I agree with Eileen. I'm one of those people who has been discouraged from rescue before any rescue ever saw me.
When I think of how I no longer feel able to consider adopting from a rescue, I feel more sad than anything else. Eileen's posts give me hope that maybe this issue can be addressed.
I've always known that once I was in a position to have a dog, I wanted an adult, not a puppy.
I first encountered the idea of rescue online, and I started out with a strongly positive view.
I was not yet in a position to have a dog. (I'm still not. One day.) But I did spend time looking up all the local rescues I could find, reading their websites and questionnaires, and considering how I'd want to answer them -- how I'd want to treat a dog of mine. When I moved, I did this for my new area as well.
I also read online discussions. Especially on these boards. (I was a lurker long before I ever signed up. I've seen many rescue discussions here.)
These experiences slowly gave me a worse and worse impression of rescue. They gave me the same impression Emily Yoffe describes. They gave me the impression that rescues do not want to work with you, and do not have the kind of attitude I would want to deal with.
The problem isn't that they're "too picky." The problem is that they appear too *rigid*. And they also appear hostile. That's why they appear not to want to work with a person, or not like the sort of person you want to try to work with.
What do I mean by "too rigid"? I mean that they will say, "Don't do X, because Y" -- and then when they encounter a situation where Y does not apply, they *still* insist it's just *evil* to do X. Emily Yoffe's example of the border collie rescue who would not adopt to someone who wanted to work the border collie is illustrative. Likewise, I've heard of several gun dog rescues that refuse to adopt to anyone who will let the dog off-leash to work it. (IIRC it was retrieverman who mentioned them.)
"Don't let your dog off-leash, because it's dangerous," is a perfectly fine general rule: For the typical pet owner, it *is* dangerous. But when the rule becomes, "Don't let your dog off-leash, because it's just evil, even when you're working the dog," -- that's just crazy. If you act like that, people will get a bad impression.This article
gives another good example:
We decided to add another dog to our family. Having worked at two of the most successful shelters in the country, having performed rescue my whole adult life, having consulted with some of the largest and best known animal protection groups in the country, owning my own home, working from home, and allowing our dogs the run of the house, I thought adoption would be easy.
Adopting from our local shelter was not possible because we wanted a bigger dog which was against their rules because we had young children. Instead, we searched the online websites, and found a seven-year-old black Labrador Retriever with a rescue group about an hour south of us. I called about the dog and asked if we could meet him. They wanted to know if we had a “doggy door” leading to the backyard. We did not, but I told them happily—and naively—that I work from home and that we homeschool the kids, so the dog will be with us *all the time*. One of us will just let him out when he wants to go like we do for the resident dogs and then he can come back in. We have a fenced backyard. I housetrained every dog we ever had. No problem, I told them.
But that was not good enough. Apparently, the dog should be able to go in and out whenever he wants without having to ask. No doggy door, no adoption. “But,” I started to stammer: seven years old, larger black dog, sleep on the bed, with us all the time, fenced yard…. DENIED.
Again, the problem is not that this rescue was too picky. The problem is that they stuck to their rigid rule rather than applying any judgement to the situation. They acted like computers, not humans.
I like computers, but I don't want to adopt a dog from one.
So that's one reason I've formed a negative impression over the years. The other is the impression rescuers often give of having a hostile attitude.
I'm sure Ancient_Dog didn't mean to give that impression, but the following remark is a good example: "Whether you agree with the adoption application or not, Ms Yoffe indirectly suggests that you should tailor your answers to what you think the rescue wants to hear. In some circles that would be called fraud."
It's hard to articulate what bothers me about this remark. Misrepresenting yourself *is* fraud. But, well...
In the past, shelters used to try to *educate* potential adopters. They didn't just "tell them exactly what they needed to say so that the shelter would let them adopt"...they *tried to convince them the shelter was right*. They tried to change their minds, and mostly, they succeeded. Someone who has had the shelter's or rescue's reasoning explained to them will often actually change their mind and their plans for how they will treat their pet. When a shelter or rescue does that, that is working with the potential adopter.
