Everybody loves free stuff and cute, cuddly animals. Put those two things together and you get something completely irresistible. However, as the old saying goes: “Nothing in life is ‘free’.” When animal shelters or pet owners decide to give their animals away to new homes for free, it is our responsibility to calculate the true cost, or risk, in giving these animals away.
Animal shelters across the country turn to waiving adoption fees for their adoptable animals as a lifesaving strategy to assist with overcrowding issues and to help find homes for pets that have been sitting in the shelter for too long. These specials help motivate adopters to find their fur-ever friends and relieve the shelters of the overwhelming numbers of animals they are caring for.
It also raises understandable concerns about the types of homes the animals are being adopted into. “The traditional view has been that [it] devalues them in the eyes of the adopter, may compromise their care and reflects poorly on the shelter giving them away,” says ASPCA pro. Luckily, there have many studies done about the effects of fee-waived adoptions on quality of care, and they have all turned out positively in that fee-waived adoptions do not devalue the animals and these pets can and do find their forever homes (aspcapro.org).
Many times, when the SPCA Albrecht Center has decided to waive adoption fees on our animals, we receive phone calls or Facebook comments from concerned supporters wanting to know that we are being wise when adopting out our pets during these specials. As bluntly and simplistically as I can say it, we are.
The Albrecht Center’s goal in finding homes for our adoptable animals is not just to push as many of them out into the public as we can. Instead, we strive to find good, loving and, most importantly, forever homes for our pets. This means taking time with our potential adopters to match them with the best-fit animals for their home and particular situation and going through the adoption process with time and care. We do this through adoption counseling, pet and family meet-and-greets, follow-up calls and personal meetings with our Pet Care staff if we know the adoptable pet needs any special training or care.
We take the time to get to know each adopter and let our adopters get to know their possible new pet. We discuss our guidelines for care, our expectations for their new home and provide resources, such as food and medicine, and advice to get our animals started in their new life. We also reserve the right to turn someone down if we truly feel they are not a suitable adopter. Our staff is trained and experienced to recognize if someone is looking to adopt for the wrong reasons, i.e. for dog fighting or neglect.
Though free animals may seem like the perfect attraction for neglectful adopters, they would not come to a shelter for that purpose. With microchipped pets and personal information given at the time of adoption, shelters and police have everything they need to track an abused pet back to its neglectful owner. A person wanting to inflict harm on an animal would not risk signing on the dotted line of an adoption contract.
This is great news in favor of giving second chances to shelter animals through free adoptions and hopefully minimizes the fears of our supporters. However, it raises new concerns for the free animals listed in newspaper classifieds and online ads, in which there are no adoption contracts that can be used to track neglect.
The Best Friends Animal Society has a wonderful online article that assists pet owners in trying to find an appropriate, loving home for their pets if a situation arises in which they need to find placement. It discusses everything from how to write an appealing pet bio to how to screen potential adopters to ensure the new owner has the right intentions: www.bestfriends.org/resources/rehoming-dog-or-cat.
Another resource is Adopt-A-Pet’s rehoming feature: www.rehome.adoptapet.com. The Albrecht Center is regularly recommending this website to owners looking to surrender in an effort to keep pets out of the stressful, overcrowded shelter system. Pet owners can post their adoptable pet and create an adoption application to screen potential adopters. It’s safe, easy and has already been proven effective in finding new, loving homes.
Speaking of free animals, all adult cats (ages 6 months and up) at the SPCA Albrecht Center are fee-waived for the month of July! We have feline companions for all types of adopters. Please take the time to visit with some of our FIV positive cats, elderly cats and cats that have been at the shelter for a long time – they all deserve wonderful homes and would thrive with their right family. You can visit our adoptable animals at 199 Willow Run Road, Aiken from Monday – Saturday 11am – 4:30pm and Sunday 11am – 3pm (no adoptions processed on Sunday).
Claire R. Grimes is the Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She is an Aiken native, but spent some college years in Charleston, graduating from CofC and interning with Charleston Animal Society. She is excited to now be working in the animal welfare field in her hometown and is proud of the community efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, Logan, an adopted black lab, Ozzy, an adopted Siamese mix, Luna, and Claire’s first love, Anakin, a 17-pound rescued Maine Coon mix.