A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Nov 30, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want ...

This piece was inspired by some letters to the editor (Long Beach Press Telegram) written to complain about spcaLA denying a person's applicaion to adopt a pet. An abridged version of this was submitted to the newspaper as my response.
Occasionally, an adoption is denied. Sometimes the client becomes angry, writes a letter to the editor, asks friends to also write – all in an attempt to make it appear that it is a widespread problem. It is not unlike a neighborhood panicking over multiple coyote sightings that turns out to be one coyote seen multiple times. An adoption denial is not a common occurrence and is always done in the best interests of the animal.

spcaLA has been in existence since 1877 and has been combating pet overpopulation for 133 years. The main contributors to the problem are ignorance of its causes, bad habits and lassitude in the willingness to solve it. Despite significant progress, pets continue to be purchased from unscrupulous vendors, allowed to remain unsterilized, and permitted to roam outside sans identification. This is due to the belief that pets are disposable commodities – endlessly replaceable and lacking value. We have even been called enablers who make it guilt-free for others to give up on a pet as our shelters are too nice and our staff too compassionate! Of course, it is far better for a pet to end up with us rather than struck by a vehicle, attacked by feral strays or simply left sick and starving to die a slow death on the street –all possible if placed in the wrong home. After all – where do these unwanted pets come from? Some from people who were not ready to adopt in the first place.

We rehabilitate and provide many animals a chance at a home whether it is through rescue groups, adoptions, transfers to other cities and so on. The effort to medically rehabilitate and provide behavioral stimulation to the animals is gargantuan and must not be wasted with lax placement guidelines. The brief pre-adoption questioning and discussion is designed to assess the readiness of the prospective family to commit to the pet. The staff has no crystal ball- only the drive to find a compatible family and an ever present optimism that the match will last. When such commitment is lacking, it hurts us all.  For example, some allow cats outside (against our adoption policy unless supervised or confined to a secure space) without identification, making it impossible to find the owner should the cat become lost. We must then use our limited resources to find that cat a new home, perhaps at the expense of a cat who never had one. Instead of giving every animal an opportunity for a family, we are giving some multiple tries, and others, no chance at all. Should we deny the adoption if the client insists that cats must roam? I submit we should. Allowing it does not move us forward to towards our goal.

These adoption policies, which served to consummate tens of thousands of successful adoptions over the years, will continue until we awaken the blissful ignorance of those who do not accept the responsibilities commensurate with adopting a pet. They will continue, so that to the best of our ability, every homeless pet will have a good home and our shelters will not be revolving doors and dumping grounds. Blithe letters to the editor will not change that.

They say ignorance is bliss – for whom – us? Certainly not for unwanted pets.

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