On April 11, 2013, I spoke with Carrie Crunk, a rescuer in Memphis. She told me that at the public meeting of the pound’s advisory board the previous evening, several local advocates were concerned about a pregnant dog at MAS. She says interim director James Rogers reassured concerned citizens that time would be provided to allow them network this dog and that no mention was ever made of killing her unborn puppies. The next day, Ms. Crunk says she called MAS and was placed on speaker phone with James Rogers, Tracy Dunlap and DeKeisha Tunstall. She says her group offered to rescue the pregnant dog but one of the people on the call (she’s not sure which one as the person did not identify himself/herself when speaking) said that the dog can not leave the building until she is spayed because it’s state law. When Ms. Crunk expressed concern that spaying a pregnant dog would mean killing the unborn pups inside her, someone on the call replied that the dog was “not far along” and that they had a rescue group from CO which was fine with killing the unborn pups and had offered to take the pregnant dog after the spay surgery. Ms. Crunk also told me she had heard from another local advocate who had visited MAS on April 11 with the intention of visiting the pregnant dog but was turned away because the dog had been “adopted”.
Under the TN open records law, records were requested for the pregnant dog on April 11. This is the wording of the request:
I am requesting all records for the dog ID #252910 – records to include all notes by ACO , behavioral notes, front and back of kennel card and all pertinent information on this dog including her final disposition. I also want all veterinary notes including other records which reference the disposition of the unborn pups in this dogs uterus at the time she was at MAS. I also am requesting the drug log for the day she was spayed.
The records indicate the dog was impounded as a stray on April 3. On April 9, her weight was recorded as 35 pounds and a notation was made that she appeared to be pregnant. She was vaccinated and dewormed. A noted dated April 10 says that Ona Cooper was given 48 hours to network the dog. Medical records from April 10, the day of the public meeting at which James Rogers reassured advocates they had time to network her, indicate she was spayed and her unborn puppies taken from her belly to die. Her weight was recorded as 47.2 pounds. The notes include the following:
Approx 11 puppies, approx 3 weeks old
Puppies given Fatal Plus en utero
On April 11, the day after the meeting, the day after the spay, and the day the records were requested, the following note appears in the records:
Puppies euthanized after spay surgery. 10 puppies estimated to be about 3 weeks in development. 0.1cc per puppy of Fatal Plus, bottle #40.
I have some serious concerns:
- Why did MAS refuse to allow Carrie Crunk’s local group to rescue the dog and her unborn pups in favor of an out of state group which agreed with the killing of the unborn pups?
- Where is this state law that does not allow exceptions for the release of intact dogs from shelters and if it exists, why has MAS ignored it so many times in the past when releasing intact dogs and cats to rescuers?
- Why was James Rogers reassuring concerned citizens at the public meeting on April 10 that they would be given time to network the pregnant dog when in fact she was already spayed, her puppies already removed from her body?
- How can the 12 pound discrepancy in the dog’s weight between April 9 and April 10 be accounted for?
- Why is there only one page containing a single line entry for the pound’s entire drug log on April 11, 2013? Assuming this was a normal day at MAS and numerous pets were killed, how were the other dogs and cats in their care killed that day? Because apparently they didn’t use controlled substances to do it. Is this an indication that strangling dogs and crushing cats to death is still practiced in the MAS kill room?
- Why would anyone at MAS contend that the dog was “not far along” when in fact it was ordinary citizens noticing the size of her belly who alerted MAS to the fact that this dog was pregnant? A pregnant dog’s belly does not begin to enlarge until the second half of pregnancy because the puppies do not develop to any significant size until then. In other words, by the time it’s obvious to casual onlookers that the dog is pregnant, she is near term.
- Why would the vet note that the 11 (or 10?) puppies were only about 3 weeks in development and killed with injections of Fatal Plus when in fact canine embryos at that stage are merely 1 centimeter in size? See a photo of a puppy at that stage of development here. (This is an actual medical photo from a teaching facility and may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.)
- Why are the note about the Fatal Plus injections for the unborn pups and the drug log for those injections both dated April 11 when the spay was done April 10? When the vet indicated the puppies were killed “after” the spay surgery, did that mean one day “after”?
This pregnant dog had a local rescue willing to take her and her unborn puppies but MAS refused in favor of an out of state rescue which raised no objection to the killing of the pups. The unborn puppies had a right to live. The records appear to show deception and incompetence, at best, on the part of MAS. How many more, Memphis?
April 1, 2013
Many pet lovers are shocked to learn that most municipal facilities that call themselves animal shelters do not actually shelter animals. In fact, these so-called shelters kill pets rescuers are willing to save, because they can. More still are astonished when they learn that some of the private non-profits calling themselves humane societies or societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals are guilty of the same crimes against pets as the municipal facilities that kill pets who are wanted.
