Best Friends Blog
 

Scaring people away from rescue adoptions

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I had an eye-opening experience last fall when a very popular and highly regarded Los Angeles area magazine contacted us about doing an in-depth article on Best Friends’ NKLA initiative. It sounded like a great opportunity to get the story out in a comprehensive way and reach another demographic to help achieve the mission of making Los Angeles a no-kill city.

However, when I sat down with the award-winning journalist assigned to the story and laid out the scope and successes of NKLA, along with the history of sheltering in Los Angeles over the last 15 years, I was surprised that he wasn’t taking any notes. It was all very cordial, though, and we made preliminary arrangements for him to meet with and interview other driving NKLA Coalition partners, such as Found Animals Foundation and Downtown Dog Rescue. We were expecting to hear back from him in a few days to set up the meetings, follow-up interviews and a return visit to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Mission Hills.

Crickets! Apparently, the writer intended to take a solid look at our work, NKLA and the rescue community, but the magazine’s editors wanted him to do a story on the wacky world of animal rescue and the difficulties involved in pet adoption. His boss wanted something about why people who run pet adoption organizations are so strange in the way they go about their business. It was going to be an article about animal welfare weirdness, as opposed to an informative story about how the NKLA Coalition, in partnership with Los Angeles Animal Services, was saving lives at a record pace and was on track to achieve our goal of a no-kill Los Angeles.

In the writer’s words: “My editors and I are at odds concerning the tone of my story. I’d say they want to see a piece along the lines of ‘Those kooky, nutty rescue folks: Why do they give Yuppies such a hard time during the adoption process?’ That’s a story I’m not interested in producing, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time for me to show up this afternoon.”

That kind of a reputation — and I’m afraid it’s not isolated to Los Angeles — is literally killing animals. If the public is soured or turned off by rescue organizations when they try to do the right thing by adopting, they will go elsewhere to acquire a pet. Hopefully, they will go to the city shelter, but they are more likely to go to a pet store, a breeder, Craigslist or the family down the street whose dog or cat just had a litter. That means the rescue group doesn’t open a slot for the next shelter pet, and the likelihood of another shelter death goes up.

We need to do better at representing the animals and learn to treat the public as our allies and friends in saving lives. Word of mouth is the best way to build a good reputation.

I understand entirely the rescue mindset. That’s where I — and most of us here at Best Friends — began our work in animal welfare. A dog or cat comes into your care. He was lost or abandoned and was either on the clock in some shelter or figuring out how to survive on the street. As a rescuer, you make an implicit promise to the animal that you will do your best to ensure that, on a quality-of-life scale of 1 to 10, you’ll help him go from somewhere in the minus range to at least a plus five.

As more rehab and care go into getting that animal back on track, the higher your expectations are for his new home. Potential adopters are put through the ringer and asked to pass a battery of tests. Their homes, lifestyles and children are scrutinized and evaluated and, despite their compliance and desire to adopt, they are often denied.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t get a pet; it just means that they will give up trying to get one from a rescue group. Whether or not they would provide a good home is anybody’s guess, because such stringent adoption protocols do little to determine the potential of a home and probably do harm to the all-important relationship between rescuer and adopter if the adoption goes forward.

There is an alternative to the standardized test and interrogation that many rescue groups employ. For lack of a better term, it is called “open adoptions” and rather than go into an analysis of it here, I refer you to a recent blog post by our friend at KC Pet Project, Brent Toellner, in which he lays out a great analysis of the issue.

The truth of the matter is that animals are dying in shelters because of outdated and discredited draconian adoption policies that are designed to protect the emotional well-being of the rescuer rather than to ensure a safe future life for a dog or cat.

It can be an emotionally challenging decision to move from an exclusive to an inclusive approach to adoptions, but it can be done. Shelter animals need us to get over our angst and get those adoptions rolling.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Jasmin

    I would like to understand clearly what the Best Friend’s policy is on conducting home visits prior to adopting out a pet. The response below from Melissa Miller responds with a link that states that Best Friends “may” conduct a home visit. What triggers whether Best Friends determines it necessary is what I would like more explanation of. In the cases where Best Friends does not conduct a visit, I would like to also know how many of those pets are either returned to the shelters or the NKLA coalitions. I agree with several of the comments below that the article appears to be an attack on smaller rescues who do ensure time and effort is spent on not only “play matching” the pet with its soon to be owner, but also ensuring the home is safe (fence height, etc.) so that the pet does NOT end up either back at the shelter, another rescue or worst. Additionally, given the experience of Mr. Batista, I am shocked of the reference that the reputation of rescues is literally killing animals- the reason why animals die is extremely sad but even moreso straight forward- overbreeding due to lack of spaying and neutering.

