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« Ohio BSL Repeal Bill -- Hearing tomorrow, 12/13 | Main | Video showing connection between chaining and dog aggression »

December 15, 2011



didn't YesBiscuit just highlight a shelter that's promoting adoptions for chirstmas (Santa will even deliver the new family member on Christmas morning)?

My shelter doesn't do gift adoptions, but that's all year long. We do, however, love sending pets home for the holidays. if someone wants to give an adoption as a gift- we encourage them to bring the recipient to pick out their new family member themself. We also have gift certificates available. As a last resort we will proceed with a gift adoption as long as we can speak to the recipient on the phone to verify they're ok with this new family member (but unfortunately all the contract paperwork and chip registration will be in the adopter's name- not the new owner's name- which is why we push so hard to get the owner in for the adoption).

But man i love it when a pet gets a home just in time for the holidays. And our return rate is the same after xmas as it is the rest of the year

Ted Moore

Timely post, Brent. Thanks for being a an island of rationality in the animal welfare sea of well-intentioned paranoid hysteria.


Here, here for holiday adoptions. I participate in Iams Home for the Holidays. I have adopted out one dog so far this season (I'm small) but would LOVE to send more home for Christmas.


Maybe it's just me, but I don't equate adopting a dog or cat for the family on Christmas to giving a dog or cat as a gift.
The situation described in the post with the family is not the same, to me, as adopting or purchasing a pet as a "surprise" gift for someone outside the household.
I don't feel the latter is at all appropriate, but would heartily recommend holiday adoptions like the former.
That's my meaning when I say to think twice before you give a pet as a gift.

H. Houlahan

Agree with PitOwner. I had a long walk in the telephone House of Pain with someone who wants to buy a puppy from me (not gonna happen) as a gift for the elderly in-laws. A surprise gift. Because they talk about the breed all the time, how great these dogs were when they were farming. I told her, among other things, that any breeder who would sell to someone other than the ultimate owner was a BAD breeder and should be avoided. It clearly made all the impression of feathers on glass. She wanted to know if the breed rescue group would "give" her one for them, then? She will find a puppymiller and gift her inlaws with an unsocialized, fearful, and likely dysplastic little furball

I've had at least two foster dogs who were originally purchased as surprise gifts for relatives. That worked out spectacularly well. Oddly, the fine upstanding breeders who sold them declined to take them back. Good luck with that was their message to rescue.


I don't disagree with the sentiment that the "buying for the family" is different than "buying as a gift" -- all I'm noting is that from a messaging standpoint we should be encouraging the conversation about how to adopt responsibly during the holidays vs starting out with "don't get a dog for the holiday, except..." One starts with the notion of pushing people away, the other is inviting and welcoming and opens its way to better education and dialogue.


Pets Alive in NY is willing to dress up as elves and deliver the pet you've adopted as a Christmas gift on the morning of the 25th!

While I would not want a well-intentioned friend to give me a pet for Xmas, I would LOVE it if my fiance ever wanted to do that. In fact, he could do that every year as far as I'm concerned. I'm still holding on to my childhood dream of a puppy under the tree. And I trust my fiance to pick one that was suited for our home. In the highlyextremelysuper unlikely even that he ever actually went for this idea, I'd hate to think a shelter or rescue would refuse him b/c the adoption was intended as a Xmas gift.


I got a puppy last year for Christmas (I picked it out and all family members were involved and even flew out to meet him). It was the best gift. It is a gift that just keeps giving.

My father received 2 puppies as a gift (exact photo above) that he didn't know was coming for his birthday and he is estatic and the best doggie owner.


Couldn't agree more! Thanks for the post.


My brother and sister-in-law are getting a puggle as their Christmas present to each other. I told them not to mention that to the rescue when they picked the one year old dog up yesterday for a "trial" (rescues idea, not theirs). At the moment, they have him for two days, but still have to go in on Saturday to fill out paperwork and were told on the phone today that it's "not official" and they "still have to be approved." I'm very worried for them. My brother has been on the phone with me all hours of the day and night worried that they will say something wrong and get the dog taken away from them. They were already turned down last month by an area rescue because they both work and the dog would be alone for six hours a day right after the first weekend they have it home. It's beyond frustrating. They just had to put down their 16 year old mutt and my nephew is really grieving. He and the dog have already bonded so I can't imagine the tears if the rescue takes this dog back. They're doing everything right by the little guy. He was alone for a total of four hours today because my brother went to work late, my sister-in-law came home at lunch to walk him for an hour and then my mom went over in the afternoon to stay with him until they got home. They really, really love this dog and want to do right by him.