When a rescue or shelter instead seems to be going out of its way to *hide* what it thinks a pet owner should do, asking cryptic questions like, "How many stairs do you have?" ...well, as Ancient_Dog's post makes clear, this is generally intended to catch people who are trying to misrepresent themselves. And, yes, when you are open about how you think a pet should be treated, you do leave yourself open to being deceived by those who would misrepresent themselves.
But when you become unwilling to take that risk in exchange for the vast benefit of changing most people's minds...you become someone who does not want to work with potential adopters. And someone potential adopters are justified in not wanting to work with. Being scrutinized isn't a problem; being treated like a criminal is.
Now me, I'm a little extreme in how really, really strongly I value openness and honesty. So for me, what *I* object to the most is the cryptic, deceptive tone of these questionnaires. Hey, I value openness -- I have no problem at all being scrutinized. But when you won't tell me what you believe and why...then I don't know who you are. If I don't know who you are, I don't want to work with you.
I'm going to expand on this, because I feel strongly about it:
I feel that *even in the case of questions like, "Would you ever declaw a cat?"*, the common rescue approach is the wrong one.
My partner's mom inherited her daughter and son-in-law's cat when the son-in-law lost his job. This cat already had a biting problem. So when I visited and was informed that she had had the cat declawed, I was horrified. I had had no idea she even considered declawing acceptable. But it was already done; there was nothing I could do. (I told her, "Declawing can create biting problems, and he's already a biter..." That's as far as I felt able to go since it was already done.)
But I believe that with people like my partner's mom, who just don't know any better...just tell them! Just tell them. Just put on your website, "We strongly believe that declawing cats causes unnecessary suffering. It can also lead to biting and toileting problems. Anatomically, it's akin to cutting off the tips of a human's fingers. We do not support declawing your cat." I strongly believe that doing this would help more cats than the current common practice of *not* doing this but *only* mentioning declawing by asking about it on the questionnaire!
Honestly, I think you are *far* more likely to get someone lying about whether they'd ever declaw...if all they know about it is that they've gleaned from your cryptic, off-putting questionnaire that you dislike it! Behaving that way is what *gets* you written off as "a crazy person who needs to be deceived."
One more thing. MrSnappy said, "Nobody expects the general adopting populace to be worried about how they are perceived by those of us who rescue." But it's not the same thing. The general populace is the general populace; just ordinary individuals going about their individual lives. Rescue is a movement, and an individual rescue is an organization. Individual rescues represent the movement, and individual rescuers represent their particular rescue as well. One random member of the general population doesn't represent anyone but themselves.
The article I linked above is by Nathan Winograd, who as mentioned in the quote is a rescuer and shelter reformer. I was glad to see his article; it shows that at least some rescuers are aware of and trying to address this problem. And it absolutely is a real problem.
Since the animals already face enormous problems, including the constant threat of execution, shelters and rescue groups shouldn’t add arbitrary roadblocks. When kind hearted people come to help, shelter bureaucrats shouldn’t start out with a presumption that they can’t be trusted.
In fact, most of the evidence suggests that the public *can* be trusted. While roughly eight million dogs and cats enter shelters every year, that is a small fraction compared to the 165 million thriving in people’s homes. Of those entering shelters, only four percent are seized because of cruelty and neglect. Some people surrender their animals because they are irresponsible, but others do so because they have nowhere else to turn—a person dies, they lose their job, their home is foreclosed. In theory, that is why shelters exist—to be a safety net for animals whose caretakers no longer can or want to care for them.
When people decide to adopt from a shelter—despite having more convenient options such as buying from a pet store or responding to a newspaper ad—they should be rewarded. We are a nation of animal lovers, and we should be treated with gratitude, not suspicion. More importantly, the animals facing death deserve the second chance that many well intentioned Americans are eager to give them, but in too many cases, are senselessly prevented from doing so.
I apologize for making my first post on such an apparently contentious issue. It's just that I usually don't have anything to say here since I don't even have a border collie yet. On this issue, I do have something to say...and I feel strongly enough about it to work hard to put my thoughts into words.