Balance

The greatest challenge facing animal shelters is the balance that must be made to protect people and to protect pets. Animal shelters must face the decision to put people first or to put pets first. In 95 percent of the time, it isn’t an issue. But in those remaining 5 percent, it becomes the battleground that creates the most media carnage for animal shelter personnel.
Should animal shelters release potentially dangerous dogs back into their community? On the surface this seems pretty simple, until you begin to fight the battle as to what determines a dangerous our an aggressive dog. Dog held for long periods of time can become aggressive as a result of their long confinement. Where along that process does a dog move from being adoptable to being unadoptable?
Is it worth euthanizing one “potentially” aggressive dog to prevent a future worry of the dog injuring a child? This is the constant worry that all animal shelters face. Many shelter personnel take the easy road and don’t question the adoptability of an animal: if the animal has a potential home, then let it leave the shelter. Many shelters that have taken this road become faced with the lawsuits of their careless actions.
Many dogs that have displayed aggression in the shelter eventually reassimulate into society to become perfect pets. We cannot look into the eyes of these animals and determine their behavior in the environment that we are sending them. Every adoption is based on a gradient from low risk to high risk.
The community that we serve seems to see only in black or white. Many people claim that we should give EVERY animal a chance and many believe that NONE of the high risk breeds should ever be released to the public. Although animal shelters conduct behavior tests, the tests run the failure of the bias of the evaluator. But the biggest hazard is the adopter.
No matter how much adoption staff empathizes the need for responsible pet ownership, the greatest failing point is the pet’s owner. It is amazing the number of new pet owners who call to report that their new pet ran away during the period of the car and the house because the owner didn’t think the dog should be on leash. One of the most common phases from dog owners prior to a dog bite is, “Don’t worry he won’t bite.”
When pet owners fail to act responsibly, it furthers the risk of a failed adoption. When an animal gets into trouble as the result of a bad pet owner, it is usually the animal shelter that gets into trouble for failing to have the foresight in seeing a bad combination of a questionable dog and a bad adopter.
Many shelters have taken a beating in the media as a result of not being physic. Every adoption presents a risk. The shelter is forced to decide if they will weigh the balance toward protecting people or saving a pet. Wherever you find that balance, you can be sure that someone will be under constant pressure to move that line one way or the other.

Pitbulls

The first pitbull arrived in my city in the mid 1980’s. The owner wanted to have a breed with a reputation; this dog did not live up to that reputation. The original desire to own a pitbull was for owners to claim that their dog was the meanest on the block. For that reason, breeders began breeding dangerous characteristics into the breed. Clearly, the breed was attracted to the worst pet owners.

Since bad pet owners do not believe in sterilizing their pets, pitbulls have become the most dominant breed in animal shelters. This has created a difficult time for shelters trying to become no-kill to maintain their adoption numbers with their shelter intakes being 50% pitbulls.

Pitbulls are not necessarily a bad breed, they just require an unusually responsible pet owner. As pet owners have become increasingly lazy, finding a good owner for a pitbull is problematic. It is not a breed that you can just take to the dog park and turn loose; as with any powerful breed they require constant oversight.

Incidents of dog bites is proof of poor pet ownership. Foolish pet owners fail to realize the bite potential of their pet.

Social Media – Aggressive Dogs, A Bad Mix!

I am so grateful that most of my career was prior to social media. Social media has created such a mean spirited group of people online. It is most frequently used to bully others. In the animal welfare arena, social media is used to bully shelter staff into making questionable animals available for adoption. The no-kill movement used this bullying tactic to facilitate high adoption numbers.

In recently years, I discovered that shelter staff was more concerned about having a positive social media presence, than to do their job to protect the community. The constant pressure that is placed on shelter staff is forcing extremely foolish decisions.

Adoption councilors are becoming more and more like used car salesman, asking potential pet owners to purchase an animal without looking under the hood. We are entering an era in which shelters are being sued for misrepresenting the aggressive backgrounds of dogs in their care.