I did the ill-advised thing and got my mom two kittens as a gift once. She had to put Patches down last year at 14, but Cinder is still going strong. Gifts can work. My mom wanted a cat. She just didn't know that I was surprising her with two kittens. The foster mom took a chance on me because I was willing to take the two together and they were bonded. My mom and I will be forever grateful that she was willing to do that.

Kathy Pobloskie

Thanks, as always, Brent. Loosening adoption restrictions is one of the toughest issues we face in Wisconsin and I believe it has been the death of many animals. Thank you for blogging on it and giving a voice of reason to the subject.

Joyce Madsen

Encouraging potential adopters to think through an adoption is most definitely NOT the same as discouraging adoption. Twisting rescues' words certainly does a disservice to those of us who are dedicated to finding good homes for our animals.


Joyce -- read the articles, quotes and headlines above and tell me that they in any way inviting to adopters - and aren't pushing toward discouraging or being blatantly discouraging. That's not twisting words. That's orgs using poor language that is hurting their own cause.

Joyce Madsen

I’m referring to legitimate humane societies. You’re taking small cautionary warning snippets out of entire press releases which intelligently present both sides of the argument.
Perhaps you don’t actually work in a humane society and witness cage after cage after cage after cage of animals returned after the holidays. I guess some organizations are only concerned with getting their animals out of the door and hoping for the best.


First off, you're guess is wrong.

Secondly, I do see cage after cage of animals in the shelter now and understand the importance of ENCOURAGING adoptions vs giving people a whole list of reasons why they shouldn't adopt. Should some people be told no.? Certainly. But that should be the end response, not the first one.

Joyce Madsen

Which humane society do you work with?
I (and the humane society I work with) totally agree that adoption should be encouraged – and it most definitely is – at the holidays and year round. I have never seen and I can’t imagine any adoption counselor saying “no” as a first response. It’s the last thing a counselor would want to have to say.


Did you read the actual links that I posted that featured comments, blog posts, and statements of saying "Don't adopt a pet at Christmas" as their lead stories?

They're leading with "no", even though a few did come back with "except". They should lead with "yes", and then the "except".


I know a woman who fosters dogs for a rescue group and she will not even speak to anyone about adopting from Dec. 20 to the 28th. I thought that was just terrible. Her reasoning was, "if they are interested on the 20th they'll be interested on the 28th." She won't even return their calls or anything, and she sees it as a service to the dogs because she's weeding out the "less than perfect" dog parents.

So, so frustrating.

For the most part, though, it seems like more and more organizations are slowly making some changes for the better.

If someone comes in and wants to adopt a puppy as a surprise gift for someone, instead of getting defensive and turning that person away from ever adopting, why not take that opportunity to thank that person for considering adoption and to encourage them to sponsor the adoption fee for their friend and use that as the surprise? That way the friend can choose the right dog for himself.

Unfortunately I know quite a few rescue volunteers who seem to enjoy turning "less than perfect" adopters away. It seems to make them feel powerful, like they are looking out for the dogs when no one else will. It's really too bad.

Joyce Madsen

You didn’t answer my first question: Which humane society do you work with?
Certainly I read the entire articles.
The second paragraph of your article states: “many shelters and rescues are actively out DISCOURAGING adoptions.” That’s a far cry from your revised statement of: “They’re leading with "no", even though a few did come back with "except". They should lead with "yes", and then the "except".” FYI: The accepted format of a persuasive debate is to present the “con” first and then the “pro,” which leaves the desired outcome as the final impression. Also, your comment about “lead stories”: I think you’re referring to the headlines of the articles. Generally, the headline is written by the publisher of an article, not the author.
I think it would be helpful if people who are truly concerned about animals could avoid sensationalistic statements like “actively . . . DISCOURAGING adoptions” and instead find common ground to work together.


Well, many of the links were to blogs -- who have the same headline writer as actual article -writer. One was to an ad that was clearly discouraging people from adopting. I'm actually not even sure which article you're defending because none of them seem to apply to what you're defending. I don't know how you can read the ad on this blog post and think that it is doing anything other than discouraging adoptions:

Or how the headline "Think twice before putting a puppy or kitten under the Christmas tree" is not discouraging adoptions -- knowing that we live in a society where many people just skim headlines. But hey, defend away.

