Humane Societies Annoy Me

How's that for a controversial title? Let me clarify, I love the concept behind the Humane Society. There are too many unwanted dogs and cats out there, plus a host of lost ones that never find their home again. And it's a very good thing that someone had the compassion and business sense enough to start a foundation that allows these homeless pets to find families.

And I understand completely that as organizations grow and thrive, they've gotta make rules. I can see how dress codes might not be so important in a business like this as would, say, how often you clean the kennels. (And I'm also sure that things like kennel cleaning are determined by the Dog Law Enforcement Bureau.) But like any business, sometimes good rules go awry.

In plain language, sometimes a blanket statement doesn't cover everyone. The blanket just isn't big enough if you know what I'm saying.

In the past my family has adopted their fair share of pets from the shelter. It was always a bittersweet day when my mom stopped with us. We loved nothing more than to visit the animals and make their tails wag. And when we got to choose a new kitten, or replace a farm dog (aka, family pet) we were thrilled nigh unto death. But we knew that we couldn't adopt every four legged creature there, and we knew the fate that awaited them. Back in the day they had tags on the cages saying how many days were left until, well, the end. And it broke my heart. Those were the ones that I spent all my time with; petting, hugging and nearly crying right there with them.

But in the years since those early days, things have gotten out of hand. I am not eligible to adopt a dog, and for that reason I won't try. You see, I've committed the horrible sin of having pets that are not spayed or neutered. They do not care that I use them for a very controlled breeding program. In fact, this makes me worse in their eyes. But it doesn't end there.

My sister is the best pet owner there is. Sometimes I want to be her pet just so that I can be boarded at the kennel that gives massages. I want someone to bend down and wipe my feet at the door when I walk in. I would love someone to cook special foods for me when I'm not feeling well instead of tossing Saltines in my general direction. And she is incredibly vigilant in their medical care. You have no idea the extent this can go to. And trust me, you don't want to either. But she can't adopt a pet. She tried. She has a cat that helps with the mouse problem at the stable. And she wanted a companion for this cat so that he would not be lonely. (Not that the cat seemed to mind, but she was just trying to think of his emotional state.) She was not allowed to adopt a cat that would not be kept in the house 24/7. It was against the rules.

I understand this rule, really. If you adopt a dog and tie it to the end of a chain on the back 40 of your property (there are tons of people that do that here, and it breaks my heart) how much is that dog really loved? And how well cared for is is? Sure it might get it's vaccines and be fed regularly, but it's probably lacking in the love department. And if you get a cat and put it in the barn and hope that it catches enough mice to feed itself, you take the risk of starving it just so that it learns to do it's job. (I've heard it all, trust me.) And there's always the chance that an outside free-to-roam cat could get hit on the road. I know this first-hand.

My parents were turned down when they wanted to adopt a dog. My mom wanted a house dog to sit on her lap when she watched TV. To go to their cabin in the mountains (okay, higher up in the mountains) and keep them company when they traveled. It was going to be The Pampered One. She even chose one that needed it's hair brushed regularly because she had time to do that. And missed doing her daughter's hair. (No, I haven't let her do my hair since I was pre-teen.) But here's the catch. They're farmers. This means that they learned long, long ago that your vet bills are high enough without adding office visits to it. (Trust me, you think a monthly credit card statement is high? Try the monthly vet bill. Especially after a herd check. Our a surgical procedure. Ouch.) The vet doesn't come out as much since Dad sold the cows, but old habits are hard to break. We have a friend who's a large animal vet and he's more than glad to sell us medicines at his cost for our dogs. (Now you all know my dirty little secret.) Because of this, my parent's didn't have record that their farm dog had ever been to the vet. And of course this looked very much like he'd never had a vaccine in his life. Hence, my parents do not take care of their animals and they have been added to the Black List of the Humane Society.

