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Animal Rescue Adoption Problems: Is It Easier To Adopt A Child?

By Dr. Andrew Jones


Have you got the feeling that it may be easier to adopt a child than adopt a pet from an animal shelter? Well you’re not alone, as thousands of pet owners are running in to problems with shelters. This is all happening in spite of the millions of dogs and cats currently in animal shelters in North America. Dog and Cat Rescue organizations are demanding high standards from potential pet owners, but these are at times unreasonable, leaving potential pet owners unhappy. At the same time animals that could have been adopted may remain in a shelter, and at times have even ended up euthanized.


Currently 7 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters very year in Canada and the United States. Estimates put pet shelter euthanasia at 3 million to 4 million, meaning more than ½ of the animals that are relinquished to animal shelters are euthanized. Animals that have been prevented from adoption by unreasonable shelter requirements have ultimately resulted in the death of that dog or cat.

The process of adopting a pet through a shelter can be very disconcerting. “ They asked all these unreasonable questions, and made me feel very judged”, said Michael Jones of Courtenay B.C. The rescue organizations want to ensure that the pets go to quality, safe homes, but in many cases they have gone over the top. These very strict standards such as having a fenced yard, or adequate sized home, have meant that animals are not being adopted.

Animal shelters and rescue organizations can ask an array of vastly personal questions to see if you can ‘qualify ‘ as an adoptee. Here are just a few of the questions that can be asked: What is your annual income? How long at present address? Do you plan to move soon? Can you provide a reference from your veterinarian? Are all your own animals current on vaccinations, heartworm medication? If no, please explain why not . Where will the dog be kept when left alone? How long? Do you have a fenced yard? What type? How high? Is the fence in good condition? What would you do if your dog bit a child? How will you transport your dog when in a vehicle? If you move in the future, what would you do with this animal?

Clearly there are reasons for the shelters for being so strict, as the shelters are wanting these animals to remain in their adopted homes. Many of the dogs and cats have been relinquished, some have been abused, and the shelter staff want to ensure this never happens again. Some people should never be pet owners, and I am glad that the shelters screen out these unfit adoptees.

After being personally involved with founding and running an animal shelter, I have seen this go to far. I even had one of my staff ( an assistant at my veterinary clinic) be turned down for adoption. She was told by the shelter director that “her apartment was not suitable” for the dog she wanted to adopt. She was a dedicated and responsible animal owner, who wanted to take on the adoption of an older ‘unadoptable’ dog, yet told that she wasn’t qualified.

Then there was the Ellen Degeneres adoption fiasco. She broke down sobbing on her television show, after here recently adopted dog was repossessed. She broke the contract with the pet adoption agency by giving the dog to her hairdresser. According to Ellen the dog and her cats didn’t get along. “I’m sorry I did the wrong thing,” DeGeneres pleaded. “Just give [the dog] back to the family. Please, please, please.”

Should Ellen have given the dog away? Of course not. But did the animal shelter director need to make a big public scene and repossess the dog? Of course not either. I for one am a big advocate of animal shelters, and the millions of animals they adopt. By in large these are performed by very selfless people who are doing this with no money, and have the animal’s interest at heart. But there is need for some common sense to be returned to the entire animal shelter adoption process.

In the words of a former shelter director: “The animals come first- it’s not about the people.” But I would argue that in a number of cases, it becomes more about the interview, the questions, and whether or not the people can qualify as adoptees. The unfortunate result is needless euthanization of homeless pets. And that is something I could never support.

Dr Andrew Jones


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Topics: Cat Care, Dog Care, Pet Care | 36 Comments »

36 Responses to “Animal Rescue Adoption Problems: Is It Easier To Adopt A Child?”

  1. Avatar maria Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 6:38 am

    I see what you mean, it’s great to be cautious but I know a family member that has adopted dogs and cats and maybe the house situation isn’t perfect but there is a lot of love in that family and those animals are loved tons. So I can see your point totally. I wish I had more ideas, but me and my husband found an abused pitbull puppy last year and thankfully he pulled through, but these stories are making people in the shelters so nervous to just give out animals. The other side is so sad that so many are euthanized UGH!

  2. Avatar MEH Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 6:44 am

    It is almost impossible to adopt at a shelter. I know because I tried a few years ago. I was basically “interrogated” and then turned down. I hate to admit it, but I ended up going to a breeder where after some basic sensible information was given, I was able to get my dog. I completely understand they want these poor animals to go to good homes but I do think some of them are over the top with their requirements. I almost think some shelters don’t really want to adopt pets out at all but instead, euthanize them.

