Discussion: Do Shelter Pets Need a Sob Story and a Sarah McLachlan Song to Get Adopted?

When some shelters impound a stray dog who is shy, there is an assumption the dog was cruelly deprived of socialization with humans. If the dog cowers at a raised hand, the assumption is he was abused. If she had a recent litter, she was “dumped” by an evil breeder. If he is skinny and matted, he was starved and neglected. If he has bite marks on him, he was either used for fighting or as “bait”.

Sometimes an entire group of people is smeared by the shelter in writing up these fictional pet histories.  For example, “A hunter neglected and abandoned this dog” makes it seem as if all hunters are the type of people who neglect and abandon their dogs.  This is false of course but there is a stereotype in many rescue circles that this is true.

What purpose do these fantasies serve?  Are they trying to increase donations with these fabricated tales of woes?  Do they think no one will want to adopt an ordinary homeless pet who has no dramatic story of suffering in his online bio?  By saddling every shelter dog and cat with a depressing backstory, aren’t we simply furthering the common misconception that shelter pets are damaged goods?  And by smearing entire groups of people, aren’t we narrowing the pool of potential adopters?  e.g. I wonder how many hunters feel welcome at a typical shelter.

Most times, I would guess that a shy dog or cat is simply shy, possibly because he is in a shelter environment.  Homeless dogs and cats are individuals.  They get lost, get into fights, reproduce, forage for food, etc.  It doesn’t mean they were intentionally abused. Most shelter pets do not come with a verifiable history and in the absence of such a history, what right have we to make assumptions that they are broken?

What are your thoughts?

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50 Comments

  1. Karen

     /  January 11, 2013

    It’s about as silly as breed specific legislation. Every animal is an individual and should be treated as such.

    Reply
  2. Daniela

     /  January 11, 2013

    The petsmart by me has an agreement with the local SPCA to showcase their cats. I like looking at them and reading their stories. I remember one that read something like this:

    I was found as a stray so noone knows my story. But I would love to come home with you so we can start one. Once upon a time I was in Petsmart….

    I thought that was a nice way of getting interest without creating a sob story that most likely wasn’t true. Sad stories do tug at the heartstrings but I have found that posative stories make me more likely to want to get them home.

    Reply
    • I like that.

      Reply
    • Victoria

       /  January 12, 2013

      I like that too. I love to tell my rescue the story about how I saved her, and she was fearful and hid under my bed for a week, then when I was upset, she came out and laid next to me. Apparently, her desire to be a friend to me outweighed her fear. I love that story.

      Reply
  3. Jessica

     /  January 11, 2013

    Not only that, but I think a lot of people looking for working dogs absolutely refuse to consider shelter animals for that reason – I know a lady in Minnesota that really wants a livestock guardian for her sheep, but the shelters won’t even consider adopting a Pyr to her. She’s had to then consider breeders and a single specialized rescue that might, possibly, let her adopt a dog for work (even though most people with working dogs I know keep their dogs in better health and vigor than most pets)

    Reply
    • I’ve heard this many times. Hunting dogs, stockdogs, LGDs — they want to work.

      Glad that the breed rescue with whom I work prioritizes working homes for dogs with working potential.

      We probably place more “failed pets” to be working farmdogs — AND valued family members — then ever the other way ’round.

      Reply
      • Heather – Can you tell a little about how you market these “failed pets”? Also, do you think someone wanting a working dog would feel welcome to apply after viewing your group’s website (assuming there is one)?

  4. Further, by defining these animals as pathetic victims, the adopters who do respond to the mythology are primed to poor-baby them, to regard them as frail, fragile and incompetent, to make excuses for them rather than address normal problems as they come up — to never expect much of them.

    What a terrible stigma to saddle anyone with.

    Reply
    • Jessica

       /  January 11, 2013

      In training, I have heard many a time “Oh no, hasn’t he been through enough?!” when faced with an out of control rescue dog.

      It’s entirely unfair to the animal to live with such an albatross around its neck.

      Reply
  5. Leslie Cobb

     /  January 11, 2013

    Christie Keith did a really good column about this topic. These sad stories pluck the heartstrings of rescuers, but I think most of us have as many pets as we can care for already so we just get frustrated at not being able to help. Reaching the target audience for adoption requires a different approach, focusing on how great the pet is and how easy it would fit into a family. I think most potential pet adopters would be reluctant to bring home an animal as a pet for his/her children if that pet is assumed to have emotional and/or physical problems.

