 of the adopters, it blew my mind. I stated that I thought the problem was not enough of “willing” fosters or adopters. I guess I was wrong. One rescue lady stated that she thinks of them as toddlers and would she be willing to let a potential foster care for one of her young kids. It was clear at that point that we have different expectations. I thought a foster was a place to stay so the animal didn’t get killed today, which provides the basics and hopefully some training.

    I do also understand the fear of animals ending up in the wrong hands. After all, it those stories that grab the headlines because of how awful they are and people in rescue/shelters see some really horrible stuff. There is no denying that. Between all the animals that are on death row because of space and the cruelty cases, it is really wearing on the psyche.

    I would think that people in animal welfare don’t see the majority of good owners unless they are adopting or owner has gone broke and become homeless or died and needs their help. I don’t have an answer but I think that people in rescue need to take care of their mental state and keep in mind that what they see day in and day out is not “the norm”, but the (sometimes overwhelming) small percentage which is the reason they are involved. I’m just speaking for myself, but I think reminding yourself by going to the dog park and seeing people who love their animals is a great break. Reading heartwarming stories about the human animal bond and how their animal changed them for the better.

    Or even looking at the logo of Maddie (of Maddie’s Fund) and seeing how one bond changed the world for the better. There are thousands of Maddies everywhere, if we just look. They are probably at the dog park and not at the surrender station of their local shelter.

    1. How true. “Shelter” people only see the worst of abusive homes where their prisoners come from. They see abuse case after abuse case, and I’m doubting if they open their eyes far enough to see all the great homes & people, regardless of income or hair style, where dogs & cats really flurish & are really happy.

      The good homes & people far outnumber the few bad but attention getting ones.

      EVERYONE needs a doggie, unless you’re an a..hole.

  9. This really hit home to me. I would love to rescue/adopt another dog, but my income is very low at the present time and I cannot afford a $350 fee–and most of them are mixed breeds, which I don’t mind at all, but I only paid $350 for my Lab years ago–and she was purebred. I just feel the fees are outrageous, and it is a deterrent for many prospective adopters. Guess I will never be a Mom to another canine at this rate–and that is sad.

    1. Our local municipal shelter charges $42 for a dog. The dog is vaccinated and licensed, but that’s it (plus certificate for s/n, although some of them come in s/n). Other more rural shelters charge even less (I’ve seen as low as $15 for a dog from one shelter, but I don’t think any vaccinations are done there). Our shelter’s cats are $15 “as is” (some come in with medical history, some don’t). I’ve gotten four cats from this shelter and three of them were already s/n (although the shelter only thought one was and they also thought that he was a she, so you pays your money and you takes your chances!).

      While animal shelters like mine aren’t very “service” oriented (little to no background on the animals, no vetting beyond dog vaccines, etc.), they provide an option for the public to get a pet for a reasonable fee. Oh – and the only paperwork is proof of ID and signing a form stating that you’re getting an unvetted animal that you will take to the vet as soon as possible to get it checked out.

      Do they turn people away? Yes. Anyone who skeeves them out or the guy who actually wanted intact male and female cats because he wanted to breed them – those folks get sent packing. And because the guy who is in charge is a large, scary, tattooed biker-looking dude, nobody is arguing with him.

    2. $350 is outrageous, unless they come with a gold collar & dinner at Red Lobster.

      Dogs around here must all know my address because the homeless, abused, hungry or injured all seem to show up here. I’ve never had to worry about seeking a doggie, although I still have adopted from the “shelter” many times. Never for more than $50, with little more than a signature.

      1. ezbuddy, you sound like me about 20 years ago, although for me it was cats. I swear there was a sign only cats could see plastered on the house that said “Suckers live here – Free room & board”. :D

      2. Yeah, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion I’ll never pay (up front) for a pet again. I get so many “oppurtunities” for “free” ones.

  10. you have expressed the right view, so perfectly… am from bangalore, india.. in indian shelters you have to just fill a small form and give a small donation of whatever you can afford.. that’s it… and strays are permitted by law to live on the roads, as long as they create no problems to people…

    Here’s the law..


    “Article 21 of the Constitution of India states the right to personal life and liberty…If someone wants to feed and provide shelter to dogs, he is at liberty to do so. He has the same right to liberty that the law provides to every citizen of India. ……above every law and rights, there is a natural right, which is a universal right, inherent in the nature of ethics and contingent on human actions or beliefs…. the choice of loving, caring, feeding and giving shelter to dogs is the natural right of any individual.”

