I often try to remember back to when I adopted my first shelter dog. I was so uninformed and inexperienced back then. I had never adopted a dog before. I had absolutely no idea what to expect with an adult dog, especially not one who had a whole history behind her that I didn’t even know about. I probably made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions in those early days (I am sure of it).
What I didn’t know then, but know now is that for a rescue or shelter dog, the first few days and weeks in their new home are risky ones. They are at the mercy of their new human to make the right decisions for them. One mistake, and the dog could end up back at the shelter, or worse, euthanized for a serious mistake that could have been prevented if the human had made a different choice.
That last part is what I was thinking today when I read a story on my local station’s website – “Brainerd Woman Suffers ‘Serious’ Injuries from Dog Bite”. If what the dog owner said was true, and he actually did just adopt the dog who bit the woman in the story, then he just put his new dog’s life in danger. Most likely, when he and his dog are found, his dog will be quarantined, and then euthanized. One mistake. One life.
I don’t want make pet adoption seem so serious and dire, but it kind of is. We can make a lot of survivable mistakes with our newly adopted pets, but there are a few that could place their lives, and others, in danger. Knowing what not to do can be the difference between life and death.
Here are a few things NOT to do when you adopt a rescue or shelter dog.
- Take him to a pet store – A dog in a shelter environment is already stressed out. Taking him from one stressful place to another stressful place, with a complete stranger (yes, that would be you), is a recipe for disaster. A stressed dog may do things they might not do in a another time and place. I remember one dog that was adopted from our shelter and taken immediately to a pet store to purchase some things for him. He ended up biting a child and as a result, lost his life. I know another dog who was adopted right off the rescue transport and taken to a pet store. He escaped the car and was missing for several days. When he was found he was almost 20 miles away from where he was lost. It almost cost him his life. Luckily, a stranger came upon his dehydrated body and saved him.
- Take her to the dog park – Not only has your new dog not had a chance to bond with you, but even more importantly, she doesn’t even know you yet. I still remember a couple who brought their new dog straight from the animal shelter to the dog park and ended up spending a couple of hours trying to catch her. She might have been having a ball, but they were not. Luckily, their dog was not aggressive, but many people have brought an adopted dog to the dog park who was. To assume a dog you just adopted is not dog aggressive or will not harm another dog is not only naive, but dangerous. Get to know your dog before introducing her to other dogs and people. You may also want to work on training her to come when called before letting her off-leash in a dog park.
- Invite friends and family over to meet her right away – People often want to show off their new dog right after they adopt them, but this can be a huge mistake. Strangely enough, dogs are very much like us humans in that they need time to get settled into a new place. Imagine how overwhelmed you would feel if your new neighbors came over and started making themselves at home while you are still unpacking from the move. Pretty uncomfortable, right? So imagine being a dog and having complete strangers invade your space and touch you and get in your face when you haven’t even had a chance to get settled into your new home. Not fun. It’s also a recipe for disaster. One mistake, one dog bite later, and you may have a dead newly adopted dog.
- Let him off-leash in a public place – See #2 above. No, seriously, why would you let a dog you don’t know off-leash in an unconfined area? You don’t even know if he likes squirrels or people or other dogs. If you have a dog like Jasper (my Sheltie), then you might find out that he likes to herd runners and bikers and skateboarders and…. yeah, you get my point. Once you let a new dog off-leash, you have no control. Not only do you risk him getting lost, but you also risk being liable to the danger he might do to another person or dog (see the news story I mentioned above).
- Leave him out in your yard unattended – This one might sound silly, but I really cannot emphasize it enough – Do Not Leave Your New Dog Unattended In Your Backyard. The riskiest time for a new dog to become lost is in those first few days and weeks in a new home. Your new dog is probably stressed and scared and disoriented. One strange noise or sudden movement or scary incident and he can be gone in a flash, right over the fence. Being in the yard with him tells him he is not alone. It also ensure that he won’t have a chance to dig under a fence or look for an escape route, and if he does, you have an opportunity to redirect him before he makes it out.
Most rescue and shelter dogs are not there because they were bad dogs or had behavioral issues. Most are there because someone had to move or was going through a life change that required them to give up their pet. They need time to adjust to all the changes.