    Reply
  6. I’ve found that the sob-stories create more bleeding hearts than they do adopters!

    I write a majority of the petfinder descriptions for my shelter’s adoptable pets and do so only when I’ve spent time, personally, with that animal. If they are shy – then they are shy. If they are a purring machine – then thats what they are. If they bark a lot – then they are talkative. I don’t use their surrender reasons or stories for description fodder.

    Reply
  7. bealsie2

     /  January 11, 2013

    Interesting post. I think it is human nature, but I have no idea what purpose it serves. My mother is an example. She has a used dog that I got for her. I know his history, I know where he came from, the people he came from are friends of mine. He is a manipulative little guy and he quickly learned that if he acted fearful, she gave him treats because she felt sorry for him. She has convinced herself he was abused. I KNOW he was not.

    On the other hand, I have a guy who showed up in my yard about 12 years ago. He was about 6 or 8 months old at the time. I think he got dropped out in the country by people who had no idea how to train an energetic mid-size puppy. I don’t think he was abused. The only sign I have ever seen in him of over-aggressive “training” used on him is when you say “leave it!” (a command I never actually use anyway). When he hears “leave it!” even now he cringes. I know he was cared for in some respect before he came to me because he was familiar with vets and he absolutely knew what a syringe was for. I know this, because the first time I took him to the vet, when the vet walked into the room with a shot prepared for him he did a Scooby-Doo leap into my arms. A little disconcerting with a 50 pound dog!

    The shelter I volunteer for will give some of the backstory if they know it. But if a dog comes in as a stray, they don’t try to make anything up. I find it interesting listening to the people coming through though. When I am working with a dog, the comments make me laugh sometimes. If the dog has no focus and no attention, they think it is “happy”. If the dog is somewhat reserved and won’t come to the front of the kennel for a biscuit – “abused”. They make up their own stories.

    Reply
    • Jenell brinson

       /  January 11, 2013

      I think the aspect of ‘human nature’ in something like this can be and often is as much if not more some need to find a reason to downgrade, criticize, even demonize, someone else (the cruel previous owner) as to build up their own perception of themselves as the kindly rescuer.
      Btw, just something for you to think about regarding that dog’s aprantly extreme negative reaction to the command “leave it,” but not to any other. In my own over 40 yrs experience owning, training dogs, “leave it” is the only command I have and do teach my dogs, that I teach with such forcefulness that yes, some of them will even cringe at that command and no other, and I have a wonderful relationship with me animals. that is because “leave it” can be the most important emergency life-saving command you can teach, and for that, is best be taught with no room whatsoever for the dog to question, hesitate, delay, or give in to temptation to ignore it…”leave it” can be used when the dog is about to do something dangerous, is, for example, wanting to investigate a rattlesnake, or pick up and eat something that could be dangerous, even poison, or as I’ve used it a few times, to save ANOTHER animal from harm that my dog might be about to injure or even kill. Such as a baby squirrel that has fallen from its nest in a tree, or someone’s pet bunny that got out and wandered into the yard of a naturally predatory natured dog. “Leave it’ has also been useful when another dog is about to provoke my own dog into a fight, and only complete respect for my ‘leave it’ can overcome his naturally offended pride enough to let him walk away.

      Reply
  8. db

     /  January 11, 2013

    Well stated comments by all –
    I love hearing a story about the individual animal’s personality. Our local hs used to do a bit of a blurb, based on observations by employees and/or volunteers – not the sob story kind of write up – but a bit of a look into who they are. Now they post the data only (7 year old domestic shorthair) and I think they are missing a great opportunity to showcase these wonderful animals as individuals.
    Some shelters/rescues do a wonderful job of this. UPAWS comes to mind right away.

    Reply
  9. However… our local shelter’s director uses some of those sad abuse stories as public education. She’ll use facebook and post a photo of horribly long, curled nails or tumor filled testicles to show “what happens if”… and then she’ll follow it up with their outcome, either adopted or euthanized because of extremely poor health, etc.

    In that way, its not every animal that has a tragic beginning, but the ones who truly were victims of human circumstance and cruelty – their stories can educate.

    Although, I guess the target audience there isn’t going to be fans of the shelter’s facebook page to begin with… one would assume its fans are already adopters or looking to adopt.

    There isn’t any Sarah McLachlan song in the director’s post, just hard facts and follow-up.

