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Discussion Starter #1
Another thread made me think about this- I would love to hear from others about their experiences/ thoughts/ questions with anything shelter or rescue related. Anything from volunteering, to adopting, questions, ect.

I am by no means a shelter expert but I am curious to hear about others experiences, things they like/ didnt like, ect. I'm always looking for ideas to improve things at work (shelter) and would love to get a discussion going

Fire away!! Even if its just bits and pieces that sort of relate.
 

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All but two of my pets over the past 35 years have been adopted from rescues or "shelters." Of the two cats and one dog I have now, one cat and the dog were adopted recently from New York City's Animal Care and Control, basically the public pound which has to take any animal they come across. NYCACC has struggled mightily to reduce its euthanasia rate and increase its adoptions and has made progress since I first adopted from them 13 years ago. Local bureaucratic politics continue to hold them back but they are improving.

Anyway, when we started our pet family all over again last year I swore my next dog would come from a foster situation with cats so I had more first-hand information. Previously both of my dogs came from "kenneling" situations. However before we adopted our latest dog we adopted a cat from ACC and both the process and the kitty were fantastic. And this despite the fact that I had to wear a hazmat suit to avoid spreading the leukopenia virus that was raging through the shelter at the time.

This past spring when we started looking for a dog I contacted a number of rescues and things just didn't work out. I don't like it when they call your references before you've had any communication about the specific dog. The rescues that were the "nosiest" about our situation were the least forthcoming about the dogs themselves. Although my references told them I had been a great owner for over a decade one rescue wanted to know if I was retired how I could pay for a dog? And they wanted me to *prove* my rescued cats were neutered (I was adopting a dog). And when I asked them questions about the dog I was interested in by email they ignored me. Plus rescues have gotten expensive since the last dog I got "privately." From $300 to $500. I don't begrudge them the opportunity to get back some of their considerable overhead but jeez louise at least treat me like a customer and not some old guy who wants to date your teenage daughter.

I happened to see exactly the kind of dog we were looking for by accident on the NYCACC website and although I hadn't thought to go back there I did and again, the experience was the opposite of dealing with private rescue. They knew about me because they had my adoptions from them going back 13 years in their computer. Once again their temperament testing was spot on as well as their health check. Apparently they were overcrowded and looking to make room because when it was time to make a donation they asked me for *$20*. And of course this included her spay, health check with written documentation, shots, worming, flea preventative, heartworm test and some free goodies (including an additional complimentary vet visit with a private vet) donated to them. It was just a great experience and I now recommend ACC as the first option since every animal adopted out saves the life of another.

If I have one suggestion for shelters and rescues it is, make the most of Petfinder and Adoptapet. I much prefer Petfinder because of the way it handles photos and its layout. Whenever possible include more than one photo and a write-up about the pet's background and current situation. Videos are fantastic! I'll look at any video even if I have no interest in the pet. Consider starting a YouTube channel linked to Petfinder. Videos are really very helpful when attempting to place more difficult dogs like pit bulls, older dogs and large black dogs. Showing them to be friendly to people and children and/or good with other pets could make all the difference. Keep your listings up to date. It's frustrating to develop a crush on an animal and then find out it's already been adopted. Remember people go for years between adoptions but when they are ready they are looking for a smooth experience.

Be respectful of all your potential adopters rather than suspicious. Assume the best of people whenever possible. If a match is a good one be prepared to be flexible on your donation based on the adopter's circumstances. Above all be honest in your evaluation of the pet's temperament and health. You may insist on getting the animal back if things don't work out but most people are going to be either embarrassed or careless and turn the animal in to animal control or even abandon it.

Follow up calls (as opposed to home visits) are welcome. They add an important personal touch and give you a chance to repair things if the first couple of weeks are rocky. I think a friendly email from time to time is also helpful and appreciated. Once again it gives you a chance to resave an animal who might otherwise just be given in to the local kill shelter.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I really appreciate your answer. It gave me an idea of how things could go and stuff. I'm really thinking about doing it. I guess I should just start looking around, and see if I that is truly what I imagined. Did you ever have any mentally hurt dogs/cats that you have adopted? Like they would have bad history? If so, how did you deal with it?
 

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Did you ever have any mentally hurt dogs/cats that you have adopted? Like they would have bad history? If so, how did you deal with it?
I adopted my first dog ever from ACC 13 years ago. In hindsight I acted impulsively and should have listened to the shelter when they advised me against the adoption. Dylan was a three year old backyard bred cocker who had been an owner surrender six months earlier and subsequently adopted and returned twice for food guarding and misbehaving with children. He also had cherry eye in both eyes. As a first time dog owner the shelter did not think he was a good fit for me but for some reason I thought I could handle him.

