What Really Happens to FREE Shelter Pets

Added, October 14, 2013Some of you have taken this tongue-in-cheek post seriously and have jumped in without watching the video or reading anyone else’s comments.  I have just two things to say to you:  1.  It was meant to be IRONIC and CLEVER and SWEET.  2.  You lot are ruining the internet by making me explain this.

Original post:

To the many commenters who have visited this blog in an effort to set me straight on the the hazards of free adoptions – specifically that they put shelter pets into the hands of abusers – I dedicate this post to you.  Last night I received this horrifying video from someone who requested to be kept anonymous.  She proudly stated she had obtained this shelter dog for free.  As if the cruelty exhibited in the video isn’t bad enough, she admitted the dog is subjected to this same abomination every night.  While I have agreed not to publicly identify the abuser, I did Google her and suffice to say – she looks like trouble.

Please take care that no small children are in the room when watching this clip, particularly at bedtime, and turn the sound up in order to experience the complete terror.

Shelters, rescuers and all animal lovers, please remember this poor dog the next time you think about possibly waiving adoption fees on pets.  The next free pet you place could end up in this same situation.

42 thoughts on “What Really Happens to FREE Shelter Pets

  1. i do hope from deep in my heart that you take steps in order to catch the abuser(s)- you have legal obligation to report any kind of abuse to the official authorities, you have no duty of discration-please consider to pas on this or any kind a video that shows any kind of abuse towards animals or human kind to police and let them seek justice.

  2. Holy crap. I’m in trouble now. We got our dog from a cow pasture. So he was free. And each night he is subjected to similar tortures. A belly rub and the ever dreaded “night night song.” Shall I expect officials to storm my door soon?

    I know that was not the point of the thread, of course. I had an argument of sorts with a friend about this subject just the other day. I was talking about giving animals away to get them homes. Sure, you screen. But then you give them away. She was horrified. She said that doing that “did not put much value on the life of the animal.” I told her that cost had nothing at all to do with value of the animal and everything to do with the importance of that animal’s life, above all else.

    You rock, Shirley.

    1. I have had the same argument, and still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that love that is bought is better/more valued than love that is given. I usually point out that I love my spouse and have for many years and yet, he was not a gigolo.Although he does sometimes sing that song, lol.

  3. I worked in a veterinary clinic for 20 years and a vast majority of cats were found therefor free. Some were even spayed or neutered. Our favorite clients were the ones who found their pets and cherished them all the way through old age and eventually easing them towards the rainbow bridge. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

  4. Oh dear! I must confess that when the cats have been on the lap a long time and I need to get up….. I sometimes sing them a song. Keeping in mind that I sing off key. I am a bad person.

  5. I have never been a fan of handing out free pets because of the increase in odds for abuse/neglect. If the animal welfare community doesn’t place a value on a pet’s life, we can’t expect the public to either. It only reinforces the mind set that pets are disposable and that only increases their chances to be placed in harm’s way. You should report the abuser because as an animyou welfare advocate, you owe that animal the right to be protected; however, you don’t owe an abuser any favors, especially when it is at the expense of that animal’s life and/or safety. I’d turn her in. Tell me who it is and i will turn her in because I don’t mind being the bad guy to an abuser.

    1. Do you have a source for your claim that free pets are at increased risk for abuse/neglect?

      Also, please watch the video. This dog is loved, even if her auditory sensibilities were perhaps insulted.

  6. You know, people who value animals see their intrinsic value. People who don’t…no amount of money is going to help them see the intrinsic value. I’m sure Michael Vick paid lots of money for his dogs, wanting only “the best”. And we all know how much he valued them.

    Just because an animal was free, doesn’t mean it’s not loved as part of the family. Even if that family chooses to sing at it…

    1. This is true.

      Here’s another thing: if not for people who perceive the intrinsic value of animal life and happiness, there would be no rescue, no foster homes, no wildlife rehabilitators, no movements for shelter or wildlife management reform. No-one would agonize over a backyard puppy who can’t walk or a feral kitten with neuro issues or a neglected flock of young roosters. No-one would make pet wheelchairs, or floation devices for aquarium fishes with swim bladder disease.

      The notion that there’s a division between people who care and the Irresponsible Masses is a false one. Time and time again I’ve met people who, seeing a need, stepped in to help as best they knew how. Time and time again I’ve met people who love their pets, no matter how they got them.

