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Purrspectives: What I Wish Everyone Knew About Open Adoptions

Don’t worry, we’re not giving them away like free ice cream cones on a hot summer day. I mean, our kittens are super cool, everyone should get one, and it’s definitely hot outside, but they won’t melt, so we don’t rush the process.

Our organization was set in motion to change the way the community thinks about animals in order to lessen intake at local shelters and empower every person to make a difference. The number one thing I said from the beginning was that we would "never take in animals."

We offered transport services, medical care, and marketing that first year of business. This was our way of not actually intaking animals, but just assisting to get them out faster. The problem was the view from our organization taking these animals in from death’s door and getting them to safety was not actually getting them into homes faster. It was very short-sighted in order to get them out of the shelter. We weren’t assisting the rescue organizations with the animal while they were in their care, so it seemed like the animal went there to live, and stay. Yeah, they were alive, but were they living?

Most rescue organizations have a view that all animals need perfection in their homes. They need someone home most of the day, all the other animals in their house fixed/vaccinated, vet references, etc. They will do multiple home visits before allowing the animal to live there and even follow-up home visits to check-in. But why?

Reputable rescue organizations provide animals who are fixed, vaccinated, and microchipped at the very least. This means the animal has a low chance of contracting an illness from any animal it comes into contact with, a great chance of getting back home quickly, and zero chance of creating offspring. I want every home to have animals like this in them!

Just a few of the beautiful forever families our animals have found over the years.

Home visits are the oddest thing to me. When someone has to put their address down on paper for an animal they wish to adopt and hand it to a complete stranger, they are already opening their home to you. The amount of information you can gain from a person’s home address online is ridiculous. I can tell you who owns the home, the value, when they purchased it, who their neighbors are, what color house it is, and probably name a few of their family members. Pair that up with their name and email address and now I can go on their social media and figure out half their friends, whether they have pets/children, and probably find a few photos which have a background of the inside of their home. I’m an incredibly good stalker. Remember this when you adopt from us. I probably know more about you than a home visit will ever tell me. We all clean when company is coming over. What is stopping people from hiding half their household, putting on clean clothes, and lying to your face when you arrive?

People who want to adopt an animal are ‘good’ people. Our job isn’t to judge what kind of person they are and what kind of house they live in, it’s to find the best match for the animal we promised the best outcome to.

Typical Adoption Application Questions (With Real Applicant Responses):

Do you have a fenced-in yard? No

Which vet do you use? I don’t have one

Please tell us your income level: $600/month

Have you ever given an animal up to a shelter? Yes

Have you moved in the past two years? Yes

If so, how many times? 6

How old are you? 20

Are the other pets in your household fixed and up to date on vaccinations? No. But they’re not mine.

Does your landlord allow pets? No

May we contact them? No

Name: Brandi

Yup. That was me when I adopted my cat, Siouxsie.

Would you have adopted to that girl 16 years ago? Don’t lie.

My cat is 16 years old. I got her from a friend who let his cat have kittens. I didn’t know much about overpopulation at the time. I was there the day she was born and picked her right up with my bare hands and it never crossed my mind that the mom wouldn’t take them back (this is a myth people believe). When she was 8 weeks old, she was adopted by a friend who I happened to move in with a few months later. This is where she chose me as her person. When I left that house, she came with me. She was fixed at 6 months old and declawed while she was under for that surgery. I lost my home in Hurricane Ivan and had to move in with my parents who did not like cats. The only way I was allowed to keep her was to have her fixed and declawed. Otherwise, my all-black cat would have to be dumped at the animal shelter. I made a choice to keep my girl. I don’t regret my decision in the least. She had an excellent vet charge me almost a thousand dollars to spay and declaw her. At 16 years old she is still a wonderful and friendly cat with no health issues and puts up with my children constantly toting her around. She uses the automatic litter box with crystals as if it’s her personal maid coming to clean her deposits. She admires the maid and stands by to allow it to work moments after she leaves her precious gifts.

