Dear dedicated volunteers,

Welcome to winter! May you have comfort and warmth throughout the season … even when walking dogs in the cold. Your dedication to vulnerable animals is unwavering, and I am continually impressed with how you show up for them and the League. Thank you.

Many of you work directly with animals within the walls of our shelters. You see the joys of healing, confidence building, and of animals connecting with their people in a new home. You also experience disappointment when what was thought to be a joyful adoption ends in the pet being returned to the shelter. This can indeed be disheartening, but I would like to offer you a different perspective.

One of our Socially Conscious Sheltering commitments is to “enhance the human-animal bond through thoughtful placements and post adoption support.” Initially, the word “thoughtful” was “safe,” with the intention being that a responsible shelter does not place dangerous animals in the community. However, the Association of Animal Welfare Advancement’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee reviewed the tenets fully and interpreted “safe placements” to mean placements with adopters who were deemed good enough to adopt. Sadly, many animal welfare groups still discriminate against patrons based on race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors, resulting in unacceptable adoption policies. This was never the intention of this tenet, and thus we were eager to find wording that clarified our meaning. 

At the League, we consider a thoughtful placement to be one where behavioral concerns have been assessed and the known risk of placing the animal in the community is acceptable. Any animal who has shown behavior that is likely to result in severe bodily injury or death to another person should not be placed. Of course, we are working with complex animals, and we cannot guarantee that every animal we place will not cause harm, but we have an incredible behavior team and great risk assessment tools to help us make these difficult decisions. A thoughtful placement is also one where the adoption counselor and the adopter have a collaborative conversation. The counselor learns how the adopter sees an animal fitting into their lives, and the adopter learns which animals would likely be successful in their home.

Despite thoughtful conversations, not all adoptions are successful. And that is okay. When it is not a good fit, it is better for the animal and the adopter to avoid forcing a relationship. In these situations, welcoming adopted animals back to the shelter with compassion is vital to the well-being of people and animals. We learn more about the animal when the adopter tells us what worked and what didn’t, and we have an even better opportunity to make a good fit for that pet. While we may be disappointed that the adoption did not work out, we treat the patron who makes the difficult decision to return the pet with compassion, as we know this can be embarrassing and feel like a failure to them. We are grateful when they understand that they are not the family who can meet the animal’s needs, and thus allow us to continue to advocate for that pet.

We see so many highs, and some lows, when working with animals and people. You have chosen to make a real difference at the Dumb Friends League, even when it is not easy. We cannot express how grateful we are for your time, energy, and heart. Thank you.

Speaking for those who cannot, 

Dr. Apryl Steele

President and CEO