      And now I’m going to go sing to my cat Prune, who wasn’t free, but what the heck. It’s not like he knows any different, and I feel a bout of ‘Nature Boy’ coming on.

  7. You know what happens to an animal that is adopted for free? Whether from a shelter, or from Craigslist, or found on the street…. pretty much the same thing that happens to pets who are adopted out at holiday time.
    They aren’t killed in a “shelter”, that’s what!
    Unfortunately, there is a tiny percentage of animals that are actually abused by sick individuals – but the number of animals victimized by these people is absolutely DWARFED by the millions of pets abused, neglected and killed in our so-called “shelters”.

  8. Oh my! I do that to my former shelter kitties, one of whom was free, every night. I’m sure they could do with less ‘abuse’.

  9. I have one free shelter dog and one free Craigslist dog. They are loved and way too spoiled but they put up with my singing so it’s a fair trade. I don’t think it’s the money you pay or don’t for an animal that’s the problem. You are either an abuser or you’re not. Thankfully most people are not.

  10. Well that’s just nonsense. I paid 100 bucks for my dog, and he gets tortured WAY worse than that. You should hear what I do to “Soft Kitty.” Or maybe not.

  11. I abuse my free shelter cat every day, because he has severe food allergies and has to eat fancy, expensive venison and lamb food while the other cats (whom I paid an adoption fee for) get to eat whatever they want.

  12. So far, all of my fosters I have placed have been for free. These are kittens I hand raised from a few weeks old with bottle feeding or nursed back to health form near death. They all mean the world to me. I used to think “Free” = bad home, then I realized that the cost has nothing to do with it, it’s all about finding the RIGHT home. One of my adopters immediately went out and bought her new, FREE kitten a few hundred dollars worth of toys, scratching posts, and food at Petsmart and then gave me the money to order her a $120 cat tree online because she does not use the internet. She loves that cat so much, she carries around pictures of him like some people do of their children.

  13. You should find this interesting then…..

    The Today and Tomorrow of We are to Save them All
    The movement to increase adoptions from kill shelters means that any rescue group that does not adhere to the “Group Think” will be left in the dust. This is the new retail of animal rescue.
    We are to adopt out free or low cost animals that have been rescued from kill facilities, nurtured to health, vaccinated, S/N, micro chipped, licensed, trained, etc., without sacrificing our “adoption” criteria. We are to attend mega adoption events where adoption interviews are to take place with dozens of other rescue groups, with thousands of people in parking lots and fairgrounds. That is to constitute “the high interview and vetting processes” for potential adopters. Pre home visits, impossible. Background checks, impossible. Landlord approval, impossible. Stress to the animals at these events is discounted. This is cash and carry.
    If we are an organization that receives no government support or taxpayer funding, we are to find the resources through fund raising to offset the costs that the National Subsidization Orgs do not cover with their $35 per adoption perk. To my knowledge there are no substantial grants to rescues to offset the costs of vetting animals for adoption. Grants today are primarily for targeted S/N for communities. There are a few grants of nominal value for rescues to offset their costs, but the competition is fierce for the limited funds, typically enough to cover 10 dogs and 15 cats. Hardly an amount that can fund high adoption numbers. Even the smallest rescues typically adopt out a minimum of 200 animals a year. $2,500 will not significantly offset the costs of saving and vetting to these rescues. There is also the issue that searching and applying for these grants takes staff, skills, and time that most small rescues do not have.
    The Government subsidized organizations, such as Animal Controls and humane organizations with government contracts, have unlimited potential for cost offset. Either directly by taxpayer infusion or as a contract for prized real estate facilities for basically free. A recent example is the West Valley Animal Control facility that was built with a $19 Million taxpayer funded bond indebtedness and was sold to Best Friends Animals Society for $1. Or the SPCA of Central Florida who gets a facility and land to run their shelter, clinic, and other business interests from Seminole County Taxpayers at $20 per year. Many of these public/private partnerships also are awarded taxpayer paid free utilities, marketing, advertising, other perks, and of course no taxes.
    The trend from the national grant funding organizations is to promote only the largest of the rescue/shelter organizations as they have the ability to increase adoption numbers due to their established business practices. These large rescues/shelters already have paid staff in place to pick up the ball and run with it. They usually have their own in house spay/neuter clinics. So their cost is negligible. They usually have a wellness clinic or thrift stores which are significant profit making divisions. The small rescues have to negotiate retail discounts with the established retail veterinary profession. Even utilizing the low cost spay neuter clinics does not offset the losses with free or low cost adoption fees.
    Let’s take for example PetSmart Charities. The industry leader in grant making and funding for adoptions through their affiliation with PetSmart stores. The push is on to increase adoption numbers for all their stores. Since PetSmart Charities changed their rules to allow non 501C3 to participate in their grants and in store adoptions, Animal Controls and other government subsidized organizations can adopt through their stores. This is great as more animals will be showcased to find their forever home. However there are some differences between the rescues and government funded organizations whether they are 501c3 or not. The government sponsored agencies can take the animals that were not adopted back to their facility and kill them. They will have a new batch next week. The majority of small rescues have invested hundreds of dollars into each of their animals and have a commitment to the saving of the animals and to their business to at least recoup some of their investment. The government subsidized organizations can offer their animals for free to low cost. The small rescue cannot compete.
    Best Friends Animal Society now only accept new Network Partners that come with substantial resources to promote Best Friends fundraising activities and brand promotion which then in turn funds the Network Partners grants. The small rescues in the trenches doing the lion’s share of rescue today without millions in financial resources or connections, need not apply.
    These collaborative partners all sit on each other’s BODs to provide the leadership direction and promote the mission dejour. To keep the movement focused on what they determine to be the direction of the entire Animal Welfare community. Will these collaborative partners establish legislation as recently happened in Oregon with Senate Bill 6? Effectively shutting down small rescues due to cost of licensing, inspections, and invasive, no knocks inspections of private homes that foster animals for rescue organizations without probable cause.
    So where will we be in 20 years? Will the life and death decisions of our innocent animals suffer as compassion is replaced with larger corporate mindset? Will the retail of rescue be concentrated into the hands of a few large well-endowed organizations? Will small compassionate, dedicated organizations be forced to leave the field? Will all new organizations that startup have to come in with a multi-million endowment to establish their presence and significance? Will the grant monies just continue to rotate amongst the established “Group Think”? Will Animal Welfare/Rescue industry look like the business model of Wal-mart, Home Depot, Lowes, etc?
    My prediction is all of the above.