It's a screwed up system, I'm telling you. I get so incredibly hacked when they whine and complain that there are hundreds of thousands of animals waiting for homes and nobody will adopt them. My foot. The fact of the matter is that they won't allow their animals to be adopted. Would it be the worst thing in the world to look at each case individually and make an informed decision from there? At least in our area it could be feasible. We're very small and rural here. We have dozens of animals, not hundreds. If the animals best interests are what's driving them, don't you think they'd try their hardest to get them adopted out? Maybe they should spend more time getting to know prospective families rather than making silly rules for adoption.

Hello? Humane Society of America? Are you listening?


Karen Deborah said...

AMEN! Preach it sister,it's insane. Your home isn't good enough we prefer to euthanize. A lot of the same ideology think that every child should be a "wanted" child too. son the unwanted and imperfect end up with the same judgement; death.
you were nice about it. I say, DUMBER than dirt.

Flea said...

I haven't liked the HSA for quite awhile. We adopted our dogs through the Aussie Rescue League in Florida. About the same price, I got the meet the dogs in a home environment. I knew what kind of dogs I was getting and saw them online first, contacted the person keeping them.

Cats? They're everywhere, but there are also cat rescues online. There are ways around it, huh?

the planet of janet said...

you go, girl.

we weren't "permitted" to adopt because we work.

oh, and because we live where there is the possibility of a coyote wandering within five miles of our house (and we believed in dog doors!), we were only "permitted" to think about (but not to actually have) a 50-pound-plus dog.

in our townhouse ... which is 1700 square foot spread over --or is that spread up? -- 4 levels townhouse.

can you say inadequate space?????


My boys are Army Brats said...

That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. I'm pretty sure being a barn cat is better than being a dead cat. And being a pampered lap dog is better than being a human. Wait...ok yeah it's true.

Rules like that are absolutely stupid and unles it's a no kill facility then it's BS. said...

I agree with you. I am disgusted with the insane amount of rules some groups put adopting animals who just want homes.

Michelle said...

Ooo, I have a feeling I'm going to be roundly flamed.

I get the rules. I worked at an animal shelter (essentially no kill shelter but couldn't be called that because unadoptable animals -- e.g., near death and not saveable or vicious -- were put down. No kill shelters let those animals "live" out their lives in the shelter) for eleven years, many as a cat adoption counselor.

We had a lot of rules because of the experiences we had. Did it keep out some potentially decent homes? Yeah, it probably did. But at the same time, using the rules we put into place we saw a) a whole lot fewer return adoptions (want to know what being returned, especially repeatedly, does to an animal?) b) the incidence of FIV, FeLV and roadkill decreased significantly from the years before I started there to the time I left (kids and living 45 minutes away at that point) and c) the kitten population has significantly decreased (although we periodically saw summers with messes of kittens ... usually the ones that started mild and lasted long). However, at this shelter, we never put an animal down because no one had adopted it yet, and I do see somewhat of a difference in there.

Part of the reason for rules is that I can judge the difference between suitable and not suitable, and there were times I bent the rules based on what I learned from the prospective adoptors. But given some of the other people that I've seen doing adoptions? Without rules, well see above. There is a lot of turnover in the adoption counselor ranks, and someone has to be accountable.

So in the end, is it better to have an animal go home and live for the sake of living with the knowledge that based on the application, the life is likely to be less than stellar or is it better to have that animal wait for a "good" forever home?

Cats in barns don't live long. And they catch and spread FeLV and FIV. Unneutered dogs? Well, hello that's why we have shelters to begin with. I get that.

But Karen, I would have adopted to you. And to your parents :) It's the details behind the answers not the answers themselves. But big organizations? That's where it gets hard. Go find a small shelter (although not the "freaky" ones where Mother Theresa herself couldn't adopt a pet).

Ok, flame away!

Donna-Marie said...

This is a perfect example of 'one size DOES NOT fit all'.

