It seems for some reason lately (in posts on this blog) there has been confusion about what the role ‘adoption days’ play in rescues, and our community. This is my opinion on the topic; as someone who has been volunteering with animal rescues and adoption events for 15 years and counting, and the founder of a rescue organization.
Although one of our (many) goals is to find animals homes, the ultimate goal is to pro-actively solve pet-overpopulation, instead of re-actively keep rescuing animals. One of the most important aspects of solving pet overpopulation, as important as spaying and neutering, is education.
This is where adoption events are a huge tool, they are a great opportunity to engage the general public who otherwise would not be visiting shelters, or educating themselves (and their children) on pet-abandonment. If they won’t come to us, we need to go to them. Adoptions events are (in my opinion) one of the best ways to achieve public education. Protests with dead animals on the flyers, 1:30 minutes news clips, online pictures of abused animals, are easy to turn a blind eye to. However, a healthy, cute, friendly kitten or puppy ready to shower you in kisses and affection set up at an adoption event, not so easy to look away from!
Animals trigger inspiration, and motivation in people of all ages, which can be an integral component in successful education and treatment programs. Animals are increasingly being incorporated as valuable members of teaching and learning programs. They are also used successfully as team members in programs to improve human physical, social and emotional functioning. It is undeniable animals bring us together and open us up to each other, with that education. In this case, the undeniably cute and happy animals at our adoption events spark interest and conversation between us and the public. They open up the public’s minds to education, and the idea of adoption whether they are ready now or in the future. Seeing the children interact with the animals, and the light brighten in their eyes, along with the compassion they having knowing the animals are looking for homes – that is an experience they will hold with them for the rest of their lives, and that is what adoption events are really all about (if you ask me).
Adoption events are only effective, if done ‘right’. Choose your place, animals and volunteers wisely. Quiet pet supply stores (not pet-stores that sell live animals) are most common venues. Pet supply stores are great, but the reason why people are going there is because they already have animals. Quiet non-pet related stores are the best way to reach the demographic who do not have animals and don’t even know shelters for homeless animals exist. While obviously avoiding exposing the animals to temperatures too hot or cold (outdoor events are hard to get the climate compliance), and situations where even social animals will feel overwhelmed (large street events, carnivals, ect). Always make sure to have enough volunteers to watch the animals and protect them from nuisance (kids banging cages, pulling tails, poking, ect – although that should be the parents job, but that’s a whole other issue). Choosing the animals to attend wisely is extremely important, you need easy-going, friendly, social animals that will be happy to interact with the public and are not scared or stressed. The animals attending need to be 100% healthy (which i would hope is common sense). Having a kitten with a crusty eyes/nose at an adoption event is a sure way to paint a bad picture of shelter pets and potentially scare people from adopting at all, in fear of their ‘health issues’. Having a snarling dog, because he is overwhelmed in group settings, is another sure way to scare people away from adopting. Both of the above examples at an adoption event could do more harm than good, to the cause we are fighting for. Finally try to avoid picking volunteers who can also snarl a little (maybe they are better as a transport volunteer!). Despite how insulting or annoying some interactions with the public can be; Like people who feel the need to share stories about how their last cat bred twice a year until the year she died at 18, you have to find it in you (somewhere deep down) to stay positive and keep your eye on the prize – raising awareness.
Of course, we would love for our animals to be adopted! But if we have spent 5 hours in – 20 C desperately trying to save this animal, and invested countless other hours in coordinating for transport to and from vaccine appointments, health checks, sterilization appointments, worked closely with the foster homes on how to socialize them. Watch the animal go from scared and skinny to healthy and social, not to mention spent hundreds on medical care, not covered by the adoption fee – do you really think the first person who walks by and wants ‘it’ will be going home with ‘it’? Of course not, we are way too invested in our animals to throw away all our efforts in rescuing them to poorly thought-through impulsive adoptions – over my dead body.
Simple steps we take (and all other reputable rescues) with every single adoption to ensure safe and permanent homes (and deter or eliminate homes that are neither); Adoption applications, done online or in person at adoption events where interested families apply to adopt. We then use the application to make sure it would be a good match, for the animal and the interested family. From there if the match seems made in heaven (but we will settle with perfect), we follow up as soon as possible with a phone interview or set an appointment for a house-check and adoption if all goes well. Although people who have applied and been approved ahead of time before an adoption event, are allowed to adopt from an adoption event. On the day of the adoption if the living environment is suitable for the animal to thrive, we sign an adoption contract with the adoptive family. The adoption contract has many safety precautions, to list a few; It is mandatory the animal needs to be returned if she/he needs to be re-homed for any reason. Animals are to be indoor-animals only, cats will be indoors and dogs will not be chained out-doors. Cats are not to be de-clawed, dogs are not to be de-vocalized, ears cropped, tails docked, ect. Our goal with every adoption is to ensure a life-long, safe, loving home where each animal will thrive, and for the family to be thrilled with their choice to adopt.
Regardless of our steps above, it’s not like at adoption events we are bombarded with ‘tons’ of people trying to impulsively adopt our cats and dogs. At every adoption event, we get more people coming to to try and surrender animals face to face, or see us there and bring up their dog that they bought and want to re-home now. It is pretty discouraging sometimes, how many more people we have interested in abandoning than adopting at our ‘adoption events’ – but another opportunity to educate.
Our ultimate goal is to end pet-overpopulation (so we can then all take a giant well deserved vacation), and no better way than education. Animals are a perfect key to engage emotional and social interactions, which provide an excellent opportunity to educate people of all ages. Animals are much more effective than graphic photos at protests to get your message across. With each adoption event we aim to engage and educate while making sure the animals are safe, happy and comfortable being there. In the meantime, while we work to solve pet overpopulation, with every adoption of a rescued animal we aim to place animals in a life-long, safe and loving home. Otherwise, it would be counter-productive, and we don’t have time for that.
SincerelyCaroline Ross, A.H.T/T.S.A
Founder, Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue
Adopt a Pet, Save a Life