by Sherrie Hines, AthensPets
Volunteers and staff at shelters everywhere are often asked why a certain animal has been at the shelter so long. "Is there something wrong with them?" we'll often hear potential adopters ask. Many people assume that if a dog or cat has been at the shelter for a number of months, it means that the animal isn't desirable for some reason, but the reality is that luck often has more to do with it than much of anything else. Many times otherwise-wonderful animals get stuck at the shelter for a long time because they had the bad luck to come down with an illness. Dogs who are positive for heartworms may stay with us for two to three months while they receive heartworm treatment. Since they aren't allowed to exercise much while they're undergoing treatment, it can make it hard for them to interact with potential adopters. Cats, and even young kittens, can come to the shelter with ringworm, which is easily-treatable except that it takes a long time. A friendly six-week-old kitten who ends up with an upper respiratory infection or ringworm may spend one to three months just trying to recover, through no fault of their own.
But outside of illness, luck still plays a huge role in the outcomes for our animals, even in something as simple as where they are housed during their stay at the shelter. A dog in a kennel on the front side of the shelter will likely have more exposure than a dog placed in a back kennel. We've noticed that cats in the bottom kennels seem to be overlooked more often than those at eye-level. It's one of the reasons that we move cats around sometimes, to give the public a better chance to view them. This is especially a problem for our black cats; they all but disappear in the darker bottom kennels, so we always try to place them higher if possible.
The most important element of luck, though, comes down to who happens to come in the door on any given day. When we have that one special person come in looking for a bonded pair of cats, that's when our long-term kitties like Meatball and Oprah finally find their perfect home. When we have a family looking for a devoted pup to join their family as an only pet, that's when our more selective dogs find a home. Sometimes our pets get adopted because they were lucky enough to go to an outreach event, and that one special someone was there to meet them, too. Even more of our pets find their homes because one of our Facebook followers happened to share their profile, and one of their friends has a friend who was looking for a new furry family member. Networking makes such a difference for our pets.
At the end of the day, we know that all of our shelter animals have the potential to thrive in the right home. They just need a little luck to help their perfect family find them. Still think that there's something wrong with an animal who's been at the shelter for a long time? Well, we also hear stories time and again from our rescue partners where they've rescued some of our long-term pets, taken them straight to an adoption event and had them adopted into good homes within a day or two of leaving the shelter. It's one of the many reminders that no matter how long our animals have been at the shelter, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them.
So take a moment to help our shelter animals improve their odds. Share their information with your friends, stop by and see all of the animals (not just the cutest ones at the front), and take time with the ones that may not catch your eye immediately. With a little luck and a lot of love, we know that our shelter animals have a bright future ahead of them, and we know that while they may not be able to make their own luck, you absolutely can.