Ask Me Anything Answers: Adoption Standards

This “Ask Me Anything” series is answering the questions and topics that you said you want to read about on the blog. As we move forward, please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section of answer posts or regular posts. Today’s question has two parts, which I will be answering one after the other:

Do you think it’s better to rigorously screen all potential adopters in order to make sure that each pup is adopted into exactly the right home for him/her? Or is it more important to get as many dogs out of shelters and into homes as possible, even if a portion of them then end up getting returned?

This is a really great question.  If you ask the entire animal welfare community, the opinions on how much we should screen adopters would probably be pretty split. Some people think any home is better than the shelter, and some people think you must make the absolute perfect match for your animals, not lowering your standards one bit.

In this day and age, progressive shelters (note that I say shelters, not rescues – rescues are generally a little different than shelters) are moving more towards having open conversations with adopters, rather than a “prove to me why we should give you this dog” approach. I LOVE that. Lots of shelters are doing away with the traditional “home visit” and spending more time talking with adopters and getting a feel for if the animal is a right fit or not. Many people, especially who have been in this field for a long time, do not feel comfortable with letting go of home visits. They are worried we’ll be sending pets to hoarders or dog fighters (I’m sorry I just have to roll my eyes here, but that’s for a different post). But the truth is that we can’t control every single little detail of an animal’s new home. Furthermore, we have to put some trust in our adopters that they will do what is right to help make the transition smooth and give the animal the best life possible.


I know a lot of you are shaking your head thinking, “but all the animals I have seen returned because the adopter gave up!” I agree with you. I agree that there are adopters out there who are just duds and who do not want to try their hardest to make it work with the animal. But there’s a good chance that there was an opportunity to either uncover that or work through it during the pre-adoption “counseling” session. Humans tend to be pretty transparent, and if you have an honest conversation with someone it is likely that you’ll be able to get a sense if they are interested in a particular pet for the right reasons. There will also be situations where that would happen no matter how much screening you did or did not do. It’s just life.

To answer the individual question directly: I think there should be a balance. I have lots of experience in “choosing” homes for each of my fosters. Because they were my fosters and I know them very well, I was able to tell someone right off the bat if they could possibly be the right fit or not. I had to be very careful, however, that I was not being too picky. It’s tough to do when you love your animals so, so much and you want the best for them and you think you have the best picked out in your mind – but the truth is that life is not perfect and somewhere something has to give if you don’t want to keep your foster pets forever (I see you, foster failures ;-)). None of my adopters have looked “perfect” on paper, but there’s so much more to the big picture than that. Besides, now all of their new families absolutely are perfect for them. What if I hadn’t given them that chance?

Adopted1What do you say to people outside the animal rescue community who complain that it’s too difficult or the requirements are too strict to adopt a dog, so they think it’s better just to buy instead?

I tell them I feel their pain! I think it totally sucks when shelters or rescue groups make adopters jump through flaming hoops. I agree that there should be standards and pets should not be adopted to just anyone, but I think we are doing ourselves a huge disservice when we make it easier to buy a dog than adopt one.  I sit here and preach about how people should look into breed-specific rescues, but then the rescue groups laugh in their face when they inquire about adopting because they do not meet the group’s “standards.” No, not all groups are like this. There are some really fabulous, flexible ones out there. But there are also some pretty rude, stuck up ones, which I think is a huge shame.

The bottom line is that I think it’s time we start putting a little more power in the hands of our adopters. Instead of trying to make it impossible for someone to adopt a dog, how about we pair them with a good match and then give them the resources to succeed! This is huge – I think we would have less returns if we made post-adoption help more readily available, including health advice, training resources and even just someone being available to walk them through the transition, should they need it.


Shelter workers are looking to put ourselves out of business. We are never going to do that though if we have the outlook that it is a privilege for people to adopt from us. Sending good matches out the door (note: “good” means the pair is safe for the community!) with resources should take priority over sending perfect matches out the door, in my opinion. It doesn’t take much to turn good into perfect before long anyway!