    Reply
  10. Katherine

     /  January 11, 2013

    I totally agree with you my dear. It seems to me also that they wait until it’s just under the wire before they put the animal’s picture and story up. Why do they wait until it’s just a few hours before the animal is put to death? It seems to me they should be posting these animals much much earlier than the day before they are scheduled to die. What a way to sneak a home for a dog in. Why not just go ahead and post the whole album of all the animals in the shelter ? Some people have to make arrangements, they want to meet the dog or cat or whatever kind of animal it is… before they make a decision. A decision that will impact this animal for the rest of it’s life. Sadly, most times when they wait that long, the animal winds up being put down. And the sob stories that pull so hard at our heart strings does nothing but make the people that love them and can’t do anything about them just HURT for them. It seems very wrong for these animals. Give someone a chance to make sure this is the animal for them otherwise, most times the animal gets returned to the shelter and winds up euthanised. To me, it just doesn’t seem fair someow to wait until it’s too late to do anything to post the animal. Again, this is just…

    My2CentsWorth

    Katherine “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened” Kathie

    ________________________________

    Reply
  11. Sabs

     /  January 11, 2013

    Sadly, I think sob stories do drum up adoptions. Watch Urgent Part 2 for a few days and you’ll notice that perfectly healthy, happy dogs with high scores on their evaluations don’t make it but if a dog comes in so matted that you can’t see its face, or if it’s a dog with horrific mange and is starving they’ll almost always get pulled despite the prospect of high vet bills.
    It’s not right – while every dog deserves to keep it’s life, it’s so hard to see the healthy, happy, smiling guy get put down because he didn’t come in shot or hit by a car :(

    Reply
    • Sabs

       /  January 11, 2013

      Just wanted to add that I’m a true believer that you should adopt an animal because you want to add that animal to your family and love his/her personality, not because you feel bad for it.

      Reply
    • I understand what you are saying Sabs but I think the Urgent Part 2 audience is far narrower than the nationwide adoption pool we should be appealing to. Plus the very nature of the posts – “pet will be killed tomorrow” puts it in a niche category. In general, the happy, healthy dog with a good eval should be marketed to a wide array of adopters including first time dog owners, people looking to add a 2nd dog, owners with children, etc. Posting pets on a kill list is not the same sort of marketing I’m talking about here and it is primarily appealing to rescuers and individuals specifically looking to save a hard luck case. Since killing is all too common, just BEING on a kill list is not enough to appeal to some people. Another aspect of the tragedy that is our shelter system.

      Reply
      • Sabs

         /  January 11, 2013

        I totally see where you’re coming from with the Urgent Audience. The sad thing is I see it with local adoption groups also – dogs who have had their legs severed by traps get scooped up the second they’re available but healthy, happy, owner surrenders spend forever in foster care. I have 2 greyhounds and even people at the park are like “oh my god, did you rescue those dogs? They treat them so badly! You’re a great person”Just waiting for me to open up about how badly greyhounds are abused and how I saved them…..however instead I explain that they were actually really happy and healthy when they arrived and that I didn’t rescue them, I adopted them – they were never in danger, but they make great pets if you live a low-energy lifestyle!
        I think people in general love a good sob story, they love to go to their friends and say “I rescued this dog” and the sadder the tale the more ‘oooo’s and ahhh’s” they get.
        Maybe it’s an issue with Adoption groups/shelters in general? Maybe it’s like the whole Urgent Part 2 thing that the term “rescue or adoption” tend to attract a certain type of bleeding heart? I can’t imagine the people going to get their pets at the pet store are looking for a sob story. But even in those cases I’ve heard people be like “He was the last one there and was all alone!”
        The whole adoption/rescue movement needs a complete re-branding which I’m happy to see is starting to happen. We recently pulled a dog that was brought to a vet to be ‘euthanized’ because they didn’t want to take care of her anymore and never disclosed this info to adopters until she actually got adopted and we had to hand over medical records that in bold letters said ‘euthanized on XXXX” as we didn’t want anyone adopting her because they felt bad but rather because they thought she’d be a good fit.

        I think people in general love drama….I know my family does! lol!

      • I do agree with your Sabs. It’s clear that dogs such as Patrick will get many offers of a home while other dogs who look like healthy Patrick will get passed over.

        People asking me about where I got this dog or that are in for a grab bag of answers, depending on the individual – everything from “I bred him myself” to “Rescued from the kill list whilst pregnant” to “vagrant”. No guarantee of a sob story here!

