Archive for June, 2014

Give me shelter

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

dog-shelterMany years ago I tried to adopt a Golden Retriever from a local rescue organization. I was turned down because at the time I lived in an apartment and didn’t have a fenced in yard. I was a new veterinarian and didn’t play the “vet card”. I mostly forgot that incident, randomly bringing it up as a “can you believe they denied a vet a pet” anecdote. A few incidents have made me remember that rejection however.
Example 1 A rescue organization called to get a history on a client and her past pet. Our receptionist was specifically asked if the owner brought the pet in for vaccines. The answer was no. The call ended, and the owner was denied adoption, despite attempts to explain that the owner was new to our practice, we only met her and her senior pet late in the pets life when we sadly diagnosed a terminal illness. The organization did not want to hear how this owner pursued every diagnostic and treatment option available, and in the end nursed her friend with love and devotion during his last days.
Example 2 A rescue organization called to get a history on a client and her current pet. We were specifically asked if the owner gave heartworm preventative medication and how frequently. They were told yes, but only seasonally. The owner was denied. This owner brings her pet in every year for a physical exam and performs recommended tests. She has brought the pet in when it was sick. She has never missed a year.
Anyone who has a TV has seen the images of homeless pets in desperate need while Sarah McLaughlin sings mournfully in the background. Yet are the standards by which certain organizations grant or deny a person a pet too high? Should a person be denied a pet because they
a) live in an apartment ? (FYI, everyone in New York City lives in an apartment and it is one of the most dog friendly cities I have ever visited…everyone walks their dogs and everyone picks up after them)
b) have a pool that a cat or dog may fall into and drown?
c) choose to give heartworm preventative only in the warmer months in a non heart worm endemic area?
d) have a child, are divorced, are expecting a baby, live with elderly parents, have roommates, travel for work, make less than a certain income, don’t have a doggie door, plan on crating their dog (I have found these very questions on different applications)
Shouldn’t the goal of a rescue organization be to get more dogs and cats out of shelters and into loving homes?
Are rescue organizations private entities or are they funded through public donations and government grants? If they are charitable organizations, who decides the adoption criteria? Is a yay or nay an individual or a committee decision? Is that process made transparent to donors?
And what are the success rates of these organizations? How many pets are placed? How many are returned? How many still reside in the shelter or in foster, waiting for that perfect home?
I am the first to defend and champion those who work in the field of animal rescue. It is an overwhelming job done by dedicated folks operating on a shoe string budget. I have met many wonderful people over the years from various animal rescue organizations and have always been struck by their tirelessness, their hard work, their never ending compassion. I also know they see the worst of the worst…too many dogs tied to their front door, too many kittens left in garbage bags, too many post Christmas surrenders, too many returns because it just “wasn’t a good fit”, too many “I didn’t know he was going to get so big!” They want their decisions on adoption to be good and right and permanent.
But shouldn’t that compassion be tempered with reality? A lesson I have learned with age and experience is that life is not black and white, it really is grey. The recommendations I make as a vet and the standards I follow as a pet owner may not be possible for everyone. I understand that. It doesn’t make someone an unfit owner or unworthy of a pet.
There has to be a middle ground between giving a pet to anybody with a drivers license and $50 in his pocket and the 10 page long application that requires home photos, a home inspection, verification of income and more hoop jumping that getting into Harvard.