We had him for 7 years until he passed from Inflammatory Bowel Disease that did not respond to treatment. He remained "sharp/shy" and was a poster child for why many vets and groomers dislike cockers. He was very inconsistent. For the most part he was "normal" with me although he bit me twice rather viciously when I pushed him when I shouldn't. I always had the vet muzzle him and several groomers asked me not to bring him back. He could be very unpredictable with strangers which was stressful. On the other hand, when I finally found a groomer who was used to cockers he was compliant and never gave them any trouble.

But worst of all he intimidated my wife and bit her throughout our years with him. She never took any kind of firm hand with him and he was a dog who needed "nothing in life is free" to have respect for you. Thankfully he never broke the skin but I always felt badly that I had brought him home instead of letting him go into cocker rescue as the shelter had planned before I insisted on taking him.

One big problem we found is that most trainers (understandably) will not provoke the kind of aggressive behavior that was giving us problems in order to work on it. You see Cesar Millan do this all the time and I have no problem with his methods but I never found anyone who works the way he does. What he does with owners after he brings the dog around would have been helpful for my wife especially but I never was able to get her to follow my lead so to speak and even if I had Dylan would have still had problems with random strangers (he also was very unpredictable with other dogs).

So the moral of the story is "Listen to the shelter." I'm a slow learner. 13 years later (six months ago) I wanted to adopt a second cat as a companion for my very docile boy from ACC. Instead of taking the cat the private rescue strongly recommended I insisted on a beautiful young older kitten who had spent some time on the street before being rescued.

While Tina is not feral, she is very anti-social and territorial. She dislikes both our other cat and our new dog (who are best buds now) and has never really bonded with us. She will bite if over aroused and the only way to get her to pay attention to us is to semi-starve her so she seeks us out. My only hope is that she does adjust, albeit very slowly. She was making progress after four months when we got the dog and she regressed. We are coming up on three months now so we'll see where we are in six months. By that time we will have had Tina a year. I think she would be much better off as an only pet. Other animals make her defensive even if they are friendly. Frankly if I knew someone who wanted a nice single cat whom I trusted I would let Tina go and get a more easy going cat. But I don't' so I won't. Sigh.



 

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Well, I can add what happened to me but I am very new at this. My last dog lived to be almost 20 and she came from a farm (I was very young so I don't remember). Then we bought a lab from a breeder as a puppy. After my dog passed away, then I said, "You know what? Let's adopt and help a dog out."

It was very...quick. I had volunteered briefly at my city's shelter before so I don't know if my case was special or what. I walked in, and they just let us look at all the dogs they had. I didn't find anybody that suited me until the very last minute. They brought in Paige (the dog from my avatar) from walking just as we were about to leave. We saw she was a dachshund/lab mix and how quiet she was compared to the other dogs who were all barking. She stood there looking at me and I asked the front if we could look at her.

Paige went from me to my mom, wagging her tail, quietly asking for a petting. I didn't know this at the time (or they didn't mention it on purpose) but she had been shaved. She naturally has shaggy, wired fur like a terrier. They told us she had belonged to an elderly person who could no longer take care of her and was moved to a home. Paige lived alone until animal control was called and picked her up. She was very over-weighted, but polite and just wanted to sit with us and get petted. I talked about it with my parents and the guy who was helping us, and decided she would be a good choice.

They then said, "Here you go!" and pretty much just gave her to us at a discounted price and everything. We walked in, paid for her, signed papers, and walked out with her. No references, no home walk-through, no nothing. I do not know if she was a special case, or if my city is just that small and trusting, or what was going on. It felt a bit odd because I had always read online it was a big process to adopt, but it took just a few hours and poof.

Even on the shelter website, it says adoption can take several days and interviews but none of that happened. My guess is that they wanted her out quickly because they did not think she would be adopted at all. But, I don't know for sure. I'm happy to have her though and I fixed her weight, but she is still having problems with her shy behavior and anxiety. I am working on that too, so I don't regret getting her so easily at all. However, I hope the shelter here can weed about potential abusers somehow. It's still just odd how simple and easy the adoption was.
 

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We've volunteered at three rescue centres, walking and training the dogs there.

1. One was an RSPCA centre in a very rough part of a large city (I assume because the properties are so cheap there, or because people wouldn't complain about noise?). We had to have interviews and fill out forms to volunteer, it was a very long winded process. When we could walk the dogs we only went twice as it was so grim..to get the dogs out on the walk you had to take them through the tiny reception / shop area. This meant that members of the public who were at the desk or looking at the stock would fuss and try and pet the (very excited) dogs...ranging from squealing children to a drunk man who chased the dogs around the room (which apparently happened all the time?!).

Then there were the walks themselves. Because it was in such a rough area the pavements were littered with glass and even needles. We tried to avoid it as much as possible, but we had routes we were supposed to stick to. Over half the dogs we took out those two times had limps and injured paws, I assume from the glass. And the walks were horrible too, just pavement walks on a 3ft lead near busy & noisy roads...

