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« Sunday Video - -The KC Pet Project Story | Main | More deceit from Merritt Clifton attacking shelter pets, Information Availability - & how Time magazine got it wrong (again) »

June 23, 2014


Debbie Tucker-Smith

Yes, I was at the Sheltering Expo. This presentation was VERY good! Also, another attendee who has been at the Expo each year for about 4 years or so said that she had never heard the emphasis on No Kill like much of it was this year! I feel that the big organizations will have to embrace No Kill because of the 'grass roots' push from the members (and that's a WONDERFUL thing). :)

Kim Krohn

It's easier to become a foster parent (for human children) in Missouri than to adopt a pet from some shelters and rescues. 15 years ago I knew some people that did Siberian rescue and they didn't require a fence for a breed that is notorious for being escape artists. They actually preferred homes without fences and active owners that liked to walk, run, and hike. Not everyone is ridiculous in their expectations.

About 11 years ago the woman that bred my husband's current American Pit Bull Terrier was looking at a pit bull rescue site and saw a cute puppy. She decided to put in an application, as she was looking for a dog for agility and obedience and thought the pup was cute. She had no problem with the whole spay/neuter thing. The rescue denied her application because she was a BREEDER. Telling this woman she wasn't fit to adopt a pit bull was like telling the Pope he wasn't fit to lead mass. She told the rescue she hadn't bred a litter in about seven years and that's why she wanted a pup. They denied her. So guess what? She bred another litter (that's where Mandy came from) and another well-known breeder had a pup on plane to her the next day, despite the fact they'd never met in person.

Good blog as usual, Brent. KC Pet Project is doing remarkable work.

Cheryl Huerta

If I only had a nickel for every time I've broached this subject with local rescues/shelters. Things need to change in the animal welfare/shelter/rescue world drastically if we are ever going to improve on the numbers of animals that can be saved.


Its been a peeve of mine for a while now.

I have an intact male dog. We show casually. I'd be more than willing to provide proof that we show, and provide extra references for him, and allow a representative of the rescue meet him. I do NOT breed, never have, and have no intention of ever doing so in the future.

We were denied, by several rescues, from adopting a 2nd dog. Because our first is intact. Never mind that every dog we looked at was already spayed.

That made me mad as heck, but on some level I could ALMOST understand. Kinda, sorta, not really, but ALMOST (if I twisted my brain around a little)......

Then when we had to put down my oldest cat I started looking at rescuing another cat.

It took me 8 months to find a rescue that would adopt me an already "fixed" CAT, because I have an intact dog......

Kim Krohn

yes, years ago a member of our pit bull club tried to adopt a pit bull but the rescue wouldn't adopt to him because he had an intact pit bull. Just dumb.


Both of my local shelters are high kill...the one kills over 85% of cats that enter the building. I had zero doubt that I would be turned down flat if I attempted to adopt and I'm sorry...I'm an amazing pet owner. I've spent well over $30,000 nursing a feral blind kitten and have basically devoted my entire life to his care, including working from home because he's so attached and needy. But the ONLY factor the local shelters would care about is the fact that he's not vaccinated. Never mind the fact that he had a severe reaction to a rabies vaccine and an oncologist at the University of Penn told me not to vaccinate him ever again.

Our female cat is also unvaccinated...not due to a vaccine reaction, but because we made a considered, well-educated decision not to do so. She was vaccinated into adulthood (so likely still carries immunity), is indoor only, and have very little risk of escape (she HATES the outdoors.) Our vet supports the decision because it takes into account her individual circumstances. With any new cat, we would vaccinate through the first series and then make a decision based on that cat's needs. With vaccines, it's not always a one size fits all fact, because of the risk of sarcoma in cats, the goal should always be to vaccinate as little as possible AFTER taking into account all risk factors.

But nope, we're bad pet owners who don't deserve to save any of the 85% of cats being slaughtered at the shelter. They also refuse adoptions to anyone who wants an indoor/outdoor cat and anyone planning to declaw. Now, I'm completely against declawing and fervently wished it would be outlawed in this country. But it is legal, and I'd rather see a cat declawed then dead. My own cats are indoor only and I believe that's the best route, but again...even if a cat is adopted and gets hit by a car three years later, that's three years of life that cat wouldn't have had if the shelter had their way. This also means that ALL ferals entering that shelter never leave.

