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The PetSmart Charities Report on Homeless Pets is out. Have you read it?

October 23, 2014 3 comments

Woman Watching Television with DogRecently, PetSmart Charities came out with its 2014 U.S. Shelter Pet Report. The news is encouraging on some fronts and not so much on others.

Overwhelmingly, the message is more education is needed. People still underestimate the number of homeless pets that exist in our society and do not know about breed-specific rescue groups.

For those of us involved in rescue, it can be hard to believe, but every day I come across folks who have no idea what a puppy mill is, so how can I expect them to understand the pet population issue?

More work to educate the public is definitely needed.

Here is a brief synopsis of the report. I really do encourage you to take a look at the whole report (it’s a very quick and easy read).

  • Pet ownership is on the rise – 81% of households now have a pet. (This was 63% in 2009.)
  • 46% of people surveyed consider the homeless pet situation to be very important to them. So much so that 10% have donated their time, 30% have donated money or goods, and 14% have provided another form of support. That leaves 55% who have not gotten involved, but that is actually an encouraging number too. This used to be a much higher number.
  • Pet adoption is becoming a more popular option for many people (66%) vs a few years ago (in 2011, it was 58%).
  • No surprises here, but 25% of people still choose to purchase their pets. They like rescue groups and they like getting a pet that is already spayed or neutered, but they still prefer to purchase.
  • Another unsurprising result? Many people don’t prepare for their new pet (impulse buy?). 40% said they did not prepare ahead of time for their pet. Only 25% researched online.
  • Encouraging news – People hold a high opinion of rescues and shelters.
  • Cats appear to be the big losers when it comes to homelessness though. 27% who said they would consider adoption would not get a cat.
  • When it came to why people did not adopt? The top two reasons were the shelter or rescue group did not have the cat or dog they were looking for or they wanted a purebred dog. [Can anyone remember what Ed Sayres said he would be focusing on when he announced he was joining the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)? Anyone? "I am especially interested in the challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale..."]. More awareness is needed to show people the number of breed-specific rescue organizations there are around the country.
  • There is still a stigma against shelter pets and animals from rescue organizations. People assume they are sick or have behavioral issues. More education is needed to help people understand that the majority of pets in shelters and rescue groups ended up there because of divorce, home loss, family change or getting lost from their original family.
  • Shockingly, 85%of people underestimate the number of pets euthanized annually. 
  • The good news is 86% of pets are spayed or neutered. This is the highest number yet.

As I said, there is more work to be done. Now the question is… how?

Puppy mill dogs – Building a community is important

September 25, 2014 8 comments
Untitled

Puppy mill dogs do better in a home with another stable or “normal” dog and adopters benefit too!

Over the past week, I have inadvertently ended up in discussions with two different co-workers about puppy mill dogs. Each shared their experiences with adopting a puppy mill dog themselves. They shared what they had done/not done to work with their dogs and how the dog was doing now. The outcomes were very different and I suspect that this was directly related to their experiece with dogs and with the support structure they had around them.

One co-worker was an experienced dog owner who had trained dogs previously and had a lot of dog training knowledge, and access to a lot of other experienced dog people. The other did not seem to have a lot of experience or an extensive support network and struggled with helping her puppy mill dog along, eventually euthanizing him because of his biting behavior.

Both examples were great reminders to me about how important it is that those of us who have experience  share our stories with others. Not only share our stories, but also work to build a community where puppy mill owners can share their struggles and victories, and learn how to manage their dogs in day-to-day life. From personal experience, I can tell you that a support network can really help when working with a puppy mill dog. It also makes the process a little less overwhelming.

Dr Frank McMillan of Best Friends Animal Society recently collected data from the foster parents and owners of puppy mill dogs to better understand what works or doesn’t work (Understanding and Caring for Rescued Puppy Mill Dogs).

One of his findings was how much owners can be impacted in the process. Being the owner of a puppy mill dog, when there are no other  dogs in the home, can be frustrating, discouraging, and even disappointing.

In many cases, there is no connection between you and the dog (this is especially true in the early days). The normal behaviors and interactions one expects when getting a dog is not there. There is no wagging tail or happy face or cuddling on the couch. It takes time to build a relationship with a puppy mill dog, and it is even harder when they don’t have another dog to look to for guidance on how to “be” a dog. I can personally attest to this. When I lost my dog, Aspen, I felt very much alone, even though Daisy was there with me.

