I always tell new employees that if they are here long enough they will see the whole gamut of humans – super responsible, loving pet parents to abusive people and everything in between.
Just this past week we had three distinct variations to prove my point. Names and a few facts have been changed to protect privacy but the main points are true.
Three dogs came in separately as strays. Each had been found wandering a neighborhood and brought in by a concerned citizen. None had on collars or tags but all were microchipped (yay!). Two of the three were altered but one young male was not. We reached out to the owners registered on the chip and here the similarity ends.
Nixel, a cute little terrier-mix, came in very thin and had long overgrown nails. When we reached Sam, the owner listed on the microchip he told us that he and his wife had separated and since neither of them would have time for the dog he was placed with an acquaintance. The microchip had not been updated to reflect the change and Sam didn’t know how to contact the people but said he would come in and get Nixel once he figured out how to pay the high pet deposit where he was living. When Sam came in he was a little shocked at the condition of the dog and just as happy not to have him go back to where he had been placed. He said that although he’s still super busy at work and the pet deposit was a stretch for him financially he felt responsible for this little dog and couldn’t leave him in the shelter. What a great pet parent!
Buddy was a large, handsome Husky. This was his third time brought in as a stray in the past six months. When we spoke to Sharon, his owner, she said that rather than reclaim Buddy, she would really like to give him a chance to find a new home. She was working a lot and really didn’t have the time for the dog and clearly wasn’t able to contain him.
When we asked her to come in and surrender the dog and fill out a profile about him so we could start processing him for adoption she said she would be in the next day. And she was! Right when we opened! She paid the surrender fee, brought us his vet records and filled out a profile giving us lots of information about what the dog liked and disliked, how he was housed and fed and other tips that would be helpful to a new adopter. Not the best ending but perhaps a good new beginning for Buddy.
Nacho was a young male Chihuahua with energy to spare. This was also his third time being brought in as a stray. We had discussed neutering previously with the owner but this energetic guy hadn’t been home long enough to get an appointment. His dad, Mike, had said on the last impound that if he was brought in again we could just keep him. That’s not quite how it works – having an animal officially surrendered releases him right away so we can get him up in adoptions sooner and not leave him waiting in the stray area for the legal holding time. It’s also hugely helpful to have a profile and not have to guess about what he’s like and what kind of home would work best for him. Did he live with another dog? Cat? Kids? What kind of food does he like? Does he use a dog door? Any health issues we should know about? This kind of information can make a difference to someone looking to adopt a new dog and we appreciate having it. All it would take is 10 minutes to come in and sign a form and fill out a profile.
Mike said he would do it but never did. Apparently he can’t be bothered even after repeated phone calls asking him to just give us the information over the phone.
Maybe we make it too easy for someone to just walk away from their responsibility to their pet. We can waive the surrender fee if it’s a financial hardship because we don’t want that to be the reason that someone abandons the animal at our door.
We ask that people make an appointment to surrender their pet so that we have space ready and can give that animal the opportunity that she deserves. Aside from that and proof of residency within our jurisdiction, it’s pretty easy to surrender a pet.
Which is what makes it so frustrating when someone is not willing to do even that much. As I said, we see it all here – and this was just last week!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.