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« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending July 5, 2009 | Main | Update on New KCMO animal shelter »

July 06, 2009



I'm 110% behind you on this Brent.

Really good, responsible people are getting turned down for, what amounts to small reasons. The bigger picture is 'will this dog have a better life with this person than sitting in this shelter', 'will they be loved by this person more than they can be loved sitting in a crate all day w/ limited care and socialization?', 'will this dog enjoy life more with this person than they would enjoy staring out a cage door?'.

NO ONE is a perfect dog owner, that's an impossible standard...even the most die-heard 'rescue person'. it's not about how 'what's wrong' with potential adopters, it should be 'what's right'. More importantly, it should be what's right for the dogs.

Rescues and shelters see so much bad in people who ruin the dogs' lives that come into their care, that I think they often times have a hard time trusting those that want to adopt and help these dogs have a happy forever after...

Somehow we all have to trust and have faith...we owe that to the dogs that are looking for a new home.

IMO trust (or even the assumption of positive intent by an adopter for that matter) has a key factor in successfully becoming a No Kill Society.


I get that shelter workers can get a little jaded and suspicious about adopters, but not only do strict and sometimes capricious policies prevent existing dogs from going to good homes, but all too often, people who've been rejected end up going to pet stores and backyard breeders, which just encourages more irresponsible breeding in the long run.

A couple of my recent bugbears when it comes to adoptions are extra hoops for adopting 'pit bulls,' and fenced yard requirements.

We have a very noisy, crowded, overextended municipal shelter here that has a LOT of bully breeds, but they have all kinds of ridiculous requirements for adopting one. You actually have to wait to get a home inspection to ensure that your perimeter is secure before you're allowed to adopt one of a square headed dog. I think (but am not 100% sure) that they require previous 'pit bull' experience, too. I wonder how many of those supposedly difficult to adopt dogs there have had potential homes rejected.

And the yard requirement is almost stupider. I have a good-sized yard with a sturdy 6' fence. And you know what we use that yard for? Almost nothing. We play frisbee every now and again, and sometimes roll around in the grass, but it would be a very minor adjustment for us if we didn't have it. In fact, I'm guessing my dog would appreciate all the extra walks she'd get if we couldn't just take her out there to do her business. And I'm guessing that a lot of the neglected yard dogs around here would be a lot harder for their owners to neglect and ignore if they lived in apartments.

And just overall, I get so sick and tired of people saying that no kill will never work and coming up with excuses and justifications instead of just giving it a shot.

How can so many people want to fail at this?


Hi Brent,

I keep hearing more stories like this. In fact, a very good friend of mine here in K.C. was recently turned down when she tried to adopt a second dog. This person is one of the best dog owners I know. She takes good care of her dog, has lots of time to spend with her dog because she works from home and is at the dog park with her dog almost every day. The rescue did not give her a clear reason for why they were turning her down and she was sooo upset. She ended up going to Halfway Home and adopting a second dog from there, so it did have a good ending. But that anyone would turn her down is just absurd.

Also, I don't keep my dogs on heartworm medication year-round. I have them tested every year before starting them on it again for the warm season. If rescues are turning people down for that reason, I guess I'm a not-good-enough dog owner too.


This is off-topic, but I thought I'd share it for your information, in case you hadn't seen it. I'm in Lincoln, NE and there was some chatter about a pit bull ban. I found this article informative; while not all of the proposed ideas would be helpful, I certainly found them a step in the right direction. Also, as a responsible owner of a pit and a pit mix, I can (hopefully!) rest easier that my dogs won't be seized and euthanized over a hysterical breed ban.

Brent Toellner

Avabee-- I'm going to dedicate a whole blog post to Lincoln this week. A lot of good stuff in there (and some bad stuff) and one really interesting tidbit there that no one is talking about.

Allie, I'm hearing way too many of these stories lately...and unfortunately, not everyone is solving the problem by going to another rescue (and I think it's unfair to expect them to).