I think it's definitely necessary to have rules, however I believe they should be more guidelines than rules. Adoption staff should be able to use common sense and ask for more details to be able to make an informed decision, as it seems Michelle does.

Karen MEG said...

That is ludicrous ... and sounds like people are taking the rules at totally face value. With so many animals to be adopted, you'd think they might take other things into consideration.

Especially given the current economic crisis. We have friends who adopted a pet from the US (we're in Canada!) that was abandoned, likely because of the economy. A beautiful dog, she fits right into the family. I don't know what organization it was, but they had to do a homestudy and go through a very strict screening process too.

I'm not great with animals, but I do like them (my husband's family always grew up with pets ). The kids would love to have a pet, but right now the most I can handle is a goldfish. I know, I'm such a wimp!

Vic said...

I understand rules, but they need to be flexible to consider all circumstances. It's a shame that there's animals affected, and it's not just the loss of these societies.

Caution Flag said...

We were recently rejected, too. Our last puppy bit someone after someone stepped on him accidentally. There is a lawsuit and because of that we chose to rehome - not euthanize. We were turned down by several groups when we wanted to adopt another dog. We were admonished that our dog could have worked through his "problems," but there were no problems prior to that one bite, and a lawsuit is a lawsuit. Had we simply lied to the groups and said we had never had a pet, we would have sailed through those adoptions I think.

mommaof4wife2r said...

so i have to say, kudos to you sister! as an adoptive momma and a teen mentor, i get sick when i see the hours of broadcasting and money spent on helping animals (which does need done)...but there are babies that need homes and children who need families and homeless who need fed. where is that compassion? it reminds me more and more that the world is upside down. sorry for the downer...i'm gonna go and have more coffee and hug my kiddos. :)

Leanne said...

I just went through this. I tried to adopt a kitten, someone had dumped sixteen of them in a Whole Foods dumpster, and I got turned down as I only wanted one. I already have a cat who I wanted a buddy for. The kittens however had to be adopted in they wouldn't get lonely. Um, I guess my current cat (indoor, neutured and loved) wasn't part of the 'group' so he didn't make the cut. Weird.

Colleen said...

That is just crazy! How do you deny people who are willing to offer their love and home to these animals? And worse...euthanize them instead of doing a little research on each applicant!!!

Marmarbug said...

Tell it girl! I agree they are becoming almost ridiculous with their rules. I ahve seen some that won;t let you adopt unless you have a fenced in backyard.

Anonymous said...

We just adopted a young dog from the Human Society and had no problems with that process. But I completely understand the situation your family is in. Growing up we never took our dogs to the vet for anything because we were able to do it all ourselves. Every one of the cats and dogs had their rabies shots done by my dad.

When we adopted Trixie the Humane Society gave us a free year for a tracking device that goes on the her colar. I called to activate it, as I was going through the activation process they asked if we our dog would be contained or run free. We live on a farm and all of our dogs have always run free. They refused to activate it because allowing them to roam is inhumane and cruel. ARE FREAKING KIDDING ME? To me inhumane is having your dog in a little pen or tied up. What's so inhumane to allow your dog to play in the tree row or chase rabbits. I WAS ANGRY! It would be different if we lived in town, but she has three acres of grass and trees to explore.

Cool Cooking Chicks said...

It's disgusting. My neighbors are black-listed because their dog was hit by a car. We live in the country. The dog had plenty of land to roam. He was very well fed and spoiled rotten. Accidents happen. Dogs die from a long list of causes. Is it cruelty that their dog was hit by a stranger's car?

Our farm dogs are as God intended (not neutered.) Our cat is spayed because we don't want a bunch of kittens every 20 seconds (that and she fell out of the engine compartment of the car and under the tire and had hernia surgery and while they were in there, they fixed her.)

Dogs were designed by God (or evolution if you bend that way) to roam and hunt and play and be loose and free. Being in a pen, tied to a chain, stuck in a house is ok for some animals, but only because WE have forced it on them. And THOSE pets couldn't survive outside.

