Give Me Shelter
Adopting a rescue pet
Adding a dog to your family is a major undertaking, and knowing everything you can about the potential pup before adopting is crucial. In June, former Stamford Animal Shelter manager Laurie Hollywood was arrested in an unprecedented case of reckless endangerment. The 42-year-old Newtown native was charged with adopting out dogs deemed unadoptable, failing to disclose the bite histories of dogs that went on to attack people.
Despite this news, dog adoption is increasing and, as a consequence, euthanasia of sheltered dogs is down. Therefore, as we bring more dogs into our homes it is important to move forward with the cautionary tale of Stamford fresh in our minds—not to discourage the heroic act of adoption, but to ensure safe and responsible adoptions.
Sarah Hodgson, also known as the “East Coast Dog Whisperer,” has no shortage of experience in rehoming dogs and is quick to point out that adoption is not for everyone. As a behavior therapist and certified dog behavior consultant the Bedford native regularly leads families to a dog suitable for them based on their collective personality, knowledge, experience and comfort with dogs. Hodgson vows, “If I am not convinced that a prospective owner is capable of dealing with the challenges that come with rehoming, I do not hesitate to discourage adoption.”
According to Hodgson, the single most important characteristic in one looking to adopt is an ability to understand what motivates dogs. Hodgson cites five emotion systems identified by Dr. Jack Panksepp that help to explain a dog’s behavior. “Dog behavior can be traced to impulses of curiosity, play, fear, frustration, and panic.” Because such a large percentage of rescued pooches have experienced some form of emotional or physical trauma, the potential for fear and panic is heightened. Aggression begets aggression; dogs with a violent past are more prone to a violent future. These steps should be taken to minimize risk:
1) Get to know the dog. Visit multiple times and be wary of first impressions.
2) Avoid personality extremes. People swoon over the sad-eyed, timid puppy or flock to the live wire of the litter. Either end of the personality spectrum can foreshadow behavioral issues.
3) Find a shelter that takes care of its animals. Crowded, dirty, understaffed facilities put stress on animals. Hodgson adds, “Adopting is becoming a business. Some are in it for the love of dogs and some are in it to sell a product.”
These mistakes are common, but statistics show that on a large scale adoption is working. Lives are being saved and rehoming is happening peacefully.