Monday, December 22, 2008

The $%#! Disturber

I recently wrote a letter to the editor of our local Champaign-Urbana newspaper describing how upset I was that our family was denied an application to adopt a dog. Jennifer and the kids had made a couple visits and decided they liked a Chihuahua named Lucy. I personally think that Chihuahuas are rather ugly, but I'm not really a dog person anyway. Adopting a dog was entirely for the benefit of Jennifer and the kids.

Anyway, Jennifer asked to see the mouse... er, dog... but a Champaign County Humane Society employee told her that they don't adopt small dogs to families with small children because of the risk that a child could accidentally step on the dog and kill it. I thought that was one of the most absurd things I had ever heard. Sure, it sounded plausible, but small dogs face many dangers. I wouldn't think that children stepping on them would pose an abnormally large threat. If anything, I would hypothesize that an adult would be much more likely than a child to step on a Chihuahua due to the adult's elevated field of vision. The consequences of being stepped on by an adult would also be more deadly than the same by a much lighter child. We were told to not even bother applying since denial would be certain.

Faith was devastated by the rejection and drew this picture of Lucy:

"Lucy the Chihuahua"

Anyway, we subsequently adopted Charlie, a beagle-basset hound mix from the neighboring Vermilion County Animal Shelter. Charlie is also a small dog, though he certainly has more heft than a Chihuahua and it seems unlikely anyone under about 8'6" would step on him. We were not given any grief about endangering the animal with unsure-footed children.

Fast forward a couple months. Several readers sent letters to the editor (prior to mine) about how they were upset about being denied dogs by the Champaign County Humane Society because they intended to keep the dogs primarily outside. One of the letter writers was even featured on the local TV news. I generally sympathized with their grievances and decided to vent about our experiences. Rather than paint another picture of rejection, I decided to take a slightly different angle with my letter. I thought it would be interesting to call attention to these adoption policies in light of the oft-discussed societal problem of animal overpopulation and too many unwanted, abandoned pets. Though I was not aware of any specific current overcrowding issues at the Champaign County Humane Society, I said that it would be prudent to question the restrictive adoption policies if the agency should ever seek funds to expand.

My letter drew a couple of angry responses from Champaign County Humane Society employees and supporters who thought that I was "suggesting that the community withdraw its support," which was a misrepresentation of what I wrote. I did say that I intended to withhold my support as long as their policies remained unchanged. And I said that potential donors should question policies before supporting. Certainly, if you agree with the policies, then it makes sense that you would support the agency and I wouldn't want you to do otherwise. But lend such support with your eyes wide open. That was the essence of my letter. It contained no "call to the community to withdraw support for the organization and all its good works." I didn't write back to the editor because I figured it would have been a waste of time to wage a public debate with anyone who so carelessly read my letter.

Another letter from a Champaign County Humane Society employee and supporter did not call me out by name, but suggested that rejections are rare and based on well thought out policies. Interestingly, our family is not part of the 3.6% of adoption applications that are rejected because we were told not to apply. There are no records to count how many of us there are, but I would wager that a good number of us now own pets adopted from other shelters.


Harriett said...

I hope you will accept this not in the positive fashion I mean to send it.

I think the dog you adopted sounds much more appropriate than the Chihuahua mix you were looking at in Champaign. The dog you adopted in Vermilion County sounds really nice.

I do support the Champaign humane society and appreciate that they look out for the well being of the animals. From you note it doesn't sound like you were turned down for any dog, just that little one.

I met the dog, Elvis, that was the topic of two letters to the editor. Both wanted Elvis to either live out side or spend considerable time outside. Elvis looked to me to be a pit/lab mix. He didn't have a long coat and was no more suited to live outside, even with shelter, than I am. Besides, those breeds are very social and when left alone they tend to get into trouble. You know, the kind of behavior that lands many dog in a shelter in the first place.

The Champaign Humane Society doesn't knowingly adopt dogs to homes where they will spend a predominant amount of time outside. But if they did, Elvis would not be a good candidate, in my opinion.

Hey, I am even worrying about the two very heavy coated great pyrenees that is see every day on Old Church Road. They only have small plastic kennels for shelter. I don't care how heavy the coat is, if it is wet, it is cold. I'll worry about them over heating next summer too.

Enjoy your new family member, and happy holiday.


Scott said...

Thanks, Harriett! I hope you have a nice holiday as well.