  3. Avatar maggie Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 7:04 am

    This happened to me in Washington DC. I was denied 2 kittens because I changed the name of a cat 10 years ago (the vet records showed 2 different names, the head volunteer called me a liar). I have a high security government clearance, which they do an invasive background investigation and interview friends/neighbors. Not saying the two are related but I was floored when I was denied cats and called a liar. Thereafter, I went on to rescue cats from Craigslist and now have 2 dogs and 4 cats, all rescued from bad situations. All of which are going to retire in my home. I recently had a St. Bernard die of bone cancer and cared for him up to the end, including trying to carry him when he had trouble walking. I think these shelters encourage lying because if you’re honest and supply vet records, then they find reasons to deny you. However, the SPCA in Virginia has been less strict and as a result I donate to them whenever I have extra money because it’s for the animals, not the powermad volunteers to use their position to punish people who have great homes for these helpless animals.

  4. Avatar Nancy Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 7:06 am

    I disagree with your assessment of the situation. First of all animals, unlike children as you well know since you are a rancher, are considered property. We who are involved in rescuing animals have a responsibility to them. I have seen what happens to shelters who adopt animals only to see them be returned again and again. Or worse yet abused or be adopted only to be bred or used in dog fighting.
    Ellen Degeneris was wrong when she “gave” the dog away on the flimsy excuse that he/she did not get along with her cats. Surely with all the money she makes from hawking Cover Girl (which tests on animals) she could have found a trainer to help her. I am glad the shelter directer took her to task in such a public way.
    We also spend time, we train the animals when needed, vet them and most importantly love them. We absolutely want to make sure this being that we rescued have the best possible life.Even when the person seems a good match, things can go wrong.

  5. Avatar Louise Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 7:46 am

    I tried to adopt a Boxer from the Ontario Boxer Rescue group and was told I either needed a fenced yard or take the dog to an animal park to walk it. The nearest animal park is 9 hours away. I live in a small town on 10 acres. Fencing 10 acres is not reasonable. I don’t tie my dogs, I train my dogs NOT to go near the road. I train them to listen to commands to ensure their safety. I’m in my 50’s and have had Boxers my whole life. I was very disappointed that this group was so narrow minded.

  6. Avatar Jere Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 8:00 am

    We here in Az. were recently treated to a story about an adoption gone way wrong. A Bulldog Rescue in Phoenix had rescued a dog from a shelter they claimed was destined for destruction. The Real Live Owners found their lost dog at this rescue. They were forced to “Adopt” their own dog. After going through the time and expense of this process, there erupted a personality dispute between owner and rescue owner so they adopted this poor dog out to some one else. What kind of “Bull” is that? The animal shelter said the dog was NOT scheduled for death row and my assumption is that this shelter just used the situation to make money. How could they not give this animal to it’s rightful owner? I’m sure most rescue organizations are run right but something really stinks here and it’s not dog poo!

  7. Avatar michelle Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I agree their rules are ridiculous, It goes by the premis if you want to find something bad about someone if you dig deep enough you will find fault somewhere with anyone. The problem is with many of the volunteers at these shelters have no discretion and they volunteer because they have nothing else to do and it goes to their head. It gives them the opportunity to lord over people and they proceed to do so. The whole premise behind the animal shelter gets misconstrued. It’s no longer about finding the animal a suitable home it’s about the volunteer exercising their “CONTROL”
    I find it quite frightening. I’ts like taking the concept of a “no Kill Shelter” to the extreme and leaving animals that should be euthanize for humanitarian reasons in their cages to die a horrible death all alone with no intervention. The Toronto Humane Society did this. This went on for years. Finally the directors were charged and the doors were closed while the mess was cleaned up.
    You can not just put any volunteer in charge of a non profit organization. Someone has to oversee to make sure donation money is being used correctly.
    There has to be boundaries but each case should be looked at individually.
    I think the Ellen Degeneris situation is a good example of a rescue volunteer getting carried away with their ability to assert their power. This power trip the volunteer was was a detriment to the animal rescue.
    And Nancy I have to say you are unreasonable and not really interested in the well being of the animals that need to be rescued. Do you think Ellen Degeneris would ever rescue another pet? Or even recommend that anyone do so? What an atrocity this animal rescue volunteer created by this bad unreasonable behavior. And imagine what they do to regular people if they do this to a celebrity. The dog had a loving home and was probably not happy to be living with cats. What about the cats?Ellen should have notified the shelter of the pets change of address however the entire procedure and the drama they created over it is imbecilic. Shame on you what ever animal rescue this was.

