Some New Thoughts About Animal Adoption

Happy Halloween! May your treats be many, and tricks be few!

Speaking of tricks, there are some new tricks being utilized in the animal adoption trade. Some you may find frightening! But should they be?

When I talked recently with Olivia Melikhov and Susan Furukawa of the ASPCA, I asked about old notions of animal adoption that have recently been challenged by research.

For instance, did you know that “black cat and dog syndrome” -the idea that dogs and cats with black fur are less adoptable- is a myth? Yep! ASPCA cites studies that have shown cat adoptions are more about how friendly the cat is, not the color of its fur. And ebony dogs remain in shelters and rescues no longer than any other dogs (Hmm… It Really Ain’t So Black and White!).

Black cats are actually no less adoptable than a cat of any other color.
Black cats are actually no less adoptable than a cat of any other color.

A second notion we’ve heard about for years is the idea that pets should not be given as gifts. The ASPCA conducted a study and found that many pet owners acquired their pets as gifts, and that those animals are loved and well cared for. Of the survey respondents, 86% who had been gifted with a pet still had the pet in their homes (Pets as Gifts).

Some rescue groups have gotten on board and are now promoting Christmas adoptions! And volunteers have even gone so far as to deliver those adopted pets on Christmas eve or morning. I think that’s simply fantastic! I always knew Santa had a soft spot for rescue!

Cats for Christmas? What a spendid idea!
Cats for Christmas? What a splendid idea!

Finally, a practice that I confess scared me at first was the fee waived or “free” cats some rescues offer. What? I thought the idea of a fee was to ensure the person adopting the cat was committed???

But here’s the thing: there are many adult cats needing homes. There are also many people who would adopt a cat, but can’t afford the adoption fee. So… waive the fee! These shelters and rescues are still vetting the adopter, and still giving advice. They’re still working hard to put the right cat with the right human. The only thing that’s changed is what they charge.

Some groups don’t waive the fee, but reduce it. And one creative group even let adopters spin a wheel to determine the adoption fee!

Perhaps our bias against the poor has clouded our judgement when it comes to animal adoption?
Perhaps our bias against the poor has clouded our judgement when it comes to animal adoption?

Research shows the adopters are just as attached to their cats as those that paid the fee (Research on Fee-Waived Adoptions). So doesn’t it make sense to do all we can to ensure more cats have a loving home?

Well, there you have it! No tricks, just research to back up a new way of thinking about how we re-home animals.

Makes me wonder what other preconceived notions we may hold that are hindering animals from finding a loving home. 

30 thoughts on “Some New Thoughts About Animal Adoption

  1. It’s always bothered me the suggestion that simply because I got my first two guinea pigs as gifts they are somehow less loved or less wanted. Pets do make wonderful gifts and I am so glad rescues are recognising that.

    There is a myth that somehow the black piggies are in rescues longer but it’s, as with dogs and cats, a myth. Unfortunately something that isn’t a myth is red or pink eyed animals are in rescues longer because people are scared of or have a lack of understanding about them. I know a rescue that had a pregnant piggy that gave birth to three dark eyed piggies and two pink eyed piggies. The pink eyed one’s took 7 months longer than the others to find a home despite being nearly identical to their brothers and sisters.

    It’s a real shame that misconceptions get in the way of adoptions but I’m working on changing those as much as I can!


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  3. I decided to get 2 puppies, from a lady that had 10, can’t really afford them but miss having pets due to expense, is there anywhere I can get them spayed cheaply or free? What shots am I allowed to give myself, I know about rabie shots have to be recorded by vet but how about all the others?

    1. Consider pet insurance. Its a recurring monthly expense you can budget for and it gives you the oeace of mind in knowing you can obtain vet care when needed without breaking the bank.

  4. thanks for sharing…. still with my stance: if ever every middle to upper class family is willing to adopt one pet or two, I believe all stray animals survive and be well treated….

      1. Yups, can’t agree more. For the past two years I feel greater energy of universal love that actually emits by the soul of animals.

        I miss my cats at home….