Lisa, this is such an individual dog thing. I have one that would hate not having a yard to run in. But the other two would be completely great with never being in a back yard and going for 3 walks a day. A lot of recent studies indicate that people without fenced yards spend more time with their dogs than those with fences (since they're forced to walk them vs just sending them out) -- and yet, dozens of rescues continue with their blanket fencing requirements.


It's absolutely fabulous that IACC adopted out so many pets this weekend, but my concern was how they did it - offering $4 adoption fees.

It just concerns me for two reasons
1. owning a pet can be very expensive, and sometimes people have to surrender their animals due to medical costs (for example, just got an email last week about a dog abandoned at a vet for a $99 bill)
2. dog fighting does exist - and when these animals are cheap and readily available with an already overworked staff - how are they ensuring that these animals are going to safe, loving homes?

Brent Toellner


Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate your sentiments and caring about what happens to the dogs, but I personally don't worry too much about them.

#1 really doesn't bother me at all in this case. There will always be situations where a pet will have a medical problem in which they can't afford and the pet will be returned. This will be true whether you charge $50 for adoptions or $4. I guess I'd rather put 150 pets in homes and get 20 of them back than not adopt any of them at all...the net gain is still 130 animals. I don't think shelters should overly concern themselves with what MIGHT happen in the future...which no one really knows.

As for #2, I've heard a lot about fears of dog fighters coming to shelters and adopting dogs for dog fighting...but honestly, have never heard one actual story of it having happened. For the most part, this group of people breeds their own dogs for their own purposes and doesn't have a lot of interest in adopting altered dogs at a fee (with certain paperwork filled out with name/address on it). I guess it could, in theory, happen...and would be tragic for the animal if it's just that for all of the talk I've heard in my life about it happening, I've never actually seen a real occurrance of it.

gretchen meyer

Supposedly the ASPCA has a stat that 95% of people who are turned down for adoption will still get a pet anyway. Would love to find this stat online, but haven't yet.


That is so awesome about Indianapolis! It just makes common sense to be open when people can come and, to be honest, 3-day weekend holidays are the BEST time to be open. I work for a nonprofit sanctuary and we have tours - we always try to have tours on holiday weekends and they are always the most popular. Logical.

I have to admit I wouldn't - on the outset- adopt to the 2nd person w/ the outdoor dogs. If I did a home inspection and really liked what I saw, it might be different. It's a personal bias (seen too many outdoor farm dogs get killed too soon). I personally think some ranch dogs have the best life - outdoors, with their people, doing what dogs have a natural drive to do. There's a local sheep rancher who has this gorgeous Border Collie. Great working dog. Hate that I see him in the back of the pick-up truck, but the dog has the option to sleep inside or outside - he always chooses inside (not on the bed or in the person's room but in the kitchen generally). To me, it's a nice way to thank a dog by inviting him into the pack's home.

The other two? I'd adopt to them in a heartbeat. It's unreasonable not to, imo. And that's what it ends up coming down to, in some cases, a person's opinion. Like had those two got me as the adoption counselor, well I would have fudged things a bit. :)

Being flexible is key in rescue, and I think that that is lacking in more and more shelters/rescues.


The person with the outdoor dogs that you think leads to early death had one dog die of cancer and two die from old age - over 14.

So, instead of taking a chance at giving a dog a life on a farm, outdoors where nature originally intended, "rescues" would rather pick certain death. And also, would rather a dog die early from cancer than risk adopting a large breed dog out unaltered.

These same people vilify breeders as EVIL because for every litter it means the same number of dogs die in the shelter. And YET, they will turn down people that want to adopt causing a dog/cat to die.

Funny how people like to pick and choose what is moral, based on what suits their fancy - and no logic.


"Funny how people like to pick and choose what is moral, based on what suits their fancy - and no logic."

It isn't funny - I'm sure you do it, too. None of us can be objectively unbiased automatons.

It also isn't unreasonable to be interested in how an outdoor setup is when you place a dog, especially one you may have bonded with or who has been in, say, foster for a prolonged period of time (inside).