  8. Avatar Nancy Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I went through the process of adopting a dog back in July. My Layla, an American bulldog I rescued two years ago who was special needs,and
    had alot of health issues. She pasted away and I wanted to rescue another shelter dog that needed
    a good forever home. I made out many long applications, called shelters and I got nothing.
    The shelters said I had to go throught the american bulldog association and be screaned to be sure I was good enough to rescue a dog in need of a home. I answered all the questions and made sure all my other animals were up to date on all
    shots .Own my home .have a big yard .Have experience with the bread and was denied because
    they contacted the wrong vet.So they had the wrong info .So I sent a email explaining that my
    vet was never contacted and gave them the contact info. They emailed me back with ,that was the vets name and number I gave. I don’t even have this information to give them. Well the dog sitting in a shelter did get adopted by somebody. I didn’t give up . I kept applying and no one got back to me . The shelters I called said I lived too far away.While I was searching for my dog I noticed a dog that I fell in love with .I noticed it was a courtesy listing.I called the number and to my surprise I was talking to a very nice person who put the dog up for adoption. She asked me how soon would I want him.I was so surprised! I could not believe my ears.This wonderful dog was rescued from a shelter by this amazing lady and he didn’t get along with her other rescues. So Handsome Hank was adopted . He is loved,well,
    cared for and very happy.I am so glad I made that phone call and did not give up.After I rescued Hank,Mary was able to rescue another bully who needed a good home.
    Thank you for this article. Nancy

  9. Avatar Irv Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 9:08 am

    As older retired adults we SPCA adopted an older neutered male cat that had been abused. He was being held there by regulation but was going to be euthanized due to his “nasty attitude”. After 3 visits, persisting and agreeing to sign a disclaimer we were able to adopt him. Over the last 10 months he has learned to trust human affection. He has warmed tremendously. He is a loved new little old pal who deserved another good chance.

  10. Avatar Jean Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I have to bring up the point that not all of the dogs/cats euthanized by shelters are adoptable. They may be too sick or aggressive to ever find them a home. And then there are shelters that have a firm 3 day policy for adoption or euthanisia and won’t even allow rescues in the door.

    I work with a rescue. And yes we do ask what some would consider personal questions. I don’t believe it is wrong to ask for a veterinary reference. We have rescued and found homes for many dogs that were not vetted in any way, given heartworm preventative, poorly nourished, not neutered. It costs a lot to treat these animals and we want to be sure the adopter will continue with the efforts to keep the dogs healthy.

    In our rescue, we use individual foster homes. The fosters know these dogs and what their needs are. If we believe the dog isn’t suitable for an apartment or the yard needs to be fenced, there is a reason why we have that requirement.

    We absolutely want to find the best homes possible for these dogs but we don’t want them to be in foster homes forever. It is a matter of find the right home for any particular dog.

  11. Avatar michelle Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I also want to respond again to “NANCY’S COMMENT”
    What about the dog rescue Scoobey Doo. This dog rescue was run by a would be or could be serial killer. She walked in to a SPCA and was left alone in a room with a Sharpei and she killed the dog strangled the dog with it’s leash. She was under investigation by the police and they were looking for her when this happened. This just goes to show that these people working in the animal rescue do not have credentials. Imagine going to her and giving her all your personal info because you want to do the right thing and rescue a dog or cat.
    This happened just two weeks ago here in Ontario. It’s frightening. I bet she turned away potential adopters. Meanwhile she is torturing and killing the animals in her care.
    I do not think most people working in the rescue shelter field have the credentials or the where with all to be making these decisions.

  12. Avatar Gloria Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I have done some volunteering at a no kill animal shelter. Our apps for adoption do ask about fenced yards. Yes, we would prefer they have fenced yard for the animals safety. But, we have let people adopt without fences. The ultimate goal is to adopt the animal to a forever home, so we are always looking for the place for the pet. We do request if this does not work out for people to bring the pet back to us. However, we have people who have taken the pet to the Animal Shelter that is high kill. We also have adopters who tell us that the animal will not run free but find out later the dog is running loose. I live in an area where there is a leash law but few abide by it. My Town is a big dog park. People think nothing of dropping their dogs to starve or get hit by a car and they do not spay/neuter. It is a never ending job to try to find good homes for these wonderful dogs and cats that thru no fault of their own they have ended up in rescues and shelters. If people would be more responsible in the training and spaying/neutering of their pets, we would not be in this situation. Please spay and neuter your pets.

  13. Avatar Eileen Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Although it is important for the animals to be placed in an environment suitable for the animal, there is a tendency of shelters to discriminate against apartment dwellers because they have no fenced yard and think that the dog will not get sufficient exercise. What matters is not whether the adopter lives in rental housing, which is becoming more and more common; what matters is whether the adopter loves animals, will feed them good food, and has a track record of going to a veterinarian when the animal is in need of care.

    This is just another example of one-upsmanship, where someone who can control some aspect of another person’s life does so in a very disrespectful and sometimes condescending way. I do not have an opinion on the repossessed dog because the shelter may have had their reasons for doing so; part of the reason for commenting on this blog has more to do with the attitude of those doing the repossessing rather than the action itself.

