May 22, 2013
On the subject of how much money we spend on our pets, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published “‘Tails’ from the Consumer Expenditure Survey” on its website and the Hartford Courant breaks down the information:
The average amount each household spent on pets in 2011 was $502.
Households tended to spend 1 percent of income, no matter how much or how little they earned.
The release tracked spending from 2007 to 2011, and it didn’t show any trends of households trading down to cheaper food brands during the recession, or surrendering dogs due to foreclosure.
Additional tidbits from the government:
In 2011, households spent more on their pets annually than they spent on alcohol ($456), residential landline phone bills ($381), or men and boys clothing ($404).
Average household spending on pet food alone was $183 in 2011. This was more than the amount spent on candy ($87), bread ($107), chicken ($124), cereal ($175), or reading materials ($115).
Even when spending at restaurants dropped during the recent recession (December 2007–June 2009), spending on pet food stayed constant.
From 2007 to 2011, spending on pets stayed close to 1 percent of total expenditures per household, despite the recession that occurred during this time.
The main takeaways for me:
Shelters and rescues that discriminate against poor people who want to adopt pets based on the assumption that middle/upper class adopters will spend a greater portion of their income on the pet are not only behaving unethically, their assumption is baseless. Poor people spend about 1% of their income on their pets, just like other pet owners. While it’s true poor people have less to spend overall, it’s noteworthy that everyone is on the same level when percentages are calculated. In other words, those who can afford to spend more generously on their pets, don’t.
The survey did not find any increase in surrendering dogs (presumably to shelters) due to foreclosure. This “increased surrenders due to foreclosures” is a claim I’ve heard countless times in recent years from shelters all over the country. Is there a disconnect here?
The recession does not appear to have impacted pet expenditures. To my mind, there is a simple explanation for that: Pets are family.
March 20, 2013
I am revisiting a topic today in order to reiterate my position and address the most common responses I receive whenever I post about it. The issue is this:
So long as there are pets being needlessly killed in shelters, I favor giving shelter pets to anyone who wants them, provided the person hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty. We may not like all aspects of the home environment but if they are willing to save a life (and freeing up a space at a rescue in order to allow another life to be saved qualifies), let them.
Some shelters and rescue groups judge potential adopters negatively based on things such as physical appearance, income level or desire for privacy in their own home. As long as the adopter hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty, fills out a basic adoption application and provides photo ID, I see no reason not to approve them for adoption. There are a wide variety of people in this world who love pets. If they want to rescue a pet, they are the “right” kind of people. By adopting to them, you are not obligated to go on vacation with them or spend holidays at their house. You are saving a pet’s life.
But there’s more. You are establishing a relationship with the adopter, thus giving you the opportunity to provide education and assistance if needed. You are leaving them with the impression that saving a pet’s life is a positive experience. They’ll tell their friends and family members. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
On the flip side, when animal organizations make adopters feel judged and turn them down, they drive those adopters to other sources for pets. Pet stores don’t judge. Flea markets don’t turn people away. Irresponsible breeders make all comers feel welcome. In addition, the would-be adopter is left with a bad taste in his mouth about saving a pet’s life. He’ll tell his friends and family members. That kind of publicity hurts shelter pets.
Many of the responses I receive whenever I raise this issue are from well-intentioned people who truly care about the well being of shelter pets. I’d like to address some of those here. (Note: These are my summaries of typical responses I’ve received in the past. They are not directly attributable to any person or persons.)
- If we don’t visit the home and/or require a background check and/or [insert your arbitrary adoption requirement here], the pet is likely to end up being abused. There are fates worse than death.
There are no fates worse than death. Where there’s life, there’s hope. The overwhelming majority of pet owners – I would go so far as to say nearly all pet owners – try to do right by their pets. They do not beat, starve or otherwise intentionally harm them. While there are people who may be able to provide a better quality of life for a pet if they received some non-judgmental education on the subject, that does not make them bad people. And if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be a source for that education. If you drive them away to an alternate source by making them feel judged, how will they ever benefit from your experience? Do we want to rely on the pet store to provide them with support for the lifetime of the pet? Do we want them to have an intact, unvaccinated pet from an alternate source or a neutered, vaccinated pet from a shelter/rescue?
- If they can’t afford a high adoption fee, they will never be able to pay for vet care if the pet breaks a leg or has some other emergency.
