Rescues Promote Responsible Year-End Adoptions
Groups launch creative ways to curb impulse adoptions.
Getting a pet during the holidays can prove to be ideal timing -- people have time off from work and students are home from school to help the new member of the family acclimate to its surroundings. But the decision is certainly a lofty one that causes some animal shelters to take a step back and rethink how they proceed with encouraging adoptions during this time of the year.
The Jersey Shore Animal Center is typically closed from right before the Christmas holiday through January 4, so "people know not to come to us around this time," said Janie McLachlan, community relations manager of the shelter -- one that typically holds a little less than 150 adoptable animals.
"We don't promote adopting animals out as presents at any time of the year, though, because it never really works out for them or for the people getting the dog or cat as a present," McLachlan explained. "The majority of the time the kids are happy for a day or so and then they are expecting people to take care of the pet so we wind up with them in January."
McLachlan says many other shelters she knows on the East Coast don't allow pets to be adopted out as gifts and usually remain closed or open with limited hours around this time of the year, hoping to ward off the effect of pets being carelessly adopted and then surrendered shortly after.
Julie Bank, executive director of New York City's Animal Care and Control, says that New York City public shelters try to avoid this problem by encouraging gift certificates.
"It is kind of a bigger issue of making sure that people are not making impulse decisions and we are ensuring that whoever has the pet really wants the pet, and understand what is involved, in terms of the physical and financial care of it, in the long term," Bank told Zootoo.
Gift certificates provide a middle ground to encouraging adoptions, Bank says, that are more likely to be well-thought out, since the owner will be selecting the pet personally.
And if someone comes in to the shelter more interested in presenting their grandmother with a kitten, rather than a gift certificate worth the adoption fee for a kitten, adoption counselors are on hand to handle that situation.
"Our adoption counselor and staff are trained in helping to make appropriate matches," Bank said. "so if somebody does say, ' My Grandma isn't sure about a cat but I think it would be great for her and I am going to get it for her anyway,' they will try to steer this person in the right direction, and then speak to Grandma on the phone to see how interested she really is."
The Humane Society of Sarasota County, in Sarasota, Fla., opts for a similar approach, keeping its doors open, but screening people carefully, encouraging gift certificates, and strongly discouraging pets as gifts.
There are some exceptions to the rule, of course.
"If two parents come in the lobby with their daughter and they promised her a dog for Christmas, then they all meet the dog and the dog is not going to be around too much excitement during the holidays, that is a different thing," said Deborah Millman, executive director of the shelter.
But for potential pet gift-givers and receivers who are not as involved in the process, the intent is to steer people away equating a new pet to a second-best option for when Macy's is out of the of the red shirt that they really wanted, Bank says. Still, that doesn't mean the holiday break can't be a good time to adopt, in general.
New York City typically sees a rush of people getting gift certificate for family and friends leading up to Christmas time and has benefited from recent adoption events, as well.
The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals and Best Friends Animal Society recent hosted the first annual "Whiskers in Wonderland" holiday pet adoption event in Manhattan, which resulted in nearly 200 animals getting placed with new families.
Animal Care and Control, one of the groups represented at the event, was successful in placing 50 cats, Bank says.
"The holidays could be the right time to adopt, just as long as people have done their research and taken the time to really consider what is involved with getting a pet," she said. "I think slowly people are generally becoming more and more aware of these responsibilities."
What do you think about these adoption initiatives? Have you heard about similar ideas for promoting responsible adoption in your area? Let us know below!
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