And while these dogs are awesome pets and companions, they also have the potential to bite if backed into a corner or placed in a stressful situation (every dog has the potential to bite when placed in a stressful position with no way out). It is up to us, as their new owners, to protect them. It is up to us to do right by them. Spend time getting to know your new dog, and let him get to know you too. Before introducing him to all the new wonderful things in your world, take the time to bond. You have time. You have the rest of your lives to do all those cool things you want to do together. Why rush it?
I’ve been stewing on this issue for some time now, but the recent outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago, and some of the recent stories I have heard about dogs transported here, has led me to believe it is time for Minnesota to regulate the transport of rescue dogs into our state.
I know it is odd for a rescue supporter and pet adoption advocate to suggest such a thing (I have no doubt it will be considered blasphemy by many local rescues), but I come at this as more than just a supporter of rescues. I come at this as a pet owner, an owner with senior dogs, dogs who have had recent health issues. I come at this as an owner who has seen rescues, acting in the best interest of the rescue dog, make critical but unintentional mistakes that have the potential to harm the dog populations that are already here.
From a lack of proper foster parent training and education to a lack of proper care for sick dogs with the potential to expose other dogs to illness, rescues have the potential to cause harm to existing populations of dogs in our state.
Just last month, a group of dogs were transported in from another state and placed in foster homes (after an urgent call went out for people to foster) with little being said about the health checks these dogs received before they were handed off to their new foster homes. I know that the situation was an emergency, and that rescues had little time to act, but I wonder if they gave any thought to what they might be transporting in with them before they drove them across state lines? Were the potential dangers considered beforehand? Did they get a full health assessment and blood workup done before they handed the dogs off to their foster homes?
More diligence must be taken, especially in light of hearing that the canine influenza was likely imported with a dog that came from China or South Korea and that Canine Brucellosis was recently transported into Calgary, Alberta, Canada via rescues in the southern U.S. and Mexico. I wholeheartedly support saving dogs, but we need to be more diligent. We need to be more thoughtful and plan ahead. We need to make sure we are not saving one dog while putting a whole population of resident dogs at risk.
In New England, the south to north dog transport (i.e., rescue transports from southern shelters to northern rescue groups) got so big that veterinarians became concerned. They started seeing more cases of parvo, rabies, heart disease and other dog diseases and parasites as a result of the dogs being brought into their states. Massachusetts was the first to implement laws around dogs being transported into their state, but others soon followed including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
To circumvent the Massachusetts regulations, officials say, some rescue groups simply told adopters to meet them over the border. New England was caught in a geographic game of Whac-a-Mole, trying to ensure that only healthy dogs were being transported by responsible rescues. Dr. Scott Marshall, the state veterinarian in Rhode Island, says that state saw parvo cases blossom from two or three each year into two or three each week in recent years before enacting regulations that mirror the Bay State’s. Today, all the New England states have rules. Boston Globe, May 12, 2013
The laws in New England require:
- Rescues register with the state
- Each animal have a health certificate that is signed by a veterinarian
- Imported animals be held in isolation for 48 hours in an approved facility to allow dogs to recover from the stress of travel so their health status can be more accurately assessed
- Must be examined by a vet after the 48 hour holding period
I know that implementing something similar in Minnesota will cause hardship for many rescues, at least initially, but I think it is necessary. Importing dogs from out-of-state is such a common event now that regulation is necessary. In the rush to save more dogs, some rescues are choosing to cut corners and worry about the health of the dog once they get here versus before. This is not to say that rescues are bad. They are not. They are in the business of saving dogs’ lives. Their heart is in the right place. But if we are to do it in a way that protects all dogs, both those in and out-of-state, we need to ensure that all groups are following protocols that ensures this is the case.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Massachusetts Animal Rescue and Shelter Regulations (initial Draft)
This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here: BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)
The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.
You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid. Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.
None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.
When foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?
All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.
As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.
Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.
Having a pet become lost can be so devastating. Whether it be a cat or a dog or a bird, the loss is still the same. The fear and the pain one feels is overpowering. Sometimes it can be difficult to act because we are so immobilized with fear.
There are so many things that can stand in the way of being reunited with a pet, but among them are:
- Not having your pet microchipped.
- Waiting to spread the word. Hoping that he/she will come back in an hour or two.