Just because the adopter can’t come up with hundreds of dollars to buy a pet from your animal organization, it does not mean he would not work a miracle to pay for a vet emergency for a pet he developed a bond with at some future time. And that’s if an expensive emergency ever arose. I have owned many pets who lived their entire lives never suffering a broken leg or bloat or anything similar. There is no reasonable basis for the assumption that the pet will require expensive emergency vet care and that the owner will be unable to pay for it when it occurs.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the pet will break a leg at some point and the owner will be unable to pay for vet care. I go back to the premise that if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be the group the adopter turns to in a crisis. You – who has a network of advocates, who knows how to fundraise, who has a reasonable vet your group has a good relationship with – you would be in a position to assist. Or did you expect the flea market vendor to help out this pet in need?
- Not everyone should be allowed to have a pet. Why should my organization spend resources helping someone become a better pet owner when we can just decline their application and wait for someone else to apply?
While it may be your belief that not everyone should have a pet just because they want one, the fact is they are going to get a pet somewhere. We try so hard to turn people on to the idea of adopting shelter/rescue pets, trying to get them in the door as it were, we need to think very hard before turning away someone who comes to us wanting to save a pet. The reason your organization should offer people a hand up when needed is because you are dedicated to animal welfare. You are performing a community service. By saying yes to more adopters, you are freeing up space to help more pets. And because you don’t honestly believe that an irresponsible breeder is going to support your community in the way you will.
- So you’re saying we should give pets to Michael Vick? After all, he wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty.
No. Again, most everyone who applies to save a pet’s life is going to try to do right by that pet. The Michael Vicks of the world are the rare exception, not the rule, and policies should be geared toward reasonable expectations. But to answer the question, if someone who has publicly confessed to torturing dogs and whose confession has been corroborated by testimony from multiple witnesses in federal court applies to adopt a pet from you, turn him down. We do not want to supply additional victims to people we know for certain are sadistic animal freaks, regardless of whether they have an animal cruelty conviction on their record. But this would be a very unlikely application to come across and there is no need to make a policy specifically to weed out Michael Vick.
- Are you talking about my shelter/rescue group?
If your shelter kills pets or your rescue group pulls pets off death row as space becomes available in your facility or foster network, yes. If your group is narrow in scope, such as a breed rescue which typically handles a small number of pets with none at risk of being killed, no.
- So we shouldn’t bother trying to match the pet to the adopter? Just give any pet to anyone, even if a 90 pound elderly woman with a walker wants a 120 pound dog-aggressive Mastiff with no leash training?
Continue trying to make the best possible match between adopter and pet while bearing in mind that the pet someone falls in love with may be the right match, even if it doesn’t strike you that way at first. I can not stress enough the value of establishing a positive relationship from the outset so that the adopter is open to hearing your suggestions. When adopters understand you have both their best interests and the pet’s best interests in mind, they will be far more receptive to your input. If they feel they are being deemed unworthy, they will seek a pet from a source which does not make them feel that way.
- I adopted from a group that charged $450 for the pet, visited my home, conducted a background check, had me fill out a 20 page application and sign a contract stating that they can take the pet back at any time if they feel it’s warranted. I’m fine with all of that. It shows me they care.
Good for you. Not everyone feels the same way you do. Many people, including me, would be turned off by these policies and would be unable and/or unwilling to pursue the adoption. And since shelter pets are being killed, purportedly for lack of space to house them, I want everyone to feel included in the adoption pool.
Last I checked, there are not mile long lines of potential adopters leading to the front door of every shelter and rescue in this country. Let’s value the ones we have, even if they are different from us in some ways. Let’s embrace the community we have and work towards making it the community we want it to be.
February 5, 2013
The Humane Society of Marshall County in Benton, KY (aka The Benton Marshall HS, as listed on Facebook) says on its website it is a private, limited admission shelter in need of donations. A reader recently sent me a list of the group’s requirements for accepting dogs and cats:
- We can ONLY ACCEPT animals from Marshall County
- We can ONLY ACCEPT owner surrenders which means we CANNOT accept strays
- Bring ALL vet records when surrendering an animal
- MUST HAVE PROOF: Current rabies, Negative heartworm test and a negative fecal test.