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Jasmin,

      Thanks for your note. Best Friends looks at each adoption – both animal and adopter – individually. There is no automatic “trigger” that would lead to something such as a home visit. And as I previously stated, all of our animals are microchipped, with the primary contact information on the microchip listed as Best Friends. We follow up with adopters and offer counsel, and all adopters must sign a contract stating that if, for any reason, they can no longer care for the animal, he/she must be returned to Best Friends.

      If you’ve had a chance to read through some of the comments posted here on the blog, I think you might be surprised by some of the seemingly very well qualified adopters who have been turned down due to stringent requirements that ultimately don’t impact their ability to be a responsible pet parent.

      I believe Francis says it best, and I’ll stick with his words: “The truth of the matter is that animals are dying in shelters because of outdated and discredited draconian adoption policies that are designed to protect the emotional well-being of the rescuer rather than to ensure a safe future life for a dog or cat.” Does that mean that outdated adoption policies is the only reason animals are dying in shelters? Absolutely not. But as you can see in the many responses we’ve received here, it ultimately does have an impact. Best Friends is working to help reduce shelter killing from all angles, and we invite you to read more about our work (including our aggressive spay/neuter tactics) here: http://bestfriends.org/What-we-do/Our-Work/Spay—Neuter/.

      Thank you for all that you’re doing to help homeless pets in your community.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

      • Jasmin

        Melissa

        Thanks for your response as I am glad to see Best Friends not shying away from some of the tougher questions. While I still am not clear on how Best Friends determines a home visit, I am glad to hear they microchip all dogs, (and I hear now also provide non slip collars) but that certainly doesn’t help if a dog is injured (or worst ) in a home or outside of a home due to either a lack of awareness or a lack or training/suggestions given by the rescue after an observation of the current set up.

        So I and the other readers have a better understanding of Francis’ viewpoint, I would like to hear more about what he considers is “discredited and draconian adoption policies”. I am assuming since Best Friends and NKLA includes many small rescues in their coilition that they have reviewed each of their policies and agree that they make sense before marketing their support and partnership to those smaller organizations, right?

        Also, I should mention that I am a registered volunteer with NKLA and an active volunteer in a smaller rescue that is supported 100% by unpaid volunteers and donations. The article has really impacted my view of Best Friends. It brought awareness that not all pets adopted out have home visits conducted, which is surprising since I would think a $66 million dollar (according to public tax filings) organization would have the resources available moreso than a tiny local rescue. But maybe a home visit or in house training for new owners is considered draconian?

        • MelissaLMiller

          Hi Jasmin,

          Thanks for your follow-up note. “Discredited and draconian adoption policies” are simply policies that don’t consider all factors and do not look at each adoption individually. Ultimately, open adoptions means that you look for ways to get to ‘yes’ instead of reasons to say no. It means educating (when necessary) instead of interrogating. It means understanding that most people want to do the right thing, and want your help in doing it. It means removing blanket adoption restrictions that artificially minimize the pool of potential adopters and treating each adopter and adoption on an individual basis. It means that “no, adoption is not for you” should be a rarity.

          Regarding home visits, that’s not a matter of resources. As I’ve mentioned, each Best Friends adoption is considered individually, and if adoption counselors feel a certain animal or adoptee would benefit from a home visit, then we do so. We should note, though, that many view home visits as invasive and/or a barrier that could push someone towards obtaining a pet elsewhere.

          If you have any questions about how specifically adoptions are run at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center, you’re more than welcome to visit the center and speak directly with an adoption counselor.

          Again, we thank you for all that you do to help homeless pets.

          Sincerely,
          Melissa

          • Jasmin

            Can you confirm how many out of the 472 pets that were adopted out of the La Brea Tar Pitts on the weekend of May 3rd had home visits conducted? I’d like to see what Best Friend’s “right sizing” of adoption policies look like… since it’s not a matter of having enough resources?
            If you don’t have an exact number, I think we can live with a percentage…. just so we get a sense of what an “individual” adoption process looks like…

          • MelissaLMiller

            Hi Jasmin,

            I’m sorry, but that’s simply something I cannot confirm. There were more than 50 Los Angeles rescues and shelters in attendance at our May Pet Adoption Weekend at La Brea Tar Pits – each group has its own adoption policy and process, which Best Friends does not dictate.

