Must Love Dogs…But What About Kids?
I just finished reading Gary Patronek’s recent publication in the American Journal of Veterinary Research, “Use of geospatial neighborhood control locations for epidemiological analysis of community-level pet adoption patterns.” I know; the title alone is daunting. And honestly, it’s going to take me several more reads and perhaps some coaching from an actual epidemiologist for me to grasp the whole thing. But one thing stands out for me – that this study supports other research by the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Pet Products Association that people with kids represent the highest percentage of pet-owning (and potential pet-adopting) households.
Which has me thinking about our adoption processes and policies. More often than not, what I see when someone asks me to take a look at their adoption application is that not only are we not outwardly soliciting this group that is more likely to own pets, but we are often downright biased against them. I see policies all the time stating that families with children under five may not adopt a puppy or a kitten. I see questions on adoption applications such as, “How do you plan to make sure that your children do not mishandle your new (cat, dog)?” In workshops I hear complaints about people with “wild” kids. And I have visited many an adoption center where children get the hairy eyeball from the adoption staff. Ironically, lots of the same organizations have humane education programs where staff and/or volunteers who love kids go out to schools or bring groups of kids to the center to learn about animals and animal welfare. Interesting divide.
Since families with children represent such an important market segment, perhaps it’s time we start investing in understanding and embracing families – including their members under 4 feet tall – in our policies and practices, and more importantly in our overall organizational cultures.
Changing organizational culture is a big and sometimes messy task. It would help to have some examples. Please share what you’ve done to make your organization and your adoption process more welcoming to families.