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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Right Home or the Next Home?

I was on craigslist looking for interesting "stuff" to decorate my kitchen.  Specifically, I was looking for old barn boards or something fun that would give my new house an old feel.  I of course found myself checking out the pet section...

Craigslist has become a bit of a farce among rescuers for so many reasons. 

1.Many of the puppies on craigslist are people intentionally breeding their pets.  So often you see a listing on craigslist for cute little puppies.  When you call or email, you find out they are $400 and they are expecting another litter in 4 weeks.  For every puppy they sell, there is a young dog or puppy in a shelter or rescue that has lost his adoption opportunity as a result of that sale.

2. Many of the animals being rehomed on craigslist are animals that continue to bounce from one home to another because the photo may be cute, but the pet's personality and/or temperament may be more specific to one type of person rather than to the general population.  For example, some dogs or cats should not be homed with children.  Others may need more physical or mental exercise than a family can give to the pet.  For example, if an active pet is taken in by a sedentary family, the result is a bored and mischievous pet that will soon be rehomed again.

3. Rehoming of intact adult pets is always a negative in the rescue world.  I hate to be a member of the "Department of Redundancy Department", but while animals die in shelters, owned animals should be spayed and neutered so each shelter pet has an increased chance of adoption, and a decreased chance of death.

On the top of the "Pets" page of Craigslist is the statement, " no pet sales or breeding please -- rehoming with small adoption fee OK".  The sentiment of the statement is great in that Craigslist is announcing that they are not a place to sell purposely bred animals.  The truth is that so many of the people on craigslist in the pet section are selling  their purposely bred animals or being irresponsible in the rehoming of their pet.

As I broused, I read this ad,

"Hi there!

I rescued a female rattie, and she ended up breaking out of her cage because she went into heat and was desperate to get to my boy rattie! So, they had ten babies. I would really like to keep this from happening again, so I'm sadly looking to rehome my female (the mama) and one of her daughters. The mama had a rough start- she loves to be held, but she's SUPER energetic. And the daughter is the same way. They're both young- the mama is only about 6 months old, and the daughter is only almost 2 months old! Let me know if you can help out!

Thank you so much!"

There are so many things that bother me about this ad...

1. "I rescued a female rattie".  What is her definition of rescue?  When you rescue an animal, you provide them with the care they need to prevent future illness and unwanted pregnancies.  You then find them the right home by screening applicants making sure the match is one that will hopefully last that pet's lifetime.  Rescue does not mean take an animal into your household with another intact dog, allowing it to breed with your own dog, and giving it and the puppies away to the next person.  This dog is going to be at risk for yet another "accidental" pregnancy.

2. How is it that this "rescuer" sees elimination of the females from the household as the only option for litter prevention?!

Let's assume that the mating incident happened so quickly after her "rescue" that the Mama was allowed to have this litter, and it was unplanned.  Now this person is rehoming TWO INTACT female dogs, and who knows what happened with the other 9 litter mates!  A responsible person would NEVER rehome an adult animal without it being spayed or neutered!  It has a negative impact on the fight against pet overpopulation, and it places that pet at risk.  Spaying the female and the male is healthier all around for everyone.  Not only is she at risk for another "accidental" litter, but also her risk of breast cancer increases exponentially with each heat cycle she goes through.  Her risk of pyometra, a life threatening uterine infection, also increases with age and each heat cycle!  Male dogs become more family focused when neutered, and have a reduced risk of prostate disease and some cancers when neutered. All of these are health benefits that a rescuer, and a responsible pet owner would NOT withhold from their furry family member. Why not spay her and keep her if the only reason you are removing them from the household is because you "would really like to keep this from happening again ".

3. Why is this person not fixing the mother dog prior to her rehoming?

By placing intact animals free to good homes, the potential that the new "good home" could be one that abuses the dog's fertility.  The dog may be used to produce litter after litter never giving her tired body a break between pregnancies.  Why take that risk?

I acknowledge that craigslist is a potentially good resource to those people whose animals need to be rehomed.  It provides a way to list your pet for adoption prior to your moving date, but does not require you to hand your dog over to a shelter if you are not in immediate need of rehoming.  Too many people know they are moving, and yet they neglect to try to rehome the pets if necessary prior to moving day. 

Watch this sarcastic yet truthful video clip here... .  This video is both sad and humorous.  The video portrays the very things we see in rescue routinely!  The video wraps up all of the things that make us angry and allows the shelter personnel to react. 

I am of the belief that your commitment to your pet should be for the lifetime of that pet.  If you need to move, and you own a pet, every effort should be made to find pet friendly housing.  Too often pet ownership is not taken seriously and animals are tossed aside as though they are an old mattress.  I do acknowledge that sometimes life throws us curveballs that require the occasional rehoming of a loved pet.  Craigslist can be a good resource for rehoming or adopting if you absolutely need to rehome a pet and you do so properly.

If you plan to rehome your pet, please be prepared to ask the people who want to take in your beloved pet some serious questions!

