This would have been from last weekend, I think, but some of the local humane organizations had that "clear the shelters" program, and so we got a few calls, asking if we were participating. I think this is important to talk about, so I finally got around to writing this.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure the people who called, even knew that they hadn't gotten a dog rescue. A few asked where they'd reached, and I'd told them, and they then, asked if we were participating in the clear the shelters event, so maybe they did know... but some just called and asked. And with the number of calls that I get for people asking me to take in their dog or cat, I'll assume a good portion of them had no idea they'd reached a chinchilla rescue. Anyway.
In case you're not familiar with what this is, let me explain. Some humane organizations -- notably humane societies, animal welfare groups, and animal control -- will participate in an event. I believe it is once a year (maybe a couple times? don't quote me on this). During this "clear the shelters" event, the adoption fees for the animals are waived. The adopters still have to fill out the adoption form, and if they are approved, they get to adopt the pet for free. The idea is to clear the animals out of the shelters, hence the name.
I remember this from when I lived in Indy and used to take Kailey to obedience classes at the Humane Society. People would be posting on their facebook page, on the images of their available animals (after the event, but before they'd gotten a chance to change the available animals), how oh, this person REALLY wanted that dog, but darn, this other person got their first and beat them to it, and then a third person would chime in, about how they also really wanted the dog, but found out it'd already had an application put in on it, and someone else wanting to know if that one didn't work out.
Here's the thing. No one wanted that dog two days prior. But since it was, all of a sudden, FREE, everyone was beating down the door for it. And this was the case with many of the animals. Often, they really would "clear the shelter" and have mostly open kennels to bring in more dogs...
...like the exact same ones they adopted out, in a few weeks, when people who, in their impulsive decision to adopt since the fee was FREE, didn't really think this through.
We did not, and will not, participate in events such as this. You may notice, if you are trying to find places that are participating.... places such as breed-specific rescues, private rescues, and the like, just about never participate.
Here's why. The places that do participate sometimes are often kill shelters, where if the dogs are not adopted out, they may be put down, due to lack of space or behavior issues. So, it is in those shelters' best interests to get them out, even if they end up coming back, so they can euthanize less. For them, a home is a good thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm NOT saying that there aren't some good adopters in this sort of event. I'm sure some people adopt a dog for free, and have and spoil the dog until it dies peacefully in it's sleep of old age at 16 years old. I'm sure. However, what I'm also sure is, there's people who see "FREE ADOPTIONS!!!" and because the adoption process at these places is not always that difficult** go and adopt an animal, without putting much thought in.
**I looked up the adoption questionnaire at one of the local humane societies. Name, age, address, how best to reach them. It asks about kids ages, and what role the pet will play in the household (cuddler, mouser, guard dog, companion, etc). The form asks what pets they have at home. The form asks if they have any information they'd like to share. Finally, there is also a section that allows the person to check off if they have any specific topics they'd like to discuss with an adoption counselor at adoption time, such as training, finding a groomer, etc. The adoption process involves them filling out the form, and it being gone over with an adoption counselor, and if all goes well, they can adopt.
Now, again, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my adoption form is difficult, in comparison or anything like this, but just that this one is relatively simple, and the average person could write their name, address, how to be reached. They could write, no one else in the household. No other pets. They could indicate that they've had a dog before, so they don't have anything they'd like to discuss... and in theory, it could be filled out in about 2 minutes. The reason I mention this, is because it's so quick to do, it makes me wonder how much thought is put in to all of this.
With my small animal adoption forms, and the care packets they read along with them (and the god-awful in depth adoption forms that some breed rescues have... but that's a topic for a different day), I've had people start on them, and tell me, you know what, now that they really had to think about caging and the answers to my questions and whatnot... they're not sure they're ready to adopt. Sure, that loses an adoption (if you want to look at it that way), but I'd prefer to look at it as -- an informed person decided that that specific pet is not right for them, right this moment. I'm not sure if that happens when there's a form that could be filled out in 2 minutes.
My worry, which I imagine is echo'd by the breed-specific rescues and other rescues that do not participate, is that people will adopt, without much forethought, because the pet is FREE. In going back to the humane society I was mentioning... the adoption fees for dogs are $75 for large dogs (over 30 lbs.), $150 for small dogs (under 30 lbs.), and $200 for puppies. You can debate if that's reasonable or not, to yourself, but the point is, it's not a fortune.