- CANNOT ACCEPT: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Dobermans, Akita or Mastiff
- MUST HAVE at least one set of puppy shots and negative fecal test
- Parents CANNOT be related
When accepting dogs, the staff will look at the adult dogs skin conditions, sores, behavior problems, eye or ear problems. Accepting puppies the staff will look for vomitting, diarrhea, nasal, eye discharge, skin condition, itching and umbilical hernia.
- MUST HAVE PROOF: Negative Leukemia FIV test, negative fecal test and rabies
- MUST HAVE PROOF: At least one set of kitten shots, Negative Leukemia FIV test and negative fecal test
When accepting cats, the staff will look for skin problems, eye discharge, nasal discharge, ears, sneezing, and diarrhea.
Shorter: Vetted white & fluffies only.
I was curious, since the HS clearly doesn’t intend to spend much in the way of veterinary care for its pets and since they adopt out intact pets with a $50 refundable deposit (so they are not paying for neutering themselves), how much do they sell dogs and cats for?
The website states cats are $65 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit) and dogs are $75 – $200 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit). The adoption application states that after you buy the pet, if you fail to have him neutered by a certain date, the HS has the right to take your pet back. In addition, there are a list of annual expenses for which the adopter is expected to be prepared to pay for 20 years, including $30 – $100 a year for neutering. Dang, I guess neutering doesn’t last as long as it usta.
At any rate, having recently read through a bunch of different shelter and rescue policies, I find too many of them failing to effectively fulfill the stated mission of getting homeless pets adopted. Picking out the vetted white and fluffies from the community and selling them intact for up to $200 creates another problem too: resentment on the part of the municipal facility. The Marshall Co pound accepts all the unvetted Pitbulls and goopy-eyed cats. Naturally this is going to cause some bad blood, as was evident last year when the county voted not to accept the Humane Society’s offer to merge:
The county shelter and Humane Society used to be competitors of sorts and for years, county leaders and Humane Society leaders haven’t always agreed.
After big changes from new leadership at the county shelter, the number of adoptions soared, euthanasia rates subsequently went down and the price to adopt went down, too.
Due to low euthanasia rates and high adoption rates, the county shelter is operating with a surplus.
Meanwhile, the Humane Society is losing business. Their adoption fees are higher and more people are taking animals and donations to the county shelter.
Look at how well the county shelter was doing in February 2012 (pdf). Increased lifesaving=decreased expenses. I was unable to find any more recent stats but hopefully the shelter is continuing to succeed in its mission.
The impact of restrictive shelter policies reaches well into the community – potential adopters, donors and officials are all affected. As are the pets, sadly. Why not consider throwing off the shackles and offering a hand to the county in a meaningful way – not just a oh-gee-you-guys-have-a-surplus-and-we-are-in-the-red-let’s-be-friends kind of way? There is a potential win-win situation in Marshall Co but not as things stand. Will the private and the public sectors ever be able to work together for the benefit of the community’s pets?
January 23, 2013
Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011. In this post, I am going to look at some of the survey results indicative of why people want to adopt, where they are getting their pets and why more people aren’t getting them from rescues/shelters.
Unsurprisingly, the reason most people want to adopt is to rescue a pet. (pages 18 – 20) And yet we see so many invasive and outrageous adoption requirements from rescues and shelters, purportedly because they feel obligated to protect pets from dogfighters, hoarders, and animal abusers. Put another way, the study found that most adopters are driven by compassion. Shouldn’t we operate on the assumption that all applicants are kind-hearted unless we find out differently?
Some rescues and shelters are driving potential adopters away. Where are people getting pets instead? (page 11) The primary source for cats is the neighborhood. More cat owners acquired their most recent pet as a stray than any other source. More dog owners got their last dog from a family member or friend. What ties these sources together? The adoption process is super easy, there are no up front costs to obtain the pet, and in the case of stray cats, the adopter feels they are rescuing the pet.
About 25% of recent pet owners surveyed for the study researched online before acquiring a pet. (page 12) Shelters and rescues should ask themselves:
- Is our website user friendly and up to date?
- Are our photos and bios of available pets uplifting?
- Do we have a contact e-mail easily visible on the site and are we checking it regularly and replying promptly to inquiries?
Regarding perceptions of the local pound (page 16):
- 38% of respondents believe the facility has limited hours – This is an easy fix.
- 44% believe the pound is against animal cruelty – Wow, the fact that this isn’t close to 100% should be a wake up call for animal control units.
