Many people assume that shelter dogs are broken somehow. There must be a reason why they were dropped off there, after all. Maybe it’s because we want to assume the best about people. Sometimes it’s because so many of the “bully breeds” end up in shelters, and the stereotype of an aggressive dog prevails. The real reasons most dogs end up in a shelter might surprise you.
First, many dogs come in as strays. This doesn’t mean they were abandoned, or that they are feral (though a few are). Most simply got out of their home or fenced-in yard. If they don’t have tags on and aren’t microchipped, there’s no way to find their owners. (More on microchipping later in the month.)
The top reasons why people surrender animals are because they are moving, and are choosing to move somewhere that doesn’t allow pets (yes, it is a choice, because there are MANY options for pet-friendly housing in all price ranges, no matter where you live), or because they are having a baby. Other common reasons are allergies, or because the animal developed a health condition the owner couldn’t afford to treat, such as heartworms. (More on that later this month, too.)
Here are a few other excuses we’ve heard through our time in the rescue world:
- The dog licked my baby’s feet and didn’t get along with our ferret (I kid you not: they thought foot-licking was a precursor to aggression–it isn’t–and thought a ferret was a safer pet than a dog to have around an infant.)
- He barked
- She didn’t bark enough (they wanted a guard dog, I guess)
- She couldn’t go down the stairs very well (this was a 2-month old small-breed puppy)
- He shed too much
- It made messes in the house/wasn’t housebroken (also regarding a puppy)
- He got carsick
- Kept getting out of the yard/kennel/house
- Got too big (large breed puppy)
- Didn’t grow big enough (small breed puppy)
- He hid under the couch and seemed scared (puppy returned to the shelter after 2 days in the home)
- Too high-energy
- Too mellow
Many of these excuses were heard from owners who had adopted dogs and then returned them to the shelter, usually just days after adopting them. The ones that break my heart are the dogs who get dropped off after years with a family simply because the family has gotten tired of taking care of them, or an elderly owner is put into a nursing home or passes away and there is no one willing to take care of them. Two of our recent fosters, Bella and Chico, came to the shelter that way. Their owner had passed away, and the adult children said they didn’t have space for two dogs. They were chihuahuas.
Owners who are not willing to bear the responsibility of pet ownership are the biggest reason animals are in shelters. Thankfully, most adopters truly love their new family members, and do everything possible to make the transition into their homes as smooth as possible. Do you have a rescue animal with an interesting back-story? Work with a shelter that has heard a whopper of an excuse? Share it with me in the comments!