        Anyway good on you for adopting 2 happy greyhounds who were never in danger and just needed a home. That’s a good story in my book!

  12. Here’s two exmples of current petfinder.com posting for our local kill shelter:

    1st one:
    HE’S BACK! TOO BIG FOR THEIR HOME.

    UPDATE; 10/30/2012 – MOUSE HAS RETURNED :( THE YOUNG MAN WHO ADOPTED HIM LOST HIS JOB AND HIS DAD WOULDN’T HELP HIM TAKE CARE OF THE DOG. TRUST ME, AS FULL AS WE ARE, I PROMISED THIS MAN DOG FOOD OR WHATEVER MOUSE NEEDED TO KEEP HIM AT HIS HOUSE. HE DID STATE HE IS HOUSEBROKEN AND TRIED LETTING HIM INTERACT WITH OTHER DOGS BUT MOUSE JUST DIDN’T ENJOY THAT. WE ARE HOPING SOMEONE WILL COME IN AND BE ABLE TO PROVIDE HIM A STABLE HOME.

    2nd one:
    Rocky is a German Shepherd/Malamute mix that was originally adopted from our shelter last spring, but unfortunately the woman that adopted him gave him to someone else and they do not have the time for this large-breed mix because they work so many hours. Tomorrow I hope to have pictures of the newest relinquished pets that came through our door today (the number of relinquish today 1/2/13 is staggering and depressing). Nothing says Happy New Year like bringing your pet to the animal shelter :( Anyway, Rocky is neutered and microchipped. He was an outside dog so we don’t know if he is housebroken or not, plus…the person that had recently owned him didn’t bring him in…her brother did and he didn’t have a lot of information on him either. Argh! He’s a big goof-ball of a dog that hasn’t…

    Several instances of blaming the public and insulting pet owners. Really embracing the public! I wouldn’t want to adopt from them for fear that I would be insulted and criticized publicly on petfinder.com if it didn’t work out!!

    Reply
    • Jenell brinson

       /  January 11, 2013

      not only are they insulting those previous owners, but in the case of adopted dogs being returned to shelters, espeically more than once, blaming those people for giving them up for what sounds like petty reasons can be masking some REAL behavioral/temperament problems in those bounced back pets. i’ve learned to be real suspicious of anyone supposedly giving up a pet for ‘reasons’ solely a defect in character or commitment of the owner! The dog “too big” may be wildly bounding around the house knocking over and destroying things and/or dragging the owners off their feet with wild lunges while walking on leash! the dog “too energetic for our quiet home” may be barking excessively and tearing the house apart with wanton destructiveness!

      Reply
  13. M.M.

     /  January 11, 2013

    I agree with Sabs that sob stories *are* effective, esp for fundraising purposes, but yes, they probably *do* generate adoptions. I think humans want to feel like heroes, and there’s a certain conscious or unconscious brag factor when adopting a sick, hurt, abused animal (or *saying* you did) versus a perfectly healthy happy one that someone has *merely* given up. We as humans like to feel altruistic. I would imagine that these tactics can be explained by those who study the psychology of giving. It is a disservice to the animals, the sob story, but until education and the law can reduce the numbers of unwanted animals, it may be a necessary evil.

    Reply
    • I think that the whole idea of “rescue” has gotten lost. I was talking with my cashier at the grocery store some months back and she mentioned she had rescued a GSD. In the very next breath she explained she had gotten him from a breeder as an older pup who’d been returned. I don’t know how some people are defining “rescue” these days but there was nothing to rescue that dog from, as far as I could tell.

      Reply
      • Pai

         /  January 12, 2013

        It’s like those ‘Rescues’ that buy the majority of their dogs from Mill auctions. They’re supporting the industry and creating more mill dogs, not ‘rescuing’, regardless how much as getting those few dogs out of the system makes them feel good.

  14. I totally agree that adoptable animal descriptions should showcase positive details about each animal. The ridiculous commercials we see (which are super depressing and unfortunately not inaccurate) are made by huge national groups who abuse funds…they are just another abuse of donation dollars. Sadly, so many are ignorant to the fact that their money won’t go to the animals in need, and they succumb to these ads, giving their money in good faith, when it will go to further the corruption of these twisted groups (such as HSUS, PETA, ASPCA, etc…).