  5. Two things that always bother me, and I can completely see the rescue points of view but…. because I live alone and work full time I am not an ideal candidate to adopt. Time and time again I see dogs in need of a new home but the rescue says can’t be left more than 4 hours. I completely get why it is not ideal for a dog to be left home alone for long periods, and I hated doing it to BD when I lived with him BUT BD got evenings, weekends and holidays with us. He got attention from about 5.30pm – 11pm every evening and I spent as much of the weekends with him as practically possible. We went on holiday he came with us. Isn’t that better than sat in a cage at a rescue with minimal attention?

    And 2. I approached a local rescue about dog walking. I asked if they would meet me, the ex and BD and then if they liked us all we would start walking dogs for them. We walk BD so why not take two? Although reactive BD is fine when out and about and so with the right rescue dog it would have been win win, day out for the rescue dog, aggression training with BD. I received a big fat no. They wouldn’t meet with us to even discuss it. Again I can see why not, but had we begun with this process, BD met a dog he could get on with, we would have considered adopting. But we were turned away without them meeting BD or any of us, and it wasn’t BDs reactivity that put them off, just the fact we wanted him there!

    Again, with both of these I can see where they are coming from, but so far in less than a year I have been actively discouraged from adopting a dog in need of a forever home!

      1. I can’t find my local community shelter. I have done various searches, I wanted to get involved in helping dogs in need but I can’t access them. Then sadly my situation changed. Now I am single and living alone I can’t right now commit to a dog (I am deciding whether I am going to rescue a rabbit, guinea pig or gerbil, or all of the above) A dog is very tying, especially when you are out all day and right now I need to have the freedom to go out on an evening. So I have Mity and BD part time and that has to do… but one day…

  6. Many shelters/rescues here put all black cat adoptions on hold for a bit before Halloween – just as a precaution as there are so many mean people out there.
    The SPCA here went waaaay up on their fees a few years ago – I understand they were trying to make sure the owners could really afford a pet, but am very glad that seniors get a huge discount – sometimes free adoption of grown animals – that adoption fee was just too much money at one time for older people on a budget who would give very good homes to a dog or cat. Special rates are win-win

      1. They also have “special events” for all people wanting a pet. Quite a few variations: older dogs, buddy pets, 2 for one kittens, rabbits..always some ‘special” going on.
        Somehow I think they realized they should have listened to the volunteers and supporters before raising the fees

  7. Our Scottie (a puppy mill rescue) was my gift to my husband after his beloved terrier finally passed on. It was a couple of months before he could even look at her, but now, to no one’s surprise but his own, he adores Bonnie as much as he adored her predecessor. I wish we could have a cat, but we can’t keep a cat in the house, not with the doggie door. It’s just too dangerous around here to allow a car outside. Between the wildlife and the cars … Maybe someday. I do miss having felines around.

  8. I think giving a surprise animal as gift isn’t a good idea. What if the person doesn’t want it? Perhaps that is how the idea of discouraging giving animals as gifts started. I saw the comment about pink eyed animals. Some cats (with Siamese blood) eyes flash red, and that can be surprising at first because it’s unexpected. I have cat now who has this trait and one a long time ago, it’s rather special.

    Anyway, wishing you lots of treats for Halloween!

  9. That’s some real food for thought, Rumpy and Jen. Thank you for sharing – as always – such great information.

    Happy Halloween!

  10. My adoption fees are usually just the vetting if the dog or cat needs it, otherwise it is roughly 50 to 75 dollars or donations of food supplies. Helps me get homes quicker & make more space for the next little one who needs help. They go “home” straight from the vet’s most times, otherwise I keep them til stitches heal & then they’re on their way!

  11. Good points. I would add the fact that some rescues require one to have a fenced yard to adopt a dog. Just because someone has a fenced yard it doesn’t mean the dog will have a good home. I know of many dogs who never get walked because “we have a big yard”. Many people cannot have fences because of where they live and some resort to electric fencing (UGH!). A dog needs walks more than they need a fenced yard.

  12. A friend had just adopted a big dog and the fee at the Human Society of NY was $25 (in 2000). A few weeks later BJ adopted me at the HS and the fee was $150. Bonnie was in charge of adoptions, asked me if was okay and said they charge more for smaller dogs. I’m sure she looked at where I lived (the upper east side) and where I worked ( a large law firm) and felt she could get the fee. I was a bit surprised, and didn’t object. I know those fees help feed the dogs and cats still in HS shelter.

    The only question I have about not charging is that if people can’t pay a small fee, can they afford the supplies and possible medical costs.

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