    For illustration, here is an appeal from Krupa Animals, Bangalore an NGO showing how animal lovers in bangalore can care for strays on the roads..

    We appeal to animal lovers to consider taking care of street animals by forming volunteer groups in your locality. Healthy street dogs are better off on the streets if taken care by residents. In extreme cases if any sick animal needs treatment, you may take Krupa’s help. But please take back the animal after treatment and keep them under your care. Animal rescue and protection is a collective social responsibility and we hope this point will be well understood. You may also consider helping us financially if you wish to bring very old and terminally sick animals. God bless these people who are concerned about the sufferings of street animals.

    1. What a great society for their care & concern for animals, unlike most places in the US where they’re more concerned in their own salary or the “what’s in it for me” attitude.

      1. Thank You.. there are people in the city and shelter staff who abuse animals just like anywhere else.. but as far as i know, there is a lot of support for animals from the animal loving community and laws forbidding abuse and so not many incidents.. As per law animals cannot be gassed or heart sticked here but only by lethal injections..

        As per

        “It is illegal to kill stray animals, especially homeless dogs. A code of conduct has been set by the Animal Welfare Board of India for municipalities. In case of failure to follow the code, the person who violates the code may face contempt of court proceedings.”

        “If you observe killing of stray dogs by the Municipal Corporation, report the matter with the municipal commissioner”

        So, in India, even the animal control cannot kill stray dogs, as it is against the Indian law…

        i think USA is a land of people who have immense love for their animals .. this shelter situation where dogs are killed for frivolous reasons should be replaced by a model which reflects the love of the US public for their companion pets.. All of us who love animals out here, feel the pain of the animal lovers in the USA and support you all in your righteous fight for the safety and happiness of shelter pets..

        Shelter Revolution, started by Thomas Cole seems to be a wonderful replacement for the failed shelter system in the USA.. Am hoping and praying that system comes into place and the beautiful shelter pets find happy homes.. i love them all, every single homeless shelter pet …

  11. Well said. We adopted 3 dogs from the same rescue over the course of 6 months, paying close to $1000 for all 3 (discounts for 2nd and 3rd). If I knew then what I know now, would I pay it again? Hell no. I love these dogs and have spent countless hours researching to figure out why manufactured food didn’t sit well with them, proper nutrition for them, making their food, and deciphering one’s allergies. I spend about 4 hours a week making their food. I am a mother hen when it comes to their well being. But looking back at their adoption requirements, seeing all the pets needlessly killed every day at shelters, seeing pets needlessly sit in boarding or fosters waiting for the “perfect” home, I question the process and requirements of rescues.

    As an advocate on Facebook, I often see rescues posting “we don’t have enough fosters or adopters” or “this pet has been waiting for his/her forever for x months/years”. Maybe they should take a harder look at themselves to see what the problem is.

    1. Other non-profits fundraise to cover expenses. They don’t penalize compassionate people wanting to save a pet’s life. Adoption fees should not be considered a means of recouping the expenses of the rescue group. They got into rescue by choice, because they wanted to help pets. They can’t expect adopters to foot the bill for their choices.

      1. Absolutely. But this pic is being shared – often with comments such as “And People think they should be given away. That’s why rescues go under all the time.”. It seems to have been created specifically to justify the fees some rescues charge. I found it in my news feed and posted it with the comment

        “For a discussion on high adoption fees by rescues, please read:

        People want to save pets’ lives. Let them.

        Just figured out that I gave the wrong link for arfdogs. It’s arfdogs.ORG not .com.

      2. I am one of those people who “think they should be given away” INSTEAD OF BEING PUT IN THE DUMPSTER.

        On Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:02 AM, YesBiscuit!

      3. I agree. Unfortunately, the majority (the ones who liked & shared the pic anyway) of people on FB think the fees are perfectly okay and don’t see a problem.

        I shared this post – it was seen by 129 people, liked by 4, and shared by none. The pic was seen by 5308, liked by 40, and shared by 62. One sharer commented “It’s a bargain when you think about it”. Seriously?