- Driving around the neighborhood instead of handing out flyers and getting the word out.
- Not calling the police, shelters and vet clinics in the area to alert them that your dog is missing.
If you live in St Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and you do not do any of the above, you STILL might be lucky enough to be reunited with your pet. Why? Because Minnesota has a five-day stray hold that requires pets be held at the animal shelter for at least five days to allow an owner to claim them.
And even if you don’t get them after the five-day hold, your pet may still survive because a rescue was able to take him in or the shelter was able to put him up for adoption.
But if you live in Chicago and your pet goes missing, you better hope and pray you have a lot of luck on your side. Why? Because Mayor Rahm Emanual, and the City Council did something pretty low down and dirty. They introduced, and passed, an ordinance to reduce the stray hold in Chicago from five days to three for dogs and zero days for cats.
YES, I said ZERO DAYS for CATS.
Not only did they reduce the stray hold time for dogs and cats, but they also reneged on their promise to do an information campaign to inform Chicagoans about the change. Thus, most Chicago pet owners have no idea that their lost pets could be killed before they even have a chance to find them.
And, if you have a cat? Good luck. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) will most likely have killed it by the time you start looking. Remember, cats have ZERO days to be saved.
So unless your pet is microchipped and you spread the word immediately that he or she is lost, you may never see your lost pet again. Ever.
Feeling a little pissed off? Good. Because I need you to let the mayor and his friends on the council know how you feel about them choosing to reduce the chances of an owner and their pet being reunited.
There is a petition posted on Change.Org demanding that the Mayor, the City Council and CACC revisit this resolution and reconsider the reduction in stray hold (Thank you Lost Dogs Illinois for the heads up!). They also demand the Mayor and City Council inform the citizens of Chicago about the change.
Let’s tell Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council what we think about them killing lost pets.
- Please sign the petition: Revisit the resolution reducing the stray hold for dogs and cats in the City of Chicago.
- Tweet the Mayor (@ChicagosMayor) and let him know what you think of his decision to sneak this ordinance change through the Budget Committee without informing the public of the change.
- Post your concern on Facebook on the Mayor’s home page.
- Spread the word so more people sign the petition and tweet the mayor. Share! Share! Share!
And one more thing, get you pet microchipped. NOW.
Don’t wait for CACC to tell you it’s too late and they already killed him.
Millennials, the group that is expected to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest generation this year.
And it’s not just the pet industry that is taking notice. Almost every major company inside and outside of the United States is doing the same thing. Why? Because unlike generations past, millennials have influence. It’s not just their sheer size (in numbers) that is powerful, but also their reach. Millennials are more socially connected and more socially influential than any other generation. They are also ethnically and racially diverse, well-connected, technically proficient, and early adopters. They are unlike any other generation that has preceded it. They are the movers and shakers who will be impacting our world for many years to come, much like the Baby Boomers did in previous years.
With a generation this large and influential, it only makes sense that they would impact the pet world as well.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently published a report on how millennials will change the way veterinarians do business. In “The Generation Factor: How the rise of the millennial generation could mean changes in the way veterinarians do business”, they laid out the differences between Baby Boomers, Gen Xer’s and Millenials, not only as clients but also as employees. The differences are quite distinct. For instance, the work ethic for Baby Boomers has to do with how many hours worked, while Gen Xer’s are about working smarter (not harder), and millennials are all about tasks completed and getting feedback and gaining consensus.
I am sure many animal welfare groups are taking notice, but I wonder if smaller, local shelters and rescues are as well? I hope they are because there is another reason that the pet industry is taking notice of the millennial generation – they think pet ownership is going to decline with them.
This means more competition between those who are selling pets and those who are adopting them out, and the adoption side may be facing an uphill battle.
Why? Because millennials are more likely to:
- Rent than to buy a home – This means more apartment and condo dwellers, the residences least likely to allow a pet.
- Move frequently – More than any other generation, which makes it harder to care for a pet long-term.
- Stay in college longer – Millennials have had a tough time in the job market due to the poor economy, so more are choosing to stay in college longer and get their masters degree or a doctorate. Owning a pet and going to college is also a possible deterrent.
- Be impulse buyers – They are less likely to wait and go through an extensive adoption process to get a pet.