Living for the Weekends

Sometimes, because life is moving so quickly and I get so caught up in the day to day, I forget to sit back and realize how lucky I am to live the life I do. It seems like the grass is always greener when it comes to fostering – when I have a dog I miss the freedom of not having one, and when I don’t have one I really, really want one. This weekend made me realize that I need to embrace the fact that I am in the position to have the best of both worlds right now.  Working at an animal shelter (or volunteering, as the case may be for most people) allows you special opportunities to help homeless animals even when you cannot bring them into your home.

This past weekend I enjoyed the best of both of my worlds. Mark and I spent Saturday at a Tim McGraw concert (any country fans out there? this was my fourth time seeing him and every time it gets better and better!). Then Sunday it was back to focusing on the four legged tail-waggers that make my heart beat.

timconcertI’ve written about it before (in my pre-teaser teaser for Johnnie!), but I absolutely LOVE spending time at adoption events with great people and dogs. These events actually don’t always bring a huge amount of adoption interest for our dogs, but the day out of the shelter is totally worth it. Watching the dogs soak up the fresh air, new sniffs and attention from strangers is priceless! These events started small but thanks to the hard work of some dedicated volunteers, we were able to take nine adoptable pit mixes to the event this time around to enjoy a field trip into the real world!

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I fell in absolute love with the dog I brought, an adorable four year old female named Jayla. I’ll be gushing about her in tomorrow’s post – check back then if you want more of this ADORABLE smile!


Pups and Pints and Everything Nice

If you’ve been following the blog for its entire life (about a year and a half) you probably know by now how much I love what I do. I basically get to plan really fun events for people and their dogs, all to raise money for homeless animals. Everything from holiday themed parties to adoption events at microbreweries to fundraisers on rooftop bars, for the last two years I’ve had the pleasure of putting my creativity to work to help animals.

Most recently, we teamed up with a fabulous sponsor to hold a new event that we named Pups & Pints. The sponsor, Bone Jour, knew a local restaurant owner who was interested in holding a fundraiser for the Humane Society (which is usually how awesome events like this get started). A few planning meetings later and we had an outdoor party featuring a band, beer and free stuff – all with your dog. Sounds like the best event ever, right?

On top of all that, the band that The Irish Inn (the generous restaurant) booked to play is actually one of my all time favorite local groups. I first saw The 19th Street Band about a year ago and instantly fell in love when they did back to back covers of Sublime, Taylor Swift and Mumford and Sons.  When I found out that they were going to be donating their time to this event I could not contain my excitement. Yes at their shows I am that fan dancing the night away on the dance floor even when no one else is out there!

As with any event you’re putting together for the first time, the unknown about how many people are going to show up is really terrifying. For the first ten minutes of the event I was convinced no one was coming. Then all of a sudden it was like everyone got off work at the same time and came over, and it became packed! Whew!


The evening ended up being full of laughing, dancing, drinking (not me of course :-)), singing and celebrating the success that the event was for homeless animals. The dogs didn’t even seem to mind the music! Thanks to the efforts of The Irish Inn, Bone Jour and The 19th Street Band we raised a ton of money for shelter animals.  If you enjoy supporting your local organizations, I suggest you head over to their websites and see what they’ve got planned for this summer – after all, “event season” is in full swing!

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Happy Friday, y’all!

I’m Baaaaack!

In general I try to maintain somewhat of a professional writing style on here, but today I just have to say:

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It’s over! We did it!

Whew, now that that’s out of the way: yes, it’s true – you have me back. Love Ball is officially over and done (for about three weeks until we start planning next year at least), so I’m back to being able to give attention to the blog. For some reason evening meetings just don’t jive with getting solid blog posts completed? Who would have thought?

The event went really well. It was our first year at a new venue which is always a little hectic, but there were relatively few problems considering how much could have gone wrong. My team of committee members and volunteers helped me so much throughout the preparation and the evening that I was completely available for troubleshooting, so there were no major crisis!  From setting up the the silent auction to preparing the decor, things really seemed to fall into place despite hurricane Sandy’s best intentions.

The first half of the event is always the most crazy as people check in and reservation issues arise, and then we have to run the dinner program. After the awards program is over however we finally get the chance to take a little breather and enjoy ourselves as the majority of things that could go wrong are behind us.  I finally got to see all the beautifully dressed people and dogs as we danced to the awesome band, Fresh Air.

