Why Honesty Is Crucial When Bringing Your Pet to a Shelter

Don’t lie when surrendering your pet; it could be a death sentence.

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Hiding a pet’s past aggressive behavior may endanger the families of unwitting adopters. By: ansik

Surrendering an animal to a shelter is a difficult decision.

Even though you know it’s for the best and your furry buddy will find a new home, saying goodbye is never easy. During the process, shelter staff will ask a lot of questions about your pet.

Although it’s tempting to bend the truth to make your pet even more adoptable, doing so can cause a lot of issues.

Shelters Rely on Your Honesty

If you’ve ever walked through a shelter or looked at pets online, you’ve probably noticed that they have personality descriptions. Shelter and rescue staff write up a behavior synopsis for all adoptable pets that includes:

  • Important information about their histories
  • Whether they like other animals
  • If they get along with children
  • Their general likes and dislikes
  • Any known health concerns

This information is key to getting a pet adopted, especially to homes that already have other pets or young children.

Information on pets’ personalities is gathered via the history that you provide when surrendering your pet. So the more detailed, open and honest you are in your description, the better for your pet and your pet’s new home.

Litter Box Problems

People like to gloss over litter box usage. They bring their cats to shelters all the time for not using the litter box, but because they think admitting it will cost their cat an adoption, they lie about it.

The real concern here is that the cat may have an underlying medical issue that the shelter — and potential adopters — won’t know about. It’s better for everyone that these litter box problems are brought to light.

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If shelter workers know your pet doesn’t get along with kids, they can try to find an adults-only home. By: tschaff

Pets With Aggressive Histories

Many shelters require the entire family to come in and meet the new pet, especially when young children are involved. But that isn’t a guarantee that the pet will behave the same way in a home environment.

The first step to avoid a bite or scratch when adopting a new pet is to find one who has previously lived with children. That’s where the personality descriptions come in: Adopters rely on those descriptions’ accuracy for a smooth adoption and the welfare of their families. And shelters rely on you to provide accurate information that they can pass on to their adopters.

If you are relinquishing your pet, falsely claiming that he has lived with or is compatible with young children could lead to a failed adoption — or worse. If your pet has never been around kids or avoids them, make sure you mention this.

The same is true regarding other pets. If your dog chases cats or isn’t friendly with other dogs, don’t hide this information when surrendering him, and likewise if your cat dislikes dogs or is aggressive toward other cats.

Being honest about both likes and dislikes will help your pet find his perfect home.

The Danger of Hiding Behavioral Issues

A woman once approached me in the shelter where I worked and identified a dog we had up for adoption as Bandit, the same dog who had attacked her daughter, leaving a scar on her face. The woman provided the name of the dog’s previous caretaker, who had declined to tell our intake staff about his dog’s aggressive past.

If we’d adopted Bandit out to a family with young children and he’d attacked another child, awful things could have happened:

  • The shelter might have faced legal repercussions.
  • The children may have been severely injured or worse.
  • As a result of his aggression, Bandit may have been euthanized.

No one wants these things to happen.

This heartwarming video provides great tips to those looking to adopt a cat:

Tell the Truth

A lot of pets’ behavioral issues are neither that uncommon nor as severe as people who want to hide them think. Nipping and scratching isn’t unusual, but they may be clear signs that your pet isn’t happy living with kids or other animals.

So be honest. If Jinx has nipped or growled at your toddler, the shelter is probably just going to let adults without kids adopt him. Being ornery with kids isn’t a death sentence for Jinx, but if you lie, he gets adopted by another family and the nipping turns into something more serious, then euthanasia is not out of the question.

Whether you’re tempted to lie because of guilt or because you want to give your pet the best chance possible, rethink your plan. If you truly want your pet to succeed at starting a new life, be open and honest.

Allison Gray

View posts by Allison Gray
Allison Gray gained a wealth of knowledge about animal welfare issues and responsible pet care during her nearly 5 years of work for an animal shelter. She is a writer, photographer, artist, runner and tattooed remedial knitter. Allison also has been researching, testing out and perfecting nutritious pet treat recipes in her kitchen for Petful since spring 2017.

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