The Mighty Hunter refuses to watch a commercial for the humane society. He says they're trying to equate animals with humans.

Jumping over here from a BlogHer link. I'll be back! Great post!

CC said...

I had no idea. We did put our name on the "waiting" list at the Humane society for a puppy before having kids, but were never called. Since then we've decided that kids are enough work and we couldn't handle any pets.

Cecily R said...

It sounds like a case of laziness to me. Those workers just didn't want to be bothered with really finding out about those applying for adoption, so they fall back on the rules as an excuse. If they'd just asked some of the right question they'd have known that all of you were prime candidates.

That really bothers me. I get what Michelle is saying, but in the cases of your family, it just seems like gross human error. And its the animals that end up paying for it.

caramama said...

Ah, buracracy at it's best. Drives me crazy when institutions create one rule to fit all. I'm glad to hear Michelle's side of things and know that some people take the time to learn about the applicants and even bend rules if it made sense.

As for me, I refuse to even go to our local humane society because I will only support no-kill shelters (or at least what Michelle describes) and animal rescues. I volunteer with the Beagle Rescue in my area. Their rules I understand because they take into account the breed's needs and the temperment of each dog and try to find the right home for each dog.

Andrea said...

I went to the little animal shelter 20 minutes away from me the other day. There were about 20 dogs, and a few empty kennels. The man's name was Bufford. He was a very large man!! If you could imagine a man name bufford that is small. Anyway, I went and played with a few of the dogs. One dog had been there for three weeks. He is supposed to put them down in 5 days. Bufford told me I could have any dog I wanted for 10 bucks. Then it was up to me to go and have it nutered and have it's shots. So, if anyone wants a dog for 10 bucks, come to the humane society by my house!! I guess the blanket doesn't cover this small operation!! LOL!!

Becoming Mommy said...

I have been turned down too.
Because of the kinds of dogs I have.
Because I work a full-time job, as does my husband, so the dog wouldn't have a person home with them all day.
Because we have a dog door and I believe in giving dogs the freedom of both the house AND the yard.
Because I don't do annual vaccines. I titer.
Because I like somewhat exotic breeds and don’t have extensive histories of owning them.
And the list goes on. It's all garbage really, because my dogs are spoiled rotten and we go to exhorbitant lengths to keep them happy, healthy, and well-behaved.
But there are several dogs we TRIED to adopt that we were turned down for. I'm talking dozens. I know I'm on black lists. But really, I'm at a point where next time I wouldn't want to adopt. I'm tired of dealing with the messes other people made. I'll buy my dogs, thank you.

Bia said...

Good grief. And here I thought one could just waltzed in and adopted a pet.

kari and kijsa said...

Great post...what a lot to learn!

Have a blessed and wonderful day.

smiles, kari and kijsa

Colleen said...

(I tagged you at my place...)

Debbie in CA : ) said...

I got black-listed for the horrible sin of adopting two cats and then returning 24 hours later with shredded flesh and the maniac cat that terrorized us and our other cats all night. (Did I mention we changed his cozy little shelter name to HEATHCLIFF? -- they were not amused, I might add.)

I found a more HUMANE source and am living happily ever after with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. : )

Anonymous said...

I have a 70 acre farm. I have four cats buried in my flower garden who lived 18 to 23 years with me.
I went to adopt a kitten and was turned down because of too many pets past 5 years(8). I explained that 4 of the pet I have had in past 5 years died of old age. After that, they said one of my cats is three months behind on shots and after shots I must wait two weeks. I got the shot caught up and went back. I offered a $1000 dollar donation if they would let me adopt the kitten without waiting two weeks after catching up on shots. NO!! After two weeks I went back. They noted I had a dog..did I have a fenced yard? No. We won't let you have the kitten because you are an irresponsible dog owner. I sent my lifetime membership card past to the little Nazis in pieces.