This post is in honor of Petfinder.com’s “Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week” – which starts on Saturday, Sept. 17th and goes through the 25th.
The special week is devoted to giving those pets who are often overlooked at shelters and rescue groups for whatever reason a better chance at finding homes, no matter the reason — they’re old, the wrong breed, have special needs, or are simply different or the wrong color. Big black dogs. FIV+ cats. Senior pets. Special-needs animals. Many factors can make a pet seem “less adoptable.” So to promote these unusual (or, in some cases, too common) animals, Petfinder has designated Sept. 17-25, 2011, as “Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week.”
Petfinder.com is doing some special things to pay tribute to this week. Here’s a main hub page of all the stories being done; and here’s a Photo Gallery of some four-legged friends who are having a tough time finding a home. You can also see the Facebook page, which will be filled with messages and blog posts and pictures and fun stories.
I have a special place in my heart for these types of pets. Many times when I visit my favorite local shelter – the Friendship APL – my Mother and I talk about how we would take all the kitties over age 8 or 10 and bring them home since it seems that about 75% of adopters there want kittens or cats under the age of 2 (statistic from Executive Director of the shelter).
And this brings me to a story that I wrote a LONG time ago for a different publisher about this issue.
Many people think animal rescues or “shelter pets” – as Mike Arms of Helen Woodward Animal Center has said — are places (or things) where the pets are banged up, imperfect, unwanted. And some of them are. The word shelter has come to have a negative and ill-perceived undertone in today’s world. But in reality, rescue pets end up being the best kind to have because their little souls have seen so much in life that they would do anything to make you happy and to be loved in return.
How do I know? Because I’ve had rescue pets for my entire life – for 30 years. Too many cats to count and about five dogs. Plus we’ve fostered feral cats, indoor cats, and puppy mill Basset Hounds — who are the most injured and damaged of the injured and damaged…
And I happen to have a few friends in animal rescue because of the work I do locally and at a state level with animal welfare groups.
Running an animal rescue is hard work. And it’s not for the faint of heart. Most rescues are funded by donations only and are run on a volunteer basis. If not for the big wide open hearts and equally large open wallets of people who run and volunteer at these facilities and give in-kind with time and consistently donate money, hundreds of thousands more pets would die each year.
My well-respected friend, Amy Weitzel, is the Founder of Multiple Breed Rescue (MBR) in Elyria, Ohio. For years she actually ran TWO rescues – one was a state breed rescue. Now she focuses on one — MBR from her personal home and farm. This is one of the most sensible things she ever said to me:
“If you are willing to find the RIGHT dog and not just the first dog you see then the puppy mills and backyard breeders would not exist,” Amy said.
That’s the whole reason she got involved. She bought a cute little Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) from a pet store awhile back. She was uneducated about the process, and was horrified after she researched where the puppy really came from.
“Do you know not ONE pet store clerk asked if I had experience with JRT’s? Not one pet store clerk asked if I had any other dogs. Did you know female JRT’s do not get along with other female dogs 90% of the time?” Amy recounted. “Not one person said a thing. I was some young kid with a credit card. Heck they didn’t even ask me how old I was.”
Pet stores, puppy mill stock sellers (Internet breeders) and backyard breeders don’t care about the dogs themselves, they care about making money off of them…they care about churning out litter after litter to make the big bucks off the parents.
And as Amy so eloquently put it, we are in a society of “I want it now…” hence the reason pet stores are so successful.
Therein lays one of the challenges of running a dog rescue or a shelter.
“Adopting a pet takes a little effort. You have to find a pet that interests you, complete an application, meet the dog, etc.,” Amy said. “All of this takes time. Usually a week or two. People don’t want to wait that long. Unfortunately our society treats dogs like they treat a new CD that was just released. GOT TO HAVE IT NOW. Go to the store, buy it and when they get bored with it throw it away and get a new one.”