      4. Well there are all kinds of people in the world. If someone thinks holding on to a dog until an adopter who can afford to pay $350 for him comes along WHILE OTHER PETS GO INTO THE DUMPSTER is a “bargain”, ok. But I’m going to keep sharing my views as well, since the dumpster pets have so few people advocating for them.

      5. “They can’t expect adopters to foot the bill for their choices.”

        The total cost estimate here is $600-$900 with a $300 fee to the purchaser. Obviously, the $300 fee is less than the $600-$900.

        Please, make the choice to raise the small amount of funds required to lower the cost to the adopter even further, to around $0. Should be the obvious choice.

      6. I work with a tiny little rescue in south central TN. The women who runs it is a 501 c3 but has to keep the thrown-away dogs at her home because the area is so poor, she has not been able to fund-raise from the community to build a shelter. She pays out of her own pocket to spay or neuter, HW test and vaccinate every dog she takes in to her rescue. Why shouldn’t an adopter be willing and able to pay her back for at least the medical costs? Forget the food, flea and tick, monthly heartworm meds she keeps the dogs current on until they get adopted in New England. She is not making a dime off any of this, she is losing money on every animal. “They got into rescue by choice…they can’t expect adopters to foot the bill for their choices?” REALLY?

        Re: adoption policies/application etc — I agree there are rescues that make their adoption process difficult, to say the least. But then, would you have wanted to be the one who gave Luka Magnotta (google him) the two kittens he filmed himself torturing and killing and then posted it on youtube? Yes, he’s the guy who later famously ice-picked his lover, decapitated him and ate some of him. Oh, he posted that on youtube as well. But when he got ahold of those two kittens, he was just sort of a weird guy with no cruelty convictions. Think for yourselves, people.

  12. I agree totally. Rescues think they are doing the right thing for the dog but infact they are hurting the animal. Now, with that said my husband and I have always adopted rescues and for Retired Greyhounds we paid an adoption fee of 300.00 and this was an older Greyhound and we were at the vets every other week for medical issues. Now I know that not everyone can afford 300.00 adoption fee or afford to take the dog to the vets every other week.
    I personally think that when it comes to certain dogs like Greyhounds, puppy mill dogs or dogs that have know medical issues, yes by all means make sure that the people who are adopting the dog with medical issues can afford them the vet. attention they need. I have seen people turned away because they don’t have a fenced in back yard but they lived right next to a doggy park and were willing to walk the dog four or five times a day.
    I think a balance needs to be found. We moved to the south and people with money have pets, fenced in backyards but these people don’t deserve to have an animal. So, if having a fenced in yard and money qualifies someone to adopt and animal..a death warrant could be served on that animal. But like the old saying goes money talks. I have seen low income families treat and cherish their family pet better then some rich folks. Yes, so the low income families have to set money aside every pay period for the vet bill or for that extra treat and if you ask me that is the person best suited to adopt an animal. These people are willing to do whatever it takes to take care of the pet. To the low income they know that love is the most important thing and truly isn’t that what finding a home for a rescued animal all about?

  13. Another problem I have found is that rescue groups/shelters will not adopt to people out of State. I understand it is because they can’t do an in home inspection but I see time and time again posts on pets needing homes from people in different States wanting the animal but being turned down because they aren’t close enough (that actually happened to me 3 times). I am a firm believer that a pet chooses you, not the other way around and when you see that picture that speaks to you and keeps you up at night, that is the right animal for you. You shouldn’t be kept away from “your” pet because you don’t live nearby. I also noticed that the shelters/rescues don’t seem to have access to other people’s foster/transport lists (if they did cross state adoptions would be no problem). I think this is a huge problem and a lot of animals die needlessly because help could not be found.

    I’ve started the Animal Rescue and Foster Network – – which will be (the site is under construction now) a Nationwide database of Fosters, transporters and shelter pullers so that when an animal urgently needs a home, a rescue or shelter can access our database for FREE and find people who are willing to help, even if that person is a few States away. All of our fosters and transporters will be certified by a local shelter/rescue and will be available for anyone to use. We will also have a spot on our home page for people who want to foster/adopt so that we can get them certified as soon as possible and add them to our listing.

    It just makes sense to join forces instead of trying to do everything alone. We are all in this together and should start pooling our resources for the good of the animals. None of us can do it all but if each of us does a little, we can end the killing of animals just because they have no home.

