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

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  • Phillip Coker

    I agree. I have worked at a few shelters and animal hospitals. In many cases I have seen people turned down for adoption over trivial details. However, I have also seen the flip side where someone adopted an animal and then abused or neglected that animal. Regulations definitely need to be in place to make sure the animal is going to a good home, but these regulations can sometimes have a negative impact on the shelter and the other animals. Does anyone have suggestions on how the regulations could be loosened or modified in order to stimulate adoption but also screen out the potential ‘bad’ adopters?

  • Bridget47

    Not a BF adoption story.

    I got turned down after I passed the home visit; after I passed the vet check, after I was told they were finalizing details- all because a stay at home mom came in and fell in love with the dog.

    And “since you work, the stay at home mom is just a better fit for this dog.”

    And then they asked if they could show me a different dog. No lie.

    So I went to different rescue groups & a local shelter and got wonderful dogs. In some ways, I’m grateful they turned me down because I wouldn’t trade my dogs for anything, but I’m still surprised. (Yes, I got two- no, that wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done, yes, we’re all sleeping through the night finally. : ) )

    I’ve owned dogs before. I already had training in place, I already had contacted someone about dog walking for long days – their decision to change their mind at the last minute made me furious.

    But as I said, I saved my dogs and now I know more about dog sports than I ever thought possible.

  • moochey

    I just can’t get past accusations from several sources tha Best Friends has, on more than one occasion, rescued puppies from shelters but left the mother dogs behind to be euthanized since no one would adopt them. Is this true??

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Moochey,

      Thank you for your question and for your concern about Best Friends Animal Society’s role as erroneously presented in the recent Examiner.com article. I’m happy to address the points brought up in that article, but unless you have any specifics regarding other allegations you mention, I’m afraid I can’t speak to them, as I simply don’t know what you’re referring to.

      It’s important to note that the author of the Examiner.com article did not reach out to Best Friends at any point to fact check or question our actual involvement in the events.

      The facts of the story are as follows. Best Friends’ Pup My Ride transport program’s mission is simple – to get dogs out of local shelters and into rescues and communities where there are waiting lists for dogs like them – dogs who would otherwise die in Los Angeles shelters. We facilitate transports to receiving partners based upon those partners’ criteria for admission. We do not set the criteria, but we do our best to find dogs who fit a partners’ needs and transport those animals for the county (as they do not have the funds). Additionally, we put a lifetime guarantee on those animals, even though the actual transfer occurs between LA County and the receiving no-kill organization.

      Unbeknownst to us, Katrina’s (the two-year old brindle and white pit bull terrier/American foxhound mix in question) five puppies had already been weaned and separated from her. Seeing five dogs in need who had been in the Baldwin Park Shelter for over two weeks with no rescue interest, Best Friends responded and facilitated a transfer to the Oregon Humane Society, a group prepared to take puppies (up to 4 months) of any breed. There was the very real possibility that had Best Friends not rescued the five pups, they would have been killed.

      Upon learning that the puppies’ mother was still at Baldwin Park Shelter, we began working with our network partners and coalition members to find a home for Katrina, and in fact, we had opened up a spot at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center for her. That Saturday morning, when we went to finalize the arrangements for her transfer to NKLA, we were thrilled to learn that Katrina had already been pulled by a rescue group and was safe.

      Best Friends’ Mission Hills Center is contracted with LA Animal Services to only pull from city shelters. The NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West LA is not under the same LAAS contract, but is instead a shared center available to NKLA coalition partners. Of the 59 kennels at NKLA, Best Friends typically has dogs in 50% of them. As we aggressively work to turn LA into a no-kill city by 2017 and continue to make great strides, our focus must be on the animals that are housed within the LAAS city shelters. We are working to create a no-kill template within LA, in the hopes that other cities can follow LA’s lead, and ultimately, we can save them all.

      Lastly, I would encourage you to please read the LA Daily News article, released yesterday, touting the fact that LAAS reported the lowest dog & cat euthanasia numbers in its history: http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20140805/los-angeles-sees-record-drop-in-dog-cat-euthanasia

      These historically low numbers could not have been achieved without the cooperation of LAAS, rescues (both NKLA coalition & non-coalition), concerned individuals & Best Friends. There is no one “right” path, and there is room for other passions and visions in the quest, but it is undeniable that the best way to succeed is to all embrace the mission and to work together to Save Them All.