    I believe it is my duty (and that of all folks in animal welfare) to raise awareness whenever/wherever possible about these groups!

    Reply
  15. I agree with you. Especially the HSUS, they only want to line Wayne Pacelle’s pocket.

    Reply
  16. Jim

     /  January 11, 2013

    I think shelters make up these stories because these animals do get adopted faster when they have a sob-story behind them. I’ve known so many people that have adopted pets and are almost bragging about how they rescued this poor critter from this horrible sob-story. People give themselves bonus points for such rescues. They like ‘bragging’ about what good deeds they have done. They feed their own self-gratification, glorification with these stories.

    Reply
  17. Triangle

     /  January 11, 2013

    Our shelter that is partnered with the local Petsmart recycles their ‘stories.’ As the animals are adopted, the next set get the same cage cards and stories. There’s always a Max who was given up ‘because my people’s son had allergies’ and so on.

    Reply
  18. What happened in the past is somewhat irrelevant.It’s what the animal needs NOW that is important. Picking up and acting on those needs are what rescue is all about. Animals do not .live in the past, but react to the present. We need to respond to this and make their future a great one.

    Reply
    • Jenell brinson

       /  January 11, 2013

      Past can be and is sometime relevant, BUT, it should be divulged as it might be relevant, and that can include reason the pet was given up by the previous owner. Past can give information that can help both the ones placing the animal and those adopting spot what might be problem areas for that particular pet and adopter combination. If the previous owner had a problem they couldn’t solve, whether escapism, harrassing or killing poulty and small livestock, it is just as relevant to how well the pet will fit into a new home as info such as not safe with cats, agresive toward other dogs, etc.

      Reply
  19. Cee

     /  January 11, 2013

    I believe adoptors like to know they are helping to save lives, but people are turned off and tired of sob stories. The focus needs to be on helping people imagine the adoptable pet in their own home and matching them up. I’ve heard of more than one guy going to their local shelters and asking to adopt the cat who has been there the longest and who’s is cumudgeonly, like himself; these men understand or identify with the cats and think they deserve a home anyway, which I agree with. If “Grumpy Cat” WAS really grumpy, wouldn’t you still want her?

    Reply
  20. Vania

     /  January 11, 2013

    I think backstories on pets, good or bad, make sense. People want to know what happened to their animals before they got them.

    When I try to adopt out cats or kittens, I will tell their stories but I don’t make things up about them. I will say “I found this kitten sick and starving, nursed her back to health and she’s ready for adoption.” I’ll also say the positives “she’s house trained, great with other cats, loves to purr, etc”

    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling the background of the animal, even if it’s sad. I think families want to know as much about their pets previous life as possible. That being said, I think it’s wrong and unethical to make up stories, and I think the good aspects should be highlighted as well.

    Reply
  21. Vicki Hurley

     /  January 11, 2013

    I 100% agree with all the posters who said that these gooey, sob story fantasy backstories do nothing good for an adoptable dog. An HONEST backstory can be extremely helpful. For example, if I know a dog was abandoned by an owner who tied him to a lamp post and walked away, I will know to watch for signs of separation anxiety. Another good example is, if I know that the previous owner surrendered this dog because he couldn’t deal with a bad habit like digging, barking, etc., then I can make an intelligent decision about whether or not I am prepared to work through that problem. The fewer mysteries I have to solve, the better handler I can be to my dog.

    Reply
  22. alice in lala land

     /  January 11, 2013

    if it bleeds it leads.. “adoption” of animals is no different” the more poignant the story the more likely the poor person will “adopt the sad lonely abused mistreated starved hates men hates women hates children hates hats hates red hair only has three legs dog ..” so they will feel good about themselves and have a story to tell no matter that the dog cannot be house trained, bites people and hides under the bed 24/7. The idea that they will get a dog who just needs a good home does not appeal to the “better nature” of most people who buy dogs from a shelter.. i wish it were different..my sister has a whippet from a great breeder.. we cannot walk the dog anywhere where she is not asked “ah you must have rescued him from the race track.. wasn’t he abused there”? I told he we need a coat that says “I was a planned purchase from a great breeder.. or ‘ask me about my breeder” or Not a Rescue”
    Meanwhile I hope more people forget the story and just get the dog.. or cat..