- Purchase a pet from a pet store or breeder (including online) rather than adopt a pet from a rescue or a shelter – According to a recent survey by Best Friends Animal Society, by almost 50%.
- Believe that animals can safely stay in shelters until they are adopted – 38% of millennials vs. 28% of the total population.
No wonder the pet industry is worried.
All hope is not lost however, millennials are also more likely to get a pet earlier in their lives compared to boomers (21 years old vs. 29 years old), be single longer (and thus, may seek a pet for companionship), and are more civic-minded and more likely to get involved tomato a difference..
Rescue groups have an opportunity to make a difference now. If they are not doing so, they should start working to build a relationship with millennials in their community. Organizations need to be inclusionary and seek their input. They should also be open to new and innovative ideas on how to improve the organization, increase adoptions and connect with other millennials.
Other ways rescue groups and shelters can connect with millennials:
- Have a strong social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc.) and be actively engaged with followers.
- Make your website and social media platforms a place where millennials can get information and learn something new that can help both them and their pet. You need to be the online expert they go to when they want advice and support.
- Connect on a person-to-person basis. Two-way communication is important to them.
- Be open to texting and responding via social media platforms. Millennials are less likely to use email.
- Make what you provide, and what they are getting from you, is distinct and different. You want it to be share-worthy.
- Be more customer-service oriented. Millennials are individual social media companies of their own, so what they experience with you will be shared with their network of friends and family.
- Recognize their efforts frequently. Acknowledge the work done and the benefits experienced by the organization.
- Appeal to their desire to make a difference. Adopting a pet needs to be less a sob story and more of a motivator to do good.
Despite some of the concerns about pet adoption declining, rescue groups and shelters should be very excited about the impacts millennials can bring to the rescue community. Their innovative and creative ideas, combined with a dedication and desire to help, has the potential to make a real difference in animal rescue.
I know one millennial animal rescuer who is making a difference on a daily basis here in Minnesota. I am often in awe of her ability to motivate people and get them involved in rescue. She is well-connected, uses social media extensively and has saved more dogs and cats than anyone I know. She is a force to be reckoned with. Just imagine what could happen if we had 100 more people like her.
- Ad Campaigns Depicting Shelter Pets as “Damaged Goods” Are Misleading, healthypets.ricola.com, January 15, 2015.
- Best Friends Inaugural Pet Adoption Survey, Best Friends Animal Society, Nov 2012.
- Getting Some ‘Me’ Time: Why Millennials Are So Individualistic, npr.org, October 14, 2014.
- Half (47%) of US pet owners believe owning a pet is better for your social life than social networking sites, reports Mintel, PR Newswire, June 17, 2013.
- Many life milestones are out of millennials’ reach by Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post, Sept. 15, 2014.
- Millennials and Holiday Shopping, qSample Blog, Nov. 25, 2014.
- Most in U.S. Want Marriage, but Its Importance Has Dropped, Gallup.com, June 2013.
- Nearly Half Of Young Adults Prefer To Buy Pet Rather Than Adopt, Veterinary Practice News, April 26, 2013.
- Please Do Not Leave A Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail, npr.org, Nov. 2014.
- The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015, Deloitte.com, 2015.
- The Generation Factor: How the rise of the millennial generation could mean changes in the way veterinarians do business, AVMA, Nov. 1, 2014.
- The Millennial Pet Owner, PIJAC, by Nathan Richter, Wakefield Research.
- US Attitudes Toward Animals: HRC’s Animal Tracker- Year 7, Rump Dog Blog, August 4, 2014.
- Young Adults After the Recession: Fewer Homes, Fewer Cars, Less Debt, Pew Research Center, February 21, 2013.
My vet shared this wonderful video the other night and I just knew it had to be this week’s Favorite Friday video.
Neeners has to be one of the cutest pibbles I have ever seen. He also has the patience of a saint. I don’t know too many dogs who would don a toupee in the hopes it would find him his forever home, but he did.
I love his video, not only because Neeners is so darn adorable, but also because it shows how loved he is by the staff at San Francisco Animal Care and Control. I hope sharing his video it will get him a new home. 102+ days in a shelter is a long time.
Neeners you are one sexy beast, toupee or no toupee. Love you Neeners!
