Oh, So We’re Going to Legally Define “Adoptable” Animals? Yeah, That’s Not Smart


Two animal welfare organizations in Bay County, Michigan, have been embroiled in tension. The relationship between the Humane Society of Bay County and Bay County Animal Control became strained partly because the humane society has been pressuring animal control to reduce the number of animals killed at its shelter.

The groups met last summer with hopes of dispelling the "us vs. them" mentality. Since then, things have been going well; they even formed a task force to explore ways to decrease the number of adoptable animals killed.

When I hear terms like "task force" and "explore ways to ÔǪ," my BS detector goes almost off the scale. You see, in my life outside of Catster, I’ve been exposed to far too many task forces that are ultimately, to quote the Bard, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

It seems that my belief has been reinforced once again, because the Bay County task force’s "explorations" have resulted in the formation of a subcommittee (oh, for cryin’ out loud!) to form the definition of savable cats and dogs.

And just to make the subcommittee’s efforts even more pointless, they’re bringing in more people ÔǪ er, I mean "stakeholders" ÔǪ because the county commissioners, with their far-reaching knowledge of animal care and husbandry (ahem), totally need to be involved in defining what makes a cat or dog adoptable.

But the jargon and bureaucracy don’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that the committee is going to try to codify what makes an animal healthy, treatable, manageable, and/or capable enough of rehabilitation to keep it alive.

Anyone who’s ever worked with animals — cats in particular — knows that you can’t define how adoptable they are simply by observing how they react when shoved into a cage in a crowded shelter. If my cat, Kissy, or any one of the cats that flower essence and TTouch practitioner Sara Goldenthal has worked with, had wound up in a high-kill shelter, they would have been instantly given the "unadoptable" death sentence because of their aggression, fear, or other inappropriate behavior.

But all my Kissy and Sara’s shelter cats really needed was a person who could take the time and give them one-on-one attention to recover from trauma and overcome their fear of human contact.

No list of guidelines is going to be able to take the place of a knowledgeable animal caretaker’s judgment call.

I hope the report by the task force’s ad-hoc subcommittee on the definition of "adoptable" will include instructions to remember that cats in severely stressful situations like shelters don’t behave like they ordinarily would. I hope the guidelines come with extensive instruction on the difference between scared strays and feral cats. And most of all, I hope this group’s work to define what makes a dog or cat adoptable turns out to be more of a blessing than a curse for the county’s animals.

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