Siouxsie, the cat from Brandi's story.

My cat has gotten outdoors when a roommate left the door open for the day. Never got lost, just hung out under the trailer. She came right back in when I frantically yelled at her. Siouxsie was with me during a time when I became homeless and floated couch to couch in search of a job that paid enough to allow me to keep a roof over our heads. She stayed alongside me when I lived in multiple rentals which explicitly did not allow pets. I have paid deposits that were absurd in order to keep her in the rentals which did allow for pets. She has never had a litter of kittens and never acts like I took this ‘experience’ from her. She didn’t hate me after her spay. She knows her name and comes when I call her (or flicks her tail when she hears her name and chooses not to come). She’s not always up to date on her vaccinations because I honestly forget sometimes. She will beat the crap out of you with her back claws-of-death if you hold her against her will. She wears her collar 24/7 which proudly displays her ID and rabies tag. She is microchipped and she has never even thought of going outside since the day I lost it on her under the trailer. She gets brushed at least once a week but prefers to do it herself. Her responsibilities include making sure the dogs know she’s in charge, banging on the doors when someone forgets to leave them cracked, and reminding me that foster kittens are temporary and this is why she allows their presence.

Siouxsie has been with me for 16 years. I was a dumb, spontaneous, broke girl when this cat came into my life. She has peed on more carpets, due to my placement of her litter box not being pre-approved or her mood just being ‘displeased’, than I can count. The thought of giving her up has never crossed my mind.

The point of my personal story-share is that most of the information we choose to gather to give these animals the best outcome possible is invalid when you have no idea what the future holds. What we have to do is stop and consider the animal, where they came from, and have a great conversation with the potential adopters. Figure out what the animal needs, and what they couldn’t possibly do without, and go from there.

There’s no amount of money, space, or history that a person could provide in order to prove they’re the perfect choice. Pets have no idea what our income is, appreciate any space you’re in (especially if it’s larger than a shelter kennel), and don’t care about your past. I can add, from personal experience, a pet can change you like a child can. You may do things you never thought in order to keep them safe and with you forever.

If you think the denial of an application from your organization will prevent this person from owning an animal, you’re wrong. Now, instead of getting an altered, vaccinated, microchipped animal from a reputable rescue, they will now go find one somewhere else and probably have a bad view of rescues. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it.

Do we deny applicants? All the time. But not without explaining why and opening up more of a conversation. I never want someone to walk away thinking because they weren’t “perfect” that we denied them. Every animal needs something different and not every person or family is right for every animal. Have I changed my mind after an applicant had a conversation with me? Absolutely! Some people are just clearly unaware of the dangers posed to outdoor animals. They may have always had a cat who went in and out growing up, yet their mom told them their cat “ran off with a cute boy cat to start a family” or “moved in with another family she liked better”. Shoot, my mom drove me around for hours when our dog got hit by a car. She pretended to look for him with me when she knew he had been hit and was trying to keep me away from the scene.

Our kittens are typically rather young when they get adopted, so though I may deny an applicant with no other kitty friends, that conversation can open the door to them wanting a second. People aren’t always aware of “Single Kitten Syndrome”.

My point is, this information we share, even in the face of a response potential adopters may not like, can change their view on whether ‘rescues are bad’ or ‘rescuers truly care’.

We do care, right?

I’ve worked with a bunch of national-level organizations and read lots of articles relating to open adoptions. I’ve witnessed the amazing outcomes of communities who embrace rescuers in order to squeeze out backyard breeders and lessen the population of animals in shelters. I view rescue organizations as the “filter” for animals in need to have a place to go, heal, and get prepped for their true forever.

Reputable rescue organizations are non-profits registered with the state Department of Agriculture in order to raise funds from donors, who may not be able to adopt themselves. Rescuing is their way of making a difference, to provide the vetting an animal needs to take the next steps. These organizations know their capacity for care and do not hoard animals. They only take in animals they can guarantee an exit plan for and try to keep their temporary stay in foster care as minimal as possible. The goal is to rehabilitate and rehome. It is not to catch the firehose of animals in need and overburden yourself trying to save anything thrown your way. Animals move out faster when they have the attention required to make them better.

