Friday, May 16, 2008

Reality Bites

A couple of days ago, the head of the pit bull rescue that I work/volunteer for received an email that read like this (obviously, names have been removed to protect the innocent):

"I have a staffordshire terrier I need to go to a good home. We have a young child, new home and are unable to take good care of him. He is 6 years old, white with tan spots, one brown-one blue eye. Billy is energetic and loving.

Please let me konw what my next steps would be, or where I can take him."

The head of the rescue responded like this:

"I am sorry to say that your next step should be to ask yourself why you are considering getting rid of him. I am here to tell you that there is not a home for him, and his alternative to your keeping him is euthanasia. There are simply too many dogs flooding the shelters, 30% of them being Pit Bulls, and there are not enough people. People move and have kids every day and do not dispose of their animals because of it. Yes, the pets may get less attention, and yes, they may be a bit put out by it at times, but there are worse fates in life for a dog. Everyone I know who has kids say that their pets get less attention, but so what? They still have a great life compared to most dogs in the world, and surely better than dying in a shelter. That's certainly what will happen to him if taken to one. Most people who adopt from shelters want younger dogs so that they have more time with the dog. Besides, if taken to a shelter, Billy will more than likely be shellshocked because he has been in a home for so long. Won't you reconsider? Is there training help that you need? Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but these are the cold hard facts, and I must believe that your situation can be remedied to provide a happy ending for everyone. Since we are currently full, the only other thing that I can offer is for my rescue to do a courtesy post for him online and see if we can find someone who wants to adopt an older dog. It does happen, but can sometimes take up to a year or more. Can you keep him while he's posted?

Again, sorry to be so blunt, but I have been doing Pit Bull rescue for 12 years, and this is the hard truth."

The response from Billy's owner was less than friendly:

"In no way did I read your entire email. I am unable to take Billy with us at this time and feel bad enough about it already. I AM A DOG/ANIMAL LOVER which is why I am seeking alternative means. I did not need a lecture on pet owning and responsibilities. In your and other's positions, it would be best to do what you do...HELP, not put on a guilt trip hoping situations would change.

Thanks for creating an even more anxiety ridden event."

Honestly, I'm torn on this one. If you had asked me six months ago, I would have 100% been on the dog's side, and thought the email from the rescue, while harsh, was absolutely true and necessary. I wouldn't have seen the owner's side at all. I would only see that the owner was trying to get rid of the dog in the easiest manner possible.

Now? Well, there are different levels of what people can handle, right? I've seen this firsthand. Maybe this person really couldn't handle a dog, a young child, and a new home, even though I can't imagine what they're thinking. Maybe they really do think that this is the only way out.

Then again, with the Humane Society no longer accepting strays, and only accepting surrenders after counseling (and even that is conditional), the reality really is that harsh. Maybe pet owners need to know that information instead of believing that Fluffy is going to find a great new home. Maybe she could do some searching on her own to see if someone she knows will take the dog. I've heard of plenty of people going that route instad of a shelter/rescue route. And the courtesy post? I mean, you've been housing the dog for this long....why not hold on to him a little longer if you think he might get adopted. It's certainly better than life at a shelter, right?



cgogis said...

I'd say all the details aren't known and so it's impossible to judge what the right thing is. It wasn't easy having to part with our kitty - many people said we could do crazy things like give the cat daily baths (um, hello? even Sam doesn't get daily baths), but other people don't know what's best for your kid and the kid should always come before the pet. Anyway, like I said, it's hard to know what's best since we don't know the dog owners full situation.

ems said...

I actually used your situation to the head of the rescue because I thought that what you did was fabulous. You had a legitimate reason to get rid of your cat. Your son was allergic. You couldn't have foreseen that, and you are absolutely right - the child comes first. But you didn't just take your pet to a shelter. You asked everyone you knew, you sent out email messages, and you actively searched, and ultimately found, your cat a new home. You didn't have to do that, and you even had the pet in your home for longer than you probably wanted, given your son was allergic. I thought that was the best thing I'd seen in a long time. It gave me hope in some pet owners.

AnnD said...

I am torn too. I don't know if the owner gave us all of the information...maybe the situation is more dire than her original letter let on. Though, in your boss' defense, details about the gravity of the situation might have helped because the owner did sound rather blase about the whole thing. I don't think your boss was out of line at all. She didn't get emotional, she just stated the facts. The owner was the one who responded emotionally...not your boss.

Candace said...

I like the letter from your boss. I think to often in our society we try to PC everything and are afraid to tell the whole truth. I think it is important for the dog owner to know what will actually happen if they surrender the dog.

Pibble said...

Unfortunately, it's hard to judge because we don't really know the family's situation. Was it allergies? Did they have to move for financial reasons and they couldn't take the dog? Or was it just time to "get rid of the dog."

I also volunteer at a rescue, and we see the same thing. From people who really, really need our help because they have no other options to the ones that act like pets are a pair of shoes and it's time for a change.

Here's an example: My brother rescued a Parson Russell Terrier and who had been given up by a woman who wanted to "switch to Poodles."

Was this the case with these people? We don't really know.

I understand your boss' frustration. We're overloaded with pits, too, including one we've had at the shelter for five years (she's the Queen of the Shelter!).

It's a really tough position to be in - on both sides of the fence!!