- 23% think the pets there are well cared for – I interpret this to indicate that most people believe pets are being neglected, abused or otherwise subjected to substandard treatment at their local pound.
- 32% flat out don’t want to visit the pound because it’s too depressing – No kidding.
There is a lot of useful information here for rescues and shelters. Remember that the math shows us we only need to increase adoptions of shelter pets by a little bit nationwide in order to get every healthy/treatable animal into a home. It seems like many of our rescues and shelters could do a little bit better simply by applying the Petsmart Charities research to their marketing and protocols.
January 22, 2013
Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011. The results contain a lot of interesting information which I will look at in upcoming posts. In this post, I am going to focus on page 14 of the report which asked the question: What were the reasons you chose not to adopt your cat or dog?
The base for the respondents to this question were owners who had acquired a pet within the past 12 months from a source other than a shelter or rescue group. Petsmart Charities draws attention on the page to the most common answers given which basically amount to people wanting a purebred pet and/or one with a known history. But what caught my eye were several of the less popular responses which, to my mind, all fall under the same category and could be combined to reflect more significance:
- Adoption process too difficult
- Organization too depressing
- Inconvenient hours
- Poor customer service
These were all obstacles to adoption for the respondents that shelters and rescues could address today:
- Streamline the adoption process. Most owners try to do right by their pets and most adopters can be trusted.
- Don’t threaten to kill pets. Don’t make assumptions that the pet was abused in the absence of clear evidence.
- Open up the facility when most people can get there – evenings and weekends.
- Answer the phone. Reply to e-mail and social media inquiries. Treat potential adopters like they are celebrities.
In short, a significant reason people didn’t adopt their last pet was suckage on the part of the shelter or rescue. Fixable suckage. Take heed.
(Thank you Joni for bringing this study to my attention.)
January 21, 2013
I posted on the blog’s Facebook page yesterday that I wanted a beagle but was exasperated by so many restrictive and invasive requirements from the various rescue groups I was seeing on Petfinder. I have visited this topic often on the blog and as regular readers know, I am all for reasonable screening (picture ID along with a 1 or 2 page adoption application which provides enough information for the group to search for animal cruelty convictions and call the vet reference) but I am opposed to most of the other arbitrary requirements (e.g. signing a contract that allows a representative of the rescue to inspect your home at any time during the pet’s life and repossess the pet if they so choose). I also favor free or pay-what-you-wish adoption fees.
There are millions of pets being sent to the landfill every year in this country and rescue groups literally begging for adopters and fosters while imposing all manner of restrictions. There is a gap here. A gap the size of Oklahoma. By imposing the arbitrary requirements and/or high adoption fees, rescues are not only turning away good people, they are turning off good people from considering or recommending rescue in future. And meanwhile, rescues continue to issue daily pleas because they have no cage space or foster space for more pets and shelters continue the killing. There is a gap.
Rescues have the right to impose all the restrictions they desire. They have the right to charge any fee of their choosing. And they have the right to fund raise in any manner they wish in order to cover their expenses. None of this is in dispute. It’s all legal.
But to my mind, if rescues are in fact driving adopters away with their restrictive and invasive requirements and their high fees, they do not have the right to continually beg for adopters and fosters. Because it’s wrong. There is a gap.
Many people replied to my comments on Facebook. Some shared their experiences trying and failing to adopt from a rescue group. Others posted statements of support. Still others felt that because I am poor, I should not have pets. One commenter wrote:
How do we know that the best of her ability is some little dog hut in the back yard with a 5 foot chain. I’m sorry, but this is the last person I would give a dog to.
Another person added:
I might as well give an animal to a dog fighting group, and that isn’t going to happen EVER…. I will make sure to tell anyone and everyone that these people and this “blog” are to be avoided when ever and where ever possible.. I have seen enough.. you anti-rescue people deserve to be fleeced and rejected by anyone with a conscience .. enjoy being second rate pet owners and second rate human beings..
I want to clarify for the record that the posts on this blog and on the YesBiscuit! Facebook page are attributable to just one person: me. I further want to clarify that I am not anti-rescue. I am pro-rescue. I have evaluated and pulled pets from shelters for rescue, adopted from a shelter myself, and I continue to support various rescue groups both on and off the blog. I am trying to support rescue right now by adopting a beagle but I haven’t yet found one with reasonable screening processes and fees. Thus my posts on Facebook yesterday. There is a gap.