      We thank you for all that you do to help homeless pets.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • chapps

    Wow, you are really painting rescue organizations with a broad brush. These small, underfunded organizations really personalize the adoption process. They want the *best* home for any dog under their care. I recently had the opportunity to see how a different style of adoption worked when a neighbor fell in love with a one year old dog after contacting a breeder on the east coast; they then had the dog shipped out to Los Angeles. It didn’t go well. The dog terrorized their existing two year old pup, and had massive separation anxiety. Training wasn’t going well, and everyone agreed that this dog needed to be in a home where he was a solo act – he didn’t like other dogs. This might have been avoided if a rescue organization was involved and could see how the dog reacted in the home. No process is perfect, though, and some issues aren’t apparent until a dog has been in a home for a while. My neighbors are wonderful doggie parents and would have passed muster with any rescue agency. I appreciate everything these rescue agencies do for the dogs and those who adopt. My husband and I have adopted three dogs from these agencies over the years, and understand that we have to undergo scrutiny. Our home is checked out in advance, and they interview us to see how we deal with dogs, and if we’re the right fit for *that dog*. In fact, our last dog, who sadly passed away recently, was originally promised to another couple, but when we came along, we had two advantages over that couple: we had another dog and cat (the pup we were adopting was *very* social) and we had a back yard. I’m sure the other couple was heartbroken, but the rescue agency – Dawg Squad – did what was best for the puppy. If we lose out on a future adoption, we’re not going to be bitter at all because we support the process. Anyone who is so easily discouraged is probably not the best person or couple to adopt a dog, because dogs are wonderful but frustrating animals. It’s the people who get discouraged easily who wind up turning their pets into shelters (yes, that’s a broad brush, but, hey, why not?). And above all, every rescue organization is different. My experience with Dawg Squad has been exemplary. I’ve never seen such dedication and care from people who do all of the fostering and rescues in their *spare time*. They have lives, and jobs, and they do this out of love for the animals. And you can see the kind of success that they have by looking at the passionate and loyal people who have adopted from them – many of us remain donors and friends of Dawg Squad long after we adopt our pets. And even after those pets have passed away. I’m going to be working with them in a few months to find a perfect puppy for our home, because I know they’ll only match us up with the one that will be our best friend for life. So please go easier on the rescue agencies. They’re the good guys.

  • Fdcw

    And by the way…dig deeper into BF and for all they want to claim they do for animals, look at all the animals they leave behind. Most recently, taking a litter of pups from a shelter while knowingly leaving the mother behind to die. Thankfully a smaller rescue got wind of it and took the mother. BF has refused to take senior pets, injured or ill pets, and the list goes on. No argument they do their part, and mostly because of the money everyone throws their way…thanks to the employees who can spend all the time marketing and reaching out for them on their $50k-$100k+ salaries, but they are not that sweet when it comes to all animals. Save the rest is a chant coming up in light of what rescuers are very aware of what BF is leaving in the dust.

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Fdcw,

      Thanks for your note. We’re absolutely not implying that outdated adoption policies from rescues is the only reason animals are dying in shelters. 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 comprehensive work here: http://bestfriends.org/What-We-Do/Our-Work/.

      In regards to the recent situation that you reference, we thank you for expressing your concerns about Best Friends Animal Society’s role as erroneously presented in the Examiner.com article and for giving us an opportunity to clarify the details. The article’s author did not reach out to Best Friends at any point to fact-check or question our actual involvement in the events.

      The facts of the story are as follows. Best Friends’ Pup My Ride transport program’s mission is simple – to get dogs out of local shelters and into rescues and communities where there are waiting lists for dogs like them – dogs who would otherwise die in Los Angeles shelters. We facilitate transports to receiving partners based upon those partners’ criteria for admission. We do not set the criteria, but we do our best to find dogs who fit a partners’ needs and transport those animals for the county (as they do not have the funds). Additionally, we put a lifetime guarantee on those animals, even though the actual transfer occurs between LA County and the receiving no-kill organization.

      Unbeknownst to us, Katrina’s (the two-year old brindle and white pit bull terrier/American foxhound mix in question) five puppies had already been weaned and separated from her. Seeing five dogs in need who had been in the Baldwin Park Shelter for over two weeks with no rescue interest, Best Friends responded and facilitated a transfer to the Oregon Humane Society, a group prepared to take puppies (up to 4 months) of any breed. There was the very real possibility that had Best Friends not rescued the five pups, they would have been killed.

