At a recent fundraiser, one of the attendees mentioned that they enjoyed seeing our animals posted on Facebook but was saddened by posts stating the urgency for their adoption. I was confused. Not that we don’t feel an urgency to find homes for our animals, especially this time of year when we are busting at the seams. When I acted confused (I do this often) he explained that he was referring to posts he commonly sees stating that certain animals will be euthanized in so many days if not adopted.
Ah, those. I certainly knew exactly what he was talking about but assured him that such posts are not from our shelter.
I see them all the time too as I follow many other shelters and rescues. I’m sure you’ve seen them too….things like “Urgent, will be killed on Thursday” to “Out of space, dies tomorrow”. These pleas are common and are meant to insight people to act quickly. Whether potential adopters or rescues looking to pull animals from high kill shelters, they are just a part of what some shelters will do to get help for their animals.
But we don’t do this. Some may wonder why not if it is effective. I suppose at times it is. But in our case, it wouldn’t be truthful. We don’t have time limits on any of our animals. While we do have time periods that stipulate how long we hold a dog before we put them up for adoption, this is actually prescribed by state law and creates a mandatory window of opportunity for the owners animals to come reclaim them before we officially “own” them and can decide what to do next. But we don’t put an expiration date on any animal. Days don’t define our process…space does!
On any given day, we can run out of space which I suppose means we’ve run out of time. When we have more animals than kennels and cages and fosters to keep them, then the difficult (impossible) decision is made who to euthanize. If today we are full and 10 dogs come into tomorrow, then those that are least adoptable will be chosen. Least adoptable may be due to health or age or temperament but no reason is ever good enough. Never sufficient to make any of the decisions make sense.
Years ago when I started volunteering in our shelter, it was the practice to create space for the next day’s certain to arrive animals by euthanizing in advance. Leaving a few kennels empty for what might happen never made sense to me. That practice would soon change and as such it’s normal to close our shelter with every kennel and cage full. What happens tomorrow will happen and it will be dealt with then.
When people relinquish their pet or the animal they’ve found, one of the most frequent questions asked is how long we will keep them. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say “forever?” Or until we can find them home? But that wouldn’t be truthful either. Sometimes we just don’t have that much time. And yes, often when someone brings that litter of sick kittens or those too tiny to be put up for adoption for weeks, they will likely face the news that we probably can’t keep them. We don’t have space. Or we don’t have weeks to wait for them to get old enough or well enough to be adoptable.
But we’re not going to create a false sense of urgency to prompt unplanned or emotional adoptions. Being as honest as possible about our animals is integral to them finding homes that are right for them. Not everyone is prepared for a 8 month old Lab. Or housebreaking the darling puppy. Nor is a playful kitten, no matter how cute the right fit for every home. So honesty is crucial.
Having seen the results of ill prepared or emotional adoptions I can’t do this in good conscience. No matter how full we are. When day in and day out the reason why people relinquish their pets is “I can’t take care of them”, “I can’t afford their care”, and “we weren’t prepared for the responsibility of a pet”, encouraging if not pressuring people to adopt is just not something I can get behind. As much as I want to see every one of our incredible animals find a home tomorrow and be able to shut our doors for lack of the need for our services, we have a responsibility to ensure that the animals that leave our shelter are going to be well cared for. Not rushed into a home that is today trying to save a life and then tomorrow find they cannot take care of one properly.
Obviously it’s a hell of a dilemma. Tampering the desire to plead for homes to save a life actually goes against my emotionally charged nature. Especially when I know how amazing the animals we have are and come to love them so much. As all our staff and the many volunteers that spend time with these animals do. But our responsibility extends to doing the best we can to find those forever homes that are prepared for the responsibility that a pet brings.
Falsely creating timeframes and death sentences to promote adoptions may result in some good homes, but the risks are too great that they will promote just the opposite. As such the truth may not set our animals free but the truth is that no one knows what will happen tomorrow. We can only hope that tomorrow will be a good day and that wonderful adopters will arrive because they are ready for all that comes with the choice of adopting…ready for boundless, unconditional love.
Until then, we will give them all the boundless, unconditional love we have to share in the hope we have time to save each and every one. Now that’s the truth!