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  • Post published:04/05/2021
  • Post last modified:04/05/2021

How some shelters are forcing people to go to breeders for their dogs

 

This article has been in the back of my mind for a good while now and I’ve hesitated to write it. I’ve hesitated because I don’t want to come across like I am down on small rescues or breeders for that matter. I’m not. I have profound respect for people who dedicate themselves to rescuing dogs and other pets from bad situations and finding them amazing forever homes. I also understand that there is a place for responsible breeders in the world. The trouble comes when people want very much to adopt a dog but are refused by shelters and feel they must turn to breeders if they are to fulfill their dream of having a dog.

 

This article is simply intended to provide some constructive criticism around a trend I’ve seen during my years working with and training adopted dogs and their families.

 

What am I talking about? I’m referencing the focus of some rescues on perfection over a great match. Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I’m talking about.

 

A few months ago I met a woman named Amy (not her real name) who wanted to fulfill her dream of having a dog and wanted to adopt so that she was fulfilling her own dream and providing a forever home for a loving dog who didn’t have one which is, of course, the dream of all homeless dogs.

woman and dog looking into each others eyes

Amy found a local rescue, filled out the multi-page application and scheduled an interview. Sadly, the rescue turned Amy down for adoption because she worked full time and wouldn’t be home all day with her dog.

 

Undeterred, Amy approached a second local rescue, filled out the multi-page application and scheduled an interview. Rescue number two also turned Amy down for adoption. Why? Because she worked full time and wouldn’t be home all day with her dog.

 

Discouraged but determined, Amy approached a third rescue, filled out the multi-page application and scheduled an interview. Spoiler alert! Rescue number three also turned Amy down for adoption because she worked full time and wouldn’t be home all day with her dog.

 

Frustrated and, if she was being honest, a little angry. Amy turned to a boutique breeder and purchased an adorable little dog she named Hannah (not her pup’s real name). When I met Amy she was happily walking Hannah on the bike path (I was out walking Jake) and we got to talking. This is how I learned about her struggle to add a canine family member to her household.

dog running to owner

I’ve met a wonderful dog trainer who was turned down for adoption from a small rescue for not having a fully fenced in yard.

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Then there was the experienced dog owner who was turned down by a small local rescue for living in an apartment building. She didn’t have a backyard.

 

To me, these rescues are looking for a nearly impossible to attain state of perfection. Sure, someone who can be home all day with their dog and has a big backyard with a strong tall fence all the way around it would make an amazing parent to an adopted dog but so wouldn’t the people described above.

 

None of the people in the examples above had a history of animal abuse or insufficient funds to care for a dog but they were turned down for what feels more like “extras” or “cosmetic” reasons than true deterrents to successful lifelong dog guardianship.

 

All of the issues that resulted in rejection for the above would-be adopters could be easily solved. Hire a dog-walker if you work all day, build a fence (a new client just did this for their recently adopted big fluffy dog), visit a dog park or add a dog run to your yard. These are minor obstacles that denied multiple dogs a wonderful new life and, in at least one case (and I suspect many more) resulted in the person giving up on adoption and turning to a breeder for her dog.

 

Not only will this affect the homeless dog she didn’t get to adopt but Amy is unlikely to recommend adoption to her friends or try to adopt in the future if she decides she wants another dog. These numbers add up if you consider all the people who have had similar experiences to Amy’s.

dog laying on couch

I’m not suggesting rescues be loosey-goosey about who they allow to adopt the dogs in their care. I am saying that taking a more realistic view of people’s lives and having some creativity around solving issues that don’t seem perfect (like not having a big yard) would allow more dogs to find their forever homes sooner.

 

I’ve worked with dogs for many years and one thing I know about them is that they love their people. A big yard is a perk and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t but I know for certain that any dog would rather live in a small apartment with their human and take walks in the park sooner rather than wait longer for a fenced in backyard.

 

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