In the past month, I've adopted out both of my two foster dogs. Both of them went to great, loving homes. Both dogs are loving their new homes. Both families were denied from adopting pets by multiple other organizations prior to us adopting to them.
The idea of not being 'overly selective" for homes for adoptable pets may be the most important, and yet the most controversial (likely because it is the least well understood) part of the no kill equation. The animal rescue community MUST quit loving their adoptables to death.
When many in the establishment hear about limiting barriers to adoption, the first reactions inevitably seems to be that No Kill wants to send pets into homes where they will not be cared for, will live their lives on chains, or will lead to some form of miserable death. That, of course, is completely untrue and there is data that supports this. But its still what some people will assume...
The no kill idea is actually to remove artificial barriers to adoption. Somehow over the years many rescue groups (I find this to be most common with breed-specific rescue groups, although it is not uncommon within all-breed rescues) have put up all kinds of artificial barriers to adoption. Here are just a few I've run across fairly recently:
1) Refusal to adopt most (or all) of their adoptable dogs to homes without fenced yards. Even if someone intends to walk their dog 3x a day, the rescue still maintains this policy. It's important to note that Kansas City, like many cities, is an urban community where many people live in condos and their dogs have great lives going on multiple walks per day -- or many people live in suburban neighborhoods where fencing isn't even allowed. While certainly there are some dogs in a program that would be best suited to have fenced yards, most would be perfectly happy sleeping on the couch indoors with their owner and then going for several walks a day.
2) Refusal to adopt dogs into homes with dogs of the same gender -- even though most of the rescue foster homes have 3 or more dogs in their homes (which guarantees same gender placements) and it works out just fine.
3) Refusing to adopt to unmarried couples, or young singles who live in apartments. Often these people are weeded out by fencing requirements. But even groups without the fencing requirement often refuse to adopt to apartment dwellers, or young couples, because they fear a breakup, or a move to a new apartment that doesn't allow dogs, will cause the dog to come back into the shelter/rescue. While statistically, it is more likely to happen in these instances, the reality is that most of these dogs remain in their homes forever
4) Denying adoption to someone who has another dog, that is unaltered. Note, there is no way that the dog you adopt to them (which is altered) will be part of a birthing equation.
5) Denying people from adopting because they tend to have the dog as an outside "farm dog". Never mind the warm, straw-filled barn, or garage to sleep in. Or the heated water bowl. Or the exercise and stimulation of never ending farm chores.
6) Not adopting out black cats around Halloween, or any pets around Christmas, also fall under these artificial barriers.
Somehow we've forgotten just how adaptable dogs are to our lives (and how lovingly willing they are to adjust their lifestyle to fit ours). It was only a few decades ago that most dogs lived outside. This was definitely unsuitable for city living because dogs often got hit by cars, but was perfectly great for dogs in rural areas who were farm dogs following their masters around fields. Over time, we gradually brought dogs into our homes -- to which dogs adapted -- and then, started confining them to small kennels during the day. And again, the dogs adapted.
Yet, for some reason, we don't think dogs can adapt to even the slightest variation in lifestyle from our idealic notion of what it should be. Even though what is ideal for the DOG may vary dramatically based on the dog's personality traits.
I'm sure, there are some who have read this far, and with steam coming out of their ears, will profess that they do some (or all) of these things because they CARE about these pets. Unfortunately, they haven't taken the consequences of their denying adoptions to the next logical question:
What happens to these adopters that your organization is denying for adoption?
We have to realize that in denying a family for adoption, for whatever reason, does not ensure that they never get a pet. It just ensures that they don't adopt a pet. So, after a couple of times getting declined for adoption, the hopeful family goes to a breeder, and buys a dog, because the rescue community is too hard to work with and has continued to deny them the opportunity to own a pet.
So they have a pet, but they left our adoptable pet in the shelter. And then, the rescue community makes the claim that these irresponsible people are causing THEM to have to kill animals in the shelter because there just aren't enough good homes.
But the reality is these rescue groups loved the animals to death. There are more than enough "good enough" homes. Instead of denying these homes and sending them elsewhere for a pet, it is important that we take every opportunity to, through a little education and follow up, make them into good homes instead of just sending the adopter away and leaving the animal homeless out of 'love" for the animal.
Over the past month, I've been hearing an ad campaign from the Ad Council and an organization call Adopt US Kids. The campaign (you can check out some of the work here), has a tag line of "you don't have to be perfect, to be a perfect parent". I love the campaign, but also find it fascinating that they are encouraging "less than perfect" people to adopt CHILDREN, and yet many in the animal welfare community find it almost offensive that we would adopt a dog into a home without a fence. I think a lot of rescue organizations could benefit from the idea of "you don't have to be perfect to be a perfect pet parent".
There is more than one type of good home. And that of the nearly 70 million US households that own pets, the vast majority of them are either already very good homes, or could be very good homes with a little help. And denying adopters doesn't prevent these homes from owning pets, it just prevents them from adopting a pet. Sure, there will always be cases in which you just can't responsibly put a pet in a particular home...but this should be a very rare exception.
As Winograd writes in his very good blog post "Good Homes Need not Apply"
"I have long been a proponent of adoption screening because I, too, want animals to get good homes. But truth be told, in shelters where animals are being killed by the thousands, I’d rather they do “open adoptions” (little to no screening) because I trust the general public far more than those who run many animal control shelters—those who have become complacent about killing and willfully refuse to implement common-sense lifesaving alternatives."
And even if your organization is not facilitating in the killing, if the organization that is doing it relies on your organization to help transfer/pull animals, you are doing your part to ensure the practice continues.
Over the past 2 years, I've met many people who have been denied adopting from shelters -- for wanting to have a "farm dog", for occassionally breeding great hunting dogs but wanted to adopt a companion dog, for not giving their elderly, indoor dog heartworm treatment even though they were following the advice of their veterinarian, for not having a fence, for living in an apartment, for being too young, too old, having a young child and for having a good job that the rescue organization thought would be 'too time consuming" for her to raise a pet.
It's foolishness. And it is leading to us killing animals in the shelter.
Good Homes Need Not Apply - -Winograd
No Kill Conference Wrap UP #1 -- YesBiscuit!