As for your first question, I preferred to not answer it as I don't think I have to defend my credentials to anyone, and if you had read a couple of other recent blogs posts to know anything about what I'm about, you'd see that I am the President of an organization that has recently taken over running our local city shelter.

Joyce Madsen

I’m afraid I don’t understand this entire first paragraph: “Nonhumans are not "its". Dogs are sentient beings who can think and emote. A sweater cannot and is appropriately referred to as an "it". . . . We diminish the inherent worth and value of another living being when we call them "what" or "it".“

Where does the word “it” even appear in the ad? I can’t find “it “anywhere. And the whole first paragraph argument is centered on the imagined misuse of the word “it”?!? Putting the specious analysis aside, I personally think the picture/ad is very effective and thought-provoking. It’s intended to make you think past the darling pup in the red bow under the tree to what happens after the holiday is over – both literally and figuratively.
A shelter’s main responsibility is not to make people “feel good”; it’s to promote responsible adoption and do what’s best for the animals – long-term, not just on Christmas morning.

I’d like to think that any intelligent adopter would be willing to “Think twice before putting a puppy or kitten under the tree." It’s a major decision. That article concludes with: “Pet ownership should be a well-reasoned decision as owning a pet is a decades-long commitment and it is a financial commitment as well.” If a shelter doesn’t stress those two points, it’s doing a disservice to its animals. You seem to equate ‘thinking carefully about” with “discouraging.” Adopting an animal is certainly an emotional decision, but, for the animal’s sake, it should be balanced with a little practical reasoning, too.

Sorry to make you so defensive about your “actively DISCOURAGING adoptions” claim – I didn’t realize that expressing an alternative viewpoint would be perceived as such a threat.


I'm not defensive. And if I feared opposing views I would have deleted your comments (which I almost never do).

Yes, while a shelter's main responsibility is not to make people feel good about adoptions -- they seem to have forgotten, entirely, that adoption should be a fun process and it should be a joyous occassion. They've taken ALL of the enjoyment out of adoption.

And yes, pet ownership should be a well reasoned decision, but that doesn't mean we should start with "NEVER give a dog as a gift" - -but instead, encouraging them to do so responsibly.

At this point you don't really seem to have a point other than trying to convince us (or yourself) that YOU are not the problem (or to argue pronoun usage), regardless of what the blog postings say or what other peoples' experiences are.

Joyce Madsen

I guess you’re feeling backed into a corner when you perceive ME, an adoption desk teammate and a rescue foster mom, as the problem!
At the humane society, there’s no more joyous occasion than an adoption, which we celebrate with staff congratulations and greetings, take-home gifts and certificates, feature photos, and celebratory Facebook emails to our many, many friends. (“. . . taken ALL of the enjoyment out of adoption” ?!?)
Well, Happy Holidays to all, and I hope the New Year finds you better able to cooperate with other animal advocates in a joint effort to fight cruelty and neglect.

Ted Moore

Let's imagine, for a moment, that a dog is adopted by a well-intentioned, responsible family from a shelter with sensible screening practices (i.e., no requirements that the owner be home all day, have a 6-foot fence-enclosed back yard, tolerate random post-adoption home visits, and so on). Now let's say, after a month of everyone's best efforts, that dog is returned to that shelter, safe and sound, for whatever reason that the family thinks is reasonable. What, exactly, has been lost here?

When I approached a breed rescue years ago looking for a Sheltie, I was questioned as if I were seeking entry to Area 51. So, off I went to my local Humane Society, where I was greeted by 2 delightful young women with, "You seem like a nice guy. Had dogs before? Like training? How about this big Rott mix we've had sitting here for 3 years nobody else wants? You live in a 1700 square-foot condo with no yard? You have no cats? You can afford reasonable vet care? You like long walks in the woods? Well, here you go. Call us if you have any questions or problems, and bring him back if it doesn't work out. And oh, by the way, would you consider volunteering or donating here?"

Last I heard, the Sheltie rescue had gone under. My local Humane Society now occupies a $4 million building, adopted out 50 animals last weekend, has YTD return rate well under 10%, has 50 square feet of wall space devoted to "happy endings" photos and stories, and is steadily gaining prominence as one of the most effective, progressive shelters in the Midwest.

Any questions?

Joyce Madsen

Ted, it sounds as though we both are lucky enough to have very similar local humane societies – caring places which are both progressive and responsible and which treat both animals and people with respect.

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