But shelter and rescue employees also know that we are at a point where healthy, friendly animals are less and less likely to be euthanized. With over 200 million pets in the United States, less than 5% will need shelter or rescue services each year. Increasingly, this 5% is made up of adult animals who are difficult to handle.
Yes, shelters and rescues house plenty of purebred, socially resilient animals who will make terrific family pets. But we also have plenty of animals we’ll call “projects.” They need some help through no fault of their own, adjusting to life with people. Maybe they lack experience with humans or basic manners. Maybe they have medical conditions that compromise their ability to fit in just anywhere. This is where rescues excel; matching special needs animals with capable adopters. Shelter professionals would also agree that these animals do not always make for good pets, even after extensive rehabilitation.
Somehow this has become a soapbox for vilifying the small percentage of people who choose to purchase a pet, as the Obama’s have done this week. Sometimes in rescue it’s easy to lose sight of the real world in the face of the animals who are not so lucky. Of course, all we see are those that need more, and who met up with people that offered less. Often we are disheartened enough to look for anyone to blame. That’s not helping save animals and it distracts from our work.
Did we miss a PR opportunity by having the president of the United States adopt from a shelter? Sure. But if that adoption had gone horribly wrong, would we want to face that public education moment as well? It shouldn’t be about how we get in the news. It should be about celebrating responsible decisions about adding a family member. Going to a reputable breeder is part of the solution to pets ending up in homes they are unprepared for.