    Reply
  23. Shyness and timidity are often genetic. One of my dogs has been with me since she was 5 weeks old, and she’s always been afraid of just about everything. In puppy class when another puppy came up to her she screamed and ran into the corner. I had to get all of my friends to feed her tons to get her to even approach people. She was afraid of shadows and reflections in windows. She wouldn’t go for a walk–I had to carry her blocks from my house and our walk would be her going home very quickly.

    She is an absolute jewel–probably the sweetest, most loving dog on the planet. At five years old, she has also become a pretty good dog agility partner, although she still gets easily spooked and teaching her the teeter-totter was a very, very long and slow process. She’s incredibly smart and a fantastic tricks dog.

    But if she ever were to end up in a pound she would probably be a basket-case and they’d kill her for it.

    Reply
  24. Cee

     /  January 11, 2013

    Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Kat Albrecht is a dog trainer, former police officer and developed training to teach how to recover lost pets. Because of her police work, she identifies all barriers to getting more lost pets back home. Human behavior is the biggest factor that creates barriers to success.

    When someone finds a fearful pet, like you said, they often assume that the animal has been mistreated when it is usually just the pet’s personality. Such well meaning people and rescue groups then don’t even bother to look for the owners. This means there are many stray pets that end up in shelters and being killed when they should be returned to their worried families. These animals also take up precious space in rescues that should be occupied by pets who are truly homeless. People find stray pets and assume they are abandoned when they should be trying to find their families.

    On the other end, owners often don’t know how or where to look for their lost pets and are not aware of lost pet behavior. Some people give up too easily, others have the mindset that people only help stray dogs, not stray cats. As you know, shelter staff are often unhelpful and tell people “there’s nothing we can do”, when there is a LOT more that can be done (Proactive redemptions) to recover pets and keep them out of the shelters.

    We need to always be willing to learn new things and challenge our assumptions if we want no-kill communities.

    Reply
    • Dianne

       /  January 12, 2013

      It is sad but true that the assumptions are made when fear is seen in a found animal, even by shelter and rescue ‘professionals’.. What do people expect them to behave like. These animals are lost, they are away from their home and humans. They are distressed just like a child would be if they got lost! Of course they respond fearfully – they don’t know where they are and they don’t know you. Only the boldest animal would not be fearful in this situation.

      Reply
  25. Dianne

     /  January 12, 2013

    We were pleasantly surprised with our two most recent adoptions. Both dogs, one from a private ‘rescue’ and one from our local SPCA. The little guy from the private spot was presented with his history, which included a loving home that could no longer keep up with him (senior owner), the other was an owner surrender with no details – and none were created to fill in the gaps.

    In the past, we have adopted other animals, some of those coming with stories of abuse and neglect. One, a cat, was tagged with a horrid back-story, but he was really just shy of the people who had contact with him (including the rescuer). I met him at an adoption event, and talked to him for almost 1/2 hour before he decided I was his type of person (since he was shy – no one was bothering to try to get to know him). He was quite happy to get attention from me, so I was suspect of his tale of woe. He turned out to be the biggest purr factory and cuddler I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. That was why my husband and I decided to adopt him – not because of the horror story they tried to tag on him just because he liked to take his time getting to know people.

    Creating these horror stories may get the animal adopted faster, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. People choose them because they feel sorry for them, not because that pet is the right one for them.

    Reply
    • Dianne

       /  January 12, 2013

      We live in Canada, and are fortunate that many of the provincial SPCA boards have adopted a no-kill policy except when an animal is clearly demonstrated to be vicious, or has non-treatable severe health conditions.

      Reply
  26. Karen F

     /  January 12, 2013

    Timing . . . I was just scrolling through my FB feed and saw this from Urgent Part 2:

    “Coco is a 9 month old puppy who was dumped by her former owners for being “destructive,” which is just the one-word term for ‘we had an intelligent, energetic puppy in our house and we couldn’t be bothered to turn away from the TV long enough to give her any exercise, or anything to chew on.’ They just dumped this precious soul who had depended on them for everything, turned their backs and walked out the door. Shortly after that horrible scene, Coco was given her initial medical exam and, not surprisingly, she earned a Yellow rating because she was ‘nervous and tense.’ Well, no kidding. This is a young, redeemable dog who will only get one chance from the ACC. Save her life tonight.”

    Wow. Makes me feel really good as a member of the pet-owning public.

