I was researching a public shelter and couldn’t find a website for the facility so visited its page on Petfinder. At the top of that page, the shelter had a quote from another website which reads, in part:
ALL SHELTER DOGS WERE ONCE NORMAL PUPPIES eager to learn how to live with people. Yet far too many dogs are surrendered to shelters largely because their owners were unaware of how to prevent predictable puppy/adolescent behavior, temperament and training problems.
While I understand the desire to promote responsible puppy ownership, putting this quote on a shelter’s webpage is a terrible idea because it translates to:
ALL SHELTER DOGS ARE ABNORMAL. They were once normal but that time has passed. As adult shelter dogs, they don’t want to learn how to live with people. It’s not their fault they are defective. Their ignorant former owners saddled them with the behavioral, temperament and training problems they now have.
Myth: Shelter dogs are damaged goods. There is a reason they are sitting in a shelter.
Reality: Shelter dogs are dogs, just like owned pets. They come in all varieties of behavior, temperament and training, just like owned pets. They may have had an ignorant owner in the past or a loving owner who was simply unable to care for them any longer or perhaps they haven’t had an owner in quite some time. Verifiable information about the pet’s past is often not available.
Nearly all dogs are happy to learn how to do what is required of them in order to have a place within a family home. This is true for dogs adopted from shelters as well as dogs obtained from friends, family or other sources. Adopters should expect to put some work into their new pet – not because he came from a shelter but because he is a dog. Adopters can also expect to experience the joys of living with a companion animal.
Shelter dogs don’t dwell on their past. Neither should we. Every dog is an individual with the right to live, love and be loved. At most public shelters, animals’ right to live is violated by the very people we pay to protect them from harm. The notion that anyone at a shelter would do anything to discourage adoptions, and thus increase the number of pets going to the kill room, is tragic.
If you are considering adopting a shelter pet, don’t be fooled by the myths. A dog sitting in a shelter is a dog – no more, no less. It’s possible they might be a little more appreciative than average because you saved their life but you can probably manage.