      Upon learning that the puppies’ mother was still at Baldwin Park Shelter, we began working with our network partners and coalition members to find a home for Katrina, and in fact, we had opened up a spot at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center for her. That Saturday morning, when we went to finalize the arrangements for her transfer to NKLA, we were thrilled to learn that Katrina had already been pulled by a rescue group and was safe.

      Best Friends’ Mission Hills Center is contracted with LA Animal Services to only pull from city shelters. The NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West LA is not under the same LAAS contract, but is instead a shared center available to NKLA coalition partners. Of the 59 kennels at NKLA, Best Friends typically has dogs in 50% of them. As we aggressively work to turn LA into a no-kill city by 2017 and continue to make great strides, our focus must be on the animals that are housed within the LAAS city shelters. We are working to create a no-kill template within LA, in the hopes that other cities can follow LA’s lead, and ultimately, we can Save Them All.

      I would also encourage you to please read the L.A. Daily News article, released yesterday, touting the fact that LAAS reported the lowest dog & cat euthanasia numbers in its history: http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20140805/los-angeles-sees-record-drop-in-dog-cat-euthanasia.

      These historically low numbers could not have been achieved without the cooperation of LAAS, rescues (both NKLA coalition & non-coalition), concerned individuals & Best Friends. There is no one “right” path, and there is room for other passions and visions in the quest, but it is undeniable that the best way to succeed is to all embrace the mission and to work together to Save Them All.

      Lastly, regarding your comment of “save the rest,” our mission to Save Them All means a collective and collaborative effort between our communities, shelters and rescue groups, individuals, policy makers and so on. Not Best Friends on our own, as there is much to be done and we all bear the responsibility to help our nation’s homeless pets. We appreciate all you do to help the animals and homeless pets in your community.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

      • Fdcbw

        Lying…and lying and lying…that is what you are doing. People need to check out BF more and see about dogs also being turned away from your LA City centers. Take a look at Shelter Hope Pet Shop in Thousand Oaks, for ex, who took in 4 dogs your centers turned away. And on and on. I don’t have time to keep a chit chat with you…as I am not getting paid big bucks to do so such as you are…but for those who do keep informed, this article written up is just garbage.

        • MelissaLMiller

          Hi Fdcbw,

          Best Friends invites anyone to visit our adoption centers in Mission Hills and West Los Angeles to personally meet the pets in our care. Our canines include at least 50 percent pit bull terriers and large breed dogs of all ages and a wide variety of Chihuahuas, while the felines include many adult and senior cats (as well as dozens of kittens, many of which are graduates of our neonatal kitten nursery). As you’ll see, our pet population is a direct reflection of the pets found at any of the six L.A. City shelters.

          As I previously mentioned, Best Friends’ Mission Hills Center is contracted with LA Animal Services to only pull from city shelters – we are contractually unable to take animals in from directly from the public or from LA county shelters. The NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West LA is not under the same LAAS contract, but is instead a shared center available to NKLA coalition partners. Of the 59 kennels at NKLA, Best Friends typically has dogs in 50% of them. As we aggressively work to turn LA into a no-kill city by 2017 and continue to make great strides, our focus must be on the animals that are housed within the LAAS city shelters. We are working to create a no-kill template within LA, in the hopes that other cities can follow LA’s lead, and ultimately, we can Save Them All.

          Thank you again for all that you do for homeless pets in your community. I hope you have a wonderful day.

          Sincerely,
          Melissa Miller
          New Media Coordinator

  • Fdcw

    Sooo many drinking the koool-aide of BF. No, it is not the case that animals are dying in shelters because of rescue policies that are different than those of BF…something BF does not like, as, of course, they only believe their policies are the ones that should be followed…animals are dying because of irresponsible breeding, people not spaying/neutering their animals, smaller rescues not being able to rescue due to people refusing to foster. Feral cats are dying because of people not doing TNR and because shelter systems are not developing community cat policies that provide for responsible and tracked TNR. This is a garbage article. BF is trying to bully their own policies onto other rescues.

    • Bridget47

      You know for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to chit chat as you put it earlier, you seem to be making a lot of posts.