Think about it this way… If an animal needs bloodwork, special food, and care (and you have already provided them with your reputable rescue minimum of getting fixed, vaccinated, and microchipped), why would you hold them back from an adopter who understands their special needs? If the adopter wants to pay for all of those things, why wouldn’t you let them go? And what if the adopter can’t afford all of those things? Were you not going to pay for them anyway? A home is worth its weight in gold. Let them go and be where they need to be. We are not the only people who can provide the care an animal needs. None of us are perfect.

Our organization has done 807 adoptions, with only 20 of those returned, in almost 3 years. All 20 were adopted right back out in less than 3 months (that’s on the long spectrum).

Return Reasons (for full disclosure):

2 Natural Disaster

4 Allergies

4 Getting Beat Up By Their Current Pet

1 Moved

5 Single Kitten Syndrome

2 Medical Neediness

2 Homelessness

What if we all started having more faith in people and filling these homes with animals who are fixed and vetted versus forcing potential adopters out to anyone willing to give them a free animal? What if, instead of bashing people for not getting their animals fixed, we promoted fixed animals and their health benefits? I see page admins blocking rescuers all the time for offering to get animals fixed on rehoming posts. I think it’s awful, but the only way to counter this is to promote fully vetted animals on those same pages.

I could get 10 reviews right now from people who chose to go buy from backyard breeders or pet stores in order to get a “pure” animal and they’ll all tell you that the only guarantee they got from their incredibly expensive purchase was the breed of the parents. Animals who are not bred for temperament and health are just as prone to the “unknown” as animals up for adoption through local rescues. How long your pet will live is not just in their genetics. It’s in the home provided to them. A purebred puppy can get hit by a car just the same as a mixed breed. A purebred dog can eat from the garbage can just the same as a mixed breed. A champion bloodline dog can have separation anxiety, cage aggression, and prey drive just as any shelter pup.

The difference? One comes with support from a rescue organization and the opportunity to be a hero.

Our local shelters still euthanize every month. Yes, the numbers have greatly lessened, but animals are still dying. The breeders, the ones with no license and no oversight, are still here and mass-producing for income. Purebred animals end up at the shelter all the time. Think about what happens when the breeders die or get shut down due to someone finally looking into them. Those animals flood into the shelters and rescues. Then what? Then all the people who thought the shelter or rescues were ‘bad’ places or had a negative outlook on them will just continue to overlook the ‘product’ they would have bought somewhere else.

I encourage you all to look into your local rescues and shelters and find ways to share their posts and animals. Share animals up for adoption with very descriptive words so anyone searching “orange female kitten” can find one easily. If a page you follow allows backyard breeders to push their choice of income, post animals there who are fully vetted for adoption….or unfollow the page. Share information and education. Be a resource and be knowledgeable about what is offered near you. Push adoption so animals who truly need a place to land when they’re down on their luck have a place to go. Ask questions if you get denied for adoption. Don’t assume you will be denied for every animal or that you were denied for any reason outside of another applicant just happened to be approved before you.

As a rescuer, I strongly encourage conversations with potential adopters. Make the goal to get the animal in the home the quickest way possible (once your animal is adoption-ready). Capture that excited adopter right away and let them know how important they are. Many times an adopter can feel nervous and like they’re imposing if we don’t respond positively right away. They might have decided they want an animal ‘today’ and taken the day off to find one. Guess what that means if they don’t get one from you....They'll go somewhere less reputable, potentially with animals that aren't fixed or vaccinated.

Our goal is to never take in animals ever. The ultimate goal is not to need shelters while finding ways for people to rehome their pets directly if they can’t keep them forever. Open adoptions, full of conversation and feedback, are the key.

If you wouldn’t adopt to the 20-year-old me, then remember the 36-year-old me I am today, and change your mind.

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