By Katie Schaefer
Every year, thousands of dogs and cats leave shelters throughout the country with brand new homes, and every year inevitably some of these dogs and cats will return to these shelters. This is a sad truth, but through education and assistance, it is highly preventable. Reasons animals have been returned to the Metro East Humane Society include, but are not limited to:
1. Unrealistic expectations. This is commonly seen with puppies and kittens. Adopters see a small and cute cuddly animal, but have not done the proper research before adoption. Puppies and kittens are a lot of work and need lots of help from their adoptive families to navigate the world. This includes discipline and lots of time; time that some adopters may realize they simply don’t have. Lack of breed knowledge can also see a shelter dog or cat returned to the shelter. For example, not everyone is cut out to own a high energy dog or cat.
2. Moving. Sometimes people move and cannot take their pet with them. Sometimes they move and simply don’t want to take their pet with them. Facebook Marketplace is full of people trying to rehome their pets because they are moving into an apartment that doesn’t allow animals or they are moving cross-country and don’t want to be bothered with moving their pets with them. Some cities also have breed restrictions. Regardless the reason, a pet is a 10-15-year commitment. No one can see into the future, but if you think you may be moving somewhere that you can’t take your furry friend, best to hold off on an adoption.
3. Behavior. Shelters can be extremely stressful for dogs and cats alike. Some of these animals have never lived in a home before. Staff members at MEHS do their best to judge each animal’s behavior as they come into the shelter so they can match each pet with he or she’s best possible adopter. However, each animal needs an adoption grace period. Make sure you give your adopted pet a proper amount of time to get acclimated to his or her surroundings. A new home, however caring as it may be, can be scary! If a pet is still acting up after a few weeks/months, adopters should consider reaching out to an animal trainer/behaviorist.
“Welcoming a four-legged addition to your family can be a fun and exciting event, but it’s necessary to ensure a smooth transition for the pet and family members. This does take some preparation and work,” said MEHS Executive Director, Anne Schmidt. “Regardless of the effort made by staff or educating adopters, the success of an adoption is dependent on the effort made by the adopter and family.”
MEHS provides an adopter follow up program called Maddie’s Pet Assistant – an app for mobile devices that help shelters provide support to caregivers following adoptions. MEHS utilizes surveys that adoptive families submit post adoption to gauge how the pet is doing. Veterinarians and animal behaviorists working directly for Maddie’s Pet Assistant can respond to families directly if they feel there is an issue with the adoption. MEHS staff can also provide direct support in responses to these surveys as well.