Where Do People Get These Ideas?
Shelters are temporary places, right? I mean except for those agencies that have chosen to run sanctuaries, isn’t the goal supposed to be to return lost animals to their owners and adopt the rest out to good homes? This past week staff and volunteers at 49 shelters worked their tails off to launch ASPCA $100K Challenge efforts – many with goals to double or better their adoption numbers for the next three months. And their out-of-the-gate efforts were wildly successful, with single-day adoptions ranging from in the 30s to over 100 – breaking all-time records in many cases. But staff members at a number of these agencies had to take time away from working on successful adoption and return-to-owner efforts to respond to heated criticism: Why aren’t you doing home visits before approving adoptions? If you do a 24-hour event you’ll be adopting to crackheads. And my personal favorite, By giving cats away for free, you’re attracting dog fighters to use them for bait.
Where do people get these ideas? You know….they just may have gotten them from us. Maybe years of justifying our lengthy and sometimes arduous adoption screening processes have given the public the wrong idea about what constitutes a good adoption. The truth of the matter is, we have precious little research to back up any of our adoption practices – both the restrictive and the more open practices. But all the way back in 2003, there was a growing consensus among shelter leaders that our old restrictive policies were not necessarily helping us to make the best matches – and indeed, were likely hurting our shelters’ abilities to provide positive outcomes for animals. (You can read all about these conclusions in the free Adoption Forum II Report.) And there’s some interesting research on fee-waived adoptions for adult cats – a practice started successfully at Wisconsin Humane Society many years ago, as well as a cadre of success stories from shelters around the country.
And let’s be clear, just because fees are reduced or waived, shelter staff and volunteers aren’t simply winging animals into open windows of cars driving by…there’s still an adoption application and counseling process. Oh yeah, and in the case of this past week, hours-long waiting lines. Please, how many dog fighters and crackheads are waiting in line at the shelter to complete their adoption counseling?
I for one am celebrating what the staff and volunteers at Challenge contestant agencies pulled off this past week. July and August are insane for most shelters – and yet these people figured out how to do even more than usual to reach out to their communities and get people to help them with more happy endings than usual. Are they all perfect adoptions? I doubt it – just as much as I doubt that every adoption that includes triple reference checks and home visits, etc. is a perfect adoption. This isn’t a perfect-science kind of business. But as long as there are thousands of animals every day at risk of euthanasia or of languishing in shelters for months – and even years – at a time, I’m going to salute the efforts of the people who are trying new things to send animals home.