    1. Where did this come from? Is this of your own creation? I need to know the context before I know how to respond or what to think.

      1. I’ve done some searches and haven’t found it elsewhere. Doesn’t mean it’s not, just – not readily findable.

        Looks to me like a zero-sum argument against no-kill crossed with a corporatist conspiracy theory.

  14. Fee waived adoption events are NOT the same as “free to good home” offerings. Any animal – purchased from a reputable breeder, adopted at full cost, adopted at a fee waived adoption event, obtained from from a “free to good home” advertisement or even from the front of a grocery store as someone hands out unwanted kittens – could be at risk for abuse. This does not mean that fee waived adoption events are irresponsible or dangerous.

    Fee waived adoption events help pets find new homes – which means that cages in shelters are available for other pets that need them. Much research has been conducted regarding the negative effects of long-term shelter stays for cats and dogs. Longer shelter terms for cats is correlated with significant increases in illness and behavior decompensation. This, in turn, lengthens their length of stay, puts the health of other shelter residents at risk, makes them decidedly less attractive to potential adopters, is expensive for the shelter and reduces the number of cats or dogs that can be helped by the shelter, both in terms of financial resources and cage space.

    Fee waived events should be (and generally are) conducted as any other adoption event is conducted. Potential homes should and are vetted as they would be in any other circumstance and unsuitable applicants are refused adoption. It is unfair to highlight the horrible outcome from one fee waived adoption event and say that these are dangerous and inappropriate. The horror of what happened to that animal is a result of a broken adoption screening process at the shelter that allowed an animal to go home with that person.

    We all want to help as many animals as we can and want them to go to the best homes available. The research strongly supports that long-term shelter stays are NOT in their best interests and that the best way to help as many animals as possible find good homes, prevent illness and disease and prevent them from decompensating and becoming difficult or impossible to adopt out is to minimize their shelter stays. Research is also indicating that return rates for animals adopted at fee waived events are not significantly different than those from standard adoption processes.

    Smart evaluation of adopters is what is really the issue here – not how much an animal cost an adopter. Any decent fee waived event (or standard adoption event) carefully considers the adopter requesting a pet and checks references to try to assess the motives of and quality of the potential new home. The only difference is that a fee waived event has the potential to help more pets, prevent some of the negative outcomes of long term shelter stays and allows the intake of more of the never ending pets in need.