While event planning can be extremely stressful, the outcome is usually so rewarding that it’s worth any pre-event headaches. My coworker and I easily agreed that the Sunday after The Love Ball is by far the best Sunday of the year because you can take a big sigh, pat yourself on the back, and SLEEP for as long as you want! The feeling of knowing that it went smoothly makes it all worth while, especially since it’s all to raise money for homeless animals.  Thanks for all your well wishes last week – they paid off!

I’ll get more pictures from the event photographer, but here are a few for now from my friend Ellie Slotkin.  It’s such a fun event – if you’re in the MD/DC area, join us next year!

15 Seconds of Fame with “Pit Bull” Dogs

I’ve been on the news a number of times of times at this point in my career, and I’m finally getting comfortable with it. Usually it’s just bringing an adoptable dog or cat to the station for a quick 45 second clip. Yesterday, however, our shelter got the opportunity to do a much longer, more involved program with a local station’s morning news reporter. We covered a few topics including our upcoming gala, adopting senior pets, and “pit bull” dogs. Being that I’ve been on camera plenty of times and I’m the resident pittie lover, I stepped up to talk with Holly about “pit bull” dogs.

It’s funny how you can basically eat, sleep, and breathe a topic, and still not know exactly what to say when put on the spot. You’ll see in the video that the anchor came on full force with pit bull myths – yikes – so I went heavily in the direction of lumping “pit bull” dogs in with all the other just dogs.  Shooting live always ends up being the type of situation where you don’t really know quite what you’re saying until after it’s over, and when you look back you probably would have said a whole bunch of stuff differently – but you can only prepare yourself so much.  I think today turned out well, even if I – as always – wish I could have a do-over.  At the very least Thelma, Louise and Angel were extremely well behaved camera stars! Maybe they will even get some adoption interest from their time in the spotlight (hint hint: that means you, reader who is looking for an awesome dog to add to their family!).

Holly Morris, the reporter, is an amazing supporter of our shelter, and she loved each dog we brought out. We’re so lucky to have media folks on our side, especially with the “pit bull” dogs issue.

See the video on Fox5’s website!

It’s Raining Cats, Dogs. . . and Bunnies?

If you’ve ever wanted a pet – no matter what kind – check out your local humane society first! Many shelters have bunnies, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, small farm animals(!), and reptiles available for adoption, to name a few. Small animals are given up and lost just as much as cats and dogs, and you can save a life by choosing to adopt these little guys.

I had bunnies for many years when I was growing up. I didn’t rescue them, I got them from a neighbor – but now that I know how many shelters are full of them, I’ll adopt if I decide to get one in the future (duh).  Just like myself, many people don’t even know that small animals are available at shelters. Bunnies and other little critters can make great pets if you’re ready for the responsibility. They’re not the easy household accessory that many parents think, but if you’re willing to put in the effort they can be great companions.

After photographing these little creatures today, I have fallen back in love! I always forget these kinds of animals have the personalities that they do. Every time I walked away from the guinea pig he would start squealing at me. Then there was the bunny who totally posed for the camera. And the ferret who flirted from inside the cage. These furry cuties deserve a chance just like the homeless dogs and cats.

Maybe next time I pick up a foster dog I’ll pick up a bunny as well. . . :-)

So a Pit Bull Walks Into a Bar. . .

… Wait, I’m not kidding?

If there were ever my doggy version of heaven on earth, it would be combining my favorite dogs with my favorite bars. I got the opportunity to do just that for work last week when we had a fundraising event at a bar that invited us to bring some adoptable pups along. Awesome, right!? This bar called The Rooftop is one of the only rooftop bars in my area, and I love rooftop bars. (I was in paradise when I was in Austin – rooftop bar central!)

It was the perfect summer evening, and lots of people showed up for happy hour. Duke, the pittie we brought, and Tucker, an adorable cocker/beagle something or another, absolutely loved working the crowd.  They both behaved beautifully, soaking up belly rubs galore. Here they are getting their adorable faces ready before the crowds came!

Humane Societies often do small scale fundraising events like this at local restaurants or bars. You should check out what’s going on in your area to see if you can support your local animal charity by going out for drinks!