I spoke on YesBiscuit the other day about an experience finding an old, scruffy little dog wandering loose recently. While trying to locate the owners, I was repeatedly told by various people that I should NOT return the dog because his nails were a little long, he was scruffy (not matted), and he was intact. All of this clearly meant his owners did not deserve him. It turned out the dog was a recent adoption, but if he hadn't been...clearly the owners were doing something right, since the little guy was clearly a senior citizen. He in no way fit the definition of abused or even neglected. But people are so judgmental now that only pooches feed on raw venison and cats with silver collars are kept 'right.' At the same time, shelters blame everyone but themselves for racking up the's sick and sad and has to stop.


The analogy of adoption to animals drowning in a pond is excellent. To save more lives, we need to assume that adopters will take good care of their pets. The majority of Americans adore their cats and dogs. We spend about $58 billion on our pets annually.

Also, we need to remember that we don't set requirements for people before they are allowed to have children. We assume that parents will love their children and do the best they can for them. And if there is evidence the children are being abused or neglected, the government takes the children away from those parents.

I think home inspections deter people from adopting. People feel like they are being judged for their housekeeping.

The example given of someone not being approved because he didn't vaccinate an elderly dog is ridiculous. To me, that is a sign that this person valued the life of his dog. Looking at vet records is not necessarily a bad idea if common sense is used. Unfortunately that is in short supply at shelters that would rather kill than find homes for animals.

Traditional shelters kill with the excuse that it is fault of the irresponsible public. We need to have faith that most adopters love and take good care of their pets. And then we need to pass better cruelty laws and actually enforce them.


Thank you for this article. When I looked to adopt my first dog in over 20 years I was quickly soured on private rescues. We have a small child and I could tell some didn't like that, and I made the mistake of following instructions on one application to the letter, when it asked me to list every pet I'd ever owned and what happened to it. When I was a teenager my dad took in two stray cats (at different times) and when they just couldn't get along with our Schnauzer, he found them new, permanent homes- the 2nd, which my dad found as a kitten wandering in an old apartment stairwell, lived to be 23. After our schnauzer died, we took in a homeless mini poodle and when I went to college my aunt who lived nearby asked to have her (because the dog was an angel in fur) and my dad agreed. She lived the rest of her life with my aunt (13 or so when she died). And all of this happened in the 1980s; almost 30 years ago. But I was rejected by the rescue without even a phone interview for having given up too many animals. Before I was 18. I'm 42 now.

In my situation, all's well that ends well; I went to a city kill shelter, asked for a dog that tested well with kids, and, after verifying that we were indeed allowed by our landlord to have a dog, they adopted to us a Staffy mix who is the light of my son's life and my devoted 40 pound shadow. And if the other rescue had approved us, we wouldn't have her. And that would stink. But it definitely turned me off private rescues.


I almost bought a dog from a breeder when we were looking to adopt, because our local shelter turned me down from adopting a husky because we didn't have a fenced yard.

I filled out the adoption application, and was told that the director had to review it, because they'd previously had a woman who adopted 2 huskies from them. She'd left them outside, in a fenced yard, all day, every day, because she "didn't realize they needed mental stimulation." The dogs got bored, and because of their prey drive, the neighbor's little dog who was running around looked like it would be fun. They hopped the fence, and killed the neighbor's dog. Then, they ended up being euthanized.

I can understand the director wanting to approve husky adopters after that. It makes sense. Because we were renting at the time, they called our landlord to be sure that we could have a dog. We could, and they asked about a fence... We didn't have a fence, so our application was denied for a husky, because we didn't have a fenced yard. Now, mind you, the woman left them in a fenced yard all day figuring they'd amuse themselves... The fenced yard was part of the problem!

Never mind that our new dog, even if we had a fenced yard, wasn't going to be allowed outside unattended. That didn't matter... All that mattered was that we didn't have a fenced yard. I understand the reasoning for fenced yards to some extent, but fenced yards far too often lead to a false sense of security.

