5 REASONS TO RETHINK YOUR ADOPTION POLICIES
By Betsy McFarland
We are in the life-saving and match-making business. But are we fully aware of the unintended consequences of our policies and procedures? Do stringent adoption policies limit our impact? I would argue they do, and here’s why:
1. THE VAST MAJORITY OF PETS IN HOMES IN THE UNITED STATES ARE DOING JUST FINE
Those of us in the animal sheltering and rescue field tend to have a bit of a skewed perspective of what is actually happening with pets. We tend to see the worst situations, which aren’t reflective of the broader population. Keep in mind that…
• 68% of American homes have pets
• Americans spent $67 billion on their pets last year
• 72% of Americans consider their pets to be part of the family
• More than half of America’s pets sleep in bed with their owners
And did you know that there are an estimated 183 million owned pets in the United States, and only 6 million entering shelters? That means only 3% of all the pets in the United States enter shelters or rescues each year.
2. PEOPLE HAVE CHOICES WHEN SEEKING TO ADD A PET TO THEIR FAMILY
Pet stores, the internet, breeders, rescues, neighbors/friends, and more! Of course, we want people to choose to adopt and save a life. Overall, about 41% of pets in homes came from shelters or rescues, and this has increased over the years thanks to all the hard work of our movement. But, 59% still get their pets from those other sources.
3. THE PUBLIC STILL HAS RESERVATIONS ABOUT ADOPTING
While 68% of the public would consider adopting from a shelter or rescue group and 73% have visited a website to get more information about adopting from a shelter or rescue group, many still express reservations: Will the process be cumbersome or personally invasive? Will the shelter be depressing? Will I be asked too many questions? As a movement, we need to ask ourselves: Are we scrutinizing 94% of the public because of the 6% that have failed in some way?
4. IF YOU SAY NO, MOST WILL JUST ACQUIRE A PET FROM ANOTHER SOURCE
When we are too stringent or judgmental, we are taking the best source for a pet off the table as an option. When a potential adopter doesn’t have the experience they expect when they come to us, they will go elsewhere–to backyard breeders, the internet, and pet stores.
5. TURNING POTENTIAL ADOPTERS AWAY HAS CONSEQUENCES.
The pets they get from those other sources may not be sterilized or even vaccinated. So, they have an intact pet and may not have the access or resources to obtain a spay/neuter on their own, and the pet ends up contributing to the problem. Additionally, they also lose an important resource to call (–You!) –when they have a problem! So, not only have we lost a potentially great home, we’ve lost an important connection to the pet owners in our communities.
BETSY MCFARLAND | ADISA
Betsy has 20 years of experience in animal protection–much of it with The Humane Society of the United States–including serving as Vice President of the Companion Animals section for the last five years. Passionate about engaging the community, Betsy was the first to launch comprehensive volunteer engagement training for the animal sheltering field, authoring the book Volunteer Management for Animal Care Organizations and publishing research on staff-volunteer relationships. Betsy is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) through the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA) and holds a degree in psychology from George Mason University.