            And again, if you have any questions about how specifically adoptions are run at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center, you’re more than welcome to visit the center and speak directly with an adoption counselor.

            Thanks,
            Melissa

  • hbqnyc

    Strange experience here, too. After a lifetime with our highly trained service dogs often used to help others, we were denied the adoption of a mildly special needs Chihuahua puppy because we were 60ish and had no grown children to co-sign and oversee the puppy’s care! So we went to another agency and adopted a year-old Chihuahua whom we love, as do our other two Chihuahuas. Were we worse than homelessness and death? Our track-record tells quite another story….

  • hopester

    I adopted a dog from Best Friends last month. I had a great experience and I got a wonderful dog! The screening process was thorough, yet not ridiculously over-the-top like many of the rescues. I paid $100 for my new best friend. Why would anyone want to fault Best Friends for reducing the price so that more animals can find homes?! Everyone I dealt with there seemed truly invested in the animals and wanted to find the best fit for me AND the dog. The person working with me spent over an hour with me looking for the right dog for me family. I LOVE Best Friends! Thank you!

    • MelissaLMiller

      Thanks so much for sharing your adoption experience, hopester! We love seeing such a perfect match.

      Thank you for choosing adoption and for all that you do to help homeless pets!

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • MelissaLMiller

    Hi Trudog rescuer,

    We’re not suggesting that there be no screening process to adopt – an application and interview/discussion are absolutely necessary. But it’s a balance between that and stringent requirements that turn away well-meaning adopters who may be great pet parents. Ultimately, it’s looking at each adoption and each adopter individually. We take pride in the care we take in our animals, and the claims you’ve made are both offensive and simply untrue.

    It seems you’ve not been informed about a few key pieces of our work, including our spay/neuter program. We invite you to learn more by visiting our website here: http://bestfriends.org/What-we-do/Our-Work/Spay—Neuter/. In regards to our work overall, we do quite a bit of advocacy and education. You can learn more about all of the work we’re doing here: http://bestfriends.org/What-We-Do/Our-Work/.

    And lastly, you are welcome to learn more about our financials here: http://bestfriends.org/Who-We-Are/Financial-Information/Where-the-Money-Goes/. We take pride in our top ratings with sites like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator.

    Thanks for all that you do to help homeless pets.

    Sincerely,
    Melissa Miller
    New Media Coordinator

  • Gretchen Leech

    My former boss and his family ran into this problem. After their dog passed away, they decided they wanted to adopt another dog. They tried to go through a rescue organization. The rescue made them jump through so many hoops and the process was just taking forever. He said it seemed like the woman at the rescue was trying to make adopting this dog as difficult as possible for them. And they would have been a good, solid home for any animal. Finally, they got fed up and just went to the local shelter. They were able to adopt a dog in a matter of hours, rather than weeks.

  • Tracy Wolbaum-Oakleaf

    I agree, I tried to adopt our 1st Great Dane through a rescue and was offered 2 dogs that were later deemed unsuitable for new Great Dane owners (including 1 puppy we drove 4 hours to meet). We started the process in the winter because our goal was to have a dog by the summer in case training was needed. That wasn’t going to happen so we bought our dog from a breeder. I should point out I volunteer for a cat rescue and have fostered over 15 cats. Our Great Dane is 4 and we dog sat for a friend and he really enjoyed the company so we have decided to get another dog. I approach a rescue and am told I’m not eligible because I live in the city and don’t have a fenced yard (if I lived in the country they may make an exception to that rule. The rationale I’m given is because there is a chance the dog will run out into the street – that has NEVER once happened with our current dog who is a puppy. We took him to puppy classes trained him to sit in front of the door to wait for his leash. Still the rescue didn’t ask us how we might deal with this potential issue just denied us. Nor did they ask how we have cared for our current dog which really is more important. The breeder will be calling us soon with another puppy – it’s too bad because we weren’t insisting on a puppy and would provide a great home.

