Beware the Deadly Must-Haves

Couple and their white cat Pet Adoption with Get Your Pet Online Home to Home

Must-haves kill adoptions. And pets.

I just got off the phone with a close friend, Sara. She was in tears because she had just been denied the adoption of a dog she had tracked down on PetFinder, listed with a shelter.

Sara: “They said I can’t adopt her because I don’t have a fenced-in yard! And because I don’t have a dog for her to play with!”

Me: “Are you (expletives deleted) kidding me?”

Sara: “I just spent $200 at the pet store on new bowls, a harness and leash, toys and treats. I rearranged my whole apartment for her new crate and dog beds. I was sure she was going to be mine! Darcy (her cat) and I have been discussing bringing her home for days!”

Far too common a situation for adopters.

I can’t tell you how common this story is.

Shelters set criteria, “must-haves,” that perfectly good adopters may not meet, and if they don’t, the adoption is off. A loving adopter is out of luck. A homeless pet stays in the shelter. And maybe is euthanized.

Look a little deeper.

Okay, so Sara has back and forth conversations with her cat. Maybe she’s a little eccentric. But I know Sara. She’s a single, forty-ish woman with a great heart. She has all the love in the world to lavish on her pets.  She treats Darcy, the 6-year-old cat the she adopted as a kitten, like her child. Now, after contemplating adopting a dog for years, she saw this little brown and white terrier online and knew this was the “one.”

Only, this wasn’t “the one” because she lacked two must-haves.

Somebody who had the time and interest might have looked a little deeper than the shelter on Petfinder did. Sara works four days a week and has the flexibility to bring her newly adopted dog to work with her. She’s actually pretty much an ideal adopter.  But a shelter or rescue rarely has the time, money or personnel to look beyond the “must-haves,” and some of them just don’t stand up to logical scrutiny.

For instance, a few sample must-haves.

 “You must have a fenced yard.” – Oh, really? Then why were leashes ever created? Studies show that dogs that are walked regularly are in better physical shape than those that are let to run unattended in fenced yards. Besides, if a fenced yard is so essential, how can hundreds of thousands – millions — of city dwellers provide great forever homes for dogs?

“You must have a veterinarian as a reference.” – Um… what if you never had a pet before? Should you be destined to a life without animals because you didn’t have a pet-friendly upbringing? No – we should welcome these new pet guardians with open arms and then educate them on how to take care of their animals with regular veterinarian care.

“You must have a less than eight-hour work day.” – Well, welcome to America. Who works less than eight hours? Believe me, your newly adopted dog will be much happier snoozing in your quiet home than he or she would be at the noisy shelter. There are also options like doggie daycare or a dog walker or a friendly neighbor – somehow people everywhere have dogs and work!

Guardians, focus on the particulars of your pet, not the “must-haves”.

For our Guardians, who are looking for an Adopter for their pet, we suggest you keep an open mind when looking for the “ideal” person to adopt your pet. Have a conversation. Be reasonable and be a source of education when possible. Don’t base your decision on blanket policies just because on the surface they seem like they make sense. You know your pet’s lifestyle and what will or will not work for them.

Let that knowledge be your guide.

For more information and tips on choosing an Adopter, please visit our Questions to Ask a Potential Adopter.