August 18 was the nationwide “Clear the Shelter” day with shelters and animal controls all over the nation participating in a day to bring awareness to the plight of shelter pets and increase adoptions from these facilities.  What could be wrong with this???? Nothing is wrong with shining a light on the problem of animal overpopulation which leads to full shelters. So to be fair, let’s look at both sides of the argument, especially as it relates to our Houston Metro area and its unique problems.

PROS of adoption days with low or no fees

  • Attention is brought to animals in shelters. This encourages people who would not normally look to a shelter for their next companion to come an explore the possibilities of adopting a shelter animals. A side benefit might be that these people also volunteer, donate or advocate for their local shelter and help spread the word.
  • Free adoptions do not necessarily mean bad adopters  Many people would adopt no matter what the fee if they are made aware of the plight of the shelter animals so this is a “red herring”.  Certainly some people will be drawn to the idea of a “free” pet, but free pets are available at flea markets and craigslist every day.
  • More animals are adopted. Let’s say 65% of the animals adopted score good or great homes. This is a good number of animals that might otherwise be euthanized for space in our overcrowded shelters. We don’t know the averages of good homes because of lack of screening of applicants and because this number is not tracked, just reported anecdotally.

Okay, so what is wrong with all this? What could possibly be wrong for the animals and the community?

THE CONS

  • On a normal day in most shelters, little to NO checking is done to see if an animal will find a permanent home with the prospective adopter. No landlord checking to see if that pit bull is allowed, that pet deposits are paid, etc.  All of this will land the animal right back in the shelter or, worse, dumped on the streets.  No conversations about previous pets and their outcomes, whether the adopter has a relationship with a vet or even knows what the average animal need in the way of minimum care. Lack of training of shelter personnel and manpower are the reasons for so little screening.  On these action packed “Clear the Shelter” there is even less time for any counseling or screening.
  • Unfortunately many municipal shelters allow pets adopted to leave UNALTERED on “spay/neuter contracts”, relying on the adopters to “do the right thing” and get their new pet fixed. No problem if they are properly counseled and understand the importance of altering AND there is strict follow up with the pet owner to comply. Compliance is neither strict or timely and many animals enter the shelter pregnant or litters of their offspring clog the shelter within a few months of leaving to their new home. Compliance rates are reported to be around 60% and this is both  optimistic and anecdotal since no real tracking occurs.
  • Pets adopted for nefarious or criminal activity are at high risk in “free” adoptions.  Kittens used as bait animals or food for snakes, dogs used for bait dog or to be abused by psychopathic people or animals used to breed for money are all at risk.  Is this a small amount of the numbers who are adopted? Certainly, but what is an acceptable number of animals to endure that risk? 10%, 5%, even 1%?  We have to decide if we are willing to take a chance with these lives.

We at S.A.V.E.  Rescue applaud any efforts to make a difference in the lives of animals in shelters and encourage more “Visit the Shelter” days where people will become a part of the solution by adopting, volunteering or donating to help their local shelter or rescue group. Our volunteers chose to help with the animals being adopted, unaltered, at  “Clear the Shelter”at the City of Baytown, by setting up a table outside the event to offer FREE spay/neuter services to all the animals being adopted this day by the shelter.  We were able to sign up 14 animals for the services and all will be followed up on by our community outreach team. We expect 100% compliance to get these animals altered and will also offer FREE microchipping for these adopted pets.