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647: Adoption Screening

When you approach the world of animal adoptions, there’s a refrain you’re likely to hear time and time again — “adopt, don’t shop.” Adoption from shelters and rescues is often seen as the quote-unquote “better” option.

And, largely, it’s a successful effort. As Emily Yoffe wrote in Slate, quote:

More than 40 years ago, an average of 20 million dogs and cats were euthanized annually. Humane organizations started a campaign to spay and neuter pets, especially those coming through shelters, and today fewer than four million dogs and cats are euthanized yearly—still terrible, but a vast improvement.

The internet has also had a large benefit for animal adoptions, because potential pet owners are able to match up with adoptable pets from across the country.

There’s a debate in the adoption community of what kind of adoptions are the best — open, or heavily screened. And there’s strong arguments on both sides.

Those that argue for so-called open or “unscreened” adoptions say that the ease of adoption is important to make adoption accessible and as easy as it would be to go to a breeder or pet store and purchase an animal rather than adopt.

However, there’s plenty of people that argue that not screening potential pet owners is allowing those that would abuse or neglect animals to take possession of animal they intend on abusing.

There’s also the question of screening that goes way, way too far.

Quoting further from the previously cited Slate article:

Besides being as much fun to fill out as a Form 1040, many group’s applications are full of tricks and traps. Some are obvious. But other questions are conundrums. If you think having a dog would be great for your kids, or that your personal reproductive plans are not the business of strangers, then consider how to answer this question from a Labrador rescue group: “Are you considering having children within 10 years?”

Ari Schwartz, a business development manager from Tarrytown, N.Y., and his wife, Lisa, a medical student, ran up against these Jeopardy-like quizzes when they went looking for a shelter dog. After filling out a multi-page online application from a local group, they got a follow-up phone call from a representative who noted they hadn’t given the name of their veterinarian. That was because the couple didn’t have a dog, Lisa replied. In Joseph Heller-esque fashion, the rep said that in order to adopt, a referral from a veterinarian was necessary.

Being an animal rescuer can be a potent source of identity, combining salvation and self-sacrifice. But in recent years the ASPCA has seen that, for some people, this identity crosses over into pathology. Dr. Randall Lockwood, a senior vice president of the ASPCA, says that around 25 percent of the 6,000 animal hoarding cases reported in the United States each year involve purported rescuers, up from less than five percent 20 years ago.

No matter what you think, it’s a tough question. So…