Free adoptions: Much better than televised killing
The first post I wrote on this blog was about the televised killing of a dog by a “shelter” in New Mexico, a depraved publicity stunt that echoed a depraved publicity stunt by a “shelter” in California twenty years previously–the one which was recounted in the opening paragraphs of Redemption.
Many people were outraged by Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock’s televised killing of the golden-haired dog (which was apparently the second such stunt for her) and her blaming of the public:
“I’m sure the public is tired of hearing this problem but unfortunately, it is a community problem – it is not a shelter problem, Vesco-Mock said.
It also came out that she’d briefly directed a Georgia shelter, but was fired after a dog was left in a hot animal control vehicle and died.
At the time of the televised killing the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley had a 70% kill rate–significantly higher than the national average of about 50%. Appalling, when you consider that we have known how to achieve 90+% save rates for over 10 years.
The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley and Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock are in the news again today, this time for doing a free pit bull adoption event for the month of October. According to the news article, the shelter will still use its usual screening procedures, the only difference being that there will be no charge to adopt pit bulls. In addition, the dogs will be neutered already.
Now, I have a natural tendency to be skeptical, and I don’t think that this shelter director suddenly turned into adoption promo queen Bonney Brown, but, could this be progress? Is she really going to do it and do it right? I sure hope so. The fifty-six pit bulls currently at the facility, the other dogs, and the cats and other animals, are depending on progress.
- A lot of people don’t read past the headline of an article, and
- A lot of people have misconceptions about what free and reduced-price adoption promotions are all about.
Free pet adoptions are not aimed at people who otherwise couldn’t afford a pet, and that’s not primarily who they attract. Just as Nordstrom holds special sales only for its best and, presumably, wealthiest customers, just as car dealers and appliance stores and luxury hotels have special promotions, shelters and rescue groups who do free adoptions know that the “free” part is a marketing strategy, not a hand-out.
Free and special price promotions are designed to be attention grabbers. They also serve to focus people on pet adoption not in a “someday when I get around to it” kind of way, but in a “better go this weekend because it’s exciting, fun, and I’ll save money!” kind of way.
And just as wealthy people look forward to the Nordstrom annual sale because it’s an event, because it makes them feel special, and because they enjoy the idea of saving money, pet adopters respond the exact same way.
These days, people like to brag about having a rescued pet. Adopting a pet is a good deed and becomes a positive part of someone’s identity, and adoption promotions make more people into adopters of rescued pets because they combine a good deed with saving a few bucks.
I doubt that most of the people who are so upset at the prospect of pit bulls being adopted out for free know that the last time this facility made headlines, it was for killing a dog on television. I doubt that most know that at that time, its kill rate was 70%. And wherever kill rates are high, they are generally even worse for dogs labeled ‘pit bulls’.
Shelter killing creates a toxic climate of fear, leading to a willingness to believe the worst about people, and the long tradition of blaming the public means that the people whose support is essential to saving lives–”the public”, is, after all, your pool of potential adopters–is viewed with suspicion rather than courted. Innovation is suspect.
Is this shelter director committed to making this event a success? I don’t know. I sure hope that she is. What I do know is that the animals deserve a successful adoption event, and many more in the future. Animal advocates should do what they can to make this event a success, because we need to leave the bad old days behind.
If you were a pit bull, which would you choose: 15 minutes of fame for getting killed on the evening news or 15 years of life with a family who adopted you for free?