Have you ever seen a pair of soulful puppy eyes staring into your Facebook feed? “This sweet girl needs a home,” read the post, shared by a local relief organization. You start dreaming of walks in the park, parties, a dog curled up at your feet. So you go to the rescue website and download and complete an adoption application – only to be rejected. What?
Katie (first name used only at her request), a longtime dog mother in Indiana, wanted to adopt a dog after the death of her family. She went to a local rescue specializing in Labs and Golden Retrievers, the breeds her husband had growing up.
“The app itself was eight pages long,” she told NBC. “It asked normal questions, like my background as a pet owner. He also asked about any medical conditions we had, if we were planning on having children, what our jobs were and what they were like. our schedules. I thought it was a little too much, but I answered it.
Their application was rejected. Why? “The staff member told me it was because I wasn’t a ‘stay-at-home puppy parent,'” Katie said. “If we wanted to adopt a dog from this organization, I had to quit my job. That seems rather impractical, especially if we’re going to be paying for dog food and vet bills.
Katie is not an isolated incident. Scroll through online reviews of many pet shelters and stories like this pop up. That’s a problem the ASPCA wants to address, Vice President of Research and Development Dr. Emily Weiss told NBC.
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“I’m a perfect example of why this is so important,” she said. “I was refused adoption.” Living in a rental home and working on her doctorate at the time, Weiss was not considered a suitable dog parent. “I don’t suggest people do this, but I ended up getting my pet by learning how to bypass the application process,” she said. The fall? While she could have needed help, “the shelter was no longer a resource for me”.
The ASPCA encourages shelters to remove black-and-white policies in favor of a conversation-based app, Weiss said. Rather than rejecting applicants because they don’t have a fenced yard, for example, they suggest that shelters talk to family. “It’s a myth we can shatter. Chances are this dog will get a lot more socialization because he’s going for walks.
“People who end up being fantasy adopters often don’t meet the strenuous requirements of a shelter,” Weiss said. Reasons for rejection may include the loss of a pet. But, “people don’t always lose their pets the way they expect,” Weiss said. “Things happen. When we say no to that person, we have prevented a relationship from happening. If we send them home with a pet, we have the door open.
“We know people are going to get their pets elsewhere,” Dr. Weiss continued. “If you don’t get a pet from an animal welfare organization, that dog or cat is probably much less likely to be vaccinated or neutered.”
For potential adopters, “the first piece of advice I would give is to seek out organizations — and there are plenty — that are focused on conversation-based apps,” Weiss said. “Shelters that use our ‘Meet Your Match’ program tend to be more open to this approach.”
“There are millions of animals that enter shelters each year and not all come out alive,” Weiss said. “But more and more animals are finding homes because people are choosing to adopt. There are plenty of organizations that are more than happy to help you find the right match.
Or, sometimes, fate intervenes. After Katie’s application was denied, a former neighbor with a Golden Retriever gave them a puppy from an accidental litter. “Our dog is now seven years old and doing great,” she said. “He was loved, spoiled, walked around, and we even managed to get closer to my work, so I come home and have lunch with him. We will no longer attempt to adopt with this particular rescue organization.