  • Becca

    Agreed…. Tried to adopt- I have a ten acre farm with horses, goats and a warm king size bed perfect for several puppies! We tried to adopt last winter but because of no fencing in our front yard, we were denied. My vet keeps her horse at my home- my husband was so angry we went to a breeder- I wanted to go to a shelter but seeing his anger from not being allowed to adopt hindered the possibility of a mother and pup finding a great home. We now have a registered akc chocolate lab. Do I regret not adopting, well, we still would be denied so until policies change, animals will perish… That makes me upset.

    • Jessica

      Animals perish not because of rescue groups’ policies but because of people like you. If you really cared about homeless pets you would have gone to the shelter, since you clearly knew that was an option and are well informed of the euthanasia rates in this country. Please don’t pass the buck. Do I agree with the group who denied your adoption? No, your home sounds like a lovely place for any pet – but they are the ones volunteering their time, spending their money rescuing and rehabilitating the animals, so they have every right to decide who adopts. Next time PLEASE visit your local shelter instead of a breeder and save a life.

  • Adriana Tschernev

    Wow. When I first started reading the article I was prone to side with the rescues – as, being part of the managing staff of a rescue in São Paulo, Brazil, I know the problems of adoptions not working out and the hassles of having a pet returned. Our requirements are pretty basic: your home needs to be safe, especially safety nets on apartment windows, and you need to be willing to care for your pet until the end of his life. with good quality food, veterinary care and love. And we have to hear all kind of insults only for requesting that much! Potential cat adopters that won’t put up safety nets on the windows of their 20th floor apartment have the nerve of calling us names and threaten to go buy from a pet store because we are “too demanding”!

    Upon reading the readers comments, though, I realized there ARE overly stringent requirements out there and that our adoption process is inclusive rather than exclusive already… But I’m still at a loss to understand why after going through everything with the families we still get cats and dogs returned sometimes less than 48 hours they were delivered by a volunteer at the adopters’ home? Or when they meow? Or when they climb on the sink or the dinner table? Or when they are too playfull?

    Are we too inclusive? What the heck can we be doing wrong?

    I have read all of the reasons everybody here was denied and we would have adopted out to any of you!

    Loved the idea of a ” new cat/dog parent orientation class”.

    What ele can we do?

  • Crystal

    What is the Best Friends adoption process?

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Crystal,

      You’re welcome to learn about our adoption process on our website here: http://bestfriends.org/Adopt-a-Pet/How-to-Adopt/. Ultimately, we look at each adopter and each animal individually to ensure the best match. All of our animals are microchipped, with the first contact on the chip Best Friends. We follow up with adopters and offer counsel, and all adopters must sign a contract stating that if, for any reason, they can no longer care for the animal, he/she must be returned to Best Friends.

      I hope this helps to answer your question. Thanks for all that you do to help homeless pets.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

      • Su

        Melissa, the link you posted, does it refer to your organization’s policies at your facility in Mission Hills and the NKLA Adoption Facility in West LA? Or does this only apply to the animals at your facility in Utah?

        • MelissaLMiller

          Hi Su,

          The link I shared applies to the animals at our Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. You can read more about our adoption process at the Best Friends Mission Hills Pet Adoption Center (which is very similar to the process at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center) here: http://bfla.bestfriends.org/adoption-process.html.

          As I previously mentioned, ultimately, we look at each adopter and each animal individually to ensure the best match at all of our adoption centers.

          Let us know if you have any additional questions. Thanks for all that you do for homeless pets.

          Sincerely,
          Melissa Miller
          New Media Coordinator

  • Toni

    We had 4 dogs up until last night when our 18, yes 18 year old dog finally passed away. He was a border collie, we have a 6 yr old ausie mix, a 7 yr old toy poodle and a 18 month old springer spaniel.
    The only dog that lives in the house is the poodle. The “big” dogs live outside. They are provided a huge yard with a big pond to play in in the summer and and heated beds for the winter. There is shade and grass to roll in, shrubs to chew on, holes to dig….even chickens to chase.
    Yet just recently I was told by our local humane society that I am not a good “parent” to my dogs as they should be kept indoors with air conditioning.
    I found this hilarious. Why? Because I do not have air conditioning for me, let alone for my animals.
    I live on a farm. Shall I house my chickens, dogs, cats, horses and pigs indoors to appease some freak worker at the local humane society?
    Wouldn’t I then be called a nutcase hoarder and have my animals taken from me?
    I personally feel a small yard is cruel and to force an animal to live indoors inhumane. BUT….that being said, I realize not everyone can live in the country or it wouldn’t still be country.
    My point is that we all have different ideas of what we think is best, and I think the rescues need to quit projecting their personal feelings onto adoption applicants.
    A lot of fabulous pet owners live in skyscrapers and apartments, little lots in town or heaven forbid live in the country without A/C.
    I also don’t understand why some rescues feel they have the right to demand the animal back years later if you move out of state. Do they not want the animal brought into your family? I would never leave my human child behind, why would I leave my non back talking four legged child behind? Give it back?! Ridiculous.