  14. Avatar Dennis Holt Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I found a cold hungry cat in below freezing weather and took it home in hopes of locating the owner. The SPCA said they have no room but should I bring him in to please call first so they can either prepare a place for him or tell me there is no room.
    I found him on the Jan 11th, 2013 and still have him.
    A picture in the local paper produced a few calls from owners of missing a cat.
    My first call was from a young lady who said she would love to adopt him and I think that might not be a bad idea.
    I may have to take some responsibility & have him fixed before releasing him so atleast he will have a better chance of being a home maker.

    Craig’s List may help in locating the owner.

    I am feeling that I will be able to find a home for him even though the home that I think may be ideal financially, may not be better than a less financially secure environment. Miracles do happen so will just leave it at that and enlist myself as God-Father to the cat so if the new owner moves or can no longer keep the cat, they can know that I will take him back.
    Once a cat is turned into the SPCA, you sign a release and no longer can take him/her/it back and risk having the animal uthenized without you even knowing about it.
    The SPCA in my town said that only animals that cannot be adopted, usually because the are not friendly towards people or illness.

    They are awesome people that work at these shelters and there is only so much they can do with a shoe string budget.

    Oh, I forgot to mention, I am the proud owner of six fixed female cats. Two of which are great ratters. They use 6 dirt boxes, 7 would be ideal. They are dug out two to 3 times a day or more.
    Food is far too exspencive, wet food mostly.Alternating between Wellness “chicken & beef” and EVO “beef”. These are grain free for health reasons.

    My cats are not vaccinated and I do not recommend that people or animals should take part in. All my cats are healthy with ages from 4yrs to 10yrs of age.
    I am still learning from the cats and trying to be in the good books with my neighbors.

    Former Dog Owner

  15. Avatar wendy Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Unfortunately the opposite extreme can also occur i.e. Anybody can walk into a busy shelter- overcrowded with dogs; fill out an application; say anything and leave with the dog/cat. The applications are on a first come first serve basis at many shelters- rather than “the best home for the animal”. I have encountered too many people with shelter dogs who are jerks and do not take care of their dogs.
    Shelters and rescues are often only as good as the people who run them and people are often very flawed.(to say the least!!!) The advantage of most (“respectable”) private rescue’s policies are that many of them at least do “home checks” which I think are crucial to get a “real’ sense’ of the people and how they interact with the pets& where the pets will live.
    I think ultra caution is necessary with (abused/abandoned) precious animals… Then…. as you point out -People can go too far with pre-requisits which are ridiculous & deny a pet a good home-& obviously if that is coupled with killing the animal -that is awful.
    I have been through this in my search for a dog (two years ago) through shelters and applying to rescues -so know of what I speak. (“some”people who work in animal rescue can have very poor ‘people’ skills which can also be unfortunate for the animal- as people wont want to deal with them.)
    Also, tricky and extensive applications are good when only relying on applications.. as they may “hopefully” catch contradictions etc. There is just way too much animal neglect and abuse to “Not” be cautious.
    Breeders are another subject . Most could care less where their dogs go as they are exploiting animals for profit. Another subject: It should be illegal and these people are criminals; If it where illegal, we would not see millions of innocent animals killed and abused.
    There are more dogs born into the world everyday than people!!! The “majority” of them are mistreated.
    Another hideous injustice/tragedy caused by the human species.

  16. Avatar amanda Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    after my husband and i’s 4 yr old boxer died from kidney failure we wanted to adopt or even foster a new boxer. after filling out insane amounts of applications for both we never heard back from any organization. it forced us to buy a new puppy from a breeder. rediculous, right??? we love the breed and our 6yr old needed a new sister or brother!!! all these organizations cry about needing foster parents but i feel like they miss out on a lot of great opportunities. we waited almost 3 months before we got our handsome harley. its now 8 months later and still no contact from any one!!! i respect making sure the animals are placed into good homes but they could be more proactive on interviewing potential adopters and foster parents!!!! we really wanted to help rescue a dog of any age but never got the chance:(

  17. Avatar Carolynn Davis Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I want to address the Rescue Groups who ‘pull’ purebred dogs from the shelters and then make it nearly impossible to meet the requirements to adopt. Also, they charge hundreds of dollars because the dogs are purebreds.
    I am 68 years old and have many years of rescuing pets from shelters. I was also on the Board of Directors of the SPCA of Tucson, AZ. I was often offered dogs who were unadoptable for various health reasons. No one came to my home to verify if my home was appropriate, etc. Now I live in NC and am assisting 501C3 groups to save shelter animals from kill shelters. I also help transport animals to assist their adoption to those in other parts of the country to adoptees. These animals often need medical attention and the group will seek donations to help these pets.
    I wanted to adopt an Australian Shepherd from a Rescue Group after mine passed away at 15 years from lymphoma. I feed my dogs holistic foods and vitamins. They get their healthcare from a great vet who I only need to visit if I have not been able to resolve a health issue holistically (Thank you Dr. Jones) which is very rare.
    I was put through the intensive questioning,etc. and was discouraged from rescuing the dog I wanted (whose description fit my dog’s personality) for another dog who was not compatible (she was elderly) with my rescued border collie mix who needs a companion to play with.
    I realize I am 68 but it is truly discriminating to not allow me to adopt the pet I chose to join my family because of my age.
    I understand there are those who do terrible things to animals and it is getting worse, but there are many more who are loving people needing to give love to a dog or cat. Why make it so hard because of fanatical ideology?

