Don’t hog the puppies

That’s how many views to date that my most popular blog post has received. I didn’t think it was “all that” when I wrote it, and still don’t. I was blowing off steam. Venting. The intended reader audience: folks in rescue who have dealt with enraged, entitled wanna-be adopters. But anyway, the response boggles my mind.

It’s not great literature or art; it’s factually accurate snark, but Adoption Application: Denied for some reason struck a chord with a lot of readers. It’s pissed off some too. Ultimately it’s turned into the only essay I’ve written that anyone wants to read or share, so I retired it. Poof.

Let’s call this a sort-of flip side to that post. Neither adopters nor rescue entities are perfect. Humans aren’t perfect, and given power, at least half abuse it.

Here, I’m not going off about the unreasonable expectations some rescues have for adopters (I’ll rant write about that someday; others have written about the topic).

Instead, I’ll focus on one weird issue: how some competitive rescues make it damn near impossible for a competent, experienced, highly qualified prospective adopter in my region, the Southeast, to adopt a young (8- to 12-week-old), healthy puppy directly from an animal control shelter, because those rescues swoop in and snag them all up before adopters have a chance to apply.

This is likely gonna make a lot of folks mad, too, but so be it. Bear this in mind: when I say healthy, adoptable puppies, I mean exactly that. Not sick pups, underage pups, special-needs pups, or any other type where rescue is the only sane option. God bless all rescues who step up for babies who need far more than the average adopter can provide.

Shelters, pounds, and ACs around here often give rescues the privilege of pulling animals when the facility is closed to the general public, after hours, even on holidays. And if there’s a surrendered single or a litter of adorable, healthy-looking babies over eight weeks of age (most responsible shelters won’t adopt out pups before that age, nor should they), those rescues race in and grab ’em up.

The pulling rescue may then beg for temp fosters, start fundraising for money for shots, spay/neuter, and health certs, and then all too often ship the babies “up north” to that magical land where there’s a mythological dog shortage, fosters grow on trees, and adoption fees for cute youngsters run $500­–600 and up.

Those healthy, homeless, ADOPTABLE 8- to 12-week-olds the pound just posted on Facebook at 5:00pm? Those little guys who got 400 comments in ten minutes? They might just have found perfect, loving, forever homes fast, without rescue-group brokering.

But the Caped-Crusader-to-the-Rescue-on-a-Mission-from-God rescue called AC after hours and the pups’ post was updated ***♥!!RESCUED!!♥*** before regular people who have to abide by rules even got to apply. Of those 400 who may have commented on the pups’ Facebook post, some were qualified local adopters, now disappointed, and probably not for the first time.

Ponder this: Some of us regular Southern folk may not want or need to adopt from a rescue; sometimes we’d prefer to adopt straight from that “kill shelter.” Not every Southern adopter is a backward, ignorant, cheap-hillbilly-redneck dumbass, a neglecter/abuser, a backyard breeder, or a purveyor of bait dogs. And—surprise—it’s not because the Southern adopter is “too cheap” to pay a rescue group’s adoption fee. It’s this: Not every Southern adopter wants or needs everything done FOR them.

Believe it or not, some folks want the full experience AND the responsibility AND the personal expense of doing all the work themselves—yes, really! Many have years of canine care experience, have spent many hundreds or thousands of dollars giving companion animals the best of care, and have been fosters themselves. They’re ready to cut out the middleman, and do the basics from the start. Because for some of us, basics are an integral part of the process.

The basics like taking that pup for the vaccine series, for microchipping (and perhaps they’d like that microchip registered in their own name rather than to a rescue group who in essence retains default ownership for the dog’s life), for frequent puppy wellness checks, for spay/neuter surgery. Basics like doing the housetraining, crate-training, leash-training and basic obedience work. The reward is getting to see and grow and bond with that puppy as a baby, from the stage where it’s legal to adopt onward.

Yes, there are actual responsible, civilian non-rescue folks here in the South who can do all the startup work, and who prefer to. But in some areas, they can’t, because rescues who have an “in” with the AC pull all those healthy, adoptable-aged, precious pups the minute they’re listed or even before that, while the shelter’s closed—before qualified would-be adopters have a chance.

What’s the alternative for those would-be adopters? Buying from a breeder? From somebody with an oops litter? From somebody selling puppies out of the back of a truck in the Walmart parking lot? Or paying a rescue’s adoption fee, jumping through dozens of subjective screening hoops, and signing a multipage contract that allows the rescue to “check in” for the next 15 years at will, and to take back the dog if they see or imagine anything at all they disapprove of? Or driving around the countryside looking for a “stray” pup that may or may not belong to someone, and may or may not be semi-healthy?


Source: Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Look, rescue groups. “Rescue” used to do two vital things: relieve shelter overcrowding, and give second chances to the unwanted, uncared-for, unhealthy, unsocialized pets who need the extras that only a nonprofit charity can reasonably provide. That includes  underaged babies separated from their mothers, that need extra care, OR abandoned moms with their neonate/unweaned litters incarcerated together and at risk for parvo, distemper, URI, and other diseases that plague shelters. I won’t even go into rescues that pull puppies and leave their moms behind.

Sure, there are legit situations where a rescue should hustle to claim adoptable pups if that rescue can act fastest: the shelter is overcrowded, and even adoptable puppies are at instant risk for euthanasia for space. The shelter has a communicable-disease problem. The shelter is poorly run or understaffed or can’t begin to screen adopters adequately (and this is often a subjective judgment, since many consider all facilities that euth for any reason “hellholes”). Etc., etc., etc. But to claim these scenarios are ALWAYS the case across the board isn’t legit. Many shelters prioritize adopters before rescue groups. More should, if they have the space and resources. That’s great.

If you’re pulling adoptable, of-age pups to recoup some of the expenses you incur when you take in dogs with a lot of pricey medical needs and long foster commitments—that is, because healthy, desirable pups offer quick turnaround, low expense, and a ready adoption fee—that kinda stinks to the average observer. Ditto if your fosters have puppy mania. Why do they take precedence over adopters? If you assume that NO ONE but you/your group can take care of those initial puppy needs because all the locals are inbred yokels/backyard breeders/dog-fighters and YOU are the shizz, you need to examine your bigotry and your control-freak tendencies.

Ditto with the healthy, well-adjusted, highly desirable purebreds and toy-sized dogs that don’t need an intermediary to get good homes. Stop snagging them out from under good potential adopters. Highly territorial breed rescues that grab ALL animals of their breed that land in shelters, regardless of interest from adopters or all-breed rescues, are a mafia in themselves. If the breed isn’t a “difficult”* breed to raise, vet, train, and socialize, an adopter is just as good as a rescue. But that’s another essay.

*GSDs, English Bulldogs, Cane Corsos, Border Collies, for example. Sensitive, major high-energy, serious medical challenges, tend to guard their humans, etc.

Please consider: some of us here in the South are competent, caring, compassionate, intelligent, dog-knowledgeable grownup folks with years, even decades of caregiving experience, who might like to give a young pup a great home for life without conforming to the rigid rules of, or forming a long-term relationship with, Rescue Big Mama. Who don’t want the miles of strings attached and pages of terms and conditions. When you constantly moan on social media about how harried, underfunded, under-fostered, in debt, and stretched thin your rescue group is, yet you snap up every cute, healthy, highly adoptable infant doggie or litter thereof from every facility within a hundred-mile radius before actual adopters can apply, it’s gonna look like your martyr complex is showing.

Don’t hog all the easily adoptable puppies. Please. And think the points in this essay through carefully, slowly, and objectively, instead of just reacting.