  • Julie

    This is exactly why we got 2 of our dogs from “free to good home” ads in our local newspaper. It seemed easier to adopt a baby than an animal from our local rescue group!

  • Ammee

    I enjoyed the article. I run a pet rescue that works with domestic violence victims and I do a good amount of animal law pro bono. Six months ago when we were ready to adopt another dog after two of my seniors passed I was told by two German Shepherd rescues (both NKLA partners) that I could not adopt because (1) I had chickens and (2) our vacation home didn’t have a permanent fence (we put it up when we are there and take it down when we leave. Unless your perfect most rescues won’t allow you to adopt. I’ve only found a couple that are reasonable; one is in central CA and one is an NKLA partner in Burbank. I met one of the German Shepherd rescues volunteers and even he though some of the people going through applications were a little off and too quick to turn potential families down.

    • Irene Suico Soriano

      Hi Ammee…could I please get more information about your rescue? A very specific but needed service.
      Thanks,
      Irene Suico Soriano
      Bark & Purr Alliance Fund
      barkandpurr@gmail.com

  • Scorp1031

    My father adopted a dog from a shelter near him a few years ago. He decided this year that his dog needed a buddy to play in the backyard with. My father is retired and spends most of his time at home with his dog and rarely goes out of the house for more than a few hours.

    Since I am involved in rescue here in Southern California and there were no dogs at the local shelters that he wanted, he decided he would check with rescues down here to see if they had a younger poodle mix to be his current dog’s playmate. He found one at one of the rescues down here and immediately applied through their website. A few days later he received a reply stating that they would not adopt to him because he lives in Idaho and they could not closely monitor the adoption. I completely understand this and would have probably made the same decision, however I told them that I would personally vouch for my father and they could check my personal references and my rescue references (I had actually worked with them before to transport an animal). My father said that he would pay for all of the costs associated with getting the dog to him, either fly him here or I would deliver him personally.

    The rescue refused to check any of my references, accept any pictures of him and his house, or check his vet records for his current pet to make sure he was an acceptable forever home. I assured them that he was an A+ pet parent and spoiled all the dogs that came to visit. The dog would be in heaven.

    They denied him again. Then they denied him a third time when he offered to fly down and meet with them and drive the dog back up to Idaho. There was nothing he could do short of moving to Los Angeles to get them to accept his application.

  • Cindy Pina

    I contacted a Poodle rescue here in New Eng a few yrs ago and was turned down because I stated the dogs would stay in their own room, with water and beds while I was out of the house. I had 2 other toy poodles at the time. Iam retired and never gone from home for very long . Two hrs at most. I have a fenced in back yard and took my pets to the Vet regularly. Go figure ? They made it so difficult, so I was rejected. I spoke with a woman at the Vets office a few weeks ago who also had a hard time adopting because she worked. The only way she was allowed to adopt was to bring proof of doggie day care enrollment. All of this can get down right expensive for the average person. I would rather have adopted from a Rescue or shelter but ended up going to a breeder, you have no other choice now adays. I understand the Rescues concern but they can be over the top and so difficult to deal with. It needs to change.

  • Tracie Cooper

    Thanks so much for this. Some precautions are needed to make sure the home conditions comply with local laws (breed X requires a 6 foot fence, breed Y is illegal to keep) as well as to keep dogs out of labratories and fighting rings. But there’s so much crazy. I know a great family who were denied because the rescue policy is homes with children 7 and up and their child was 6 years and 8 months, and one person who was denied because while she didn’t believe in de-clawing herself, she took her animals to a vet where another vet employed there — not hers — was willing to de-claw.

  • Jeanne Marie

    This is a great article. We have tried, within the last several months, to adopt from various rescue groups, and we were denied each time. One group wouldn’t adopt to us because we didn’t have a doggie door, another because we feed homemade food to dogs rather than commercial dog food, another said we were too old (in our late sixties) Ironic that last one, given that we have a three year old Jack Russell and hike her two hours every morning…

    • Zoey

      Homemade food so much better than commercial food! I would not have a doggie door because I do not want my dog out unsupervised. That (for me) would be putting her at risk of being stolen or G-d knows what! Anyone that can keep up with a JRT has my admiration. You sound like great pet parents!

