Weekend Jade

What's up, Doc?

What’s up, Doc?

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.



Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your best/worst/mid-range guesses in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is the equivalent of putting Baby in a corner optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tonight.


The Case for Free Shelter Pets

Wendy, adopted from a shelter for free, loved and valued.

Wendy, adopted from a shelter for free, loved and valued.

Free.  People get excited when they see the word in front of most anything – except pets.  In recent years, anyone who advertises or seeks a free pet has been subject to attack from seemingly well-intentioned animal advocates and probably alienated about the entire concept of adopting a pet in need.  If you are giving a pet away for free, you are scolded for ringing the dinner bell for every dogfighter, animal torturer and other animal abuser in a six state range.  If you are looking for a free pet, you are smeared as an animal abuser (because they are the only people who want pets for free and if any doubt, see previous sentence) and told that if you can’t afford to pay for a pet, you shouldn’t be allowed to have one (because you are too stupid to know that pets come with expenses which obviously your broke ass will never be able to pay).

The teensy problem is that all this is wrong, so wrong, totally wrong and wrongissimo.  To my knowledge, there is no research that backs up any claim regarding free pets and negative outcomes that exceed the standard amount of negative outcomes which can be expected with all pet adoptions.  The data that we do have tells us what should be obvious:  people love their free pets just as much as they love pets they paid money for because they bond with the animal, not the sales receipt.

Nathan Winograd has written about the unfounded fears of giving away shelter animals:

From the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine to the ASPCA, from Maddie’s Fund to the experiences of shelters across the country, every study that has looked at the issue has concluded that waiving adoption fees—in other words, giving the animals away for free—does not impact either the quality of the quantity of the adoptive home, but does increase the number of lives saved.

Lives saved. Sounds good.

And to reiterate, people love FREE.  All people.  As Christie Keith writes:

Free pet adoptions are not aimed at people who otherwise couldn’t afford a pet, and that’s not primarily who they attract. Just as Nordstrom holds special sales only for its best and, presumably, wealthiest customers, just as car dealers and appliance stores and luxury hotels have special promotions, shelters and rescue groups who do free adoptions know that the “free” part is a marketing strategy, not a hand-out.

Free and special price promotions are designed to be attention grabbers. They also serve to focus people on pet adoption not in a “someday when I get around to it” kind of way, but in a “better go this weekend because it’s exciting, fun, and I’ll save money!” kind of way.

Dismissing a group as a whole because of misconceptions about who wants free pets is keeping shelter animals out of homes. And that means resources are tied up, pets are kept in cages or taking up valuable space in foster homes, and tragically for millions of shelter pets every year, it means they end up in the kill room.

This is usually where the folks who like to say “There are fates worse than death” chime in. Let me be clear: There are no fates worse than death. Where there is life, there is hope. While I am in no way denying that animal abusers exist, I know that they represent a tiny minority of pet owners and that at least some of them are willing to pay for the pets they abuse. (Does the name Michael Vick ring any bells?)  Most people try to do right by their pets and love them as family members.  Most adoption applicants will fall into this category, regardless of the fee being charged for the animal.

While Nathan Winograd advocates for reasonable adoption screening, a practice I too support, he makes clear that even without screening, adopted is better than dead:

[I]n shelters where animals are being killed by the thousands, and where they are horrifically neglected and abused in the process, I’d rather they do “open adoptions” if it means getting more animals out of there and doing so quicker because in truth, there is no greater threat to companion animals in this country than the so-called “shelter” in the community where those animals reside. Shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy companion animals in the U.S.


[I]f the worst thing that could happen to them if we gave them away is the very thing that will happen to […] them if they stay at the shelter, is the cost-benefit analysis even close?

Although it is my wish that more shelters would give away more pets more often, I think it’s appropriate to offer some additional lifesaving marketing ideas which could be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to fee waived adoptions:

  • Offer low cost promotions in conjunction with holidays and other special events:  $4 or $17.76 adoption fees for July 4th or $11 adoption fees for June 11, Just One Day event for example.
  • 10 for 10 (can be used with any numbers):  Pick out the 10 animals in most urgent need of homes (long timers, elderly pets, etc.) and offer them for $10.  As each animal gets adopted, replace him with another so the promotion can run continuously.
  • Pay what you will:  Offer animals for a fee of any amount of the adopter’s choosing.
  • Donations appreciated:  Offer pets for free while letting adopters know they are welcome to make a donation of any amount.
  • Run promotions based on physical characteristics:  Tabby Tuesdays or Big and Beautiful Fat Cats for example.
  • Peruse this online book for more marketing ideas.

This adoption promo ad is from 2011 but still a favorite of mine:

Many shelters have been successfully using free adoption promotions in order to save lives for quite awhile.  But among animal advocates, there remains a stigma – baseless as it is.  Let’s embrace the word free.  If you are looking for a word to replace it – one that you can hang your Hate hat on – use kill.  The people who needlessly kill animals instead of sheltering them are deserving of your lectures, not the people who want to save a shelter pet’s life by giving them a home.

More on AL Shelter Being Investigated by Police

There have been some major developments since I posted last week about a police investigation of alleged abuse at the Lawrence Co shelter in Alabama.

In a 3-2 vote during an emergency meeting, the Lawrence Co Commission canceled the $80,000 AC contract with Bobbie Taylor:

Taylor frowned as Commission Chairman Joey Hargrove read the terms of the termination.

All animals must be removed from Taylor’s property by July 1. Taylor said Thursday she had about 80 animal[s] on the property.

When police attempted to visit the public shelter on Taylor’s private property, she reportedly refused to let them in, telling them to get a search warrant.  When they did, they found that “about 80 animals” was more like 250.

