A current trend to increase adoptions is for animal shelter personnel ignoring the aggressive behavior of an animal as reported by the animal’s owner or keeper. Shelter personnel wish the animal to have a clean slate and treat the animal as having no background information; they are confident that their own evaluations are sufficient to determine the animals fitness for adoption.
It is not uncommon for various factions in a shelter to view an animal in different light. One of the most common problem that my last shelter faced was our volunteers posting glowing comments about animals on social media that were not consistent with the staff’s evaluations. The volunteers felt that they knew better because of the behavior that they witnessed when walking the animal, even though the previous owner and staff assessed the animal differently. They didn’t realize that they were observing the animal from a very small window. People would come in to the shelter and discover that the volunteers lied to them so as to facilitate the placement of the animal. Fortunately for the community, our shelter staff had the integrity to report the correct information or refuse to accept the adoption application.
This trend of passing marginal animals or animals with aggression in their history is getting animal shelters in trouble. I frequently read about cases in which an adopter is subject to a serious incident and then finds that the animal’s history of aggression was not shared with them. It became so commonplace in Virginia that laws were drafted to force adoption organizations to give out the animal’s history, good or bad.
Many shelters have placed their animal placements ahead of public safety due to the pressures of being no kill. Not only have people been harmed, but many shelters have been sued for their callous actions.