Maggie searches for treats and finds them! #picstitch #puppymilldog

Maggie is making progress with nose work games.

Even the most wonderful adoptive dog parent will get down and depressed under such circumstances. Having a community to go to during those tough times is necessary. Building a community of people who can support and encourage one another and offer ideas about what worked or didn’t work is so vital. One community worth checking out is the Fearful Dogs group on Facebook. It is a great resource for dog owners with fearful dogs. There is guidance on how to desensitize and counter condition your fearful dog, progress updates on dogs who have struggled, encouragement and advice. It is a support structure that I am sure many a puppy mill dog owner has taken advantage of, but if you have not, please do so. You will find it very valuable.

Even as we work to build that community, we know now (based on Dr. McMillan’s study) that puppy mill dogs are nor are they viewed as a burden by those who adopt them.

When asked if they would adopt another puppy mill dog (after their experience with their current puppy mill dog), adopters overwhelmingly responded Yes (95%!).

When it came to recommending the adoption of a puppy mill dog to others, 53% said Yes, 45% said Maybe and less than 5% said No. (I think this makes sense. Not everyone is suited for a puppy mill dog. Maybe they do not have the experience, time or energy to work with one or they just aren’t looking for a challenging dog.)

Even more encouraging however is how puppy mill dog adopters responded to the question around satisfaction levels. When asked their level of satisfaction for having adopted a puppy mill dog, respondents overwhelmingly said they were extremely satisfied. In fact, 91% said so (7% answered moderately satisfied, 1% slightly satisfied and 1%not satisfied). This is wonderful news. It means that even without a suypport network, puppy mill dogs and their owners are managing to have a connection that is valuable and satisfying.

I wonder how much more this would be the case if they had a support network?

Something to think about for the future. :)

A puppy break for Minneapolis workers

August 1, 2014 5 comments

On Thursday, a friend emailed me to see if I wanted to join her for a walk to go see some puppies on my lunch hour. My Scooby senses tingled. Puppies? Ummmm….YES!!!!

She sent me this article (“Downtown workers take a break to pet puppies.”)talking about the event held the week before and the one my friend and I were planning to attend that day. Dog trainer, Jody Karow from Dog Sense Unleashed, and the staff and foster moms and dads from Safe Hands Rescue, were working together to give workers the chance to escape the workday stress and hang out with some rescue dogs.

It was quite the event. So many people stopped by just to have the chance to meet the dog and cuddle with a puppy. I was happy to reconnect with Jody and get the chance to meet some really great dogs. Here are just a few of the pictures I took of the gathering and the people and dogs we met. Make sure you check out Safe Hands’ video (below) of the fun had by all who came to Peavey Plaza. It will give you a smile.

Minneapolis workers enjoy some@downtime with the dogs

Minneapolis workers enjoy some downtime with the dogs

Just a baby. Bet he gets adopted by the end of the weekend.

Just a baby. Bet he gets adopted by the end of the weekend.

Happy faces. Cute puppies.

Happy faces. Cute puppies.

Puppies making workers happy. #minneapolis #rescue

Puppies making Minneapolis workers happy.

Enjoying the puppies in downtown Minneapolis #rescue #lunchbreak

Enjoying the puppies in downtown Minneapolis.

Well hello there! How are you stranger?

Well hello there! How are you stranger?

A little love from a dog with Safe Hands Rescue

A little love from a dog with Safe Hands Rescue

I think this says it all. Everyone loves a puppy during a work lunchbreak. #minneapolis #rescue

I think this says it all. Everyone loves some puppy time during a lunch break.

Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

April 23, 2014 22 comments

Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.

I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.

I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.

This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Meet Jenny. Sad Looking Chocolate Lab
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.

Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.

 

As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):

 

As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…

 

 

Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?

So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Understanding Jane’s dog body language – What do you see?

April 20, 2014 9 comments

It’s been a while since I’ve done a dog body language post. I love doing them, not only for me (because I learn just as much as you from them), but also because I think they are a great way to remind us all that watching is not the same as seeing, REALLY SEEING. Dogs are communicating with us nearly all the time, we just don’t always see it.

