I recently received a long voice message telling me that I didn’t show enough heart when I wrote these articles and that there are times when people have to surrender their pets and I should be more compassionate. I’m sorry if I seem cold or harsh when I discuss this topic, but it’s a sensitive one. Of course I realize there are times when surrendering a pet to the shelter is the only option, but too often it’s just the easy way out of taking responsibility for the animal.
It’s ironic, as shelters have changed a lot over the years. With the No-Kill Movement lots of organizations are boasting very high live release rates. So then, what’s the big deal about surrendering an animal if it’s guaranteed to be adopted? Why should someone put out a lot of effort and try to guilt-trip friends into taking the animal when you can just surrender it to one of these progressive shelters? What if the reason you are giving up the animal is because of a severe behavior issue? Most private No-Kill shelters won’t take in animals with an aggressive history exactly because they know they are not adoption candidates! It’s also very stressful on the animal to be in a kennel setting; especially a senior pet that’s always lived alone in a quiet household. Can you imagine what’s going through their minds when they are suddenly in a strange place surrounded by barking dogs?
By switching to what’s called Managed Intake - taking appointments for owner surrenders - we have seen a significant reduction in the numbers of animals surrendered. Just this one logical step has had a huge impact. Not that we are trying to make it difficult but no longer can someone in the heat of the moment (came home and another pair of shoes were chewed) pack up the animal and just drop them off at the shelter. It gives us a chance to actually be prepared for the animal – have a kennel or cage set-up and ready vs. rushing around to get one ready when 10 other things are happening and it helps to reduce over-crowding guaranteeing that each animal gets enough time and attention. Isn’t that what you want for your pet?
It also gives the owner a cooling off period and a chance for us to offer solutions to the problems. We can offer a dog trainer/cat consultant to help with behavior issues; referrals for low-cost spay/neuter and a program that assists low-income seniors with veterinary expenses. We have suggestions on how to rehome your pet on your own so you know he ends up in a good family. There are links to pet friendly rentals on our website. What is the real reason you are giving up the animal (moving is often the convenient excuse, the issues go much deeper) and how can we help you keep your pet?
We recently had a man show up with three cats loose in his car to surrender. They weren’t his, he claimed he was helping a friend who was moving out of state (that day, already driving away!) and the last thing to deal with was getting rid of the cats. But the owner was too sad to come himself. So he sent his friend with three loose cats in his car and absolutely no information on any of them – he didn’t even know their names! Let alone medical history, likes and dislikes, ages, behavior etc. In what universe is that helpful? Or responsible? How do we know they came from Rohnert Park? Or that this man’s story is even true? Maybe these are his neighbor’s cats and he is just tired of them coming in his yard so he drove them to a distant shelter so the owner wouldn’t find them. One never knows!
Sadly, one of the cats bolted out of the car when he opened the door so now we have a frightened cat somewhere around the shelter. Sorry if I don’t sound compassionate – in my opinion the last thing you ever have to do for your pet is take the responsibility of surrendering them (if all other options fail) so we have the information needed to make a good placement for them. I admit I sounded a little irritated and said to the man that it wasn’t directed at him as I understood he was (supposedly) just trying to help his friend, but what were they thinking?
There are very valid reasons why shelters are going to the Managed Intake system and it actually benefits the owners as well as the animals and the shelter. Please call in advance if you are thinking you might have to surrender a pet and it can make the process much smoother. And when you come in for your appointment I promise we will be kind.
No More Lost Pets – free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati City. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one! The shelter is open Wed 1-6:30 p.m., Thurs.-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.