In the case of public facilities, pet advocates can and should petition their government for a redress of grievances. But historically this has been a mixed bag of results with far too many elected officials blatantly thumbing their noses at taxpayers who call upon them to force animal shelter staff to do their jobs. Our public servants delete animal advocacy comments from their Facebook pages, ignore e-mails and petitions, and refuse to meet with advocates in person. When they do address the issue publicly, it’s usually to give the pet killing facility a pat on the back while wagging their fingers at the “irresponsible public”.
When it comes to the private HS/SPCA organizations, well-meaning advocates sometimes believe they should report the needless killing of pets there to the “national” HS/SPCA, meaning the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The sad truth is that neither of these organizations is affiliated with your local shelter, even if the names are similar. Furthermore, HSUS and ASPCA are primarily fundraising organizations and will likely not intervene to prevent wanted pets from being killed by your local non-profit organization.
But there is a solution that addresses the needless killing of wanted pets, and offers numerous other protections for shelter animals, at both public and private shelters. It’s called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA). CAPA has already been passed in DE and has been introduced by legislators in MN, RI and WV. Modified versions have been introduced in NY, TX, IL and FL. More states will be announcing modified versions of CAPA on their legislative agendas soon.
CAPA lays out a number of important requirements for public and private shelters that include lifesaving, transparency and community participation. Specifically, neither public nor private shelter directors would have the discretion to kill pets under CAPA without giving public notice nor would they be allowed to kill pets that a rescue is willing to take.
Too often on this blog, we hear from pet advocates who have been shafted by shelter directors committed to killing for arbitrary reasons and, in some cases, in retaliation for shining a light on their dark secrets. Here is a way to do something about that. Augment your existing animal advocacy (fostering, rescue, networking, etc.) with some political advocacy that will not only save pets’ lives, but help the people who love them too.
Do you want accountability, transparency and legal access to the animals in your shelter’s care? If so, you want CAPA. Talk to your state or local legislators about getting CAPA introduced to protect your community’s pets from those who are needlessly killing them, because they can. CAPA would make needless and secretive shelter pet killing illegal, regardless of whether the shelter is public or private. Under CAPA, we would not only protect the lives of shelter pets but the hearts and minds of pet advocates who currently suffer at the whims of directors, standing by their cabinets of Fatal Plus and scoffing at the so-called irresponsible public’s attempts to actually shelter animals.
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.
The Guilford Co pound in NC kills roughly half its dogs and cats – unless someone there thinks the pet happens to look like a Rottweiler, Chow Chow or “Pitbull”. Guilford Co refuses to adopt out any pets who, in the staff’s opinion, resemble those types of dogs. The non-profit that runs the pound also kills dogs that rescues are willing to take and then attempts to cover it up by claiming to be exempt from public records requests.
The Guilford Co pound is the opposite of what an animal shelter is supposed to be. And that’s why I was concerned when I read that 3 English Shepherds had been taken there after their owner died in January. A caring relative of the owner was determined to see the dogs, 15 in total, properly cared for by people who understood the special needs of the individual dogs and their rare breed. She contacted National English Shepherd Rescue and the group was able to send someone to evaluate the dogs while they lined up foster homes:
Two of the dogs had to be put to sleep [...] and three were taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter, where two were adopted by the director’s daughter. The other dog left at the shelter was returned to the group after the National English Shepherd Rescue organization stepped in.
Thank you irresponsible public, once again. It is so comforting to know that these dogs will be properly cared for, neutered and adopted out, as they should be. The Guilford Co pound doesn’t do its job to shelter animals but thankfully, the compassionate owners and breeders who make up National English Shepherd Rescue were able to step in and do it for them.
I dread to think of this group of dogs being impounded by Guilford Co, mislabeled as Chow mixes and killed for no reason other than someone’s opinion of their body shape and coat. And it’s tragic to know that happens to other dogs in the area as a matter of pound policy.
February 21, 2013
Teddy’s Rescue is a 501(c)3 organization in Findlay, OH. On October 28, 2012, a volunteer named Timothy Mompher intentionally broke a kitten’s neck at the shelter. He has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. His attorney claims that he did so at the direction of the former manager, Missy VanWormer.
The kitten was sick and Mr. Mompher said in an interview with The Blade that he was told to “put it out of its misery.”
“Missy [VanWormer] said she didn’t want us to take it to the vet because it was after hours on a Sunday and it would cost too much,” Mr. Mompher said.
Ms. VanWormer reportedly refused to speak with the Toledo Blade, the Hancock Co dog warden or the humane officer investigating the case. I have no idea if she will be subpoenaed to testify at Mr. Mompher’s trial but I would think her testimony would be important.
The humane officer’s report indicated the kitten suffered as Mr. Mompher struggled to kill him. It also says “witnesses to the incident included Mr. Mompher’s wife, Susan, the current kennel manager and marketing coordinator for Teddy’s Rescue; Chelsie Hackworth, an animal health-care supervisor at the rescue; and Ms. Hackworth’s husband, Ryan.”