I asked my friend Julie if I could share this video she made of a stray dog that she was assessing for a rescue group. I thought it was a great example of dog body language.

Like all my past posts on dog body language, I ask you to focus on the behavior displayed and less on your interpretation what Jane is feeling.

Focus on the specifics of her behavior. Where are her feet? Her head? Her tail? What movements does Jane make? What facial movements does she make? How is her body turned? All of these things mean something, but it takes seeing them first. As always, I have listed my own observations and interpretation below.  (You’ll first see Jane about 50 seconds into the video.)

 Due to length of the video, I chose to observe the first 3 minutes and 14 seconds of the video and the last-minute and 10 seconds. Feel free to watch the whole video, and Jane’s body language with the other dog in the video, and share your observations.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to share.

My observations of Jane:

In first 3 seconds of the video…

  • Head is down
  • Ducks down and away from Julie as leans towards her
  • Tail is tucked

First 3 minutes and 14 seconds

  • Ears move to back of head
  • Tail is tucked
  • Head is lower than shoulders
  • Turns head towards Julie as she pets her head and then away again
  • Stiff body
  • Back legs are back behind her body (instead of under)
  • Glances at Julie as she speaks to her
  • Looks immediately away when Julie pats her legs with her hands
  • Head is down
  • Mouth is drawn tight
  • Moves front of body away from lady
  • Jane glances furtively around – at Julie and possibly someone else in the room
  • Ears move alternately between perked to back on her head
  • Moves body further away, as far as the leash will go
  • Lip lick as Julie runs hand along top of back and rump
  • Looks back at Julie when she says “treat” and then does a lip lick
  • When Julie stands up and  moves forward to get a treat, Jane takes a step forward with her
  • Jane watches the hand with treat
  • Ears are back
  • She sits as far away as possible after being requested to sit 2 times
  • Stands and takes treat
  • Chews treat at a distance from Julie
  • Tail is tucked
  • Leans forward at “Good girl”
  • Julie says “Come here” and pats legs
  • Jane turns heads towards her butt then stops and turns head back towards Julie
  • Moves a step forward and closer to Julie
  • Julie pets her head and neck
  • she lowers head and lip licks several times
  • Jane looks away a couple of times
  • Ears at back of head
  • Looks at something in the room or towards a sound
  • Tail a little less tucked
  • Turns head towards Julie for only a second and swings other way towards window
  • Ears move between forward and perked to back on her head
  • Turns head towards Julie when she says something and leans back slightly when she pets her head
  • Tail is tucked
  • Body appears stiff
  • Leans back and away as Julie lifts her lip flaps
  • Body appears smaller and tighter
  • Lip lick
  • Head is lower and even with shoulders
  • Lip lick
  • Head lowers further
  • Jane glances up at Julie from a lowered position
  • Her head twists sideways and up and back with snout facing ceiling
  • Her head turns sideways
  • Ears are way back on her head
  • Tail is tucked under tightly
  • Body is stiff and tight
  • Head stays turned to the side and away from Julie as she pets the side of her face
  • Head turns away from window and Julie and moves further away from her hand
  • Lip lick
  • Nervous glance at woman and then away towards window
  • She is led forward
  • Glances nervously at woman and away
  • Ears on back of her head as Julie touches her leg and lifts her foot
  • Glances quickly at Julie
  • Tail is tightly tucked
  • Mouth is tightly drawn
  • Glances at Julie a few times
  • Lip lick as Julie stands
  • Turns head towards her rump as Julie touches her there
  • Blinks several times
  • Ears back on head
  • Lip licks
  • Pulls away as woman leans over her body and lifts her opposite foot
  • Lip lick
  • Tucks body in tighter
  • When Julie moves away to sit down, Jane turns head all the way back towards her back-end
  • Moves head and body sideways to Julie
  • Turns head back towards Julie and moves it closer to her
  • Julie  stands and Jane lip licks and appears to pant
  • Stops and turns head towards back-end as Julie scratches and pats her butt
  • Turns body completely away and around