Think about dog food for a second. A large bag of food (provided you're not buying the absolute junk) is at least $30-50 for 30+ pounds. With a large dog, you'll go through that pretty regularly, so if you can't afford the $75 adoption fee for the large dog... how are you going to afford these $30+ bags of food, at least every other month?
Think about the veterinarian visits for a second. If you can't afford the $75 adoption fee, how are you going to afford taking the dog to the vet? I just took in the new dog, and for her checkup, heartworm test, fecal, shots, rabies, and 3 months of flea and tick, it was around $270. That's fine, I'm not complaining. But I bring that up, because all of that IS ALREADY DONE, plus spaying / neutering, for these dogs (which is ~$200ish at your average vet), and the adoption fee is $75. If you purchased a puppy elsewhere, you'd have that, on top of the price of the puppy. And maybe you want a puppy, of a specific breed, so that's cool with you. But the thing is, you know the dog you are adopting will be up to date on its shots, and, barring it getting sick, will not need a vet visit for another year (for their yearly checkup). However... at that yearly checkup... you will, then, be paying for these shots and such. Should the dog get sick, the vet here is around $49 to walk in the door. This money has to come from somewhere, and if $75 is too much, I wonder if people are going to be able to afford the vet costs.
Think about the older animals. Seniors are half price adoption fee. So, a large senior dog would only be ~$38 to adopt. That's nothing! And that's a 7+ year old dog, so they may have plenty of life in them left! Now, I don't expect everyone to necessarily bend over backwards the way I do for Kailey. If you haven't been following along, Kailey is my 9.5 year old sheltie soul-mate-dog. She has arthritis in at least one wrist (the other has never been x-rayed, but is suspected) and arthritis in both ankles. Kailey is on a prescription arthritis medication and a prescription nerve medication. She gets two glucosamine / chondroitin joint supplements. She also gets CBD (cannabinoid) medication, which runs a pretty penny... but works. The cost for all of this is upwards of $300/ month, and she needs bloodwork ($150) twice a year (x2) to stay on these meds. Plus the costs of shots yearly, works out to...$4,150+ per year (~$250 shots / checkup, $300 bloodwork, $300 meds / supplements x 12)... and that's IF I don't take her in for anything else, and IF you aren't counting flea / tick and heartworm prevention meds! Now, I'm not saying everyone necessarily needs to put this much money into their dog. However... without these meds, she is an unhappy, limping dog, that would rather be a throw-rug on the floor. With these meds, she plays with my younger dogs and actually rarely limps! Will someone, who thinks $38 is too much to adopt a senior dog, and instead adopts it for free, even consider putting their dog on joint supplements when the dog starts to get achy? Maybe, maybe not.
Think about additional accessories. Dogs need a collar, leash. Crate. Chew toys, if you would prefer the dog didn't munch on your cat or couch. The medium crates I use for my shelties aren't anything special, but I'm pretty sure they were around $150, and that wouldn't even fit a large dog. The collar and leash could be purchased at the dollar store (though, low quality, I'd worry about them fraying / snapping), as could dog bowls... but the thing is, these are extra expenses that will be incurred, with bringing a new furry family member home.
I guess the overall question that looms in my mind is this -- if the person cannot afford (or doesn't want to pay for) the adoption fee for the animal, are they financially able to care for the animal? Are they really that invested in the animal? I see people posting on pet groups on facebook all the time -- oh they got it for free, so no big deal if it doesn't work out. Maybe if they paid $75, and actually had put money and thought into it, they would have a different perspective. Maybe not, but I don't think that the animal being free, does anything to help the situation.
I realize, above, that I am talking about dogs, but this all applies to any animal. With chinchillas, ok, the chin is free -- can the person afford the cage? The chew toys? The vet visits if the chin gets sick? Maybe more importantly, the vet visits if the person uses improper caging and the chinchilla gets impacted from plastic? Pet food for small animals is even more ridiculously priced than dog food (at the pet store), so that will take a chunk of the owner's cash, regardless of what the small animal cost, as will chew toys and accessories. Will the people research the pet and buy the appropriate cage, with the animal being free? Or will the people who, before, could never afford a chinchilla, get one for free, and then go out and get a 10g aquarium on craigslist for a few bucks, and keep it in less-than-appropriate caging, because that's what they can afford? This is what I worry about. And that's why we will not participate in events like this.