Why We Can’t “Hold” Animals

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.

4 thoughts on “Why We Can’t “Hold” Animals”

  1. I’m sorry to hear this happened. You do a good job of spelling out all the requirements on the website, so if someone comes without “all their ducks in a row,” that’s on them. It’s always surprising to me how many people don’t bother to get back to someone about ANYTHING. My husband and I looked at an apartment once. We wanted to think about it and after doing that, we decided it was not for us. So we called them and told them that. They were crazy appreciative, saying that no one else had called them back to let them know they weren’t going to take the apartment. Come on people: manners!

  2. I volunteer at Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, MA. They offer to hold for 24 hours with the payment of $25. The money is non-refundable and does not go toward the adoption fee. Maybe some sort of thing like that would be an option. If people have skin in the game, they’re more likely to come back. And if they don’t, the shelter has a little bit of cash to help with the animal.

    Of course, the dogs at Dakin get snapped up pretty quickly so usually a one day hold doesn’t delay a dog’s adoption should the person with the hold not come back so in that case, it may not make sense for you.

  3. Very well said and I totally agree with all that was explained. It’s wonderful to know how much these animals are cared for and respected at the shelter. Everyone was so nice.

    My husband and I visited Arya and Anya last Saturday and spent an hour loving on them. We are looking to adopt 2 young cats and as much as we loved them, we are remodeling our home and want to complete the project before adopting. These frightened sisters needed a loving patient quiet home right away, to help them trust and feel loved and secure. They touched our hearts and I have been thinking about them daily. When I checked the website Saturday night, their pictures were gone. Both were to be spayed Tuesday and ready for adoption yesterday. We filled out an application to have on file, but I truly hope those sweet girls found a home.
    Do you have an update on Arya and Anya?

  4. You could not have explained that more perfectly! I know that your staff works so hard to find forever homes for all of their animals. I feel badly that this one family had a bad experience, but hopefully they have learned how to go about adopting an animal, and this is a good lesson for everyone. As much as you want all of these animals to go home, you have the awesome responsibility of making sure it is the right home for them.

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