Last minute and 10 seconds

  • Jane is now at the furthest distance from Julie as the leash will allow
  • She looks towards the door
  • Ears are perked and forward
  • She turns back towards Julie when called
  • Panting
  • She turns her body towards Julie and then away as she circles around and back
  • There is a sound and Jane turns towards it
  • Her body appears taller and head is up
  • Ears are forward
  • Tails is wagging
  • Body looks more relaxed
  • She turns back toward Julie readily and then looks back at the noises off camera
  • Tail wags
  • Turns back towards Julie and lip licks as she scratches her butt
  • Tail wags quick and low
  • A couple of lip licks
  • Body appears to be more relaxed
  • Head is further away than back-end, but body appears relaxed
  • Turns back towards Julie as she pats and scratches her butt
  • Panting
  • Loose body
  • Turns back towards Julie and nudges her
  • Tail wagging
  • Engaged, tail wagging
  • Ears perked, looks towards door and noises off camera
  • Body and head are taller and appear more relaxed
  • Appears more engaged with Julie and looks back to her often

My summation: The lip licks, tucked tail and creation of distance at the beginning of the video are all signs that Jane is nervous and uncomfortable. She tries to put as much distance as she can from Julie. She is not comfortable being touched, but is very tolerant of it, even though she is extremely uncomfortable. She tries to disengage, but she is not fearful enough to be shut down since she is able to take a treat. I thought she was an extremely tolerant dog, especially when Julie touched her feet and legs.  At the end of the video, Jane is much more relaxed and engaged. She seems to enjoy the butt scratches much more at the end of the video than she did at the beginning. Her body appears to be much more relaxed and loose. She turns readily towards Julie and is intrigued by her environment. She even appears to turn back for more butt scratches.

Jane seems to be a very nice dog. I am so glad she made it into a no-kill shelter. I hope she finds her new home soon.

Dog Adopters: Stop focusing on that picture and focus on the match

March 1, 2014 28 comments

Sad Looking Chocolate LabIn a Suzanne Clothier seminar I attended last year, she shared a video of the first meeting between a man and a dog he wanted to adopt. She asked us to watch the dog’s body language as the man interacted with him.

It was pretty clear throughout the video that the dog was uncomfortable with the man’s interactions with him. The dog wanted more space, the man wanted less. The dog was happy to sit at his feet, the man wanted him to sit right next to him. The dog wasn’t into hugs, the man wanted to snuggle and hug away.

It was evident that the needs of dog and man did not match. They were incompatible. But, as Suzanne shared later, the man was still set on getting the dog. He couldn’t see that they weren’t a match because he had already fallen in love with the dog’s picture. He had already envisioned his life with this dog. It never occurred to him that the dog in the picture might not be a match for him or his lifestyle.

Fortunately, Suzanne and staff were eventually able to convince him not to adopt the dog, but from what she said, not without some serious convincing.

I experienced something similar recently.

Like the situation I mentioned above, the potential adopter (a great candidate!) had fallen in love with the dog she had seen in a picture. In her mind, she had saw them going on walks and visiting friends. She wanted a dog that would cuddle and be silly and play with her.

What she wanted a normal, well-socialized dog.

Man and Dog Lying on FloorUnfortunately, she had fallen in love with a picture of a former puppy mill dog. This was a dog who had never been on a walk on a leash before, who still had to be caught or herded inside the house, a dog that was a huge flight risk and not likely to socialize with strangers very easily. Definitely a mis-match.

It took some convincing, but eventually the adopter was able to see that the life she had envisioned with this dog would not be the life she would get. Changing the image of what she had in her head with a more realistic one allowed her to see that it was not a match. Reluctantly, she made the decision not to adopt that particular dog. A good decision in my opinion. Shortly after this she did find the “right” dog, a dog who was a much better match and I hear that both are very happy together.

I share these stories because I think there is a lesson here for all of us. The lesson is not to stop taking adorable pictures of adoptable dogs. (I am all for taking better pictures of dogs to help get them adopted – the cuter, the better in my book.) It is a reminder that a picture is only the first step. It is a way to get you interested in a dog. It is not, however, a good indication of how the dog will fit into your family or your lifestyle. Understanding the dog’s personality and preferences are just as important as understanding your own.

Yes. Fall in love with that picture, but then spend the time getting to know the dog and find out whether the dog’s personality and preferences really match your own. Is the dog too active for your lifestyle? Or are they not active enough? Does the dog prefer to cuddle with you or not? And, is that okay with you? Does a dog like other dogs or does he prefer to be an only? If adopters and rescuers spent more time asking themselves and their adopters these questions, I think the chances of a good match would increase. After all, isn’t the goal here to save a dog and help a human?

