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Why is it so hard to adopt a dog?

Excerpts taken from the original article on The Dog People Powered by Rover by Jillian Blume, November 6, 2023.

People often complain it's too hard to adopt a dog- so instead they go buy that will never be right for them because in general, most breeders will sell anyone anything.

But this is the problem: you can get a dog faster and easier from a breeder, but if it's not the right dog for your family, then frustration, heartbreak and a dog in need of a home (that may be in danger of euthanization) are the likely result.

It is important to understand why adoption is "harder"- and how families actually benefit from that process. Learn more by reading the full article. Below are some excerpts.

"With rescues, compatibility takes precedence

There’s a very good reason for all the red tape, says jme Thomas, Founder and Executive Director of the foster-based Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington.

“The thing that we’re looking for at Motley Zoo is compatibility,” she explains. “We want to make sure that this dog is compatible now and forever.”

Thomas says for her rescue, exhaustive applications are necessary to ensure that the dog or cat fits into the lifestyle of the adopter, so the animal doesn’t end up back in the system. She explains that “that [some] shelters have about a 50% return rate because that compatibility doesn’t last once they get home.”

Motley Zoo’s foster-based model allows the rescue to wait until they find a dog’s or cat’s perfect home. “We have the luxury of doing so because the animals are in private homes,” notes Thomas. “They’re not going to die tomorrow because of time or space constraints.”

When organizations don’t follow similar models, Thomas says, pet relinquishment rises.

Tackling the root cause of pet surrenders

“Right now is the worst time in animal welfare that anyone has ever seen,” says Thomas, “and surrenders are rampant. Everyone is giving up their animal.” Thomas believes this is because the pandemic pet adoption boom led to a shortage of adoptable pets that drove prospective adopters to buy puppies from breeders.

While buying a puppy from a breeder is a guaranteed way to bring home a new dog, many are not prepared for a puppy—or that breed—and often those pets end up an animal shelter.

Thomas says irresponsible and profit-driven breeding practices are to blame. Respectable breeders provide a nurturing environment for their dogs, and rigorously look for the same qualities from families looking to adopt one of their puppies. Responsible breeders have measures in place to keep purebred dogs out of shelters, such as taking the puppy back in the rare case the adoption doesn’t work out.

But this isn’t happening.

“Right now, in Washington state, our shelters are full up with purebred German Shepherds and Huskies,” Thomas reports. “Someone keeps breeding them. People keep buying them. And they keep getting surrendered.”

“This isn’t a transaction, and ultimately that’s the problem,” Thomas says. “Do people want a transaction, or do they want a relationship?

Rescues, Thomas says, put a lot of time, money, and energy developing a relationship with the pets in their care.

“Fosters have them in their home. We’ve nursed them back from [in cases of abuse or neglect] the brink of death. The last thing we’re going to do is put them back in a risky situation.”

Thomas says that this is why they tend to be extremely careful with their adoptions. “The animals that end up in rescues have been failed before, and we’re trying not to fail them a second or third time.”

An open mind about a dog’s look, or breed, is key

Not asked on the ASPCA application is what breed the adopter is looking for because ultimately the breed isn’t going to make or break the compatibility factor.

It’s the same at Motley Zoo.

“Everybody gets attached to a picture, but that’s not necessarily going to be the right fit,” says Thomas. Adopters focused on a specific dog or cat because of their photo on the website may very well miss out on another dog who will be an even better fit.

The application process is to help set expectations, too.

At Motley Zoo, the information given at the beginning of an adoption is intended to help people understand that the dog they see in the shelter will likely change once they bring them home.

Thomas tells adopters about the Rule of Three. “It takes three days for a dog to adjust to a new place. It takes three weeks for them to start to feel like they’re at home. It takes three months for them to know that this is their house.”


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