I am not ashamed of being poor. I may be a “second rate” pet owner and human being in the eyes of some, but the question rescues ought to be asking themselves is this: Is a pet better off dead than living in a home we consider to be “second rate”? Because even though most rescues don’t kill pets, many do leave pets on death row because they have no space for them. Freeing up space using reasonable adoption screening processes and fees is a win for people and pets. The other way – well, we see every day of the year how well the other way is working.
None of this is to say that rescue groups are responsible for doing the job the municipal shelters are supposed to be doing. None of this is to say that pet killing is ok, under any circumstances. I’m just saying that rescues should be part of the solution to the pet killing problem in most communities and if you’re going to be part of the solution, why not be the most effective you can be?
And: Many people have sent me leads on beagles and I would like to thank everyone who did. I will let you know what happens. I love you guys. (Also, if any of you want to take shifts wearing Billy down on this, I’ll post a sign up sheet in the hall.)
January 14, 2013
We took Schroeder to a mobile vaccine clinic in a grocery store parking lot to get his final puppy shots yesterday. Here are some of the other pets whose owners were waiting with us.
The hound, the Chihuahua and the kitty are all from the same family. The black dog is their neighbor.
Not everyone takes care of their pets in the same way but it doesn’t mean the animals aren’t well loved. Poor people are often prevented from adopting pets by those who claim to have the best interests of the animals at heart. Meanwhile, shelters are sending pets to the landfill by the millions. It’s 2013. Resolve to cast off your biases and let pets go home with people who love them. Then go fill up those empty cages with more pets who need help.
Here are a few events being offered this month by no kill shelters in conjunction with the holiday season:
UPAWS in Marquette, MI is inviting the public to come to an open house on December 15 for a shelter tour, refreshments, and discounted adoptions.
The Allegany Co shelter in MD is holding its annual Presents for Paws event on Christmas Eve where the community is invited to meet the pets and donate items from the wish list. This is their flyer promoting the event (click to enlarge):
Every year some parents are going to give the kids the pet they’ve been asking for as a Christmas gift. If shelters and rescues refuse to allow adoptions of pets as holiday gifts, they are driving parents to alternate sources to buy the pet – and probably turning them off shelter adoption permanently. In NY, Pets Alive Middletown and Pets Alive Westchester are employing their normal screening practices to ensure a good potential match between pet and family and making it easy for the parent to save a life while giving the kids the present of their dreams. The shelters are offering to have Santa’s helpers deliver the adopted pet to his new home on Christmas morning. No pet store salesman or flea market vendor is going to hold your pet for you until Christmas morning and then show up in a Santa hat – but Pets Alive will!
What is your local shelter doing to promote lifesaving and community involvement this holiday season?
There are not nearly enough shelter pets for everyone in the U.S. who plans to get a pet this year. This is ok because some owners, about 1.5 million, are already set on an alternate source (a breeder usually) for the new pet they plan to get within the next year. Of course many, about 5 million, are determined to adopt the pet they will be getting this year. Since we have an estimated 8 million pets entering shelters in this country every year, we have plenty of animals for these 5 million owners to choose from. But there is a third group of people, about 17 million, who are planning to add a pet to the family within the next year and are open to the possibility of adopting from a shelter as a source for that animal. We have only about 3 million shelter pets left in the total estimated population who are healthy/treatable and available for adoption. As is plain, if we were to convince even half of these 17 million homes to adopt from a shelter, we would be coming up short by millions of animals. Even if we adjust our estimates (to allow for a tough economic situation) and suppose that there are a million more pets being taken in by shelters this year and a million less homes intending to add a new pet, we still wouldn’t have enough shelter pets for even half of those open to adoption.
So why are an estimated 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets being killed each year? Obviously there are more than enough homes for them so that is not the answer. Are we failing to get the message out to enough of the target market that shelter pets are good and adoption is a positive experience? I don’t think so. While marketing is an ongoing effort, I believe we’ve done well in this area – definitely well enough to convince at least 3 million people who were already open to the idea of adoption anyway.
The short answer is this: The reason 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets are going into the dumpster each year instead of home with people who want them is because shelter directors are killing them instead of doing their jobs.
