Slate published an article by Emily Yoffe last Thursday, “No Pet For You,” with the subtitle: “Want to adopt a dog or cat? Prepare for an inquisition at the animal rescue.” It is a largely anecdotal article, but still, it’s one that I wish more rescue agencies could read.
Yoffe writes about the general interrogation that a prospective adopter will face from overzealous and protective rescue groups, and she says that she was so turned off by rescue groups that she ended up getting a Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy from a breeder instead. She shares a litany of similar rejections her readers got from rescue groups:
Katie wrote that she wanted to adopt a retired racing greyhound but was told she was not eligible unless she already had an adopted greyhound. Julie got a no from a cat rescue because she was over 60 years old, even though her daughter promised to take in the cat if something happened to Julie. Jen Doe said her boyfriend’s family lives on fenced farm property with sheep, but they weren’t allowed to adopt a border collie—whose raison d’être is herding sheep—because the group insisted it never be allowed off-leash. Philip was rejected because he said he allowed the dog he had to sleep wherever it liked; the right answer was to have a designated sleeping area. Molly, who has rescued Great Danes for more than 30 years, was refused by a Great Dane group because of “concern about my kitchen floor.”
Yoffe’s article is not about the good that rescue groups do, because I think we can all agree that they do a lot of good, but rather about the very high standards they seem to impose on potential adopters.
Several rescue groups I’ve seen have applications that look more like applications for adopting a human child. There’s one group I’ve seen in my area that I already know I won’t apply to because of how extreme and excessive their application is. I read these lists of qualifications and wonder, “WHO are they looking for? What kind of person fits this bill? Stays home all day, doesn’t work, has a huge fenced-in yard, never wants children, already has specific plans for the dog’s every waking minute of life??” Unless you’re a trust-funded housewife with an estate and nothing to do, I don’t know who these people are.
I myself have met many people who tell me the same story. They are extremely responsible and dedicated pet owners, even well experienced with the particular breed, but they’ve been rejected by rescues. When I tell them that I hope to adopt from a GSD rescue, I’ve received lots of raised eyebrows and warnings. Some people have outright told me NOT to go to a rescue group for the reasons Yoffe lists.
It’s a sad state of affairs when rescue groups have such an increasingly negative reputation. I myself have heard little good about them, especially breed-specific groups, from people who are trying to adopt dogs. They’re doing hard work to rehome needy animals and they deserve lots of support. But I can’t help but wonder if their standards are increasingly way too high. I really want to adopt a dog, but reading this article makes me really worried about it.
In many ways, despite my feverish year-and-a-half of research and totally serious commitment to the well-being of any dog we bring home, we may not be ideal candidates in a rescue’s eyes: This would be our first dog; we rent; we don’t have a vet recommendation, because we don’t have a vet yet!; we want to have kids one day, etc. I’m already nervous about applying. I don’t think I could stand the rejection. And I think it’s ridiculous that I feel this way! It’s not like I’m applying to college or to a job or to adopt an Ethiopian orphan. I just want a dog.
What do you think? Do you think rescue groups have excessively high standards for adopters? Or do you think they’re just right? Have you had positive (or negative) experiences with rescue groups? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.