The Humane Society, Animal Rescue Organizations and breed rescue groups have all dealt with potential adopters they had to reject for one reason or another. The adopters often loudly complain that the agencies are on some kind of “power trip.” Let the truth be known.
While I headed a dog rescue organization for four years, I had unforgettable experiences with some potential adopters. I also shared unforgettable case histories with other rescuers.
One man came to us to adopt a small dog. He had just lost a small terrier that died of “old age.” The vet could not save the dog. In memory, the owner “invented” a breathing machine with some kind of heart monitor device for future pets in need.
This sounded like a good adoption prospect. But, he suddenly changed vets on his pre-adoption application and I asked him “Why?” He said his vet held “different opinions” about dog care than his beliefs so he switched. I asked for, and got, permission to call the former vet.
The vet bluntly told me that the dog had been terribly overweight for years and actually died prematurely due to obesity. Although the vet had told the owners that the dog had several health problems due to the weight, the owners insisted on giving table scraps and unhealthy treats. The dog died of multiple system failure due to avoidable obesity.
I had to reject the application. The man got defensive and demanded to know why? He got rather aggressive. He said he’d go to another rescue.
I bluntly told him the vet felt he caused the dog’s premature death; I understood why he changed vets; and now he was “shopping” for a “replacement” before the usual grieving time was over. I also warned him that vets, rescues, and animal adoption agencies “flagged” such cases to warn against future placements so he’d probably have a hard time finding a dog through regular channels. He could always “buy” one, but he wouldn’t get one from me.
People hate to be “rejected.” They lose the sense of being a “responsible pet owner” among thoughts that agencies are running power trips over their personal “rights.”
Owning a live animal is not a “right,” and our animal laws are getting into alignment with that fact. Neglect, abuse, and lack of normal care – like that perpetuated in puppy-mills–are becoming fineable offenses, some with jail time.
Anyone who has been in rescue long enough has met the animal hoarder. Hoarding is a mental condition in which some people “collect” live animals the same way that others collect inanimate objects. It is self-evident that dogs, cats, birds, horses, etc. need care; clean water; fresh food daily; some grooming; vet care; enough space to move around in; and a safe environment.
If you become aware of a collector in your neighborhood, report it to the animal authorities and let them handle the situation.
We got potential adopters who had never followed through with regular vet care for previous pets.
Dogs had not had necessary, “recommended” surgery for years, although a vet might have advised it during multiple visits for other things. Some people would admit they simply couldn’t afford it, but the animal suffers because of it.
Most dogs require dental cleanings after 3 years of age, and they often must go under anesthetic for the procedure. It can cost $100 – $300 and more, depending on age, size and the amount of cleaning time required.
Set aside money for future expected, necessary care. If you can’t afford it, don’t get a dog.
Owners should seriously consider getting pet insurance upon adoption. If it seems too expensive, consider the alternative. Unexpected costs for surgery for swallowing indigestible items, vet care after a car accident or poisoning, and surgeries for “almost expected” health problems with some breeds -like allergies, eye problems and hip dysplasia-can run into thousands of dollars.
In his “PetCrazy Newlsetter,” one practicing vet of 28 years, Dr. Jon Rappaport, said he is getting more cases than ever before of “economic euthanasia,” in which owners cannot afford life-saving or long-term necessary care.
More case examples of rejected applications: A former pastor (this was over 10 years ago) applied to adopt a small, purebred, young dog he saw on our online Petfinder.com ad. Of course, he gave the usual references, including the vet’s. He wanted the dog “immediately” for his child.
I quickly checked out all three references. Two said he wanted the dog for his child that he was never home to see; the wife did not want a dog; and he hadn’t taken care of the last one. The vet offered the same facts. The family did not get regular vet care for the previous dog; they hadn’t followed through with recommended treatments; and the dog died younger than it should have.
I called the man and told him I had found another home for the dog, and I really had to consider what was in the dog’s best interests as a match. The man had a fit and asked to speak to my supervisor. I said I was the supervisor. He said some choice words and slammed down the receiver.
Another woman tied her dog out on the porch daily for “fresh air” until the day it fell off the end of the porch and partially hung itself. She rushed it to the vet who tried to resuscitate it, and the dog bit her in the face. The vet euthanized the dog and sent the head to the lab for a rabies exam.
This woman felt the vet should not have tried to resuscitate the dog, but let it expire because the vet bill was a couple thousand dollars. With that summation of the story, would you adopt a dog to that former dog owner in the future? Had she learned not to tie a dog out on the porch again?
Of course, there were stories of too many animals for a household to care for, but they kept adding one more. Some dogs weren’t spayed, and the irresponsible owners handed out “free puppies” after every litter rather than get the dog fixed. Male dogs also contribute to overpopulation and the death of thousands of puppies that end up in shelters, but some owners neglect neutering because they don’t have the responsibility of getting homes for the resultant pups.
Some owners left their dogs to die in overheated cars. Others felt justified in beating a dog that bit their child who had mistreated the animal or bothered it while it was eating. They sometimes admitted to “passing off” the dog to another unwitting family because they didn’t “trust” the dog any more. (Note: Our dog warden informed me that it’s a crime to pass off a known biter without warning the future family; previous owners can be held responsible for future bites, just like animal agencies can.)
Some people complain that shelters demand fencing for dogs. Some rescues know their dogs should be fenced; it’s a quickly-learned fact. I had a border collie that could escape from a yard with 6-foot high fencing. He went to a home with higher fencing.
Some resent “intrusive” questions about their incomes, job schedules, frequent traveling lifestyles, etc. Agencies want to know if the family can afford the expected first year costs for a dog that averages about $1,000 to $2,000, without unexpected problems.
If the rescue knows a dog has separation anxiety, they aren’t going to place it in a home where the owners are gone for 9 hours per day.
If they know the people are going to spend half of their time in Europe, and the dog will spend half of its life in a boarding kennel, they may ask the people to consider not adopting a dog.
If it’s discovered that the previous dog spent eight hours a day in a crate, until it couldn’t walk normally–like the golden retriever one couple had that required months in a new home before it could walk normally again-most responsible agencies will reject the application.
Such cases often uncover a bit of ignorance rather than intentional neglect or abuse. But how many chances should people get? If they are uncooperative with information or such “relevant” information is uncovered, what is the responsibility of the rescue?
Rescues act on behalf of dogs that can’t speak for themselves; they must process a complete picture on behalf of a particular adoption; and they try to do their best on behalf of the dog.
Maybe a family can’t handle the cost and exercising responsibility for a large dog, but could do great with a little dog. Maybe the kids have grown up and the family situation has changed. Maybe they don’t travel as much now and want a family companion they will be home for.
The only thing I can “guarantee” as a former head of dog rescue is: we are not on a power trip. We don’t want adoptions to fail: It’s bad for us as individuals who feel a sense of failure for the match, and it’s bad for the reputation of our agency; it’s bad for the families; and it’s bad for a rejected dog that needs to find yet another placement.
Please cooperate with the agency; be candid about past experiences and your present situation. It’s like dealing with any professional: The relationship is built on trust, and you need to work together with the rescue. Let me assure you, they are trying to make the “perfect match” for you and one of their adoptable dogs.
Source: Self as former head of dog rescue