  • Kelly Summertime Hazel

    I’d say that the bigger truth is that animals are dying because human beings refuse to spay and neuter.

    • Michelle Davis

      I disagree. The vast majority of people DO spay/neuter. The ones that don’t most often can’t because of finances or lack of other resources.

      • Kathryn Myers

        I disagree with that. I work in rescue and also help with a pet sitting agency in my area. I know SO many people who dont have their pets (mostly males) altered because they want them to have a litter, or they think it’s wrong to take a dog’s manhood, or, and this one really shocked me, “How can you say you believe in animal rights and then deny them the most basic right of procreation?” Most people i know who have unaltered pets simply dont want to have it done. We have a $20 spay/neuter clinic, so money is not the issue..

  • David G

    Thank you for posting that article. We had an unfortunate experience about 10 years ago looking for a cat to adopt from a rescue organization that had set up shop at our local Petco. They would not let my 12 year old son handle or pet a cat because they did not want my son getting attached to any cat since we might not pass their application process. So we left and visited the LA East Valley shelter and luckily found a kitten who we adopted. I am happy we actually adopted at the shelter but was appalled by the rescue organization representative’s attitude.

    • qmack

      My daughter worked at a Petco and had issues with the cat rescue organization that adopted through them too. A young woman was interested in a cat and my daughter gave her the contact information. The rescue never returned her messages. My daughter talked to the rescue and they said, “oh she’s too young, she will probably be flaky”. They act like these gatekeepers you have to appease and the only thing they are doing is turning people to other places to get a cat.

  • Shana

    I was denied adopting a cat because I had declawed one prior to being informed of how awful that is for the cat (At the time, I just thought it was what you did if you had an indoor cat – easily fixed with short conversation). The shelter told me to go buy one from the pet store.

    • Zoey

      How rude and awful for you!

  • Amy

    This post came at sensitive time for our family. We lost our beloved girls, aged 13 & 15 within in seven weeks of one another just a few months ago. One of our dogs was a rescue puppy from the streets of New York City. My husband and I decided we all were ready to bring another puppy into our family and filled out the paperwork. Yesterday, we were denied the opportunity to adopt from a wonderful local rescue shelter after a call to our vet found that our previous dogs shots were not up to date. I give no excuses; we absolutely should have gotten the girls to the vet on a much more regular basis. Maybe the joy and love and companionship could have been longer than it was had we been regular about vet visits. I respect, appreciate, and am thoroughly humbled by the work this local rescue group does. It’s why we chose to apply to them. They see things that would bring most pet lovers to their knees and keep going. They don’t give up for these animals. I also know that we were good to our dogs. They were our family. We did the best we could and our girls were LOVED. And despite the irregularity in our check-ups, our dogs were in good health until the last months of their lives. I cannot change the past, nor can I change the rules and reasons of this local rescue group. What I can change is how we handle life with our future dogs. I would have welcomed the opportunity to be educated by the rescue group as a condition of adoption. It would be wonderful if rescue groups could band together to educate the adopting public about what it means to properly care for animals. And why not require potential adoptees to attend a class before adoption? Both brand-new dog (and cat) owners and life-long pet parents could absolutely benefit from more education about the commitment they want to make. Our family would still love to bring another dog or two into our home and I am very passionate to go through a rescue group. However, I am gun-shy about the thought of being rejected again over something I am more than willing to remedy in the future.