  18. Avatar oliver Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Dr Jones.

    I realize this is likely your brother referred to in this blog.

    I am sorry to see you post this up – without considering a lot of the reasons that Rescue and Shelter attempt to screen their applicants.
    I think you have done a disservice. Many people read your blog – and I wonder if you have really thought about why ….adoption is not just a case anymore of throwing down your 50 bucks and walking out with the life of ones choice.

    How about doing a blog post from the other side of the issue?

    Or suggesting how it would work better in protecting the animals being rehomed.

    Screening – Some of it has to do with the 7 million animals dumped by the public on a yearly basis.

    It is not rescue that has created that horrifying statistic. It is the pet owning/adopting/breeding public. Abandoning dumping public.

    Shelters and Rescues are picking up the pieces.
    Or at least attempting to. It is a drop in the bucket – the ocean.
    Do they do it perfectly. No. Is there a better way.
    So far not.

    Do shelters on an individual basis deserve criticism. Yes. Do some of the volunteers and paid staff. Yes.

    But a kneejerk reaction because of being denied an adoption is not a reason to paint them all with the same brush and limit the small gains made in rehoming policies.

    What some of them do, attempt to do perfectly, is find the home that is going to fit the animal in their care – For life.

    Good rescues back their animals for life.
    The door is always open – and in fact – the adopter ‘must’ return the animal to them if they ever do want to get rid of it.
    Ellen signed a contract and she broke it. Does her celebrity make her above contracts?

    It should not. It’s in the contract, to make sure where the animal may end up – has been screened just like the original adoption contract.

    So no, they are not trying to offend people.
    They are trying to find the ‘right’ home for the animal they are rehoming.

    Having been involved on only a small scale with rescue.
    I have first hand experience on how adopters have lied on their applications. Why they may want a particular animal, and it wasn’t good.

    In honesty I do not understand why people do not applaud that finally – with adoption applications and homechecks – Animals may be now rehomed with less risk. In fact those doing this now – Are horrified that all societies and organizations are not doing homechecks.

    And follow ups.
    Even with screening, there are some absolutely terrible stories about what has happened to dogs adopted out. Follow ups could have stopped some terrible situations animals have ended up in.

    If someone is turned down. Yes, it is natural to feel rejected and question why.
    It is not done to offend people.

    I’ve turned down people who apply – who lived in apartments. Who wanted a dog completely unsuited for them. Not because they don’t have a yard or don’t have a fence. Instead because they would find themselves evicted wanting to adopt a LOUD verbal breed – very LOUD!
    Tho sometimes not having a fence will not work either for a particular breed.

    The knee jerk reaction to then blame the rescue is human nature.

    Rescue and rehoming is not a solution to what is being done to the animals.

    CL rehoming – I compare it to a used car lot.
    Send your rejects and clunkers to the lot. Get a lil profit on the resale. Go out and buy a new one.
    The only thing good about that is the unwanted pet is not forced to stay where they are not wanted.

    So I don’t know what the solution is.
    But don’t blame Rescue.
    They are only trying to protect the animals in their care to what they perceive to be ‘currently’ the best of their ability.

    If one wants to really learn how Rescue runs – I suggest volunteering or taking in a few fosters.

    Guaranteed it is an eye opener and one will never question why these hoops are in place. One starts only to question how to stop the entire miserable circle of abandonment and rehoming.
    Its an unending circle.

  19. Avatar Deb M Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I volunteer as a cat foster for a non-profit that we pull from a county shelter. Fortunately we get to work with a management there that try to save as many as they can by getting into rescue and events. However, there are a lot of scary people wanting to adopt–last week my fellow dog foster friend has puppies in a pen to be adopted and they’re 1/2 pitbull – and a guy asks “How do you think they’d do in a ring?” Would YOU ADOPT TO SOMEONE LIKE THAT?!

    Before you slam the people trying to save animals at shelters – go volunteer your medical expertise for FREE! Do you know in the county we serve which has VERY rich families — ONLY ONE VET volunteers. Any others HAVE TO BE PAID — if the county’s vets would give one day a month at the shelter — there’s be a lot more animals that wouldn’t get sick in the shelter environment and have to euthanized because they got sick waiting for an adopter to come — or their owners surrendered them and couldn’t be bothered to vaccinate them regularly as a responsible owner would. I have 7 of my own and they get supplements in their food daily plus regular vaccinations. YEAH! It costs a lot but I care about them.