1. Ask them if they have other pets, and wait for their answer before you ask for a written letter from their veterinarian or permission to call that veterinarian to assure that their other animals are well cared for and are current on vaccines and other annual care such as heartworm testing and prevention for dogs, and leukemia FIV testing in cats.  The best prediction of future behavior in caring for your pet, is past behavior and how they care for previous or currently owned pets.  Sometimes the person will need to call their vet to give the vet permission to discuss their pet's records with you.  If no veterinary reference is available, ask for personal references.  Any recommendation will help you get a feel for the people.  If your gut feeling is not good, then stop right there.

2. Ask if they rent or own their home.  If they rent, be sure to get the landlord's number for confirmation of pet ownership restrictions.  Make the call yourself, or ask for a copy of their lease! 

3. Be sure your pet is current on vet care NOW!  Spayed/neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, and anything else that your veterinarian recommends including microchipping.  It is the least you can do for your pet now that you need to rehome it.  This animal's health is your responsibility prior to rehoming.  Consider it a tribute to the love that pet has given you during your shared time together.  Rehoming your pet is not about making a profit.  Take the loss and be proud that you did.

4.  Ask the potential adopters questions to get a feel for who they are and how they will care for your pet.  Ask questions that not only help you decide if your pet is right for them, but to see if they are right for your pet...the doggie door swings both ways.  Some questions may or may not apply, but here are some examples of good questions depending on your pet's needs...

Do you have children?  If you plan on having children in the future, will the pet still be part of the family with the new child?  Do you have a fenced in yard?  Do you plan to attend doggie training classes with this new pet?  Pet ownership (dog, cat, rabbit, or other) is a great activity for kids in 4H but pet ownership continues after the fair is over!  Why have you chosen my pet to inquire about?  Does anyone in the household have allergies to pets?  What will happen to the pet if you need to move (especially if they currently rent a home)?  Is this pet going to be a lifelong companion?  Is the animal going to be indoors with the family, or kept outdoors at all times?  Is this pet going to be a surprise gift for someone else? 

5. Consider visiting the home of the people who are taking in your pet.  Home visits are performed routinely by many rescue groups, and a good potential adopter will welcome your visit.

6. Keep in touch with them, and if for any reason the adoption doesn't work out, insist that you partake in the rehoming of that pet or take your friend back!

These steps may be time consuming and may scare some people away from inviting your pet into their home.  If they reject these steps, then you should reject them.   The well being of your pet, your friend is at stake.

If you need to rehome your pet in the near future, do not wait until moving day to call for help.  Call your local shelter and your veterinarian as soon as you find out you cannot keep it.  They may be able to work with you and your pet before you move or your lifestyle changes, or help you find a way to keep your pet!  

Remember to find the RIGHT new home for your pet, not just the NEXT home.

Reread Matthew's Story

Reread Maizie's Story

Do you really want to live your life wondering where or how your former companion is?

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Anonymous said...

For the record, I think that Craigslist post is about rats. A female dog couldn't be 6 months and have a 2 month old pup.

Crystal said...

I am a rescuer as well and I do agree with many of your points. However, your bullet point rant following the Craigslist ad is with the mistaken assumption that the animals are dogs. It clearly says "rattie"- as in, rat. The fact is that most people don't realize that rats can be spayed and neutered, and even if you wish to do so it can be difficult to find a savvy vet capable of performing the surgery.

Sorry, I agree with your points about finding good homes and that there are other methods of birth control- including simply better cages- but reading paragraph after paragraph about dogs after a passage about rats was difficult, lol...

Crystal said...

The "ratties" in the ad are rats- the rodent kind- not rat terriers, if that was your assumption. In a follow up to my comment earlier, I found the ad and contacted the owner to ask about them. I am a rescuer of all kinds of animals- aside from dogs, I commonly take in guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, cats, birds, etc. I reached out to her to offer some help and advice, including the suggestion that she could spay the girls if she was interested in keeping them.

The poster politely and quickly responded that she considered having them spayed but before she had it done, she found them a home with another person who had recently lost a beloved rattie (this happens too often when you love an animal that rarely lives to be three years of age.)

Now, because your post was about dogs and not rats (I just wanted to clear that up, especially before your readers Googled the ad like I did and start sending a barrage of undeserved emails), my suggestion is this: if this kind of situation happens with dogs and you see a Craigslist ad like this, it doesn't hurt to send a note and offer some suggestions, advice, or even a hand. Often times, a person is either ignorant about or struggling to figure out what to do.

Rescue is about educating the public if it's about anything. If all we do is save animals and sympathize with other rescuers without making an effort to get our message out to people, it's like mopping the floor when the rain is coming in without trying to shut the window.

I agree wholeheartedly with your points about screening, spaying and neutering, and trying to find a good fit for the animals you're placing (even if they're rats *grin*). I often offer to help people screen homes for the pets they need to rehome and teach them how to find a good fit, and why it's so important. When people ask me why my adoption process includes a home visit, or asks specific questions on the application, I try to help them understand exactly what you said: I don't want to spend my days worrying about where this animal is.

Starfish To the sea Animal Rescue

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your input....I also thought Rattie was short for Rat Terrier but I was surprised that a little terrier could have 10 pups in a single litter.
...I agree that the love and concern could be equal for a rat terrier as for a rat, even rats need love and care...
sharon houser