This post first appeared on Care2.com.
In the more than 20 years that I’ve been writing about pet and animal welfare issues, I’ve heard from numerous people who were disappointed with their experience at local animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also hears from potential adopters frustrated at being denied the opportunity to provide loving homes to animals in need. They complain about rude treatment by staff at their local shelters and frustration when calls and e-mails to shelters aren’t returned.
It’s true that shelter staff and volunteers see terrible abuse of animals and they are understandably concerned about placing these pets back into bad homes. However, leading animal welfare organizations say this concern can lead to being overprotective and going overboard when it comes to regulating, requiring and screening. This results in potential adopters turning to less humane options to find an animal companion. There’s a movement within the animal welfare community that’s finding a middle ground with the realization that “a home that’s good if not perfect will be better for pets than an animal shelter.”
The “Adopters Welcome” manual and webinar series produced by the HSUS were designed to help shelters maximize adoptions by embracing members of the community and encouraging them to adopt while helping them succeed as pet owners. In addition, the ASPCA’s “Smile! You’re Saving Lives” webinar focuses on providing a positive service to clients in the interest of building great relationships and saving more lives. A growing body of research is suggesting that “open adoptions” done with less intrusive methods of pet adopter matchmaking are just as effective as, and in some cases even more successful than, those requiring potential adopters to jump through a lot of hoops.
So, what does an open adoption policy look like?
Open adoptions provide shelters with the opportunity to educate rather than judge potential adopters. The focus is on building partnerships and lifelong relationships, following up on adoptions and being a resource for families who adopt. When the Dakin Humane Society, with shelters in Springfield and Leverett, MA, launched its Open Adoption policy more than six years ago, it created a “culture of understanding and respect” for the human customers, coworkers and volunteers who come to the shelter. At Dakin communication with potential adopters is congenial and collaborative rather than bureaucratic and rule-bound.
Dakin Humane Society adapted an Open Adoption policy more than six years ago.