Would you adopt to these people?

Would you adopt to these people?

There’s an interesting discussion going on within the animal shelter director’s chat group about what policies each agency has in place to deal with this situation: A person comes in and surrenders an elderly pet and immediately wants to adopt a puppy. What do you think the shelter should do?

If you’re honest, most people’s first response (I believe, having only done an informal survey of a handful of friends) would be to refuse the adoption and to judge the person harshly for walking away from his old companion. In fact, part of what sparked this discussion is a rather opinionated story that appeared in the Orange County Register newspaper (https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/26/why-do-people-abandon-their-old-pets/). It gives two examples of people giving up on their older dogs, one where the person literally abandoned the dog in a crate in a store parking lot, is clearly illegal and cruel. The other is where the owner surrendered his dog to the shelter for what seemed to be a frivolous reason. The old dog “doesn’t do anything anymore.” I’m sure you would agree that is not the most valid reason to give up on an old friend.

The truth is, in the scenario I gave at the beginning of this article, we don’t have enough information to make a decision. Was the dog being surrendered incurably ill? Were vet expenses beyond the reach of the owner? Does that mean they couldn’t afford to have a puppy? Or just that they couldn’t afford, or chose not to, put thousands of dollars into an old animal that was clearly on his way out? Had they given the dog 10+ quality years of care? Anyone who’s had a pet knows there comes a time when you have to make a decision. Are we to be judged about our pet owning ability strictly on this end-of-life decision?

The comments back and forth in the chat room were both interesting and enlightening. We all have our personal biases; we are after all, first human beings and second shelter directors. We try to be impartial and fair, but it can be hard. And also, very hard when our decisions are scrutinized by volunteers who also come with their biases and are very protective of the animals in our care.  You often hear things like “they don’t deserve another dog” or “they shouldn’t be allowed to own a pet.” But if they took good care of the animal for his whole life and they are both financially and physically capable of caring for another younger animal, why wouldn’t we want them to adopt? While we are judging them, there are animals in shelters dying for lack of a home. You have to step back sometimes and look at the whole picture.

We try to not make people feel judged or embarrassed about bringing their pet in for surrender.  It sure beats having them abandoned in a crate in a parking lot!  At least this way we can get some important history and information on the animal to help us make an informed decision about their care. We will, however, have a discussion about other options to see if they have been fully explored and then counsel people appropriately about adopting a new pet. One thing I like to point out to those with children is to be aware of the example you are setting about how we care for the elderly in our society. Those children will one day be making decisions about your care when you are old!

The important part is to take each animal as a unique situation and not to jump to conclusions when we don’t have all the information. So, the answer to the first question about whether we would adopt a puppy to someone who had just surrendered a senior pet is….it depends!

17 Comments on "Would you adopt to these people?"

  • Kay says

    But if it were true that they cared for their dog for 10+ years and it was sick and too expensive or old to afford the expensive care, wouldn’t the compassionate thing to do is take it to the vet and have it humanely put to sleep surrounded by the people it loves rather than leaving it in a strange, unfamiliar, scary place to spend it’s last days??? If they can’t afford to do the loving, compassionate thing for a loved pet then they don’t really love it as they should. I would not let them adopt a puppy personally. Adoption is for LIFE, period. Do you drop you child off at the orphanage it is has an incurable or expensive sickness??? NO!!

  • My husband and I have adopted two senior dogs, one from Muttville and the other from Bichon rescue in Sonoma. Both dogs had disabilities-between the two of them, they had one tooth. Lucia was marketed as having ‘one beautiful tooth.’ Her disposition was awesome. We only had 4 years with her–she was given up because the SF family who owned her got a puppy. But we tried to make those 4 years the best of her life. Willie was our first senior rescue. At only 11 years or so, he was totally toothless and deaf. But what he lacked in sense he made up in heart. We had 3 years with Willie. We lost the within a year of each other five years ago and I still puddle up thinking about them. Here are their Facebook pages started by the rescue and I added to: Adopt Lucia at https://www.facebook.com/Adopt-Lucia-334462656639797/ and Wee Willie Wonka at https://www.facebook.com/Wee-Willy-Wonka-135635339867165/ . Our lives were incredibly enriched by the devotion both animals showed to us. We loved them dearly and hopefully enough for a lifetime.

  • Sean Kerr says

    I recently said good by to my 18 yrs young black lab. Her name was Joy and during her life she gave me Joy. She was always glad to see me and gave me her pure, unconditional love; always. She had a slow decline in her last year and was losing her eyesight and hearing. But she kept on giving. We found ways to work around her ailments so that she continued to have quality of life and until the last week she convinced me that she was happy. I now believe that she hid her pain from me and was heroic At the end she stopped eating, even her favorite foods that she used to love. I believe, along with her vet, that was her way of asking me to release her. I miss Joy every day. Bringing her to a shelter would have been unthinkable to me.

    I believe your answer was spot on. Not every one has the resources I have. I plan to explore vol at your shelter and look forward to meeting you.
    I know you will keep up the good work.

    • Mickey Zeldes says

      Hi Sean,
      So sorry for your loss. Joy seemed appropriately named and well loved. It is amazing for a lab to live that long so it’s a testament to your good care.
      Thanks for your interest in volunteering here – you can certainly get your dog fix that way!

  • Mike says

    I’ve had dogs in my life most people would regard as difficult. Despite their flaws, it was my responsibility to always care for them and appreciated them for their individuality. I could have never considered abandoning or giving any one of them “away”. I will remember each one that has passed on. They will always be missed with a heavy heart. Those who do not accept the responsibilities and dedication to animal ownership, should not have them.

  • Annie says

    Almost every animal that’s come to my small 4 acre farm has been an animal that’s been a rescue or abandoned and some cases dumped on my property. The rule here is is as long as everyone gets along dogs cats horses pigs and goats sheep chickens geese then my promise is I will take care of them and love them until they die. Love is the most important thing and it’s a 2 way street. Were an oddball group here. All the creatures contribute love and something special. And I would never turn an animal into an animal shelter especially in their golden years. I don’t buy a new car TV or phone every year. A lot of times I’m wearing jeans with holes in them or shoes that have holes in them. But I don’t care. And it’s funny neither do my animals. It’s important we help our older folks take care of their animals veterinary care is out of this world now. Everyone needs something to come home to. Everyone needs something to love.

  • Ellen Segale says

    I think having a discussion and educating people who want to surrender a senior animal is important. Many are concerned about the expense of a senior animal, or may have difficulty caring for it if the individual’s health is also compromised. Also, many have to relocate where unfortunately, animals are not welcomed. Wanting to surrender, and then immediately adopt is a red flag. An animal is included in one’s family, through sickness, behavior challenges, etc. If one doesn’t want an animal for long term because they feel it’s too much trouble, get a stuffed animal at your local toy store.

  • Bob Wagers says

    Some shelters have questions on their applications that address whether a potential adopter has ever brought an animal to a shelter and the circumstances. Wouldn’t that aid in the decision? I was involved in one interchange in which a family was looking at kittens, and a little boy, probably about five, asked his father, “Couldn’t we trade Charlie (their resident cat) for a kitten?” The father followed up with great questions to the boy about how Charlie would feel about that and didn’t he like Charlie anymore. I think it was a great learning experience for the boy.

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