  20. Avatar michelle downes Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    There’s nothing I love more than adopting shelter animals or adult animals that require a new home. Of the 6 animals I own, 4 dogs and 2 cats only one came as a foster puppy which I kept, all the rest were adults. Rather than police property and income etc there should be a focus on how much knowledge do you have in order to provide a happy and healthy home. How do you address nervousness, inappropriate excitement, barking, aggressiveness, destructive behaviours, car problems, problems with lead walks etc.These are some of the issues that send animals to the shelters. Also, whether or not you understand the needs of the animals, exercise, companionship, safety and security, shelter etc. When I tried to adopt an ancient old depressed staffy the main concern was did I have a 6 foot fence? I was not asked what I could provide to ensure the staffy would live in a calm and peaceful way, just like every other animal I have owned. I have a 5 foot fence, not good enough!! Many people who adopt from shelters are uninformed about animal behaviour, have not researched or read any information, do not seek professional help, instead treat the animal like an emotionally and psychologically understanding human. A recipe for disaster. It was obvious the shelter staff member whom I dealt with did not have much knowledge either!!! Because a lot of the shelter staff lack animal behaviour qualifications, (mostly volunteer workers) there is not emphasise on scrutinising a potential future owner for information that demonstrates knowledge of what animals really need instead a system in place where organisations designed to help animals cannot delinierate between human needs and animal needs. Animal shelters and the people who work in them are valued and desperately needed to help abused and abandoned animals who through no fault of their own are the product of ugly and despicable human natures. However, many animals are denied the loving homes they deserve because of outdated policies. Please consider an alternative method to screening people and there must be some flexibility when it comes to adoption. I was denied adoption of a cat because I dared to say that I would like to take the cat outside with me (walk around the garden together etc) though he would essentially be an indoor cat. I provided excellent references, mature age, had long living cats (22 yrs and 18 yrs), but deemed as not suitable, wouldn’t even view my property or meet me. Happily, adopted 2 cats elsewhere and take those cats outside!

  21. Avatar Donna Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I volunteer at a cat shelter and some of the volunteers aren’t fit to be parents (animal or human). And one would think these would be the ultimate parents but even they have their shortcomings.

    It does seem weird that Dr. Jones’ assistant was rejected given her profession. I talked with a vet tech whose application to volunteer at VOKRA was rejected, but yet he was offered a paid job at the SPCA. Go figure. Some shelters are so paternalistic, but yet aren’t always the best caregivers themselves.

  22. Avatar Marilyn B. Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    My daughter, her husband and their two children wanted to adopt a dog at our local Humane Society. The children are 11 and 9 years old. They have a fenced in yard. The women at the Humane Society turned them down because my daughter has a job and would not be home with the dog during the day. She gets home from work at 3:00 pm, when her children get home from school. They finally did get a dog from someone that needed to find a new home for their dog. They absolutely love their dog! I think the Humane Society was ridiculous for turning them down.

  23. Avatar Joanna Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Well, as an Executive Director of a shelter in a small town, we have a lot of those questions on our applications. Here’s why-
    If you don’t make sure they have a job and can pay the expenses for the pet, then you find out that the pet has not been vetted. so why do we do it if the adopter wont continue it? I have one now who adopted over a year ago. He signed a contract to get the dog spayed. It is not done. He brings toys each month to get food for the dog.
    After we spend tons of money on blood tests, vaccinations, worming, microchips, and when we can afford it the spay and neutered, we want that pet to continue to get the things thing are required.
    I turned someone down this week because her apartment was not right or this dog. Hers why-the dog grew up on a farm and was used to running around free and that also keeps their attention. When the owners moved into town the dog started to run away. Hence a bored dog who does not want to be cooped up in a small apartment. This is a very large dog. Although the adopters were approved for a pet, I had to say not this one. This dog runs. Living on a main room, he will run and get hurt.
    We take each application individually as well as the pets. We are trying to make the best match.
    We do background checks. If you are violent, we wont adopt to you.
    Yes, if you have any pets we call your vet! If your pet is not spayed or neutered, I’m not adopting to you until they are. As the article said, millions of pets a year, we don’t want to contribute to that number anymore than the uninformed public does by breeding animals.
    I also,want to make sure your pets sees a vet yearly for shots. We get our kids shots because it important, and so are these vaccinations for animals.
    There is so many things that go wrong and the pets come right back to the shelter!
    So we try to weed that out. Our application process works.
    The difference is we are in a small town, and we are very busy, but we dont put Dogs down for being old or there too long.
    We keep them until they find their adopters.
    We take care of them for for awhile sometimes., and when they leave we want a forever home and not a temp. One.
    If shelters dint do this then pets can be hurt or neglected again. That’s not fair to the pet! We are their voice.
    The real problem is not shelter application standards, it’s misinformed people.
    We are trying our best to prevent any more abuse, neglect, or just uncaring people from adopting
    It isn’t always easy.
    On Monday I have to pick up 20 cats from a farm house that were never fixed so now there are 20 inbred, sick because of no vaccines, and probably we will have some pregnant ones too.
    In big cities the peg population is has grown past what anyone can imagine. Some big shelters cannot care for every pet they get. There’s not enough room, money, or people to adopt them.
    Stop breeding and we might get ahead one day.
    Everyday is a new challenge.
    But we stick to our process, and it works.
    Oh, in my small town there are very few apartment and even fewer accept pets. They move and just bring the pet back to us.
    I’ve learned that some people do bad things to animals.
    I won’t let it happen at our shelter.