    Reply
  27. Sally

     /  January 12, 2013

    I rescue abandoned Kitties off the street and I take in Kittens that are sick and need to be bottle fed and taken care of until they are old enough and well enough to go to a permanent loving home. I take them to the Vet and get all of their shots, have them wormed, combo tested, spayed/neutered if they stay with me long enough to be old enough and I find it absolutely amazing how time after time I am turned down by rescue after rescue when I call and ask for help with finding homes for these fully vetted beautiful loving kitties.After having done this for several years the only thing that I can figure is, they just aren’t pitiful enough. They can’t say they found the kitty in the shelter ready to be PTS or deathly ill, PLEASE DONATE FOR HIS MEDICAL EXPENSES!!!! so that we can help him/her. Or, and this one just kills me, they are a hard color to get adopted! The funny part is I have people call me to bottle feed abandoned kittens all the time. It is a hard, time consuming, expensive thing to do but I love doing it. I get promised all the time that they will pay for the formula and any Vet expenses and will come back for the kittens when they are weaned. So far, every one of them have somehow lost my number and address as soon as they dropped the kittens off. The only one that has taken the kittens back when they were weaned is a tiny one person rescue that I work with. In my opinion, being a “Rescue” for a good number of people has become a new way of making money and getting a tax break. I hate to say this because our 4 legged friends suffer. I was at our local Petsmart a few weeks ago when the Cats were being unloaded to come in for the adoption event that day. One poor Cat was crying and crying in her carrier. I stooped down to see and try to comfort her and knew right away why she cried. The carrier she was in was filthy. Not just soiled from the ride in but filthy. Newspaper put on top of the filth and her sitting on top of it. The stench was awful. I could only imagine the conditions she lived in at her Foster and I was told they had had her for almost 3 years. My heart broke for her but other than to suggest politely that her carrier needed cleaned I couldn’t help her. I guess I have gotten a bit off subject here but in a way I think I have made a point. The pitiful stories make money for the rescues that ask for the donations or chip ins. Most of these have a little ticker that shows the monies collected but they aren’t accurate as monies come in. If you ever donate and go back later and look there is always money in excess of the goal needed actually collected and that money supposedly goes towards helping some other poor animal. The more pitiful the story and pics, the more money comes in. It is great that people want to help but it has become a new racket on FB….I have adopted this poor little creature with this disability and it needs this surgery…help me pay for it. Two of the kittens I just weaned were born with no eyelids. When they are old enough and it becomes necessary I will take care of their medical myself. I think that it is time that we all get a little realistic about animal abuse, responsible pet ownershp and spay/neuter requirements. I think Rescues need to be closely monitered to make sure that is what they are really doing. I think there needs to be stronger punishment for animal abuse/abandonement. I also think that there needs to be a law that requires your Pet to be spayed/neutered by the time it is 4 months old just like the requirement for a rabies shot unless you have a special license to breed your pet. Then maybe, just maybe, there would finally be an end in sight for our poor fuury friends and what they suffer at the hands of the people that are supposed to be the superior beings here on Earth.

    Reply
  28. Victoria

     /  January 12, 2013

    One thing I really like to hear as part of a pet’s backstory is when they have ended up in a shelter because their owner died. I think because I have seen so many terrible reasons for returning animals, when I hear of these circurmstances where the owner died or lost the home to foreclosure and kept feeding his dogs in the back yard, while reaching out to rescue groups before animal control took them away, it reminds me there is a lot of good out there. People who aren’t at the high-kill’s shelter’s doorstep dumping an animal because it doesn’t fit into their purse anymore or some other crappy reason.

    Some of what I read from leaders in pet marketing – http://www.maddiesfund.org/Maddies_Institute/Videos/Marketing_and_Social_Media_Videos.html , states that it is important to highlight the positive because most people want well-adjusted pets.

    Those people aren’t necessarily active in rescue and they make up that percentage who haven’t yet decided whether they will be getting a rescue or buying from a breeder/store. How it is important to market to that group, because people who want an abused animal with problems is always going to go to rescue.

    I think there is a fundamental difference in the audience of networking death row animals and animals to the general public. Many people I know, hate seeing all the animals that are going to be killed. However, I do think the people who end up rescuing pets that way, are doing so because they want to “save” that pet. I’m fine with it, after all, it saves the life of the pet. There are others that may be sheltered from it or “hides” those postings on Facebook because they want to be sheltered from it. Those are the folks who probably won’t ever want to step into a shelter, the people who, if they rescue a pet will do so by adopting from a rescue group, because they are afraid of what they will see or what they think when stepping into their local shelter. (A study provided by PetPoint a few months ago showed that more people who rescued got their animal from a rescue group than from the local shelter.) I understand that mentality,too.