Thus Amy began her crusade to save animals from untimely deaths. It’s not an easy job. She doesn’t get paid. She doesn’t get reimbursed in any way. Most of the time she ends up in the red. Many times she spends tons of money to recuperate the dogs, have them spayed/neutered, get them their shots, only to have a potential adopter rudely scoff at her $100-$200 adoption fee. And remember – Amy travels around Northeast Ohio pounds taking the MOST UNWANTED and most “UNADOPTABLE” dogs they have. She doesn’t take the cute puppies; she doesn’t take the purebreds; she doesn’t take the ones with no health problems. She takes the “tough to take” ones.
“Normal adoption fee is between $100 for a dog I get in that is already fixed and $200 for a dog that I had to get everything done and pay a pull fee for,” Amy said. A pull fee is a fee that pounds charge Amy to save a dog that is on death row. Yes, they actually charge her to save a dog’s life. “If it is in an older dog and even though I have a lot of money into the dog I will adopt it out for $100. I might have put $300 into the dog but it is 10-years-old. I am just lucky to find it a home.”
That’s the whole purpose of Amy’s Multiple Breed Rescue – to help all the “mutts” and all the “hard to adopt” dogs from the shelters.
“When I say ‘hard to adopt dogs’ I am speaking of the dogs that might require more medical attention due to skin allergies, broken bones, eye infections, etc. or dogs that are older and black – the most common in all shelters” she said. “There are rescues out there that, although I think they do a great job, stick to the easy to place dogs, leaving the dogs that really need help at the shelters to die. I personally like to take the leftovers, the dogs no one looks at twice, they usually turn out to be the best dogs!”
Amy placed about 183 dogs in loving, forever homes in 2010. She saved 183 lives. All in all, since the start in 2005, she has saved a whopping 730 dogs. This is a one-woman show, keep in mind. Yes, she has foster families and tons of volunteers, but she started out of the goodness of her heart when she realized the “less adoptables” being skipped over. Amy now takes in anywhere from two to 20 dogs a month, depending on how much space she has in her home and in foster homes. (The majority of the dogs stay at her home and large farm.)
Amy has adoption events at places like PetSmart and local festivals and stuff every month and has a whole slew of volunteers and caring foster parents who help her.
She thinks the biggest hurdle is getting the word out about adopting. It’s hard to educate people about adoption because they either don’t listen or don’t care. (I can’t say that I argue with her. Many of my regular readers know how strongly I feel about this.)
“Animal rescue isn’t a moneymaking business so it isn’t like we have money to spend on advertising. Most of the media don’t care about pet adoption because again, it isn’t a moneymaker,” Amy said. “I dream about having billboards and large newspaper ads with statistics and facts about the pet overpopulation problem and about the adoption option vs. the pet store or backyard breeder advertising in the newspaper, on the Internet or on the telephone poll.”
Don’t we all?
The "Less Adoptable" Liz: See Her Description at the Bottom
All of this brings me to my main point: pet adoption is really the only viable option there is. Even if you want a purebred dog, go to that breed’s local rescue chapter and save one’s life. You can find any breed rescue in any state on Petfinder.com. You can find any dog or cat that you want on Petfinder.com. And if you want the animal bad enough – you’ll figure the ways and means out.
But please, first consider one of the less adoptable ones. Consider what they might have been through in life already. Consider what they’ve seen and felt and heard. Consider how long they may have been in a cage. Consider the raw emotions they must have – although animals are masters of disguise and stronger than all humans in terms of emotional strength. For once, consider adopting a less adoptable pet. They have so much to give (I can tell you from personal experience.) They just want to be loved and I GUARANTEE that they will give you all that you need or expect and more in return.
And remember: every time you buy a dog from a pet store, another dog dies in a shelter somewhere.
To follow Amy’s everyday life, visit her dog rescue blog, A Dog Rescuers Life.
Click here for a picture gallery of Petfinder’s Less Adoptable Pets.
“Saving just one pet won’t change the world… but, surely, the world willchange for that one pet…” (courtesy Petfinder associate)
Pictured: Liz, beautiful black & white Persian mix with luxurious fur. She is a lap cat who needs a quiet home without other cats. If she is displeased, she may poop just outside the box, a problem that can easily be remedied. Check Maumelle Friends of the Animals for more information about her!