Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not good enough

Recently I was reading a fantastic blog post by Nathan Winograd called Good Homes Need Not Apply.  If you haven't read it, you really should.

The basic gist is that there are many good homes for adoptable pets and that good homes come in all shapes and sizes.  But the problem comes in when rescues have rigid and often ridiculous requirements for adopting one of their pets.  All over the internet, when this problem gets brought up you get people posting about how they were refused by a rescue due to X really ridiculous reason.

Common rigid requirements are:

1. Must have a fenced in yard.  This excludes anyone who lives in an apartment, a housing association that will not allow fences, people with yards too big to be able to afford a fence, and people who just really do not want a fence in their yard.  Drive around any neighborhood in the USA and you will find very few yards with any sort of fencing.  All of those people who don't have one?  They can't even apply to adopt a dog.  Forget that they might take the dog out for several walks a day.  If there's no fence, don't even bother.

2. No children under X age.  X is often an arbitrary number like 6 or 7, but I've seen rescues who won't adopt out to people with children under 10.  Now look around you.  How many families do you know with children under 10?  Under 6 or 7?  While I can understand the reasoning that children get bitten more often than adults and that very young children don't always know how to interact with dogs properly, shouldn't you be considering the parents in all of this?  Meet the family, see how the parents interact with the children and how they work with the kids and the dog together?  We had dogs in my family from when my brother and I were pretty young (certainly younger than 6 or 7!) and my parents taught us how to interact with dogs.  I cannot imagine not having the joy of growing up with dogs around!

3. Cannot be away from the home for more than X hours.  X is often something like 4 hours.  This eliminates people (or even couples) who work normal 9 to 5 type jobs.  While some couples might have overlapping schedules that allow for someone to be home with the dog much of the time, many work pretty standard hours and are gone for the same part of the day.  Forget being single and wanting a dog if you have to work full time!  As has been pointed out, this limits rescues to adopting to people who either work from home or are millionaires.  Forget about parents who stay home with their kids.  See #2 above.  That won't work either.

Just today I was glancing through Petfinder at a couple puppies I found adorable and have a hard time believing aren't adopted yet.  I went over to check out the website for the rescue to see if I could figure out why.  One lists this: If you rent, we will not approve your application. If you live near a busy road or within city limits, a fenced in area is required.  In today's economy many people are choosing to rent and live for years in their rented place.  Many people do not want a house.  Recently I read an article that stated many people are opting to rent when they could buy.  Does that make those people less stable than those who buy a house they might someday have to foreclose on?  And I'm not sure how many cities these folks have been in, but in our fair city, there's often not enough yard to fence in.  People who live in the city walk their dogs (as we do).  The dogs are healthier, happier, and better socialized for it.

Rigid requirements are not doing anyone any favors.  The dogs that languish in foster homes for months, sometimes even years are not being helped.  They're in limbo and should never be in limbo for years on end.  The dogs dying in shelters because the rescues cannot pull them out because they're "full" are not being helped.  Because a rescue cannot find that perfect home (large home, large fenced in yard, someone home all day, couple is married, but has no young children and is also not "too old" to have a dog), they would rather allow shelters to kill other dogs that they could have saved if only they had looked at each person as an individual instead of as meeting or not meeting (much more likely in many cases) a certain set of rigid requirements.

I'm very thankful that Bare Bones Rescue (a sadly now defunct rescue) was willing to look at us as individuals.  After all, we're an unmarried couple living in a rented duplex with no yard and therefore no fenced-in-yard.  Other rescues would have turned their nose up at us.  But this one was happy to place a dog with us and, as anyone who has followed Dahlia's story knows, she is anything but unhappy.  She gets several walks a day, is fed good food, goes to the vet as scheduled and when anything comes up that we think merits a vet visit, gets plenty of attention from us, and goes to agility classes once or twice a week.

But hey, rescues who have rigid requirements, I guess we still just wouldn't be "good enough" for you.


  1. I know of many rescues in England, too, that won't let you adopt if you'll be out more than four or five hours at a time. Some won't let you adopt if you have another dog (even if the dog in question in rescue is not DA), some will not under any circumstances adopt out a DA dog if you have a dog, even though many dogs behave differently with family dogs to non-family dogs. Some won't adopt out if you rent, some if you have no garden.

    In truth, I probably won't be able to adopt again. Even for places that are more lenient, you have to do things like introducing dogs once and basing everything on that; and give proof that your landlord allows pets (which can be difficult to get, especially for us and our awful landlords). At the end of the day, I can easily see why people--even people who don't want a puppy--go for the byb dog route rather than adopting.

  2. It's crazy the requirements of some rescues? Won't adopt a dog to someone who already has one? Really? Because a lot of dogs love companionship and you're really closing off a lot of doors since many people looking to adopt already have a dog or two at home.

    I CAN understand wanting proof that a landlord will allow pets at least. Way too many people seem to be dumping animals because their landlord found out! Now at our place? We could get away with faking it because our landlord is seriously absentee and doesn't even have a key to our place! We've had other dogs stay here (my parent's dog, the pit bull from across the street who showed up randomly one cold night when her owners weren't home, my friends with her two dogs) and he never had any idea. He comes over to mow the lawn and I don't think he's ever noticed there are two tie-outs on the porch (one was for Teri).

    But so many other reasons given are ridiculous. They might apply to SOME dog, but every single dog in a rescue needs someone home 24/7, needs a fenced in yard, needs a house? Really? I doubt that very much.

    And then these rescues lament about how so many pets are killed every year? I don't think they really have the right to those sorts of laments when they're ultimately part of the problem, no matter how good their intentions are.

  3. Great post! I love Nathan Winograd's clear thinking too.

    It seems to me that often, rescues that want very badly to save animals' lives, get to where they can't see the forest for the trees. They are intent on saving "THESE" dogs or cats. And to do so, they compromise their own principles. Rather than considering what would best market an animal, deciding what kind of adoptive home would be best, they unwittingly allow the shelter they pulled the pet from, to determine the criteria for adoption.

    My local pound (Prince George's County in Maryland) requires "rescue partner" groups to submit their adoption application to the pound management. What OTHER reason would they do this, other than to tacitly or overtly put their own criteria for adoption into that application? We are not talking here, about just demonstrating that groups have an adoption outlet -- there are plenty of ways groups could prove that.

    I've wished many a time, that rescues would wake up. They need to realize that in going along with shelter criteria dilutes (and may even contradict) what the rescue group starts out trying to do. Rescues could join together to protest this, and exert pressure to prevent the shelter from controlling how rescue programs work. Until they do, though, I think that their adoption rates are likely to often be as bad as, or even worse than, the shelters that they "agree" to pull from. It's not really an agreement between equal parties, if the control is all on the shelter's side.

  4. Thank you so much for your comment! I found it really interesting. Do shelters really put these sorts of restrictions on rescues when they pull animals? I'm only involved in rescue from the periphery: I help transport dogs from shelters to rescues (not nearly enough anymore, but I still do on occasion). My assumption has always been that the rescues pull the dogs and then get to choose the "rules" by which they adopt them out, therefore making this a rescue problem rather than a shelter problem.

    But do the shelters sometimes put these strict rules in place (e.g. must have a fence, etc.) and then the rescues must abide by them?