We ended up finding a shelter in rural WV, about an hour from Pittsburgh, who not only does amazing things at stretching their tiny budget to care for as many dogs for as long as possible, but who really understood that good is not the enemy of perfect. A good home is better than no home, and you too often pass up on a good home, while waiting for that great home to materialize. The problem is, those perfect homes don't materialize.


Thank you for posting the video. I watched the whole thing. So good to know some serious progress is being made with shelters accepting the idea of open adoptions.

The one thing I see rescue groups clinging too so tightly is the idea that you must do a home visit. Any ideas on how to help a group let go of doing home visits for every single adopter? Any data I could show them?


It's funny Lindsay. For all the data that's out there, I don't know of any specifically about home visits. I know most professional orgs don't recommend them any more, but I'm not aware of any data on it. It's definitely a waste of time and just increases length of stay...


Yes this is a mess. one year ago after my kitty passed away I went to a private rescue group to look at the cats. I was given a 2 page application to fill out before even looking. i then look at the cats and was told a reason why each one would not be a match for me. They then showed me a small tabby that they said would be perfect. He was very wild hissing and scratching and terrified of the other cats. I declined him and then was told to think about it because his time was running out!!! BLACKMAIL IF YOU ASK ME. I left that place so sad and upset. I went to our county shelter and adopted from them and now live with my sweet little boy!!!

robin yale

Very good/great article and a well written wealth of information.

Kim Stanford

I have been a foster for dog rescues for almost three years now. I would suggest that we need to stop speaking so definitively about all of this. Perhaps there is middle ground. I have always required a home visit before adoption. I collect the questionnaires and set up home visits with potential GOOD MATCHES. If I have questions or concerns, I ask questions via email or phone first and let the potential adopter provide more information. It is not for me about getting a dog into a home as quickly as possible - it's about getting a dog into a home as permanently as possible. Many people are unfamiliar with various breeds and their characteristics or needs and are wanting to adopt based on a cuteness factor or because they want a dog of a certain size. I have no way of really knowing someone from an application, which is why I take the pet to their home to meet the entire household and see how the animal fits into their lifestyle and how they all interact. I usually prefer a fenced yard, but I've made exceptions for active and responsible adopters. Some dogs absolutely needed a fenced yard for their own safety and well being. Maybe one or two long walks a day on leash was not enough and they did not have recall to be off leash or access to an off leash area. It depends on the dog and the people. I do not see how it is beneficial to adopt them out to anyone who applies based on absolute minimal requirements such as never having abused an animal before. If we can spend a little extra time to find the right match I do feel it's worth it. Adopting a husky puppy because your daughter likes the movie "Snow Dogs" is a bad idea (yes, I was actually given that as a reason). If someone does not have time or desire to learn about the specific dog/breed and their needs and the dedication to train and care for them, the odds are great they will then be returned. A return from a less than ideal environment can do more harm to a dog than remaining in foster care a little longer. If my foster isn't the right match for someone, I will suggest others that might be a good match for their lifestyle and needs.

Lilly Lidine

I agree that the animals need to be saved. The problem comes in when a rescuer bottle feeds a kitten/puppy & fosters him then the pet is adopted out to a not ideal situation & a few months later the cat comes back with a bullet in it's chest or the dog is found tied to a tree without food/water or shelter at the residence.
As a adoption screener, it's hard to adopt out a pet then see them returned.
My favorite was returned b/c the cat did not go with the apt decor now that the owners redecorated. Or the guy that returned the cat b/c it pooped ( in the litterbox) & he did not want to deal with that.
So you can see screening is needed to find a home that fits the pet.
I did have a soft heart & tried to help the person be THAT home for the pet. People need to be guided.I always gave the new owners my phone number for questions & it for any reason it did not work out, I wanted the pet back...even if it was years later.

Lilly Lidine

* IF for any reason

Nicole W

Great article, thank you. I used to be all for the strict screening.

I'm one of those people who doesn't keep up with shots and I believe it's why all my past three large breed dogs all made it over 17 years.

