I recently came across some news about a survey by PetSmart Charities that uncovered misconceptions people have about adopting pets from a shelter. You can read about the whole survey here on Petside.com (since they do a great job of summarizing it) but I thought for this post, I'd address just one of the points.
A Common Misconception: Shelters are depressing and sad.
Does this girl look sad and depressed?
This is Princess, one of the pups available (at least she was available as of the time I was writing this...) at Helen Woodward Animal Center where I volunteer. Here's what Princess has to say for herself:
Hello! I am just a big sweetie pie with a huge loving heart! I am very mellow and just love to hangout with my favorite people. I am happy lounging on the couch with you but I also enjoy a long walk to check out the neighborhood.
She looks like a happy girl. She sounds like a happy girl too. (You can check out all the adoptable dogs here.)
I think the ASPCA isn't really doing shelters any favors by showing those completely depressing, grab-for-the-tissues commercials they show of dogs in horrifying conditions at shelters. (I admit - I have some issues with the ASPCA but it's a long story that I won't go into here.) Yes, it probably guilt-sucks some dollars out of some people, but really, it paints a picture in people's minds that shelter dogs are in appalling condition.
Yes, some shelters are sad. Some are truly depressing. Some of the dogs are there because they were found in very sad conditions. But... most of the pups there are happy, healthy and ready to find their furever homes. (At Helen Woodward, they don't adopt them out until they are healthy and ready to go home!)
I used to not want to volunteer at a shelter because I thought it would be too sad. (I admit, I'm a cryer.) I thought I'd be trying to bring every other dog home with me. But it's not like that. It's fun. I never cry at the shelter - I smile there. Every Monday I go play with dogs and sit with puppies and get a lot of kisses. Yes, there are sometimes sad stories - like dogs who get adopted and then get returned. But really, even those stories, I've decided, aren't sad. It's good that the people realized the dog was not a fit for their family. They did the right thing by bringing it to the shelter, so someone else can have the chance to take it home and be a perfect match.
I know probably most of the folks who read this blog already know that shelters aren't necessarily simply by definition sad places, but I wanted to address that misconception. Especially since it's one I used to have myself!
Here's another easy way to help homeless animals...
You can shop for your own pet via the Best Friends Animal Society site at Wag.com. And I've extended my commitment to send 10% of the proceeds on the print sales of my book, What the Dog Ate, to Best Friends through 2013. Makes a fun gift for the dog lover in your life. (Or for yourself!)
In Other Wee News...
Speaking of my book, What the Dog Ate, it's on sale at the moment - at least the ebook version is. If you have a Kindle or iPad (or even a laptop that you can download the free Kindle software on to) you can pick up the e-version of my book right now for a wee little 99 cents! Hours of entertainment for less than the price of a cup of coffee! I love a bargain, don't you?
Thanks for stopping by the blog! Hop on over to some of the other blogs participating in today's Blog the Change!
Hi Jackie! What a great post! As a fellow cryer, I can't even be in the same room as one of those sad ASPCA commercials and feel they are sometimes doing more harm than good.ReplyDelete
You're right! Shelters don't have to be a sad place, full of sad animals with sad stories. They need to be seen as places that help animals in need, regardless of whether they are happy or sad.
- Jamie (Mom to Grizzand Dill)
P.S. - I loved your book :)
Thanks for stopping by Jamie. I hope my post isn't too "Pollyanna"ish. I know there are still sad shelters out there, but the ones I've been fortunate enough to go to aren't sad. They're doing a good thing and that's GOOD, not sad.Delete
Thanks for the comment about the book! :)
Hi there! This is a great post! We are definitely "cryers" over here and thus have been afraid to volunteer at a shelter or volunteer to be a foster home. But maybe it's not as sad as I think. You may have changed my mind about the whole idea of it so...thank you!ReplyDelete
If you can find a shelter or rescue group that is a good fit for you, I think you'll see that it's not sad! But you gotta find the right one... For years I really did think it would be too sad (even here in San Diego where the shelters are not "high kill") to volunteer and was reluctant to do it, but I finally got up my nerve and went on a tour of Helen Woodward. When I saw how great it was, I couldn't wait to volunteer there! Been going for 7 or 8 years now!Delete
Really important topic for Blog the Change! I think a lot of people fear going to an animal shelter for that very reason. (Though I will say that the shelters in my area are high kill shelters. I've volunteered and learned that it is not for me. However, I've definitely gone to them to adopt and with friends who are looking for a pet.) Great post!ReplyDelete
I admit I could never volunteer at a high kill shelter. I'd be trying to bring all the dogs home. And I'm sure I'd be crying there. I hope the post doesn't seem too much like I'm ignoring the fact that there are still scary/sad things out there - hopefully some day that will change!Delete
I absolutely ADORE this post. It's so true - shelters don't have to be sad, and many of them are happy places full of love and caring. I would never describe the one I volunteer at as sad - all of the people who work and volunteer there make sure that it's a happy environment for the animals. (I cry a lot too, so I had the same reservation as you initially... but I'm glad I didn't let that keep me from volunteering. It's an amazingly rewarding experience.)ReplyDelete
You hit the nail on the head about those sad commercials too. I cringe every single time one comes on. I really do think they do more harm than good. I think you're right - they might pull in a few dollars, but I doubt they convince many people to look for their next pet at a shelter. It's the same reason I advocate for happy, cheerful photos of adoptable pets - the right photo can really make a difference (like the lovely one you shared of Princess above).