The dogs were living in filth, some were dying, others were dead:

Volunteers took some of the sick dogs to see a veterinarian. At least one dog died on the way to the vet, [Moulton Police Chief Lyndon] McWhorter said.
One volunteer drove off with a few bags of what appeared to be dead dogs in the back of a truck. McWhorter did not give an exact count of how many dead animals were found.
Matthew Seahorn, 18, spent four hours sweating in a hazmat suit, boots and mask as he inspected the barn beside Taylor’s home. Inside, he counted 45 dogs of various ages, several ill animals confined to pens, three dead puppies and the stench of feces.
“They are all in cages to the point where they can’t even turn around, and the stench is unbearable,” Seahorn said. “No one should live in conditions like that. Not even an animal.”

Local police called in the ASPCA for assistance. Dogs were carried out in front of the television cameras by people wearing ASPCA t-shirts, images which are likely to be used in fundraising campaigns by the wealthy organization. No word on where the animals are or how they are doing but they will presumably be dumped on local rescues, as usual.

One woman who saw her long lost dog on the news in terrible shape says she went to the shelter and that Taylor had hidden the dog.  She was ultimately able to reclaim her pet and take her for veterinary care.  The dog remains hospitalized.

Taylor still has local supporters and has not been charged at this time.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

ACO Accuses TN Shelter of Acting as “A Puppy Mill for Rescue Groups”

A friend of Cheatham Co ACO Darrell Hooper reportedly tried to adopt a stray Doberman at the pound but was turned away.  The potential adopter was told the dog was being held for a rescue group.  A Doberman rescue in Knoxville is said to have pulled the dog from the pound for free and sold her for $300.

ACO Hooper says this isn’t an isolated incident, especially when it comes to purebreds and puppies, and that he’s brought his concerns to the mayor several times but nothing has changed.  After his friend was prevented from adopting the Doberman, ACO Hooper angrily confronted the pound director in the parking lot:

“I questioned him. I said, ‘So we’re just a puppy mill for rescue groups? Are we just providing them products to sell?'” Hooper said. “He shook his head yes in the affirmative and again he stated to me, ‘You don’t understand the political ramifications of this.'”

The heated argument ended with ACO Hooper punching the director.  He has since resigned and publicly apologized.  But he still wants the county to change its protocols regarding rescue groups.

The local news contacted the director who declined to be interviewed.  They also contacted the rescue group and a representative told them they would have been happy to pay the $50 fee Cheatham Co normally charges to adopters but nobody asked them for any money.

On the one hand, breed rescues offer a valuable service.  They understand the breeds they rescue better than most and that may help them to make more successful matches between dogs and adopters.  A breed rescue would be better equipped to handle special needs cases of their given breed since they have the expertise and resources and ideally might be more motivated to make the investment.

On the other hand, it’s hard to justify a stray dog being left to sit in a pound while an adopter is turned away.  Assuming the dog faced no extreme challenges (e.g. a legally designated “dangerous dog”) and the adopter was just as qualified as the average adopter at the pound, why leave the dog in the cage to take up space needed by other homeless pets and to potentially get sick?

Cheatham Co AC’s website says:

Cheatham County Animal Control is a county government run facility that receives nearly 2200 animals a year with room to house only 50 at a time. Only four staff members clean, feed, treat, bathe, intake, answer phone, and make onsite calls for: at large, cruelty, neglect, and all other issues. The staff also works to save every animal possible with limited resources. Cheatham County is over 360 square miles and is filled with unwanted animals. Our county compliance on vaccinations, spay/neuter, and safety of animals is low. We are leading our staff and our community toward a culture change – which will take time…time our animals do not always have on their side.

It sounds like the Cheatham Co pound could use all the empty cages it can get, like most municipal facilities.  But if ACO Hooper’s allegations are accurate, the pound may be keeping cages filled unnecessarily with “high value” dogs and puppies by holding them for rescues.  Are other pets, particularly those whom no group could expect to sell for $300, being killed by Cheatham Co in order to make space for the white-and-fluffies being held for rescue groups?

All shelter pets have the right to live, regardless of their resale value.  Is anyone in Cheatham Co advocating for the right of all the animals in the shelter to live, political ramifications be damned?  There seems to be a need.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Bringing Up from the Comments

Regarding the issue of animal shelters requiring proof of ownership in order to surrender/redeem pets, a reader commented:

If they ‘found’ a dog yesterday, got it vac for rabies today, and ‘surrendered’ to a shelter Tomorrow – presenting valid Rabies Vac as proof of ownership — will that make the dog theirs? should there be a 6 month limit on Rabies Vac before being accepted as ‘proof’ of ownership?
I would appreciate any reasonable suggestions or what your county/state is using as ‘Proof of Ownership’ Thanks!

Do you know if your state, county and/or city has any language on the books defining what constitutes proof of ownership with regard to surrendering and/or redeeming pets at shelters? I checked SC state law and could not find any references to the issue at all. I failed to find any relevant county ordinance either. In checking my county pound’s website, they have no information whatsoever on the surrender or redemption process. So I am operating on the assumption that my local pound falls under the Anything Goes protocol, probably based upon the whim of the person in charge of the pet killing facility at the time a person attempts to surrender or reclaim a pet.

Does your state, county or city have any laws addressing the issue of proof of ownership for shelter surrender/redemption? Does your local shelter set its own policies on that matter and if so, are they published online? Please share your location and whatever relevant info you have on this subject.

Weekend Jade

Schroeder:  Got your nose. Jade:  Interpretive jiggery-pokery!

Schroeder: Got your nose.
Jade: Interpretive jiggery-pokery!

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

Photo by Richard Harrington, 1950

Photo by Richard Harrington, 1950

Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your guesses in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is interpretive jiggery-pokery optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tonight.



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