Gone are the days when $10 bought any shelter dog with no questions asked. Nowadays, prepare for an extensive interview. Are you the perfect owner for that perfect pet?
Staff at the animal shelter sees them coming. Mom, dad, children, and travel carrier. They’ve come to do a good deed. They’ve come to adopt a homeless pet.
After a few hours of inspecting all the adoptive pets, choosing two or three, and spending time with each in the “get to know you” room, the wallet and travel carrier door are flung open. The perfect pet has been chosen. Their good deed is about to begin. How much is that doggie in that cage over there?
You Choose the Pet. But Does the Shelter Choose You?
Thankfully for everyone (especially the animal), adopting a pet isn’t as easy as it used to be. Shelters are often over-crowded, under-funded, and under-staffed, but their first concern is securing the best possible future for each animal in their care. And since that animal isn’t allowed the luxury of choosing its new owners, a staff member or two will make that decision on their behalf.
Close the wallet, pick up a pen, fill out that questionnaire, and prepare for further grilling. Shelters aren’t willing to “give it a try” at the animal’s expense. If you, your family, your lifestyle, or any of your answers do not match the shelter’s mandate, you’ll be going home with an empty travel carrier and a new understanding that these facilities aren’t necessarily the easiest route to obtain a new pet for a good reason.
I do have mixed feelings about this. I have heard from many readers who have complained about how hard it is to get a chihuahua from a shelter or rescue and they would be awesome pet parents. But for one reason or another, they were denied.
Children at Home may be Too Young
While your children may be the most responsible, the most compassionate, and the most animal-loving people in the world, the shelter may err on the side of caution based on their ages. In doing so, they can pass up a great home. It’s a risk they’re willing to take on behalf of the animal.
This is specially a concern with toy breeds like chihuahuas. Not only can they be easily injured by a small child, but they can also bite the child out of fear.
A playful pull on the tail or overly-rambunctious play could result in injury to the pet, which, in turn, can result in injury to the child.
Most kids don’t intend to be cruel; they’re simply being kids. Most animals don’t intend to bite; they’re simply defending themselves. W
hen children and pets are together, they must be supervised by an adult at all times. Even the most well-intentioned adult can’t be on duty all day, every day.
Staff may have problems with your lifestyle: do you have time for that dog?
Your philosophies may not match those of the shelter: do you intend to have that cat de-clawed?
Does anyone in the home suffer from allergies to animal dander? Does everyone in the home agree that a new pet is a good idea?
Your choice of a pet may be in question: have you ever owned a dog like that? Have you researched the breed?
Shelter workers, based on years of experience, are able to identify wrong matches more clearly than the general public. They may seem overly-cautious, and sometimes the questionnaires and interview techniques seem over-the-top and unreasonable. But it’s not a personal attack on the potential adopter or individual home or lifestyle situations. It’s simply their way of protecting the pets and reducing the number of returns because they weren’t the best fit.
Buying an Animal From a Pet Store… Not a Good Plan
Pet stores that sell animals take money easily and ask no questions. These pets are usually offered at exorbitant prices, and, more often than not, their pups are products of puppy mills.
Some people think they’re “rescuing” animals in this situation, but, in reality, they’ve simply become a link in the chain. As each pup is sold, the mill replaces it with another.
Look for Shelter Adoption Days at Local Pet Stores
The only exception is stores that provide space to local animal shelters. These shops often promote pet shelter adoption days with staff on hand to interview potential owners.
he pet is adopted from the shelter at the store, but not through the store’s cash register. PetSmart and PetCo participate in this and I’m sure other pet stores do too.
Buying from a Breeder: Research… then Wait
Buying from a breeder can be an alternative, specially if you have your heart set on a particular breed and you can not find it at your local shelter, but only after extensive research. Ask for recommendations from veterinarians and other owners of pets from this breeder, then prepare to wait – sometimes for years – for the next available litter.
Rejection Can Result in Great Learning Opportunities
People who have been turned down by a shelter often feel that their intentions or abilities have been misunderstood or misjudged. This is possible.
Here’s an idea: ask about volunteer possibilities for you and your children. The shelter may also run educational programs. When the staff gets to know you and your family, re-apply for adoption.
Bonus: you and your kids will be helping animals and learning more about them while waiting for the perfect pet to become available for adoption.
Other posts you may want to read:
Have you had a problem adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue? Tell us your story in the comments!