    This database is not funded and is something that a friend and I are doing on our own. We have received the support of the Barking Army as well as a lot of their Facebook friends who have offered to help in any way that we need them! If you want to help us grow this database, please let me know via Twitter. I am LuvMyWeimaraner . The more people we have helping acquire the data and spreading the word, the faster the site can help!

  14. Over the holidays of 2012 a friend’s family’s working great pyrenees died of old age. she is about 30yo, lives with her parents and she’s a rescuer that I have known for a few years with solid references. She asked me to look for a GP – female – pup or middle age to get for their farm. I was very disheartened when 4 of my closest rescue partners refused her application. One said she lied on her appl because she said the dog was for her BUT her name wasn’t on the deed to the property – so it was really for her parents. Another refused because she’s a rescue and they felt she was going to “rehome” the dog. One refused her because she is out of state and they couldn’t drop in to visit the dog at any time. The last one refused because they didn’t have a “fenced yard.” This family has 20 acres that backs up on two sides to mountains. I was shocked – and not very pleased. There was nothing I could do because each of my rescue friends “have their own process and it’s the same for everyone.” Somehow – I thought my referall would’ve meant something – like their referrals to with me. As an Animal Control Director I don’t get to visit every rescue’s location or their foster home’s locations…it’s very frustrating to say the least.

    1. I do see GP mixes on various shelter listings more than you would think. I wonder if your friend could try to get one of those first, before a group with arbitrary restrictions “rescues” the dog.

  15. It is sweet to think that adoptions should be brief and easy. I used to have the same idea until I started to adopt out pets. One cute little Puggle was returned 3 times. Puggles are part Beagle and high energy. The third adopter had adopted a large dog who required heartworm treatment and seemed like a great family, and did not mention a problem until a month after adoption and a day before the return.

    So, for small groups trying to adopt out pets, especially dogs, it creates quite a logistics problem to take a dog back after 1 month +. Another guy had this dog for 2 months.

    So yes, let’s hear from all the groups which do quick and easy adoptions. What questions do you ask and what percentage of pets stay in their first home forever.

    And, it may be a mistake to assume the vast majority of pet owners are dedicated to the pet. I think most of the pets in shelters had an owner.

    1. “And, it may be a mistake to assume the vast majority of pet owners are dedicated to the pet. I think most of the pets in shelters had an owner.”

      You are suffering from observation bias. Shelter animals represent only a small fraction of all owned pets in the US. Ergo, the majority of pet owners don’t send their pet to a shelter.

      1. Of course, you have no idea how many of your adoptions were returned to OTHER shelters.

      2. Actually, Anne, I DO have a pretty good idea since I do follow up 6-8 months after adoption. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it’s worked for my rescue really well so far and you DID ask. Sorry my success doesn’t fit with your agenda.

  16. It’s also important for picky rescues to understand that no adoption process is going to be perfect, no matter how many questions you ask or home visits you make.

    I volunteer for a rescue that I really like… EXCEPT they have an absolutely ridiculous adoption process. High adoption fees; ten page application; criminal background check; home check (with very stringent requirements for fencing, etc; interviews of the veterinarian and at least two friends or family members, and sometimes groomers. Each step of the process is incredibly thorough and time-consuming and they likely reject 50%-75% of the applications they receive. (While dogs, some of which are pulled from kill shelters, sit in foster homes for 2-6 months).

    So, you’d think that any home that makes it through would be foolproof, right? Except not… they STILL get animals returned to them, and in at least one case, a dog was actually dropped off at a kill shelter a few months after being adopted without even calling them first, they only found out because they dog was microchipped.

    These things are JUST GOING TO HAPPEN sometimes. There is no magic number of questions you can ask or a full-proof set of home parameters you can measure to guarantee ANYTHING.

  17. The other issue: there is little evidence that these over-the-top rules actually prevent animal cruelty. Like other abusers, some animal abusers look and behave just like “normal” people. So a shelter/rescue likely turns away dozens of good adopters for every bad one, ends up killing those animals, and still adopts a few other animals to abusers.

  18. Anyone who has actually done dog rescue work knows, without any doubt, that there most definitely are fates worse than death.

      1. If you believe that, then you have not witnessed actual, continual, painful abuse.

      2. Anne, You’ve made your opinion clear – pets are better dead than rescued. This is not an open forum for furthering your death agenda for pets. This is a no kill blog. We got your point. Unless you have something new to add, please stop.