  24. Avatar Zee Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    There is always Craigs list. That is where I go to adopt animals, usualy not fixed, unwanted and roaming the neighborhood. Shelters do wonderful jobs but it is getting too expensive to adopt from them.

  25. Avatar wendy Says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Dr Jones,
    What OLIVER says is so TRUE.
    Rescues cannot be too careful/cautious when screening people looking to adopt a pet.
    Look at the stats. on animal cruelty/neglect.
    The “MAJORITY” of animals bred by people are poorly treated. Thats why most arrived in rescue in the first place.
    Where are the laws to protect them?
    There AREN’T ANY (as barbaric as that is!)
    There is no place for “ego” when it comes to the interests and care of innocent animals.
    The LAW- wrongly- defines pets as property.
    They are sentient and completely vulnerable beings & not things/possessions that humans have the right to “own” as property.
    When I started my search (to find a dog) through rescue,shelters; adds on kijiji – which went on for a few months.
    – I was only dismayed and shocked by how EASY (way too easy!!) it is for “anyone” to adopt an animal.
    I am very disappointed and disillusioned with your point of view on this.
    People should have to “qualify” and pass very strict responsibility tests before they are given the privilege of adopting a precious pet.
    To say it is too difficult to adopt from shelters is ridiculous. The screening process is not stringent enough!

  26. Avatar b Says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 6:04 am

    When I was just out of high school 30 years ago and moved to Florida, renting an apt. I wanted to adopt a cat. I fortunately had told other employees at work, they told me you rent, they will not let you adopt. I was forewarned, so I checked off Owned on the application. Adopted a cat that climbed up the dog cage tapped me on the shoulder to say Hey You, Check Me Out, then purred when put in my arms even in the middle of loud dog barking and utter chaos. He was the one. dropped off at a vet to be neutered. Vet said the cat will die in a few months as positive with Feline Leukemia. I was depressed about that, but bought canned fish and cat vitamins as I adopted for sickness and in health, so make the best of the time we would have. Without me, he probably would have been killed as he had Feline Leukemia. Well dealing with Feline Leukemia is a tough disease, but he lived 19 years. And I moved and rented the entire time, many times living in No Pets allowed apts. We changed the locks without any notice, so no one could enter the apt easily, and tried to rent from out of state owners, high floor, facing trees, not easy to see in. He even was flown across the country twice. So for responsible pet owners, we make it work, even if our situation is not ideal. I understand trying to find a responsible pet owner, but be open to educating them. If they want to adopt a big older dog and live in apt, that will work, if they are willing to walk the dog daily since they don’t have a yard. A young dog, they will have to be willing to go for lots of high energy walks before and after work and go to parks to let the dog run and play, to work off the excess energy, if they rent an apt. But responsible educated pet owners will make the effort. Its life and death for these pets, so we may not be ideal pet owners, we learn what we can do to give that adopted pet a great life. My cat always knew I had saved him, and I could tell he appreciated that he won the lottery in being adopted by me,and me by him, as we worked thru his health problems and lived with his health problems as best we could. I bought pet insurance which helped pay the many vet bills to keep him going thru the years.

  27. Avatar b Says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Continued 2. From above. Also, what helped my cat live longer with Feline Leukemia, was avoiding all other vaccinations. I learned over time it is tough to find a good vet interested in the health of your pet, only requiring one vaccine per life, no annual vaccines. Feline Leukemia will get worse with over vaccination. Many shelters are uneducated that annual vaccines cause disease, illness, cancer and a shorter life. Most all vaccines protect for the life of your pet. If you over vaccinate, your pet will have expensive health problems. Big Pharma bribes the US gov with their lobbyists to require vaccines to be required, for profit, not for protection from disease. Find a Holistic Vet from the start for better long term health.

  28. Avatar Joey Says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Dr. Jones has the right to his opinion, he has been a vet a very long time. Everyone has different opinions about this subject. I have a cat in my suite and I will not have her outside because of how cruel people can be and try to steal her. Not ALL PEOPLE are bad or cruel to the animals.