It also isn't entirely illogical to expect outdoor dogs who may also be ranch dogs to, generally, have a shorter life comparatively. Or, at the very least, it isn't unreasonable to be curious about what "running free on 50-acres means" or what "the typical day for a ranch dog" is.

(Nature didn't intend anything with dogs - we did).


I have seen this same thing happen with the rescue I volunteer for.. it seems like every time a dog comes back (which doesn't happen very often, but sometimes it doesn't work out) the leadership gets so agonized over the "failure" that new guidelines are put into place in an attempt to ensure "this doesn't happen again". With, of course, the result that it has become progressively more and more difficult for anyone to meet their requirements. In fact, they have stopped admitting new dogs for some time now "because there aren't enough homes" for the ones they currently have in foster care.

And as for the shelters, the REALLY sad part is that these people were turned down because they told the TRUTH!! Although a lot of breed rescues do home checks (which can be very useful but can also be a barrier to adoptions), very few shelters do. If your family and friends had lied, they would have new pets now.

I don't know the actual stats either, but I would be willing to bet that the percentage of people who get pets from another source after being turned down for adoption is close to 100%. In a FEW cases, where there is some clearly defined problem and a real effort at education has been made as to why a certain dog - or certain type of dog - will not likely be a good fit for a particular family, then different decisions may be made. We would hope. But in most cases, the people feel frustrated and offended, and they STILL want a new pet. Not only will they not go back to a different shelter or rescue, but chances are good the experience has put them off of shelters/rescues for life.


Dog evolved from wolves with the help of human intervention. Wolves lived outside. PEOPLE lived outside for thousands of years living in little more than big dog houses. Hell, I had a homeless woman living up all winter thru the coldest nights living in a doorway. Humans would get charged with animal cruelty if they left their dog in the same situation. (Please note people tried to help this woman and she refused it.) I'm not saying this is ok, but people/animals can apparently live in less than perfect environments.

PEOPLE have decided dogs belong in the house. Honestly, I don't think dogs "belong" in the house anymore than they "belong" anywhere else. Well cared for outside dogs are generally more balanced than inside dogs in my experience. Inside dogs quite often are fat and don't get enough exercise. Heard of "death by can opener"? I can't believe how many rescuers leave their dogs locked up all day then denounce someone that leaves it outside even with proper accomodations.

I'm not unbiased but at least try to use reason. Not just "this isn't the way I'd do it" or "this is the group think we came up with". You deny an adoption you cost a dog/cat their life. Until we get to no kill that is exactly what happens. Sometimes its justified and more often these days, its absolutely not.


I think the shelter policy of making sure that the animal is going to go to a good home is a wonderful thing. In a perfect world the same policy would apply to human hospitals when a mother gives birth to a human baby. Our government should use its wisdom at that point to decide whether the baby should go home with the mother, or should be put in a shelter for adoption by a more qualified family. If the world worked this way there would be fewer children raised by single mothers and fewer children going to government school hungry. Of course, once the shelter filled up with babies some of them would have to be humanely euthanized to make room for the more adoptable ones, but that is the cost I am willing to pay.

Brent Toellner

I would say that is a much more radical solution than most people in this country would except (thankfully). I wouldn't be in favor of the government deciding who should and who shouldn't have children (sounds like communist China to me) and I would certainly rather most kids live in single parent homes than face euthanasia. But the reality is, those are the types of decisions made every day at many shelters...that death in the shelter is better than going to just a pretty good home.


I think calmassertiv was being facescious (fa see shus - I don't know how to spell it) Brent...


This morning I saw a TV news story that the Indianapolis ACC director, Doug Rae, is now on probation partly due to city-county council concerns about his $4 adoption promotion. The story didn't give the details about whether the conerns were due to the shelter relying on the adoption fees as a part of their funding (and so were an "irresponsible" act with regards to their budget) or if they simply think $4 adoptions are a bad idea for other reasons along the lines of those discussed in other comments to this article.

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