Dogs, cats and other animals get adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups every day, 365 days a year. Placing animals in new homes is a process that never stops and a process which requires a lot of work by the shelters and rescue groups placing the animals and by the people who adopt them. I'm not aware of statistics kept which relate to the percentage of placements which don't work. It is an unfortunate reality of the animal welfare process that not all adoptions work out for one reason or another. Perhaps problems develop between the new pet and existing pets in the home. Perhaps the new pet has behavior challenges the adopter did not anticipate and which cannot be overcome. Perhaps someone in the home is allergic to pet dander and that allergy cannot be reasonably treated. Perhaps some personal issue develops with the family which leaves them physically or financially unable to care for the new animal. I try not to judge because I presume that people mean the best when they adopt an animal. Some people should never have pets at all, but I feel that way about only a small minority of the public. We once adopted a dog from a local rescue through a foster to adopt program; she and my husband did not bond and in the end, she was simply too big for us. It pained us both, but we returned her to the rescue and she was adopted by another family.
I learned recently about a dog which had been adopted from a local shelter and which the family was trying to re-home. It wasn't clear to me at first how long the family had had the dog; the shelter said the family had had “Hannah” for years. The family said she had been adopted in June. Regardless of timing, a man had adopted Hannah and problems developed between her and another dog in the home. The man's daughter was trying to re-home the dog, having been told that if the dog was returned to the shelter, she would be destroyed.
I did not know the family, but I tried to help. I began reaching out to rescue groups to find one to take the dog. The daughter said that she was considering keeping Hannah to try to work with her toward re-homing her; she has children and two small dogs of her own and said that Hannah would have to stay outside in a pen while she worked with her. I told her I would find her a pen and a dog house if that mattered. She said she would check with her husband. She later told me that she had decided to not keep Hannah because she was worried about liability issues.
I had not heard from my rescue contacts, so I called the shelter to check out the story. The shelter was full of animals due to a law enforcement seizure and yes, if Hannah was returned to the shelter and reported as being aggressive, she would be destroyed. While I was still hoping to hear from a rescue contact, I received a follow-up message that Hannah had been destroyed. The message said that while the adopter was sleeping, Hannah “got into the house” and attacked the other dog; the adopter woke up to the dogs fighting on top of him. I tried not to focus on the words. No dog just “gets into a house” without a means to do so. Why was she outside? How was she contained? So many questions.
I don't presume to know that happened between the time Hannah was adopted and when she was destroyed on September 18, 2018. I cannot help but to feel that she was failed by process because she is dead. Did the family get adoption counseling about bringing a new dog into a home with an existing dog? Did they know anything about how to introduce the two dogs to each other? Does the shelter usually have a mechanism by which it can take back animals when an adoption doesn't work out? Are adopters referred to resources for training and to resources to help resolve behavioral issues?
If you run a shelter or a rescue group, I say these things to you.
If you are considering adopting a new to you pet, I say these things to you.
(Hannah was not the actual name of this dog. I changed her name for the purposes of this blog. Hannah is derived from a Hebrew name which means gracious, full of grace and mercy.)
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson