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[Guest Post] Take Off Your Judgey Pants: Let's discuss pet adoption!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Maggie Marton, of Oh My Dog Blog. This is a topic that I'm interested in, and I'm thrilled that Maggie wrote about it. Some folks may not know that Grouchy Puppy is a place for people to have lively debates about sensitive topics. In the past we've discussed breed specific legislation, and the question "is animal advocate a kinder, gentler activist?" Our mission here is about education and elevating conversations, how can you do that without healthy debate? Now let's hear from Maggie...

maggie marton

Recently, two things happened at once that got me thinking about how we treat pet adoption, and Sharon was kind enough to let me tackle it here.

The first thing that happened was that I researched free adoptions. I wondered how free adoption promotions (like Free Feline Fridays at my local shelter) affected overall adoption rates… and whether there were negative effects, like an increase in returns or people with ill will “collecting” free animals.

The second was that I listened to the Pit Bulletin Legal News Radio episode when the guest was Kim Wolf. She presented a compelling argument about the importance of human services in conjunction with animal services. The most dangerous place for a dog in this country, she argued, is in a shelter. So why not focus efforts on helping people keep their dogs in their home?

It sounds logical, but there’s a huge amount of resistance, which I discovered when I posted about free adoptions. Despite numerous studies that indicate otherwise, I encountered strong resistance to the idea. The argument that emerged was this: If a person can’t afford an adoption fee, then they can’t afford to take good care of a dog.

But how we define “good care” circles around to Kim’s argument.

So, let’s say someone can’t afford to spay her dog. Or she can’t afford to pay for the office visit at the local vet to get the rabies vaccine. Neither of those factors indicates that that person loves her dog any less or cares for her dog any less. Offering spay/neuter services or vaccination clinics alleviates the financial stress on that pet owner and allows her to keep the dog in her home rather than relinquishing her to a shelter.

The permeating thread in the discussions on Facebook and Twitter was that if someone can't afford an adoption fee/spay/decent food/routine vet visits, they shouldn't be allowed to adopt a pet. To me, that sounds like we're saying that because someone is poor – or even just living on a tight budget – then they don't deserve a pet.

I don’t believe that’s true.

In my research on free adoptions and in examining all the harrowing statistics of dogs killed in shelters every day, I came to a single conclusion: Any home, any family where a dog is loved, even if he’s intact and eating grocery brand chow, is better than languishing in a shelter and, eventually, being killed.

As animal welfare advocates, I believe it's our job to take off our judgey pants and help people keep their animals in their homes.

Maggie Marton is a freelance pet writer and blogger living in southern Louisiana. You can find her at or training her three dogs, cat, and husband.

Next week Maggie will examine how we can adjust and offer human services to better serve our animals.

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