Update Jan 23, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.! Neeners was adopted last night! Yay!
Happy Friday everyone. Please share Neeners.
I know some of you will think this means that I have fallen in love with Maggie and just can’t bear to part with her, but that would be incorrect. Yes, I love her, but I have three dogs of my own and the reality is four is more than I can, or want, to handle on a permanent basis. So, I while I will be sad when she is adopted, I am okay with her finding a new home – as long as it is the “right” home.
The real reason my reaction was less than enthusiastic is because 1) I do not think Maggie is ready for a new home yet, and 2) because when it comes to puppy mill dogs like Maggie, I struggle with trusting that the potential adopter(s) truly understands what they are getting themselves into.
I have met people who think they are absolutely the right home for a puppy mill dog only to realize that they didn’t really get it. They had fallen in love with a face, a story, but not with the reality of what life is truly like with a mill dog. They didn’t understand that most puppy mill dogs don’t like to be touched (at least not at first) or that some may never be able to leave a yard to go for a walk. They didn’t get that calling the dog’s name and holding out a treat would not result in the dog running to them with a wagging tail. They didn’t quite get the potential “flight risk” of a mill dog. They thought love could fix all the dog’s fears when the reality is that love has little to do with helping a puppy mill dog. It’s good to have it, but more is required.
That is not to say that there aren’t people out there who DO get it. There are. I have met them as well. They are awesome and amazing people too, and I hope one of them finds Maggie and adopts her.
But, I also know of other dogs who came from Maggie’s puppy mill and who are now lost because someone did not understand the flight risk. I know of one that was sold on Craigslist because the adopter could not handle the dog they adopted (fortunately she ended up in the absolutely perfect home). And I know of another dog who now faces being returned, or euthanized, because the adopter was not told what she could expect adopting a puppy mill dog and she does not want to see her suffer.
Puppy mill dogs are special and they deserve a home and an adopter who gets it. I know from experience that adopting a mill dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences of one’s life, but I also know the time, patience, work and commitment are needed to help them thrive. Not everyone is cut out to for that kind of work, and that is okay, but I want Maggie’s adopters to understand the commitment involved and have the knowledge and support needed to ensure that they, and their dog, are successful.
Maggie (and I) are lucky Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR) gets it. I know they will make sure that Maggie lands in a home with an adopter who gets it too. They will make sure it is someone who understands the special needs of a puppy mill dog. They will also make sure the adopter is educated on flight risk and how to keep them safe. They will offer support and guidance, as needed, and will ensure that the adopter knows of the resources available to them (like Shy Sheltie Classes) and their dog. Maggie has what she needs to back her, and her adopter, up when the time comes and she is ready for her new home.
Not all puppy mill dogs have that chance. Not all rescues and shelters provide adopters of puppy mill dogs with the support and information they need to be able to help their dogs. I hope this will change with time. Debbie Jacobs, of FearfulDogs.com, just wrote about this in her blog post, “Should this dog be up for adoption?”
On Monday, I will be attending a Speaker’s Forum hosted by Animal Folks. The speaker is one of the premier experts on puppy mill dogs and the mental and emotional impacts puppy mills have on them. The speaker, Dr. Frank McMillan, is a board-certified specialist in veterinary internal medicine and the director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society (Utah). I am really excited to hear him speak, but I am also excited that both rescue groups and veterinarians will have a chance to learn more about the trauma these dogs suffer and how we can help them when they come into our care. It is my greatest hope that in the future puppy mill dogs will go into homes that are ready for them, and that they too, are ready for their new home.
I plan to share more about Dr. McMillan’s speech on my blog at a future date, and hopefully, some additional info on how we can all help puppy mill dogs.
In the meantime, here is the latest Maggie video. I share it with you to show you where Maggie is at when it comes to doorways. While Maggie has made great progress, she is still a very scared dog. She had been going through the door on her own all summer long, but then the snow came and she got spooked. Since then she has had a hard time with it again.
I have been using the long line to catch her. Without it I would not have a chance . I have been outside as long as 40 minutes, just trying to herd her inside. With the long line, she is less fearful and follows me inside easily. I reward her with treats immediately so that she knows going inside means good things. I am hoping that we can work more on doorways so she feels safe enough to go through them again. Cross your fingers!