    I think a two pronged approach to reach out to both groups is a great way to go. I just want to see the animal saved and go to a loving, responsible home – whether it be a farm, an apt, a retirement home – whatever inspires someone to adopt it is great, but I do think there should be more of a target toward reaching that undecided group. The Ad Council done a study on that: http://theshelterpetproject.org/wp-content/uploads/PetAdoptionFactSheet.pdf

    Reply
  29. All rescuers can do is make deductions and, in some cases, assumptions. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are not.

    I think, though, you miss a vital point: People LIKE emotional stories. They LIKE being connected to another animal. Increasing adoption rates can be as simple as telling better stories about the rescued nonhumans in our care. I’m not suggesting flagrant lying, and I think rescuers would do better in sharing the positive traits of the dog in a fun fashion…but I disagree that “sob stories” don’t have their place or that they are, by necessity, always wrong.

    (As a recent example, I fostered a dog who I was told had been kicked or beaten because she had fractured ribs and a severely broken jaw. I could have gone with that story, but after spending time with the dog, I felt it was more likely she had been hit by a car…mainly because I found out firsthand how much she loved darting out a door and running in the streets with wild abandon. She was one of the most well-behaved dogs I’ve had the pleasure of fostering – except she hated Mina, heh – housetrained, knew basic “commands”, uber confident, comfortable in her own skin kind of dog. I still think the horror of being hit by a car and possibly being separated from a loving family is an emotional story as much as being beaten by a not-so-loving family is.)

    Reply
  30. Victoria

     /  January 12, 2013

    I can say from personal experience that when I adopt, I adopt behavioral dogs. Dogs whom I, or someone like me is the probably the difference between life or death. I have fostered several happy, fun, sweet, loving dogs. Dogs who could be great for a first time pet owner or family. I guess I could look harder to find dogs without behavioral problems to adopt, but frankly, I would think it would be better for me to foster them until they find a forever home.

    Two of mine were strays and I do make assumptions about their background. One was very feral when I met him, to this day, I’m surprised he has come as far as he did. I only know that he was found in a National Park in California, by the road. He is very fearful of going out into the woods or parks and very fearful every time I have to move. I was his foster when he bit someone who campaigned to have him put down. She was my neighbor in an apartment complex and attempted to make my life very difficult. The rescue said that he had been through every foster she could find. The next step was euthanasia unless we could find him a home. So he is with me, after a lot of training, because I couldn’t see him die (8lb chi mix)

    Another I don’t know what her story is, but I assume she may have been a puppy mill dog. I have fostered several former puppy mill dogs when in Washington during a time there were several raids going on. She didn’t know basic anything and was fearful of everything. She still has her PTSD moments when being picked up where she starts screaming and attempting to bite, but she is getting better by the day.

    However, I am one of those watches the kill lists and networks dogs so I am sure that I will always have plenty of dogs to pick from.

    Reply
  31. Some readers seem to be confused. I am asking, IN THE ABSENCE OF A VERIFIABLE HISTORY, should we make assumptions that the animal was abused/neglected/etc. In cases where there IS a verifiable history, e.g. a police raid during an organized dogfight in which dogs were seized, of course the truth should be told. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the first or only thing told about the animal, but I am definitely not advocating for concealing verifiable histories. I hope this clears up any confusion.

    Reply
  32. I think this is a very good question and I honestly think a very hard one to answer. I’ll try mine from my gut. I had to sign off all the Facebook pages that tear at my heart strings, which means I had to sign off most do them. I also can’t listen to the Sara McLaughlin song and thE commercials because they panic and upset me that I can’t adopt or donate or foster all of them. Rescue has gone overboard with sickening, gut wrenching stories. They may be true-every one of them-but they can’t all be saved. I don’t know how rescues do this all day every day and remain sane. I still feel awful about all I can’t do.

    Reply
  33. We rarely ever know, and if we want to be fiction writers we should publish short stories instead of shelter profiles. If we know the story, then sharing it is part of the animal’s actual history and can be compelling. But whether we do or we don’t, we should never let our fiction supplant the actual description of the animal so that others may feel they know it by reading.

    Reply
  1. The Week in Tweets – 18th February 2013Some Thoughts About Dogs | Some Thoughts About Dogs

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