        On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 11:11 PM, YesBiscuit!

      3. And Anne, the point is that you can’t know a dog’s fate BEFORE it happens. Do we kill five pit bulls to “protect” that one that *might* be tortured? Ten? Twenty? How many is it acceptable to kill based on the possibility that a few could perhaps fall into the hands of abusers?

        This is the same argument against TNR. Feral cats *might* end up hit by a car and injured, dying cold and alone on the side of the road. So it’s somehow better to kill them all, right? That way, you “prevent suffering”. You also prevent living, playing in the sunshine, hunting mice, and bonding with other cats in the colony, headbonks, etc.

        How much living are you willing to prevent on the *possibility* of avoiding suffering?

      1. In response to the article about the dog found in the river. These restrictions are common sense, they are not prohibitive. No one is arguing against reasonable rules and restrictions. What we are discussing are rules that become so prohibitive that the average family just throws up their hands and look elsewhere for a pet. A rescue organization absolutely be good stewards for their animals, their money and their time. However, the overboard approach just doesn’t work! It just makes potential adopters feel rejected and unworthy.

  19. Then why do you say you “favor giving shelter pets to anyone who wants them”? And what is a reasonable price for a dog who has been spayed.neutered and received all shots? Someone (who has obviously never taken her dog to a vet) complained about a $300+ fee.

    1. Yes it’s obvious I’ve never taken my dog to a vet. And I’m complaining about the fees because I’m a cheap bastard, not because I care that shelter pets are being put into the garbage by the millions while we “screen” adopters straight to the flea market. You’ve got it all figured out. So I guess we won’t be hearing from you anymore.

    2. Where I live I can get a spay/neutered dog that is UTD on shots for FREE from the Nickle ads or from Craigslist or from a flier posted at any of the 6 feed stores in town. Heck yes I’ll complain about a $300 fee for the exact same “product”.

  20. I complained about a $300+ fee and all 3 of my dogs see the vet regularly – vaccinations are kept up to date, they get HW tested + meds, they get dentals, the one with hip dysplasia goes twice yearly for exam and xrays to monitor her hips, and thankfully we’ve only had 2 causes to bring one to the vet outside of regular visits – one who ate something she shouldn’t have and had to have obstruction surgery, and one who developed a nasty ear infection. The one with the ear infection did see the vet 2 times for yeasty eats before I finally figured out he’s allergic to cereal grasses/grains. So obviously my dogs have been to a vet, and have cost us a pretty penny too. But there’s no way we wouldn’t take them to a vet, no matter where we adopted them from or how we acquired them. I can go to my local HS and adopt a dog – fully vaccinated and spayed/neutered – for $60. And like cyborgsuzy, I can find free dogs from elsewhere.

  21. You make a very smart argument. Kudos to you. Many people feel the way you do about the adoption process, but I haven’t yet heard it in such an intelligent format. I agree with you on your points, and I think further discussion is necessary (and would be interesting) to determine an appropriate adoption application…

    Shelters SHOULD obviously ask potential adopters questions, and find out information to try to match them with a good dog! I’m not even totally against background checking. More of the problem, in my experience, lies in the way they treat potential adopters. I agree with YesBiscuit here… you do not have to blindly give any dog to any person that wants it, if you don’t think they will fit together. But you can urge an adopter to look at a different dog (one that may suit them better) without insulting them, without saying “I don’t think you are good enough for this dog.” Because with home checks, that’s how a lot of people end up feeling. “What do they mean my home isn’t good enough for a dog? They don’t even know me!” People get offended. Yes, many shelter employees know more about dog care than the average person, BUT you don’t have to remind people so harshly. There is an aspect of ‘customer service’ that has been missing in shelters I’ve seen. (I’m not trying to insult shelter employees/volunteers, because they are doing great work, and are honestly trying to find good homes for their dogs!)

    After trying to adopt, and being turned down for not having a fenced yard, my mom was turned off from shelter adoption and went to a pet store. She felt like the shelter was telling her she didn’t have a good enough home for a dog (in our specific case, the women who did the home check were not very positive or friendly with us). The pet store didn’t care one bit about the yard – We now have a wonderful dog, she plays outside and goes for walks often, and we’ve had her for 9 years with no fenced yard. I wish we had adopted, but at the same time I understood where my mom took offense.

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