Minneapolis Care and Control decides to protect image vs. saving dogs

November 7, 2013 13 comments
Romeo - featured on the Friends of MACC Facebook page

Romeo – featured on the Friends of MACC Facebook page

Politicians and local city governments often have two things in common – an inability to live in truth and a thin skin.

Okay, maybe I’m making a sweeping generalization by saying that but sometimes I have to wonder. Who are they protecting? And, who do they think they are fooling?

For over a year, I have watched as dogs in the care of Minneapolis Care and Control (MACC) were posted on the Friends of Minneapolis Care and Control (Friends of MACC)page. These dogs, many on death row because they were labeled a pit bull or bully breed of some sort, were shared in attempt to find them a home or so a rescue could take them in until they could be adopted. Many dogs were saved because of this page especially the pit bulls and bully breeds (since MACC doesn’t allow them to be adopted out directly from their facility). I watched as people networked to save animals on this page. I cheered when a rescue stepped up to save one of the death row dogs, who was not facing death for behavioral issues, but simply because it “looked” like a pit bull.

But now it seems that MACC has decided that the Friends of Minneapolis Care and Control Facebook page just wasn’t cutting it. They needed a better avenue to showcase their dogs – their very own website.

Hmmm.. let’s take a look at their website, shall we?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.44.57 AM

The website pictures are of a wonderful quality aren’t they? The information so helpful. It’s amazing that the Facebook page succeeded when a such a wonderful website could do so much more.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.46.24 AM

Yes. I can SEE how much better the website is when compared with the Friends of MACC Facebook page.

MACC also has a much better option for social media sharing (rather than the one created by Friends of MACC). Oh yes, it’s the city’s own general Facebook page.

Hmmmm….. Yes. I can see how dogs and cats in your care will be so much better off being promoted on the city’s FB page.
Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 2.03.56 AM

They aren’t likely to get lost in all the other city business being posted on that page are they? So much better than the  Friends of MACC page. Don’t you think?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.47.43 AM

C’mon. Who do they think they are fooling?

Let’s be honest, neither the website nor using the city’s Facebook page are great options for the dogs and cats at MACC. Neither does a great job at promoting the animals in their care or in making their animals look more appealing to a potential adopter.

Most shelters and rescues know that it’s how a pet is promoted and featured that helps them get adopted. Good pictures and a little history on the dog or cat can make a huge difference in finding them a new home.

“Each year, millions of pets die for the simple reason that they do not have a home,” says Jennifer Whaley of Fetch Portraits. “Good pictures go a long way to help save the lives of these pets and move them out of high kill shelters or out of no kill shelters, which opens up space for more pets. Good technology, photos and networking will go a long way to change the statistics.”

MACC’s new policy doesn’t do any of these things.

The Friends of MACC Facebook page not only promoted the animals that needed saving in a way that made people want to help and take action, but they also acknowledged the passing of those who didn’t make it. And, they did so honorably.

MACC’s decision to stop the postings on the Friends of MACC Facebook page is really more about saving face, protecting their image, and hiding the fact that yes, they do in fact kill animals. Period. It’s not about the animals, it’s about them. It’s not about saving lives, it’s about saving their image. 

I’m just not sure that’s even possible now.

There are two sayings that I love because I think they pack a powerful message. The first comes from radio host, Ian Punett:

“Hypocrisy waits silently for us all.”

The second is one I have heard said in a variety of ways, but essentially it boils down to this:

Live in your truth, whatever that may be.

Here is my message to MACC:

 If you are killing dogs and don’t like that people are upset, then stop doing it. If your policy is to kill dogs and you don’t plan to stop or change that policy, then own it. It is your truth, whether you like it or not.

If you REALLY cared for the dogs and cats you take in, you would allow them to be shared on the Friends of MACC Facebook page because (as anyone in rescue can tell you) it works. Their pictures and more detailed information gets dogs into foster homes and eventually, into their forever homes.

To claim that your website can do a better job or that posting them on the city’s main Facebook page will be a better option for these pets is a lie. Don’t punish the dogs by removing them from Facebook and…

Live in your truth or change it.

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