Ready To Adopt?

From left: Joy Freedman, Jane Sopher, Lisa Poland, Linda Turkel and Robin Frank snuggle with their rescued dogs on a recent visit to the park. (David Stuck)

From left: Joy Freedman, Jane Sopher, Lisa Poland, Linda Turkel and Robin Frank snuggle with their rescued dogs on a recent visit to the park.
(David Stuck)

All Pikesville resident Dara Bunjon wants to do is adopt a little dog.

“I love dogs, I really do. I love to be on the couch rubbing a dog’s belly, taking a dog for a walk,” she said.

But thus far, she hasn’t had much luck.

Two local rescue groups turned her down. She applied to be a dog foster parent, and at the last minute, that even fell through.

With nearly 180,000 dogs waiting for adoption on Petfinder’s website, it doesn’t seem like adopting a dog should be so hard. However, it can be.

Petfinder’s Director of Shelter Outreach Sara Kent says 14,000 pet-rescue organizations showcase their available dogs on their site. There is no single set of professional standards for these groups; each one has its own independent set of criteria and policies.

While one group may require potential adopters to fill out a multipage form, provide multiple references and undergo a home visit, others may simply ask for basic information and hand you a dog.

So where does that leave the potential adopter?

Lutherville-based dog behaviorist and obedience instructor Joy Freedman said there’s a good reason many rescue groups carefully screen potential dog owners.

“The reason is to protect the safety of the animal,” she said. “That is the No. 1 criteria that every responsible rescue looks at. Will that dog be safe in that home and have a happy, healthy life?”

Freedman said rescue groups must be on the lookout for prospective owners who may use the dog as dogfighting bait or who would sell the animal on Craigslist for profit.

Kent said Petfinder is aware that some groups are so picky that in some cases responsible owners are turned down.

“We do hear that. What I would definitely recommend first and foremost is to keep trying,” Kent said. “Every group is different. If you’re having some trouble with one group in particular, there are so many more pets out there that need homes. If you’re struggling with one group, move on to another.”

Kent urged potential adopters to put themselves in the shoes of foster parents, who often put a lot of time and effort into rehabilitating the dogs and will wait for what they feel is the perfect home.

“We do encourage [foster parents] to keep an open mind and work with adopters. Great pets aren’t born, they’re made,” Petfinder’s website notes. “If you don’t think it’s the perfect home for a pet, work with that person and make it into a great home.”

Working with the adopter is a key point. There could be many more successful adoptions if rescue groups would offer follow-up training and support. Unfortunately, since most rescue groups are volunteer organizations, that’s generally not possible.

Bunjon considered buying a dog but really wants to do a rescue. Despite her frustration with the process, her search for a canine companion continues.

What Questions To Expect?
When adopting, you might be asked …
• Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
• Is your yard fenced?
• Are you home during the day?
• Do you have other pets in the house?
• How much do you estimate a dog costs?
Source: Interviews, Internet

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