Thursday, April 12, 2018

When Shelter Workers are the Problem

The single greatest reason
so many dogs in shelters are killed is that shelters do a very poor job of trying to rehome dogs.

This is not just my opinion; it has been demonstrated time and time again by the folks in the No Kill movement, who always see a decline in killing, and an increase in dog adoptions, when real effort is put into lowering barriers, increasing advertising, taking better pictures, telling better stories about the dogs, and doing even the most rudimentary training.

And yet, as Dana McMahann notes in an article for NBC news, too often what folks face when they visit a rescue are black and white rules that seem divorced from reality or experience:

Katie (first name only used at her request), a longtime dog parent in Indiana, wanted to adopt a dog after her family's passed away. She went to a local rescue specializing in Labs and Golden Retrievers, the breeds her husband had while growing up.

"The application itself was eight pages long," she told NBC. "It asked some normal questions, like my background owning a pet. It also asked about any medical conditions we had, whether we were planning on having children, what our jobs were, and what our schedules were like. I thought those were a bit much, but I answered them."

Their application was rejected. Why? "The staff member told me it was because I was not 'a stay-at-home puppy parent,'" Katie said. "If we wanted to adopt a dog from this organization, I had to quit my job. That seems rather impractical, especially if we're going to be paying for dog food and vet bills."

So what's the solution?

From a prospective pet owner's side of the table, it's to simply go elsewhere; find a rescue where the folks in charge are actually trying to have a conversation, and are not on a power trip. And, to be honest, it is a power trip for some folks on the rescue side, many of whom actually know very little about dogs and are leaning on artificial check lists removed from reality as a consequence.

On the rescue side, not only do the hours of shelter operation need to conform to the real human schedules of prospective adopters, but so too does some nod be given to reality. People have jobs, not every yard has to be hard fenced (dogs have done fine on slide cable runs for a 100 years), and many of the folks coming to a shelter are not new to dog ownership.


Viatecio said...

When I bought my house, a fenced-in yard was not a personal requirement but there it was anyway. After all, I was getting a Rottweiler puppy, so of course I would need a fenced yard with a locking gate, correct?


My gate is always open and I am always out with my dogs. They learn the boundaries of the property and the freedom of staying within them instead of the frustration of being behind a barrier. My property is tiny to begin with, and the yard even smaller. It is sad to imagine keeping my dogs in a tiny plot of grass their whole lives aside from walks and other activities outside.

As a result, I have no territorial aggression, barrier frustration, fence-running or charging (the privacy fence is more for the neighbors dogs), or barking/digging/etc behaviors often seen in typical suburban dog population. My dogs can lay in the front yard under my supervision and their own self-control watching the world go by and I know they have the restraint and training to resist temptation off the property. The little knows he can escape by sliding underneath the boards, but allowing him freedom and being outside with him essentially makes that a non-issue.

I'm glad that my Rottweiler's breeder was open and understanding of my husbandry practices despite the 10-hr workdays (I am far from the stay-at-home dog OWNER many breeders or rescues want me to be!) and for now, the fence stays up so I can host other dogs at my house and allow them some liberty.

Jennifer said...

Not entirely fair. Katie was looking to adopt a Lab or Goldie...breeds that are scarce in rescue. Young dogs and pups are scarcer still. Some breed specific rescues have very tough adoption rules and still have zero kill rates. If she was willing to take a mixed breed dog and went to an ordinary animal shelter or dog pound, she would have found it much easier.

PBurns said...

Labs and Goldens are among the most common dogs in the US, and there is no indication she was looking for a puppy. Not sure where she was located but some breed-specific rescues often only take dogs with papers from breeders, so they have said no to a LOT of dogs. Ditto for folks who only want to rescue a pure breed; you are an idiot who cares more about paper than the dog. Go to, however and you will find thousands of retrievers of all sorts. No shortage of dogs, and also no shortage of rescues that are failing at placing dogs because they are run by hazy, crazy, and lazy idiots.