Just the other day, I was writing about the importance of spaying and neutering your pets (you do know the importance, right? and you do know the difference between spay and neuter, right?).
Basically, if everyone spayed and neutered their pets, we’d probably put people like Megan Powers out of a job. And she wouldn’t mind that one bit.
Megan runs the rescue organization, Tails of Hope. They are local to the Baltimore/Washington DC area and specialize in rescuing dogs that face euthanasia. But they also follow their heart.
In 2012, on a whim, I was looking online for a cute little small dogs that might be looking for their forever home. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another dog but when my husband saw a picture of Roscoe, he said YES.
Roscoe was actually a puppy, something Tails of Hope doesn’t usually deal with. Puppies and small dogs are highly coveted and can therefore bring a lot of people out of the woodwork that maybe shouldn’t have pets.
But who are they to judge? Should they be willing to give any dog a home if it means keeping them out of a shelter? If it means, they’ll have a forever home and they won’t be stuck in a foster home?
To the average person like you or me, that’s exactly how it might seem. But it’s so much more complicated than that. So I asked Megan to shed some light on what it’s really like to rescue and place animals.
Fadra Nally: What should a family know before considering adopting a pet from a rescue group?
Megan from Tails of Hope: Adopting a dog is the same as purchasing a new puppy: you need to evaluate your family’s situation to decide what breed, age, activity level, etc. would be appropriate.
For example, two working parents and kids involved in after-school activities might mean that no one would be home enough to properly care for a young, energetic dog. Limited disposable income may be problematic for a dog with special needs or one who requires extensive grooming. An apartment or a home with a small yard may not be ideal for a large, energetic, or noisy dog. So just looking at cute pictures and picking your favorite is never a good way to choose a lifelong companion!
Reviewing a rescue group’s mission statement, adoption policies, and procedures is a must, just like when looking into a breeder or pet store to purchase from. Most of this information is readily available on the group’s website.
FN: Is there any advantage to adopting from a rescue group vs. a shelter?
Tails: The biggest advantage to adopting from a rescue group vs. a shelter is that the dogs have most likely been living in a foster home, allowing for a more thorough evaluation of temperament, behavior, and compatability. In some cases, they have been seen by additional veterinarians or specialists depending on their needs.
Keep in mind that many shelters have staff who are trained to evaluate dogs, and that they usually put in a lot more vetting than is covered by the adoption fee. Adopting from a shelter is not a bad idea, but if your family has a specific requirement like “good with cats” or “crate-trained,” a foster home would be able to give you a better idea of which dog would be a good fit.
FN: What are the biggest challenges for your organization when adopting out pets? Is it finding a home or finding the right home?
Tails: Finding the RIGHT home is certainly a challenge for rescues!
Most people don’t understand why rescues and shelters don’t just hand out dogs to whoever wants them – there are so many, and so many of them will unfortunately have to be euthanized, so why not just give them away to the people who are willing to take them?
At Tails of Hope, we make a promise to every dog we take from the shelter that they will never be abused, neglected, or abandoned again so there is enormous pressure to choose a home where the dog can truly thrive and be happy forever.
We cannot adopt out just to friends and family, so we are trusting strangers to be honest and honor their committment to the dog they adopt. That’s why we require background checks, home visits, etc; it’s not a judgement, it’s just trying to fit the right dog with the right family and make sure that it truly is a forever home.
FN: What kinds of red flags will cause you to reject an application?
Tails: Our adoption requirements are listed on our website. Anyone who wants to apply has to get to this page before clicking on the link to the application. There are a few things that are non-negotiable for Tails of Hope, like electric fencing, “outside dogs,” or unaltered pets in the home.
Some things on an application would be a red flag and cause for additional questioning might be rehoming a previous pet. We try to be reasonable, realistic, and understanding without compromising our basic standards and principles, or sacrificing the quality of life we wish for our fosters.
FN: Some rescue organizations make it difficult to get in touch or follow up on a specific pet. Sometimes it feels like there are so many hurdles for good families who want to give good homes. What’s it really like on the other side?
Tails: Rescue organizations are comprised of primarily volunteers. Most of us have full-time jobs, families, and pets of our own. There are more positions than there are people to fill them, so most of the volunteers have more than one responsibility within the rescue, especially with a smaller organization.
We try very hard to answer emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages, but often times the level of communication that people would like to receive is just not possible. Many groups have a website or Facebook page that contains all of the information that people are looking for anyway: biographies for the adoptable animals, adoption requirements and procedures, the location (or lack thereof) of the shelter where the animals are housed, policies for accepting surrendered animals, etc.
If your application to a rescue is denied, please don’t take it personally, and don’t get discouraged. We’re not telling you that you’re not a good person, we’re just saying that the animal you’ve applied for would not be a good fit in your home. Some reasons for denial, like electric fencing or unaltered pets, are just bad ideas in general, and I would encourage applicants to keep an open mind about bettering the lives of their current and future pets by doing their own research and educating themselves about these and other issues.
FN: What are some of your biggest frustrations working in this field?
Tails: Don’t make it more difficult for me to do my job! Spay and neuter your pets! Keep animals indoors and take good care of them their whole lives! Stop supporting puppy mills and backyard breeders! It’s mostly common sense but people keep messing it up somehow.
I dream of the day that someone says to me “Sorry Megan, all the animals have homes. We don’t need you anymore.” But that day won’t come in my lifetime.
FN: What are three things you’d like people to know when considering adopting (or even buying) a pet?
Tails: Three things to know:
- You are not buying a sweater, so please don’t treat this animal like he is returnable, exchangeable, or may one day go out of style or become too worn out. These animals trust you to love them and care for them forever. They don’t understand why moving, having a baby, or getting a new job would be a reason to abandon them.
- Treat owning a pet as a privilege, not a right. Not everyone has enough time, space, or patience for a pet; you might want a puppy, but would he want to live with you? Since our animals can’t make this decision for themselves, you have the responsibility of making the right decision for them.
- Whether you purchase or adopt, don’t forget about the animals waiting in shelters or foster care. Please volunteer or donate and give hope to the millions of animals in need.
If you have questions or stories to share about rescuing pets, please share them in the comments!
UPDATE: Since this article was originally written, Megan has moved on to a found a new adoption organization focusing on the rescue of senior pets. Please visit her new site at Good Old Tails. Tails of Hope is now a mission-focused organization lending their efforts to things like spay/neuter programs.