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Putting pets in proper homes

Humane Society, Hall Animal Shelter both work to increase adoptions

POSTED: July 31, 2013 12:13 a.m.

About 15 percent of pets adopted from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia are returned there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Adopting a pet is a big commitment, usually a lifelong one for the pet, and many potential adopters get too excited by the process to fully consider the implications, said Julie Edwards, director of development and marketing for the humane society.

“You shouldn’t feel bad about returning an animal,” she said. “If you find that you can’t adequately take care of the animal, it is better for it to go back to the shelter and find a new home.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Hall County Animal Shelter sees very few animal returns. Adoption Specialist Justine Daniel attributes this fact to an extensive education program and the animal shelter’s partnership with rescue groups.

In a recent report to Hall County Commissioners, Daniel outlined how the animal shelter has been able to reduce euthanizations and increase adoptions.

Both shelters are doing all they can to put pets in the right homes for the benefit of animals and owners.

The Humane Society took in Molly, a 4-year-old Chihuahua mixed breed, last December. She was quickly adopted but was returned in May because the adopter said she was too nervous around her young children. The humane society took the dog back and temporarily put her in a foster home to test her reaction to older kids. After a while, she was adopted by a single mother with an older son who are very happy with her.

The humane society encourages potential adopters to fully consider their situation and spend time with the animal before they adopt. Factors such as how busy the adopter is, whether the adopter has kids and whether the adopter is properly prepared to handle the unique challenges of taking care of their pet are considered.

“It is very easy to go in and see the cute fluffy puppy,” Edwards said. “Then you adopt it and realize that it is a living breathing being.

“In many ways a young pet is like a young child. They need to be house-trained, watched and played with.”

Many returns are the result of picking a pet that is not ideal for the owners’ situation. For instance, puppies are the most common pet to be returned because their required level of care is higher than older dogs. Some people avoid large dogs and instead opt for smaller energetic dogs that require more supervision. Others adopt animals who do not adjust well to the presence of small children or previous pets.

An example is Blue, a mixed breed hound dog adopted recently by a seemingly loving home but returned within a week. When questioned, the owner said that while he loved the dog he couldn’t keep it from harassing his neighbor’s chickens. The neighbor complained and eventually the owner decided to return the animal, now awaiting adoption.

To combat this problem, the humane society uses trained volunteer adoption counselors who have often spent hours caring for the animals and know their tendencies. The counselors can help potential adopters find an animal appropriate for their home.

If, however, the adopter wishes to return the pet, the humane society shelter offers refunds or exchanges if the pet is returned within 10 days. After that period, the humane society will still take the pet if it has space.

Pets returned will be evaluated based on the owners’ complaints and receive treatment, if needed. If the animal is reported to have aggressive tendencies, they undergo training until they are comfortable around people and other animals. Pets with health problems receive medical treatment. All animals will eventually return to active adoption.

“We try to keep track of returned animal’s problems so we can find a better fit next time,” Edwards said. “Because we are transparent about returns, it can sometimes make finding a home for them difficult but ultimately they will find a better one.”

The adoption process for the shelter is very involved, which helps prevent impulse adoptions. If a potential adopter rents a home or apartment, a phone call from the shelter to the landlord is required to make sure a pet is allowed. Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers or German shepherds, require home inspections before adoptions can be processed.

“Also it’s working with a person to find the right fit,” Daniel said. “If it’s somebody who wants a lap dog, we’re not going to point them in the direction of the cute little puppy that is going to be an 80-pound dog when it reaches adulthood.”

The shelter had 4,459 animal intakes from January to June 2013, yet has managed to find homes for 1,084, up from last year’s 616. Euthanizations are down by almost 600 animals from last year as well.

Daniels attributes these numbers to successful education programs regarding spaying or neutering animals, which has led to a reduced number of intakes, and to the shelter’s successful partnerships with rescue groups.

The shelter currently works with 70 licensed rescue groups that are screened to ensure animals are placed in reputable organizations. These groups pay $85 for a fully-vetted animal, meaning they have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, tested for common health problems and have received microchips used for identification. Many of these animals will be transported out-of-state to areas with fewer animals available for adoption.

The rescue groups are responsible for 678 adoptions this year and partly responsible for a $24,000 increase in revenue for the shelter.


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