The longer explanation is multifaceted and involves the entire community:
1. Shelter staff and volunteers drive the public away by blaming them for various mythical crimes such as failure to neuter and pet overpopulation. People are further driven away when they know the facility kills animals and every pet they look at might be taken to the kill room if they don’t adopt him. It’s too overwhelming for compassionate people to enter this kind of environment. And of course no establishment is going to attract customers if the service is lousy, the place stinks and/or the merchandise is displayed in the equivalent of a dungeon.
2. Shelters and rescue groups turn down applicants they deem unfit for pet ownership. While I support having adopters providing a picture ID and a completed adoption application so they can be checked for prior animal cruelty convictions, I find it objectionable to deny adopters for such reasons as having a job, not having a fence, having children, or being unable to pay a $350 adoption fee. It is not possible to determine the quality of life a pet will have by using an arbitrary list of criteria such as is commonly used by many shelters and rescues. There are responsible pet owners who will never lose a pet regardless of fence quality, type or lack thereof just as there are responsible pet owners who will lose a pet regardless of fence status. Similarly, there are irresponsible pet owners who work outside the home just as there are irresponsible pet owners who work at home or are unemployed. By refusing to let pets go home with the people who want them, shelters and rescues are keeping cages occupied that could otherwise be freed up to save the next pet in need.
Recently I heard a teenage girl being interviewed on a TV show. She said she practiced Satanism. When asked why, she responded, “Because it’s the only religion that accepts everyone.” Setting aside my own religious views, I have to admit she makes a good point. No one wants to be harshly judged or rejected. And as with religion, pet owners have the freedom to choose where they will get their pets. You know what groups in the pet world “accept everyone”? Pet stores. Irresponsible breeders. People giving away dogs and cats online or in parking lots. The people being turned away by shelters and rescues will get pets from somewhere, probably a source that does not provide continuing education and assistance, and they will likely move into the group who will never be open to pet adoption. Win? For whom?
3. Shelters don’t allow adopters to see, touch and fall in love with their pets. Some shelters are never open to the public for adoptions, others are only open when most people work. Some facilities only allow visitors to see a portion of the animals there and/or don’t allow adopters to touch the pets. All, some or none of the animals may be posted online for adopters to see using good, adequate, or horrible photos. Every shelter, especially those in low traffic locations, should be bringing animals to daily offsite adoption events in high traffic areas but many hold no offsite adoptions whatsoever. The bottom line: If people can’t see the animals, how will anyone be able to save them?
4. Shelters are killing animals based upon arbitrary criteria such as breed, coat color, heartworm status, age, weight and number of days spent in the facility. By assuming for example that people don’t want Pitbulls, or that there are too many tuxedo cats on the adoption floor already and therefore marking these pets for killing, they are unavailable to be adopted by people who want them. It sounds obvious, I know.
Somewhere out there right now, I imagine there is an adopter looking for a tuxedo cat because he wants to adopt a kitty and he happens to fancy tuxedo cats. There are plenty available in shelters so no problem, right? Let’s say this adopter only wants to adopt a pet he meets in person and feels a special connection with. So he visits his local municipal shelter. They do in fact have two tuxedo cats but he doesn’t make that connection with either. In the kill room however, they have just killed a tuxedo cat (for being one too many) who happened to be a very vocal pet. The adopter’s last cat was also a talker and in fact, had he met this one, he would have likely felt that special connection he was hoping for and adopted him.
My point being that shelter directors have no way of knowing which particular animal will cause an adopter to fall in love. By operating on the assumption that they do know, they are preventing pets from being matched up with the people who want them. Contrary to the belief of shelter directors who kill based upon arbitrary criteria such as coat color, adopters are not looking for any pet whose fur is of a particular color – they are looking for an individual pet that appeals to them in a unique way. The more pets available for adopters to meet, the greater the likelihood they will find that special animal they want to take home.
You know how this owner will be able to meet lots of tuxedo cats? By visiting every pet store in the county. And the more he meets, the greater the chance he will fall in love with one.
5. Shelter directors see killing as an option for controlling the population. If a compassionate director committed to saving animals’ lives was put into place at every pet killing facility, killing healthy/treatable pets would not be an option. Instead, the director, staff and volunteers would have to work their tails off to get animals out the door alive by any responsible means. This is what the directors, staff and volunteers at open admission no kill shelters do every day. It’s hard work that requires dedication, creativity and flexibility but it is the only ethical approach toward shelter population control.
