By Phil Snyder, Executive Director of Suncoast Humane Society
Published in the Englewood Sun on September 13, 2015
Pet-adoption personnel at humane societies often hear the comment, "Wow, this is harder than adopting a human baby." It is normally stated in jest, and I seriously doubt that it is true, but it is an adoption, not a sale of a pet, and is treated very seriously.
Adopting a homeless animal means you are agreeing to certain criteria and assuring the welfare of the pet, not just making a choice, paying your money and hoping for the best.
A good resource for creating adoption criteria is to examine the very reasons people surrender pets to an animal shelter. Moving, landlord did not allow, the dog got too big, needs training, and housebreaking or other behavioral issues head the list. Add the many allergies in Florida, and you have a lot of concerns to educate prospective adopters.
A good adoption process usually includes a tour of the adoptable animals, a visit with the pet that catches your fancy, and the opportunity to get to know each other. You are asked to complete a questionnaire and have a conversation with the adoption specialist.
When approved for adoption, you will sign an agreement to provide appropriate care for the pet throughout his lifetime. There was a time when shelter adoption policies were more black and white.
If you did not have a fenced yard, you could not adopt a dog over 50 pounds. If you had young children, you could not adopt a small pet, for fear of mistreatment by the kids. Some people were made to feel as though they were irresponsible or bad pet owners.
Today, preadoption counseling is more focused on the potential and history of the individual animal and the experience and ability of the adopter. Also, it is important that the parents show an interest in educating the children on the proper handling and treatment of living creatures.
The intent is still to find a loving home for the shelter animal being given a second chance at life; however most humane societies now focus on helping an adopter determine if he is ready for the responsibilities of having a pet, or another pet. If so the goal is to help him choose a pet that best fits his lifestyle. It is more of a match-making exercise.
Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment. Pets can live 10 to 15 years or more. Adding a four-legged member to your family is an important decision. Like the airlines, we know you have many resources to choose from when making that choice. When you do, we hope you will choose to adopt from a shelter, save a life, and give a pet a second chance at a loving home.