2. The second rescue was based near a different large city, but was about 20 miles away in the countryside. The staff at this centre clearly cared about the dogs, but there were just too many dogs...they had DIY pens for the dogs built out of scaffolding, one dog lived in a car, three lived in a caravan etc etc. The dogs got group (unsupervised) runs in a paddock, and there were piles of rubble from building work left in there with them...The structured walks were on lead walks lasting 20 - 30 minutes, just along a stretch of grass by a busy road then turn around and come back.

3. The third rescue seems to have the most money. We have been volunteering off and on with them for 6 years. It is much more dilapidated now than it used to be...eg. gates to the paddocks don't lock (you have to use the lead of the dog you're walking to tie it shut!). Training for volunteers is minimal, which leads to problems...we have had a volunteer try enter a paddock which we were clearly already using, and because the gate doesn't lock she began opening the gate to come in when 'our' dog was off lead AND didn't like other dogs :mad:

The kennels are open to the public, meaning people can walk around the stalls and look at the dogs, but there's no staff supervision...this isn't ideal for dogs that are scared of strangers! One dog has been at the kennels a long time and has intense fear issues with men. He barks when they walk past his kennel, and one member of the public stood yelling at him telling the dog to "shut up" :rolleyes:

This rescue has a behaviourist, but they don't seem very good...there's lots of talk about 'correcting' aggression towards other dogs to 'fix' it. Most the dogs are walked by volunteers, especially when the weather's nice, but some dogs are 'staff only'. We've seen staff members yanking the dogs and screaming at them when the dog has reacted to another dog / person.

Last thought about rescues in general. We tried to adopt our first dog through a rescue but were rejected because we were under 25, lived in a rented flat and I don't work as I'm disabled. There are a lot of sweeping generalisations that stop people being able to adopt dogs from rescues, and whilst I understand this saves time as checking people case-by-case would take longer, it seems unfair.

I have typed so much, sorry! :eek:
 

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I adopted a dog from a shelter once. He had EXTREMELY, and I mean EXTREMELY, severe separation anxiety that was very evident even at to the folks at the shelter, he was very bonded to one worker in particular. The shelter did not disclose this. It was not apparent until after we had signed the paperwork and we were walking out the door w/ the dog and he caught sight of the person he was attached to and started screaming, thrashing around and refusing to come w/ us. He in short order became very attached to my boyfriend and I and we had great difficulties managing his separation anxiety, he was a very difficult dog in many ways, the horrible severe SA being the main factor making him so hard to deal w/. I wish the shelter had disclosed that to us. This dog died tragically after we'd owned him for less than a year and a half. Godspeed Kovsky.
My former roommate adopted a dog from the same shelter several years later. The experience went smoothly and was pretty much par for course. They were even understanding when he returned the dog two weeks later because he's an idiot and decided he didn't want the responsibility of a dog, and when he didn't want to say that outright and made up a nice little story about how the dog bit him they called him out on it by asking to see the bite mark and when there was none he had to admit he was trying to get something out of the dog's mouth and the dog's tooth basically just grazed his finger while he had his hand in his mouth, no bite at all. ridiculous. I am no longer friends w/ that heartless bastard thank god. I can't believe that dog debacle. He walked him TWICE, in two weeks! would take him out in the yard for like 2min twice a day to do his business that's it. and then complained when he peed on the carpet! jesus christ. anyway I'm going on a tangent. sorry.

so my experience w/ my local shelter has been mixed.
 

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Past the edit time but I also volunteered briefly last year at the same shelter I adopted from. The dogs are very well cared for. They get about 20min twice a day of play time and the volunteers are supposed to work on commands and sometimes agility obstacles w/ them during that time too. The kennels are pretty large, probably 6'x24'ish (I don't recall exactly, maybe a tad smaller than that, but pretty big) and they all have nice Kuranda beds in there and they all get plenty of treats when they're working on commands and agility stuff. I haven't seen the side of the kennel where they keep the dogs that are not available for adoption obviously as a volunteer, I imagine it's not as nice, plus those dogs don't get playtime, but the adoptable dogs live in pretty good style for shelter dogs.
 

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I volunteer quite often with my local shelter (city pound). We have anywhere from 150-300 dogs at a given time because the Humane Society in our town is closed-admission where we are open-admission (and a kill shelter). I have had generally good experiences with my shelter. They have adoptions counselors who talk with all potential adopters and encourage them to bring their current dog (if they have one) to meet their potential adoptee. They don't do background checks or vet references or anything because they don't have the time - they're generally short staffed and trying to make do with what they have. If an adopter returns the dog, they try to work with them to enable them to keep the dog but they're understanding if the adopter can't keep the dog.
They've also implemented several programs that are, simply put, amazing. We do a downtown Canine Walk every other Saturday and take adoptable dogs downtown in vests to try and get exposure and adopters. They also do a program called Playing for Life, where the dogs get out in playgroups and interact and play and wear each other out while being supervised by trained staff/volunteers.
My shelter gets a bad rap for being a kill shelter but, in fact, they are very adept and try very hard to get as many adopted as they can. It's a great atmosphere to volunteer in.
 
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