    • Jennifer Bailey

      I don’t even know where to start with this, but I’m going to try. First, is that even legal for a vet to give out that information? Because you can’t call my pediatrician and find out about my kids vaccinations. My vet would never give anyone that information. I would definitely be switching vets (especially to someone who wasn’t so shot happy for reason number two). Second, our dogs are OVER vaccinated. My dog hasn’t had any shots since her boosters at one year because yearly Titer testing has shown seven years later, it’s still in her system. After losing the first dog to cancer from over-vaccination, I won’t make that mistake again. Your dogs likely lived longer BECAUSE they weren’t “up-to-date” on vaccines. Third, it’s so beyond ridiculous that any group would be dumb enough to turn down someone like you because you have shown a lifetime commitment to TWO dogs. LIFETIME. I worked at a rescue where they would turn people down for little things, and then find a “perfect” home – only to have the dog returned two years later when it was no longer a cute little puppy. There are no perfect homes. Lifetime commitments are a HUGE flag that this is not a home to be passed up on – that should be at the top of the list when rescues are looking for forever homes. I don’t blame you for being gun shy. Just know that it was NOT you. It’s totally and completely them. Also, your vet. Find a better one who is more up-to-date on vaccine research and the effects of over-vaccination. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sure you’ll make GREAT parents. I would try your local city or county shelter who don’t reject (and can’t). They should have plenty of puppies to choose from. It will be cheaper too. Good luck with your search.

      • NicoleinFL

        Why are you criticizing the vet? She most likely gave the rescue group permission to contact her vet and ask whatever questions they needed to ask!

      • Alexander

        Checking vet records is standard procedure actually. If you’re not cool with that, sounds a bit odd and off putting.

      • Joanna McGinn

        Veterinarians are not bound by HIPPA regulations. Vets take care of animals. Pedatricians take care of little HUMANS… Despite what you think or feel. DOGS are DOGS and HUMANS are HUMANS… at least in the eyes of the Law. Please keep them separate.

        And yes, I’m the guardian/mom to two rescue dogs.

        • Joanna McGinn

          My two rescues.. But I also work with a breed rescue, and yes, we do look and may reject an applicant on vet records for previous dogs. We want what is best for the DOGS. And if you are not vaccinating for specific reasons, age is one, then you need to see a vet anyway and have their titre’s check for disease protection proof.

          • Jennifer Bailey

            They’re adorable.
            And we do the titer testing (as I mentioned above). I spoke with both our vets (we have both a holistic and a traditional vet). They don’t ever give out information to rescue groups. Although, I’ve NEVER had a group ask permission to contact my vet(s). Yet another reason that I won’t be recommending rescue. I prefer to send people straight to the shelter – they’ll pay less than half the price for the same dogs the rescue groups pull without any of the hassle.

          • Bridget47

            My shelter also checks vet records.

      • Karen

        I should have read your comment first – exactly!

      • Bridget47

        When you go into adopt, you sign paperwork.

        One of those is a vet release.

        So, if you’re not comfortable sharing whether or not your pets (both current & past) are up to date on vaccines or kept up their medications, then be aware that you need to find an adoption place that agrees with you.

        Personally, I don’t understand it. I expected any rescue organization to check me out even though, like the OP there are times I’ve been late on stuff because of life. But I’d rather I answered a hundred calls from rescue groups about a client’s record than you give a dog to some of the clients who only come in when the dog is already sick and are then shocked to discover that they caught kennel cough at the groomer.

    • NicoleinFL

      I hope you will be able to adopt a dog soon. Sounds like you would make a great pet parent. I agree that denying you because you weren’t up to date on the vaccines is a bit harsh. Go to your nearest county shelter or try another rescue. The shelters are usually less restrictive. Good luck!

    • Karen

      I guess I wouldn’t be allowed to adopt either (not that I ever have that intention, I prefer a well-bred purebred)! My dog isn’t “up-to-date” either and he never will be. I got his first year rounds of only the core vaccinations and he will never get any more, save another rabies if I go back to Europe (otherwise I can’t get him in). I just took my dog in for a check-up and even without the vaccinations, which they pressured me the entire time to get, it was $300. If they are going to check vet visits, they need to bring themselves up-to-date themselves! Dogs do not need annual vaccinations!

      • Bridget47

        Well, if you keep going for “well bred purebreds” stay friendly with your vet.

        Because depending on the breed, you’ve got a slew of other problems in your future.

        But maybe since you haven’t been vaccinating, you’re unaware that both the distemper and the rabies are 3 year, that in some states if your dog presents with a bite of unknown origin OR bites someone and is not current on rabies that the dog can be either quarantined or destroyed.

        You don’t want to vaccinate that’s fine. But you’re risking your dog’s life either from disease or bureaucracy.

    • JHM

      Just show the next rescue group this letter you wrote. I volunteer with several rescues and I know we would pay attention to this letter. Now if your vet said the dogs were not treated well or were kept outside all the time, that would be different

  • towtrip

    I agree that shelters should make adoptions easier, rather than harder. One shelter in our area makes people go through a lengthy application process just to MEET a dog in a kennel. That’s craziness.