By killing the approximately 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets that an estimated 17 million people planning to get a new pet are open to adopting, shelter directors are driving those 17 million people to other sources. Pet stores (supplied primarily by puppy mills) and profit driven breeders stay in business because there is a reliable market for their products. As long as there is a profit to be made, these undesirable sources for pets will remain plentiful. Killing healthy/treatable shelter pets ensures that puppy mills will continue to meet the demand for pets that shelters are not. If shelter directors would do their jobs and start getting every healthy/treatable pet in their care out alive, the demand for pets from alternative sources would be reduced. Put into simple terms, if shelters really want people to adopt, they need to let them.
Remind me again how the so-called irresponsible public is to blame for shelter pet killing?
July 25, 2012
The Memphis pound, like many others, mislabels dogs as Pitbulls/mixes regularly. A couple of examples from PetHarbor (click to enlarge):
At MAS, a dog who is labeled a Pitbull type stands a greatly diminished chance of being adopted. For starters, the city targets Pitbull types for killing and very few ever get offered to the public. For the lucky few who make it to the adoption floor, their chances are limited by the fact that the pound requires a background check and a fence inspection for Pitbull adopters. The person wanting to adopt must have a 6 foot fence of a type deemed appropriate by a Memphis ACO, provided the ACO can get out to the person’s home to inspect. If not, the adopter is out of luck – and so is the dog.
The fence we have would not qualify and I know the same is true for many pet owners. Even if it did, I’m not particularly keen on giving my personal info to a place with multiple animal cruelty charges pending against staff members so they can check my background. I’m all for checking adoption applicants for previous animal cruelty charges but beyond that, what business is it of anyone there and what relevance does it have to one’s ability to take care of a dog?
The adoption requirements should be the same for every pet at MAS – a state issued ID, a completed adoption application and a check for animal cruelty convictions. Placing special restrictions on a certain type of dog is breed bias and when the “breed” is as loosely defined as Pitbull/mix, it seems to be applied haphazardly, to the detriment of the dogs at the pound.
All of which brings me to a beautiful puppy named Moonbeam at MAS. She was mislabeled a Pitbull mix but still lucky enough to make it to the adoption floor. The only form of marketing that was done for her to my knowledge was a post on the Facebook page belonging to the “Friends” group on July 13, 2012. She was not taken to any offsite adoption events (since MAS very rarely participates in any) nor was she included in any pleas to rescue groups (since MAS very rarely sends any). This post, since deleted, was her only chance to be seen by someone who might have a 6 foot fence and be willing to submit to a background check and have an ACO come to their property for an inspection:
For comparison purposes, I include this dog on the MAS PetHarbor site this morning, who is labeled a Border Collie/Lab (ignore the “chocolate point” coloring description):
I don’t know if anyone wanted to adopt Moonbeam and was discouraged by the Pitbull mix label and/or the special hoops they were required to jump through in order to give her a home. But I do know that she is dead – killed by the very people who should have protected her. Killed on July 23, just 10 days after the FB posting above, due to “time/space”. In an effort to cover up the needless killing of this beautiful puppy, the cowards who call themselves the “Friends of MAS” deleted her post from their FB page, as they do with all the pets who end up in the dumpster at MAS. They refuse to acknowledge the mass slaughter of pets at the pound and they certainly aren’t going to answer questions about it. Better to just delete-delete-delete.
But I won’t let Moonbeam be deleted. She was real. She was alive. She was just a baby.
The “Friends” put a flower collar on Moonbeam and took her picture, then posted her with the mislabled “Pitbull mix”, saying the special requirements for adopters were “for her protection”. The “Friends” failed to challenge that the puppy was not a Pitbull mix. Even worse, they failed to challenge the breed discrimination that was limiting her chances of adoption, and instead promoted it as some sort of benefit to the puppy. And finally, when she was killed a week and a half later, the “Friends” attempted to cover up the killing by deleting Moonbeam’s post. With “Friends” like these, it’s no wonder MAS continues to flail in the ditch year after year.
I’m sorry you were so completely and utterly failed at every level Moonbeam. You were a pretty little girl who deserved so much better than what you got from MAS and its “Friends”. You had a right to grow up and to be loved and to live and tragically, no one at the pound was advocating for your rights. Rest in peace, sweet pup.
How many more, Memphis?