Sunday, May 23, 2010

Animal shelters and adoptions

(The following comment in reaction to "All adoptions have perils" [May 12 post] comes from Elda Hubbard, the advisor of JPawS, the J P Stevens High School Animal Welfare Club in Edison, NJ, and a volunteer at two local shelters. She also fosters a young pit bull named "Buttercup," who is shown here. Hubbard's is the voice of experience and expertise.)

Shelter workers can be tempted to find homes for animals in the shelter as soon as possible because it is very sad to see them in a cage 24/7, many times without proper exercise or interaction with people. That is NOT the place for them.

However, as bad as it is for animals to be there, it can be very traumatic and even dangerous to place them in a home that is not the right home for them. It is also traumatic for an animal to think that he/she has a home, then find him/herself back in the cage after a few days because the adoption did not work out. Sometimes, this stresses the animal even more.

Responsible shelters will do their best to ensure that an animal is being placed in the right home. For instance, it is imperative that prospective adopters be properly screened to determine if they are the right family for that particular animal and if the animal is the right animal for them.

Not all animals or families are alike. Dogs have different temperaments and needs, just as families have different lifestyles, energy levels and willingness to commit and dedicate themselves to the needs of animals they are bringing home.

For that reason, prospective adopters should be well aware of all the characteristics of the animal they are adopting, not only the animal's good qualities, but also any behavior problems that he/she may be exhibiting. Adopters should also know that the behavior of an animal may change once he/she is in a different environment and they should be open to working with the animals should he/she develop other behavior problems.

It is also advisable for shelters/rescues to follow up with families immediately after adoption, especially at the beginning, to find out how the adjustment period is going and if they need advice, assistance or recommendation for a dog trainer. Ideally, shelters might have training volunteers available to follow up with the families when needed.

However, the main thing is to disclose all possible information about the animal's history, temperament and behavior so the adopting family is fully aware of what it will take to make this a successful adoption.

Nothing worthwhile is easy in this world and we must work hard for what brings satisfaction to our lives. Adopting an animal is one of those things that takes sacrifice, effort and commitment. The time and effort we put into the process pays off with years of companionship and unconditional love.

1 comment:

Madeline said...

Very sensible post. However, it is unfortunate that many shelters, due to overcrowding and lack of funds, do not screen potential adopters appropriately much of the time. Not only might it be more stressful than before for the animal to be returned to the shelter, as you mention; but, having been returned, that animal could be brnaded as "damaged goods" and problematic because it was returned, which may not be the case.

I volunteer at several area shelters. I was very disappointed to find out that one very nice, young (10 months old) larger dog was adopted and then returned to one of the shelters from a family with a newborn and a two-year-old. Before I knew this information, I evaluated the dog as "high energy, very friendly, and while appropriate for a family with children, appropriate ONLY for children who are teenagers and can handle the dog's high energy and jumping."

If shelters start doing better evaluation and placements up-front, in the long run they will reduce funds and reduce the recidivism rate of failed adoptions while building a positive reputation as a responsible community shelter.

Thank you for your blog and your post, which makes so much sense.

Madeline Friedman, M.A., Dog Trainer