A friend on social media recently asked for recommendations for local dog breeders. She described the kind of dog she’s looking for, and since the animal shelter I volunteer at has dogs that match perfectly to those descriptions, I suggested my shelter to her. She was not open to the idea of adopting right now because she has a toddler daughter, but she said maybe when the girl gets “much older.”
I left it at that. I didn’t press her by asking why she thought she couldn’t adopt a dog with a toddler. Everyone has a right to get a dog where they want. I advocated for a shelter dog, as I will always do, but she went the other way. That happens.
That was the end of it until another person, we’ll call her Sally, joined in on the exchange and agreed with the woman that she shouldn’t get a rescue dog with a toddler. Sally said she wouldn’t adopt when her kids were young, and now that she has grandchildren, adopting is again out of the question even though she feels bad for shelter dogs.
I couldn’t keep quiet. I was cordial. No cussing. No writing in caps. But I couldn’t stand by and let these two women imply a falsehood that shelter dogs are more dangerous than other dogs. There is no truth to that. I have never seen any scientific research that states rescue dogs are inherently more dangerous than dogs that come from breeders.
I responded by first acknowledging that people can get their dogs anywhere they want, but I politely asked that they stop spreading this falsehood that families with toddlers shouldn’t adopt. Hundreds of families adopt from my shelter every year, and thousands across the country, and we can’t let the sentiment be that those parents are putting their kids in danger because they went to a rescue.
It is true that some dogs come to my shelter with behavioral issues because of the abuse they endured at the hands of a human, but animals are temperament tested and it is decided which dogs can be in a home with children. Dogs suffering from the effects of an abusive background work with a trainer to help alleviate their issues, and then they are placed in a compatible home. But if a parent is concerned about a dog’s past, shelters are filled with puppies. I know mine always is.
If a person decides not to rescue a dog and be a part of the solution to reducing the number of dogs killed every year, then at the very least don’t deter other people from adopting by spreading untruths about shelter dogs. At the very least, speak up for rescue dogs. Encourage other people to adopt even if adopting doesn’t fit your needs. Donate to your local shelter. Volunteer. Give a shelter dog your time. They deserve it.
Millions of dogs enter shelters across the country and never make it out alive. The odds are already stacked against shelter dogs, please don’t make it harder for them to find homes.
Be their advocate.
We are their voice.