If accurate, the shelter manager ordered the gruesome killing and at least 3 others stood by and watched the kitten being killed. But the only person being charged is the one who actually killed the pet and that charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.
The man who killed the kitten with his hands scares me just as much as those who stood by watching. Why didn’t anyone take action to stop the brutality? Why did no one speak up and demand proper treatment or threaten to call the police? Where was anyone at this so-called shelter to advocate for this kitten’s right to life? Even now, as Mr. Mompher is arraigned, where do the shelter’s concerns lie?
John Froton, business director at the rescue, said Mr. Mompher exercised “very poor judgment” but “I would hate for his poor judgment to cause support to end for Teddy’s Rescue.”
I guess that answers that.
I consent to the examination of this dog by Teddy’s Rescue at any time deemed necessary. Furthermore, Teddy’s Rescue has the right to reclaim the dog at any time for failure to comply with the terms of this contract or for any misrepresentations of fact made on the adoption application or in this contract.
I agree to pay Teddy’s Rescue for any and all expenses, including court costs and attorney fees accrued by enforcing the terms and provisions of this contract.
I would not sign that contract. Furthermore, I believe it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and would not hold up in court.)
As a condition of bond, the judge ordered all animals be removed from the Mompher home, pending trial. Protesters held signs outside the courthouse calling for more serious animal cruelty laws.
Someone claiming to be Mr. Mompher’s wife Susan, who watched the kitten being killed and said nothing, posted several comments at the end of the article.
(Thank you Clarice for sending me the link to this story.)
February 19, 2013
Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge, LA has a troubled history. Although the pound’s director resigned in December, it doesn’t look like there have been any significant changes at CAA, at least not as far as pet killing and cover-up are concerned.
Meet Kodak, a male cat at CAA who had rescue and back-up rescue ready and waiting to save him. Here is a screencap from Facebook, taken yesterday:
Note in the comments next to the photo that on Saturday, February 16, CAA posted that Kodak was going to Don’t Be Cruel Sanctuary. But word got out on Monday, February 18 that CAA had killed Kodak because he was aggressive. Isn’t a sanctuary the perfect place for an aggressive cat to go? Why kill him?
CAA quickly launched into cover-up mode by deleting their own comment about Kodak going to rescue and having staff members run interference on a thread about him on another FB page. One of the many comments by CAA staffers on that thread included this gem:
What HOLD was placed upon him? Was it writing? Where is this documentation? Is there verifiable proof that this HOLD was disregarded?
The obvious implication being that CAA knew nothing of any attempt to rescue Kodak and as such, killed him innocently. There are 2 problems with that. First, there is no such thing as a pound being blameless when it kills healthy/treatable pets. And second, CAA knew full well Kodak was going to rescue. They even put it in writing.
And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling internet.
(Thank you Christine for alerting me to this story.)
February 11, 2013
Pike Pet Pals, a 501(c)3 that helps dogs at the Pike Co pound in Waverly, Ohio, brought a Heinz 57 type dog called Sarge to a large adoption event in Cincinnati on Saturday. Someone at the pound apparently decided Sarge has a Pitbull ancestor in his pedigree.
Because of that, the shelter says, it will not list Sarge on its website and is unable to do the proper screenings for him to be eligible for adoption.
Unable? Or unwilling? I searched online to see if there is a ban on breeds who someone at the pound thinks might have a drop of Pitbull blood in them but couldn’t find anything. So why won’t the pound let Sarge go home if someone wants to adopt him?
“We have a lot of people coming in (the shelter) with the wrong intentions,” said Julie Mercer of Pike Pet Pals and Pike County Dog Pound.
Really? What is the basis for this assertion? Or is this also filed under the Someone at the Pound Thinks category?
You know who has wrong intentions? People at a taxpayer funded facility refusing to do their jobs and instead making up excuses for killing based on a dog’s body shape.
A Pitbull rescue at the My Furry Valentine adoption event, Adore-A-Bull, “couldn’t rescue Sarge because he doesn’t look like a pit bull.” Well geez, is this poor dog coming or going?
Sarge wasn’t adopted on Saturday and the article states he was returned to the pound that night. The event was scheduled to continue on Sunday, without Sarge.
It is unknown when he will be available for adoption, however, since he is currently on his way back to the Pike County Dog Pound.
There was plenty of hand-wringing over the dog:
Pike Pet Pals brought four dogs, and the other three were adopted. “He is caught in limbo,” said Carolyn Evans, who organized My Furry Valentine. “There are 20 types of dogs that are mislabeled pit bulls. I believe that is where he falls.
“It is just a tough position for this poor dog,” Evans said.
I wonder if anyone has stopped to consider either of these crazy possibilities:
- Go ahead and list Sarge online and adopt him out to someone who wants him, despite his body shape.
- Quit saying he is part Pitbull since this is pure speculation and apparently keeping him from being marketed better.
If only Someone at the Pound Thought of that.
(Thank you Larkin for sending in this link.)
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.)