Around 5:30 last evening my email pinged with a message from Google: we had gotten a 1-star review. Ouch! I always go in and read those in order to see what went wrong and determine whether we needed to recommend a different approach for our staff, volunteers, or even in the way we treat the animals. I quickly determined that this review fell into the category of the majority of our bad reviews, it was about our not “holding” an animal for the family. Those reviews go something like this:
I brought my family into the shelter and we fell in love with (animal name). Unfortunately, (family member) wasn’t with us so we couldn’t adopt but when we came back with (family member) the next day (animal) was gone. Now my family is heartbroken and I am frustrated and angry. The shelter knew we were interested, why couldn’t they work with us?
Here’s why. We love that you were so interested in that animal that you came back because in the majority of cases the family never does. They come in and fall in love with an animal and tell us that they will be back the next day with their family member to adopt. Then something happens. It could be that mom absolutely doesn’t want another cat, that dad found a dog at a breeder’s that is better for the family, that they didn’t realize that the guinea pig enclosure, toys, and accessories were so expensive, or even that they discovered that their homeowner’s association doesn’t allow dogs of a certain breed or size. Honestly, it doesn’t matter though because the point is that the majority of them never come back and, what’s worse, they never tell us they’re not coming back. That’s why we don’t hold animals. We cannot take away an animal’s chance to be adopted while we wait and hope that an interested family will come back. That’s not in the best interest of the animal. We do want to work with you though, so here’s what we advise.
First, if you seriously want to adopt an animal, have all your ducks in a row before you come. That means every person living in the house needs to be present. You should call up your vet and let him/her know that the shelter might be calling for a reference. If you don’t have a vet, that’s OK, we can recommend one. If you rent either make the same call to your landlord or get something in writing that says you can have a pet. Check with your homeowner’s association about breed/size restrictions. You still may not be able to take the animal home that day (it might need to be spayed/neutered for example) but we can finalize the adoption.
Second, if you are planning on incorporating this new animal with one already living at the house call us ahead of time about setting up a meet and greet. That means that we arrange a space where your current animal and the prospective new animal can meet in a safe and supervised way to see if they have compatible personalities. We do this most often for dogs but have done it for cats and even guinea pigs too so call us ahead of time and we can talk to you about it.
Third, do your research. I decided to get a fish once, thought it would be a fun and easy pet. Wanted one of the pretty tropical ones so I went to PetCo and came out $150 dollars later with the tank, the filter, and a bunch of other stuff I hadn’t prepared for because I was young and didn’t do my research. Guinea pigs need enclosures, cats like to climb. Birds need stimulation in their cages, dogs misbehave if they get bored so they need toys and opportunities to be active. Know how much a pet is likely to cost you and what it needs before you fall in love, it could save you trouble later.
Finally, don’t get discouraged if you don’t find your match right away. Check our website frequently and even call us about whether we have what you’re looking for. Also, the more open you are, the more likely we’ll have something for you. The family looking for a “smallish” dog might find a match far sooner than the family who’s only looking for a purebred Chihuahua (we almost never get those, by the way).
Our responsibility is to do the best we can for the animals in our care. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to work with you but ultimately, we work for them.