Finally, thanks for sharing the link to the Petside article - I had not read the results of the survey and it was really interesting.
Thank you for the lovely comment. I was glad I found that Petside summary of the study. I was originally going to take a different tack with this post, but when I saw that misconception about shelters being sad, I remembered how I avoided volunteering for a long time because I thought I'd be in tears every week!Delete
I think you make a great point! My local shelter seems pretty sad....but I have other shelters in my state that I follow on Facebook, and they don't seem like they are as sad. My sister will be adopting a dog or dogs in the future, so you have made me think that we should take a little road trip and see the shelters that might not be so sad. I don't know what the kill rate is at my local shelter, but I know some of the others in the area are "no kill" and that right there sounds less sad to me. So thanks for making me think about that! How great of you to share the proceeds of your book with Best Friends (I love them)! I am going to go take a look for it now!ReplyDelete
Oh, hooray! I love your comment! I hope your sister finds a wonderful friend at one of the local shelters. Or maybe there's a local breed rescue, if there's a certain type of dog she's looking for.Delete
Thanks for stopping by!
I LOVE Helen Woodward Animal Shelter :) I often try to remind myself that many of the pets in shelters may have been homeless, and this is the only home they have ever had. They are dogs - they don't compare their lives to other dogs and wish things were different, right? I wish I had more time to volunteer at shelters (I'm a cryer too . . I cried when my foster kittens went to their forever homes!) and some day I dream of visiting Best Friends!!ReplyDelete
Oh, I'd love to visit Best Friends too! Thanks for stopping by the blog!Delete
Excellent and very well said! I am all for visiting shelters just to say Hi to the wonderful volunteers. Who better to understand your love of cats, and they really appreciate that you care.ReplyDelete
We have some folks at Helen Woodward who often come by to just look at the animals and say hi to the volunteers. It's nice - and proof that it's not a sad place if those same folks come back all the time just to say hi!Delete
Nice post Jackie! I agree. Shelters don't have to be sad places. I also have an issue with the way the ASPCA portrays animals in those commercials (even though I know it's all about fundraising). It makes people afraid to go to a shelter for fear of what they will see.ReplyDelete
I have heard many people tell me they could never volunteer at a shelter because they would be too sad or they would cry. Like you, I am a crier, but you know what? I hardly ever cried at the shelter either. I smiled a lot. I felt satisfied because I was making a dog's day a little bit better. I trained dogs and made a dog more adoptable. What's not to love? I did it for 8 1/2 years, until our shelter closed down.
Thanks for bringing attention to such a great misconception. I hope it motivates people to go check out their own local shelter and volunteer.
Thanks for stopping by Mel! I hope it motivates people too! To either help out or adopt, or even just stop by and drop off donations.Delete
Agreed! Happy pet photos make the most impact and a better impression on pet adoption. Thanks for posting!ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by!Delete
Very important point you cover here in regard to misconceptions about shelters. Undoubtedly, it's true in some cases, but surely doesn't have to be! Hopefully you're helping to dispel the "depressing" myth.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on your book, and it's very impressive how you'll be offering a percentage of the sales to Best Friends.
Thank you for blogging the change for animals!
Thank you for stopping by. Was a little worried my topic would seem too "susy sunshine". I know there are still a lot of sad places out there, but they're not all like that. Hopefully it helps dispel the myth!Delete
Hi Jackie - thanks for participating in Blog the Change Day! You bring up a very important point. All shelters are not sad depressing places, and the ASPCA is not helping the dispel this image. I think the Shelter Pet Project does a wonderful job of showing homeless pets as happy, healthy animals who just waiting for a new best friend to take them home. I would like to see more shelters (especially the ASPCA) embrace this approach. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Thanks Vicki for stopping by my post. I wish the ASPCA would come up with some different commercials and a different approach too!Delete
Thanks for organizing BTC4A. It's a great thing!
Yup, shelters are sad places where they mistreat animals and them simply kill them. They are all sick and broken and not good pets anyway, so why bring yourself down by going there..ReplyDelete
It is really sad what a few bad apples have done to the millions of animals that end up at shelters. and sadder still that shelters have to work so hard to over come that. But it can be done. And people simply spreading the word about what a great job shelters, even non no-kill shelters, are doing and what wonderful amazing loving, kind, whole, happy, joyful animals are there just waiting for you to come find them.
Yep, we have to spread the word! That's what's so great about BtC4Animals!Delete
Oh my goodness, that is a happy face! I've tried to talk Rod into getting another dog. We have Buster (nickname "B") and Ty (nickname "T") and I thought it would be cool if we had a "Lucky" or "Lacey" to make it a "B-L-T!" Unfortunately, my argument did not get much traction. With only about 35 square feet of floor space, Rod says there's no room for another pup.ReplyDelete
I'm with you on those tear-jerker commercials. I turn the channel as soon as the music starts - who can stand to look at those heartbreaking little faces behind the grates? It's fantastic that you're donating part of the proceeds from your book to help homeless pets - good for you!
BLT. That's too cute. When we had Bailey, I wanted to get a boy dog and name him Barnum. Never did convince the hubs on that one...Delete
Yeah, I can't stand those sad little faces either. I definitely grab for the remote when those commercials come on.