Shelter work is difficult, demanding and too often thankless. Workers and volunteers act as the emotionally connected guardians of unwanted companion animals.
So it’s sad when the public directs its anger toward shelters — even when they aren’t at fault. For instance, pet overpopulation and animal hoarding? Yes, shelters get blamed for those things. Considering that they’re actually trying to stamp out these terrible situations, it’s a bit nuts, no?
While I’m at it, here are 4 more things everyone can stop blaming on shelters.
1. Irresponsible Or Abusive Adopters
I see a lot of pleas for foster homes or adopters in my Facebook news feed, and an urgent request for a pit bull at New York City’s Animal Care and Control recently caught my eye. Star was clearly in lousy condition, and the reason was obvious. “ACC allowed abusive adopters to take her,” the post read.
Star had been adopted by an irresponsible family who didn’t provide her with adequate care. She was returned to the shelter underweight and in poor condition. The post continued, “What kind of place would allow animal abusers to adopt the dogs?”
Shelters use tools to evaluate their adopters, such as:
- Animal care histories
If a potential adopter has never adopted from the shelter before, has never been charged with animal cruelty and doesn’t give shelter staff any indication that he intends to abuse his new pet, then the shelter has no reason to assume that he’s not a good fit for adoption.
Shelters do all that they can to place their pets in great, loving homes.
Unfortunately, it’s an imperfect process, and sometimes bad people get their hands on homeless pets. But blaming the shelter benefits no one — especially when no solution is offered.
The end of the post read, “Someone please step up and help this little girl. NOW.” So not only was no solution offered but also the author spent her comment blaming the animal shelter instead of the actual animal abuser and then demanded that someone else (not the author) take responsibility.
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2. Strict Adoption Policies
“Adopting a pet from you guys is harder than adopting a child.”
This is something I heard multiple times as an adoption counselor. Our application was a 2-sided questionnaire. It had the basics:
- Contact information
- Questions about the household
- A few questions about how the new pet would be cared for
Nothing shocking. Nothing invasive. We didn’t do home visits, require a 48-hour waiting period or need to see proof of income.
And yet it was always too much. These people wanted 2 contradicting things:
- To make adopting a dog as easy as getting a gum ball out of a machine
- But also to make it as complicated as adopting a child
When adoption is too lax, shelters are blamed for allowing irresponsible people to take pets home (like poor Star above). But when adoption is too difficult, shelters are attacked for having “unreasonable” expectations.
Adoption policies are put in place to protect the animals. As long as you keep that in mind, you’ll be more forgiving of those pesky questionnaires.
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3. Being Too Busy
Visit the shelter on a Saturday during the summer, and you’ll find that you aren’t the only one. The lines and crowds mean you’ll have to wait your turn.
It may be a little boring and cut into the rest of your schedule, but a busy shelter probably means there are lots of adoptions going on. Which — don’t forget — is often a wonderful thing for the shelters as well as the animals and their new families.
This woman has high praise for the shelter from which she adopted her little buddy:
4. Not Having the “Right” Pet
Everyone has some requirements to adopt a new pet (the animal must love children or even, simply, just need a home), but you wouldn’t believe how many visitors get annoyed because the shelter:
- Didn’t have any teacup breeds
- Didn’t have any non-shedding dogs
- Didn’t have any purebred pets
It’s almost impossible to satisfy the wishes of every visitor in a shelter. So some people buy a pet instead, all the while blaming shelters for not having the “right” selection.
If visitors kept an open mind and heart when strolling through the shelter, they might find the furry friend they never knew they were looking for.