    I think it’s a slightly different situation, though, if you are working with placing dogs from a foster home-based rescue organization. There, you also have the foster family to consider, who have invested their money, time, emotions and love into bringing a dog from that -1 QOL to at least a +5 and it is devastating to them if they find out later that the dog has either landed in doggie jail again or the new family is just leaving the dog tied out 24/7 or worse. In that situation, I think there is some value to a higher level of scrutiny of the potential homes for the dog, within reason. In my experience, this also results in a close-knit community of adopters and foster parents for the rescue organization.

    • Cathy Trope

      The reason many rescues have you apply FIRST is so that you won’t meet a pet, get attached and then get super upset if you aren’t approved. If you are already approved, problem solved. Any pet you meet can be yours. It saves a lot of hurt feelings especially when children are involved who won’t understand why you might not have the right living situation for a particular pet.

  • Denise LeBeau

    A good experience or a bad experience can last a lifetime: In my early 20’s I moved into a pet-friendly apt with my cat. After a break-up, my cat who had had a sibling was now alone. I tried to adopt a cat from the ASPCA and Bide-A-Wee. Brought all kinds of proof of income (had a well-paying job), a copy of my lease and a letter from my landlord. I was turned down at both (I believe their adoption policies have now changed) because I had another cat in the home. I explained I only lived 80 blocks away, if the cats don’t get along, I will bring the cat back. It seemed logical. There was no discourse or dialogue about introducing cats, it was just a “no.” When it came time for me to get a dog (still in my early 20’s) I thought there’s no way anyone is going to adopt one to me, I have 2 cats in the home (the second cat came from a backyard breeder, something I didn’t understand about at the time). I learned pretty quickly about puppy mills (my purchased dog went through my life savings in 6 months & my boss loaned me a few extra thousand dollars to get her healthy). When my dog passed 10 years later, I thought I’d try adoption again. My local shelter, this time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, (BARK Shelter) was the best. When I sheepishly said, “I have a cat, can I still take him?” They looked at me like I had 4 heads and said, “Of course you can! If it doesn’t work out, bring him back.” He was the best dog ever and the experience changed my life forever.

  • Sandy

    I hope more rescue groups will listen to you, because I have also heard the horror stories. I personally knew of a veterinarian that was turned down when she wanted to adopt a goat once. Crazy. As long as the animals are loved and cared for that is what matters.

  • Danielle Maveal

    Great article! In my work I often hear about potential adopters turning to pet stores, craigslist, breeders after trying to adopt. It is heartbreaking.

    • Mary connolly p

      Absolutely true. In almost 20 yrs as a shelter volunteer, I heard those stories on an almost weekly basis.ANd after 1-2 rejections for piddly reasons,people will be soured on that experience for life.

      Another thought; heard yesterday that Microsoft plans to lay off 18,000 employees. How many of those folks won’t be able to find a comparable job right away, so they may have to move to a smaller home,one w/o a fenced yard,a rental.
      What seemed to be a perfect situation last week has now changed,and not the pet parents fault.
      I agree that lifetime commitment should perhaps hold the greatest weight, many other issues can be worked out.

    • TheTimeToStopPostingIsNow

      Volunteer before adopting, that is my advice. I was able to adopt as a 20something student with no proof of income–my rescue cats live better than most humans, trust me.

  • 123tl78

    True. You shouldn’t have to be perfect to take care of an animal. There are many lifestyles that animals flourish in. There are still farms with farm dogs. There are livestock guardian dogs. There are dogs suited for apartments. All types of living and lifestyles. Animals are pretty resilient and accommodating. Before this movement started thirty years ago animals were surviving just fine without humans being perfect. If you expect perfection from an adopter or at a vet’s office, you take the joy out of having an animal. Humans aren’t perfect and they will always make mistakes. Give humans some leeway and don’t judge them if they don’t do exactly what you would do. As long as the animal is taken care of and thriving, that’s what’s important. There’s always new vaccinations or new foods or some new fad that isn’t always the best thing for the animal. Give the animal owner the benefit of the doubt before we all start judging people and how they take care of their animals.

    • Bridget47

      Thirty years ago vets were pleased when dogs made it to 10 or 12 and cats made it to 13. Depending of course on the size of the dog and whether or not the cat was strictly outdoor.

      Ask your vet what a pet’s life expectancy is now.