Open adoption is a concept that is thankfully becoming more and more prevalent in shelters across the country. The Richmond SPCA adopted this model 2 years ago, and it has been a great success. Open adoption is about looking for ways to make an adoption happen rather than looking for reasons to deny it. Many shelters and rescue groups have rigorous adoption processes that include lengthy questionnaires, reference checks, veterinary checks and even home visits. The intent is to ensure that the pet will be adopted to a “worthy” home. The person’s past pet ownership history is scrutinized and rigid criteria can result in denial of adoption. When an adoption is denied, that means a lost opportunity to save the life of another pet. Frankly, denying an adoption will not prevent that person from getting a pet. What it may do is result in that person going to a pet store or a breeder to get one instead. Of course there are instances when an adoption will still be denied if the physical safety of the pet is in question, but these instances are fortunately rare.
It is important to recognize that none of us is a perfect pet owner. Most of us have been guilty of the same “sins” for which shelters or rescue groups deny adoption. Have you ever owned a dog but not had a fenced yard? Does your pet wear a collar and ID tag at all times? Has your pet ever been out of date on his/her vaccines? I think it’s fair to assume that organizations that do rigorous screenings feel that they are doing the very best they can by the pets. But, wouldn’t it be better to reward those people who are trying to help save the life of a homeless pet? We can, and should, make that possible by treating potential adopters with the same respect we would desire. We have the opportunity to educate new pet owners and to provide refresher information to those who have owned pets in the past. Through conversation, we can learn a lot and determine what resources might be needed to ensure that an appropriate adoption match is made and that the pet owner is equipped with the tools he or she needs to be successful. For example:
- Does he or she need help learning how to housebreak a pet?
- Does he or she understand the importance of flea and tick prevention, or regular vaccinations?
Since none of us is perfect, there are no perfect homes. Instead, there are many great homes that want to open their doors and their hearts to a homeless pet in need. Every adoption opens up a space for us to bring in another dog or cat whose life might be in jeopardy at another shelter. Denying adoptions costs lives; enabling adoptions saves them. If you are looking to add a new furry family member, please come see us at the