Don't vaccinate more than you need too; that goes for rabies vaccine too. Your vet can do a blood titter to determine if one is needed.

Sandy Surface

I am an animal "activist" and will do anything to protect all animals that inhabit this Earth with us. The abuse that goes on is hideous and, to me, mind-boggling. Years ago, I wanted to adopt a dog I saw on Petfinder. It is true that an application to become a foster parent for children, would have been much shorter and less detailed. I still say it was just a hair short of asking for a urine sample and lock of my hair. I was denied. They called my vet who said that I hadn't been there in years. This was entirely true, since my dog of 14 years had died. (In my arms, I might add.). That was not disclosed by the vet because he wasn't aware of it. I have since stopped looking for any pets at shelters, because, I am absolutely sure, I would be denied for some reason or another. Our shelters are definitely overrun by unwanted animals, and it breaks my heart. I know they put in tons of work and lots of money to rehabilitate most of these animals, but sometimes the cost of adoption is way too much for the average potential adopter. For $350.00 (a Shih Tzu I recently asked about - I already have one I rescued from the street, who was matted to the point of not being able to eat or go to the bathroom), it's no wonder people would go to a breeder. I guess I'll just continue to love the one I have and forget about adopting another. My situation is just not "perfect" enough for a shelter dog.


We're another example not quite perfect enough owners who were denied a shelter dog for no good reason. So we bought one. He is awesome, we love him to bits and he has a fantastic life. But we would have adopted if we had been allowed. I know so many people who were also denied for stupid reasons - having a young (4yo) child, being too old (active 65 yo retiree), working "too much" (ie 2 or 3 days a week), being on acreage - your fences wouldn't be good enough (oh really, do you want to come and see?). Not for a specific dog not suitable to the prospective owner, but ANY dog. Really hope the shelters here start changing their policies!

Robin Taylor

We are in our mid sixties and we hike two hours daily with our 3 year old Jack Russell we adopted 2 years ago at a kill shelter. Since then we have approached various rescue groups to adopt a second high energy dog (as our Jackie loves other dogs), but have been refused saying we are too old to adopt a high energy dog. We will never approach another rescue. The staff at the kill shelter were so much more accommodating and they treated us with respect.


Yep, having this exact same problem now. Just lost my old boy in March and am looking to adopt for my second, and I'm getting denied as well. I have two fixed cats and am looking to adopt a dog, and so far I've been denied for "having too many animals" (what?), no fenced yard (I live in an apartment and jog), not living close enough to the shelter, and a couple others that just don't make any sense. I would love to adopt a dog that needs a home, but at this rate I seriously feel like the shelters would rather keep them.


Kim Stanford, I understand where you're coming from and I know your goal is to place animals in permanent home, which is a worthy goal, but are you sure the home visits are really necessary for that? For one thing, the way the animal initially reacts in the home visit doesn't necessarily tell you how they'll behave or how they'll fit into the household longer term. I understand wanting to do a meet and greet for a household that already has a pet, but that doesn't have to be a home visit. And again, that still doesn't necessarily tell you how they'll do longer term.

I don't know how much data there is on how home visits affect return rates, but I know that Austin Pets Alive does *not* do home visits, and their return rate for 2013 was only 6%, well below the national average. As you say, making a good match and making sure people understand the needs of a particular animal is really important, but you can do that without the home visit. APA does mandatory pre-adoption counseling, either at their main location or their offsite adoption locations.

It seems like a lot of people think that *more* criteria are going to get better/more permanent homes, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence of that in reality. You just have to get the right criteria, and more isn't better.


Lark -- it's unfortunate that your story is far too common.



I read your story on the Best Friends Comments. I find it frustrating that people use blanket policies instead of getting to know people and finding out if their lifestyle is a fit for a particular pet. It sounds like a perfect setup for a higher-energy dog. Hope you're able to find a new hiking companion soon.



There are no shortage of reasons why pets will be returned. And the reasons are as unpredictable as they are varied. Concerns over pets being returned is not a reason to keep pets from ever finding a home. Make solid matches, and most of the time a connection, and willingness to adapt, by both parties will win out.

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