    I think it is time for the sheltering community to come together – rather than tearing each other’s processes down – and thoughtfully consider if our practices ultimately serve the animals placed in our care, or if there is a better way to do it. Fee waived adoption events are NOT the reason that this animal went through hell, and can be a great venue to help even more animals on their way to a great new home.

    1. “It is unfair to highlight the horrible outcome from one fee waived adoption”

      Geez, I wouldn’t have minded “A little pitchy, dawg” or even “Can’t carry a tune in a bucket” but horrible outcome seems harsh.

    1. Generally speaking you should credit the author when posting someone else’s work. If you don’t know the author, don’t post it. You can always post your own original comments anytime.

  15. Eucritta- you are entirely wrong on this. My friend is a staunch NK advocate. And is under tremendous pressure to keep their organization viable. I believe this was written by one of her board members in a synopsis that was asked of all their board to determine if they will have a place in the changing dynamics.

  16. Julia – I agree with you that the information coming in from fee waived events so far are baring out the theory.
    I also know that for the group that wrote the above report that they are having to come to terms with changing their adoption protocols. And with that in mind I understand changing their adoption protocols may be a difficult transition. As a rescue you have set up protocols, tweeked them over the time to obtain the best outcome, and settled into a process that works.
    What no one has addressed and it needs to be addressed is the issues of financial health. And I think the above information stated that.
    So please I would like to have and open discussion about this. I would like to hear from the rescue community on how are the small – rescues going to compete.
    And yes Shirley you are correct in obtaining authorship. The person who wrote this did not want his name out there or the organization as they muddle through their issues, however I did get permission to post it as I think we need to have some dialogue on how we are going to help small successful adoption rescues continue pulling from kill shelters. I know from personal experience many small rescues are doing wonders in poor under served communities to stem the high killing rates. Or if, and I think this is where this group is, that maybe it’s time for them cease as the grants and emphasis is on the more major metropolitan areas.

    1. If you want to have a discussion on how small rescues can stay afloat financially while offering pets for adoption at no or low cost during promotions, that’s fine with me. Just say so. A couple of ideas come to mind on this topic: Having a Pay What You Wish event where you may get some people who pay less than the normal adoption fee but others who may pay more – and all the animals get homes. Also, move away from the typical rescue financial model of “making our money back” through adoption fees and instead turn to alternative fundraising forms such as what most every other non-profit does.

  17. I think as Julia has stated the push on shelter
    Saving. The rescue community is a part of this. Yes, Shirley alternative fundraising. What are those alternative fundraising successes? Will the help to move the animals the final mile be there for small rescues? Maybe first we need to define what is a small rescue?? How do we define a small rescue. And is it possible that small rescues even be of value?
    There are some smart cookies on this blog.

  18. I think the key here is that you still need to have decent/reasonable adoption requirements, regardless of the fee charged. And that, for some small rescues, is what is preventing them from doing more adoptions. I have heard of some, but not all (and there are some “shelters” and “humane societies” that might be included) whose list of requirements would eliminate all but very few potential adopters. Some are tied to living conditions (housing with pet limits) but some are just plain unreasonable (certain square footage, fence of certain height, dogs in apartments, location of residence, etc) and prohibitive for some adopters. Not sure where I read this, but someone in the rescue community said we may not find a perfect home, but we can find homes that are good homes. That surely beats dead at a facility.

    There are small facilities and rescues that do an amazing job. Maybe we need to identify them and see what they are doing to make it work for them. I always thought that if we look at “best practices” (retired teacher here) that we could learn what works, rather than focusing on what isn’t working.

    Shirley, it’s great to have a place where we, who love animals, can come to have these discussions. My guess is that we all want one thing – to stop the killing, abuse and homelessness for these animals we all love.

  19. Db- thought I had responded- but it’s not here. Yes I totally agree. We need to define best practices. We need to help small rescues survive. There had been an org doing this but they ceased 2 years ago. How do we keep small orgs- those doing the heavy lifting. Many in poor underserved communities without deep pocket donor bases. Usually areas where there are no low cost s/n options. Where the shelter killing numbers are staggering. I know one such area. Population 72k- shelter kill rate 14,000 per year and never stops.

    1. It should not fall to rescues to do all the heavy lifting. Rescues are an important PART of a no kill community but the municipal shelter needs to pull its own weight and do its job.

Leave a Reply