  29. Avatar Dianne Says:
    January 28th, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I agree that the shelters should be careful on who they adopt to, but I think their restrictions are over the top. Forcing you to have all your other pets vaccinated is one thing that should be up to the owners. I tried to adopt a cat and that is what I was told. I really wanted this cat so I hurried and got all my other babies vaccinated and then hurried off to the shelter. I arrived to find that they had adopted the cat to someone else even though I had been in constant touch with them. I was very disappointed. All they really need to do is check your history with pets to see if you are one that easily gives them up.

  30. Avatar Donna Says:
    January 28th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    I was turned down by petfinders 7 years ago because I worked night shift.
    I had a big house with a fenced back yard, my vet had said that I was a responsible pet owner as I had 2 cats and 2 birds, and a turtle that were all very well cared for. In fact after my cat became a senior I took her for blood tests every year to make sure everything was working properly, and the turtle went at least once a year for a check up, the birds went every 3 months to have there nails done. In fact the turtle is now 23 and the cat was just put to rest at 22, her sister had a tumor and had to be put down at 17. I was told that because I worked nights and my husband worked days the dog would be left alone in the day. I said she would not as she would be in the room with me. They refused as I would not give a dog enough attention. I went to the paper and bought a chocolate lab from a private sale. She is now 6 1/2 and was a blood donor and went to private swimming lessons weekly. I then adopted a senior dog at 11, she lived until she was 16. Her and the old cat were creamated together and are on my hearth. I now have a Pitbull that I rescued, she is 10 months and her and her big sister are happy, spoiled and loved.

  31. Avatar christian liggett Says:
    January 29th, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    if and when my ssi disablity case. i plan on starting a tnr non-profit program that may help keep alot of mostly cats that i plan on doing out of shelters and hopefully into good homes that the people i pick will care and love them just as much as i do. if they can’t be adopted then i will have a bjg enough building that they will be able to live the rest of their lives in happyness…. if the people can’t take care of them anymore for whatever reason i will be more than willing to take them back instead of them being put into a shelter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Avatar Jacqui Chisamore Says:
    May 3rd, 2014 at 7:14 am

    I was also turned down when I went to rescue a dog, although the volunteer wouldn’t even allow me to complete the paperwork to see if I qualified – they just decided outright not to give me a dog. Why, because I had children! Although I had wanted a dog for years, I waited until my boys were older (7 & 10) and tried to rescue an older dog. For months, we went faithfully every weekend to meet the dogs, take them for walks and see how they interacted with my sons – I wasn’t fixated on any breed, only that they liked kids. We fell in love with a beautiful husky (that they had chained outside to a dog house in the blazing heat), who immediately rolled over to let the boys rub his tummy (couldn’t have that one, they wanted it to go to a farm). Adored a cute little Beagle mix that loved to play fetch with the boys (couldn’t have that one, they wanted it to go to a senior – as if a senior would have had the energy for this little guy). There were several others as well, but you get the idea. They had one dog they said they would consider allowing me to have, a Great Pyrenees that bared his teeth and growled even at the sight of my sons – we could not get within 20′ of the animal. In total frustration, I ended up adopting an 8 week Golden Retriever puppy. Many years later I posted my success story on their website – noting that this was the puppy they didn’t want me to have. Although I recognize that shelters in general want to ensure the best outcome from the adoption process, I have to agree that most of the volunteers can go a little “power mad” and even allow their personal biases to determine who qualifies, to the detriment of the animals they are trying to protect. Thankfully, our shelter is no kill.

  33. Avatar Lori Says:
    June 23rd, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I will never-submit to the interrogation of a pet rescue again. I am a long time pet owner Dogs & Cats. Own my home large yard. I wanted to adopt a Maine Coon Cat after my 18 year old Maine Coon mix had to be put down.I loved his personality and did some research and found that this was a trait of the breed. So I tried to adopt several young cats listed on rescue sites. I was heartbroken, and these people acted like I had done something wrong. They were so Judgmental. I have never given a pet away, one you aremine you are part of the family for life. I just wanted to give a rescue Cat a home. I found the whole situation so upsetting my husband purchased me a kitten from a breeder. Not only were my friends shocked, that they would not adopt to me, but my vet was shocked. I doubt these people could pass their own requirements.

  34. Avatar Karen Says:
    March 27th, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I was turned down because I have a dog door.they didn’t want the dog to be able to go outside when I was gone. Dog doors can be latched.I could’ve given this dog a wonderful home in the country. I think these volunteers get a little power mad.I will buy any future dog from now on. They are empowering puppy mills by being so difficult.

  35. Avatar Shannon Says:
    April 22nd, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Karen is exactly right. Some of the people are very well-meaning and do a great job. Too many others are power-tripping bullies who I think forget why they’re there.

  36. Avatar Tricia Says:
    October 3rd, 2019 at 10:14 am

    We were turned down to adopt two adult cats and all other 50+ adults cats in the shelter because we had children less than 13 years of age. Ridiculous, they would rather kill the cats than adopt them to us.


Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM