The other day, a pickup truck with a beautiful blue Pit Bull in the back rolled by while I was walking. “What a beautiful dog,” I thought. Then, “Oh…wait, that’s bad. That dog could get hurt.”
The driver pulled into his driveway and walked to the back of the truck, showering the Pittie with head rubs and ear scratches before he untethered the dog. The fact is, this man who obviously loves his dog and prefers a hard-to-adopt breed would never be approved by most animal rescue groups if he disclosed that he lets his dogs ride in an open pickup truck.
Last week, I blogged about a rescue group that took back a cat after four years based on a mistaken assumption that the adopters breached their adoption contract by allowing the cat outside. That got me thinking about adoption contract rules, which exist not only for legal reasons but also because someone, somewhere in that particular rescue group decided what is “best” for an animal, based on their view of the world.
Here are a few rules from various rescue contracts found online:
- Adopter must notify us if you ever move to a new address.
- The dog will not be kept outdoors during the adopter’s working hours, or at any other time left alone outdoors while the adopter is not at home.
- The dog will not ride in the back of a pickup truck under any circumstances.
- The adopter must keep the rescuer informed with the name of the dog’s veterinarian and rescue may check at any time to make sure that the dog is kept on heartworm preventative year-round.
- If the dog gets loose/stolen and is not back in the adopter’s care/control within two hours, you must immediately notify the rescue. Failure to do so will be an immediate breach of contract.
- Adopter agrees that [rescue group] shall have the right to enter Adopter’s premises at any time, with or without notice, to inspect the dog’s condition and environment at any point in the lifetime of the dog.
Hopefully, these restrictions are there to give a rescue leeway when it needs to get a dog or cat out of an actual abusive situation. Or, maybe these are guidelines, placed in the contract for the adopter to consider for their pet’s well-being. I know pet owners who don’t keep their dog on heartworm preventative every month during harsh winters, and I don’t think they are bad dog owners. I also think it’s a little nervy of a rescue to expect an adopter to welcome a surprise inspector to their home “at any time, with or without notice.”
Besides, there needs to be a bit of a learning curve allowance for new pet owners. I am embarrassed to admit that when I took my first dog, Emma, to a nearby lake on autumn days to run off-leash, 20 years ago, I sometimes let her ride tethered in the back of my truck down I-35 for 30 minutes on the way back. Why? Because she was muddy, and she liked it, and, like nearly everyone reading this, I did more stupid things 20 years ago than I do today.
When I got my second truck, I let my dogs ride in the covered bed, and when I got rid of that camper shell, they rode in the cab with me. One day a couple of years ago, a car spun out of control on I-35, slammed into me, and my truck overturned, rolled twice and slid upside down across three lanes of traffic. Miraculously, thanks to my seat belt, I wasn’t injured, and neither was anyone else on the road. Fortunately, no dogs were with me.
I hate to imagine what might have become of a dog in my pickup bed in that situation. Random things happen, in all of our lives, no matter how much we try to control everything, no matter how many rules we have in place. People who work in animal rescue want to take every possible precaution to protect their adopted pets because, in their line of work, they see horrific situations of animal abuse. After awhile, nearly every adopter is suspect. However, we all have different ideas of how to best care for our pets. Every animal, person and situation is different. Not everything fits neatly into an adoption contract.
If an adopter loves their dog or cat, takes care of them, and the animal isn’t being abused or neglected, maybe the rescue should just back off, trust that they made the right selection through interviewing and screening and let people take care of their pet as they see fit. I am all for adoption follow-up, and I think it’s essential, but doesn’t the dog or cat eventually belong to the person who adopts it?
Controlling adopters with dictates about the only “right” way a cat or dog should be cared for isn’t going to guarantee that all adopted animals will live long lives. It just means that a lot of people won’t get their pets from a rescue group, which means that a lot of homeless dogs and cats will wait a long, long time for that “perfect” home.