I remember attending a training a few years back and the facilitator was also a trainer. She indicated that she was continually frustrated when working with clients with rescue animals with no background information on their adopted pet. She couldn’t believe that as rescues, we could have an animal in our care without any background information to pass along to adopters.
The reality is that the majority of animals that we receive are transferred in from animal control facilities with a one page transfer sheet. Most of those animals arrived at the sending facility as a stray. We are receiving animals picked up as strays, held at an animal control for stray hold, and transferred to TAPS. When an animal originates as a stray, there is no way to know any history on the animal. Even when animals are owner surrendered, we normally don’t receive any background information beyond that it was owner surrendered.
In the cases of no known background information, we pass along what we witness about an animal here at the shelter to potential adopters, but shelter behavior and home behavior can differ. A cat that is very fearful here at the shelter can blossom in a home. A dog that is anxious and excitable in the kennel environment can be a couch potato.
Often, we have to generalize in ways that we understand can be frustrating to potential adopters. A dog with no manners may be marked best with no small children. With training, those dogs can be excellent with children but in general, a young dog with no manners can knock down a child and in far too many instances, be reported as aggressive. A cat that is friendly and social here at the shelter since it is familiar with this environment, may be marked as good with everyone, and go home and hide for the first several days in a new home.
When you adopt a shelter animal, we ask that you be patient and give your shelter animal time to settle. Don’t overwhelm them with new situations and give them plenty of time to decompress. A dog that may otherwise be great with children might growl if a child comes running for its food bowl during its first meal in the home. A cat may hiss and scratch if it is cornered for attention during the first few hours in a new house. Whether we know their background or not, animals, like humans, take time to settle and adjust. Often times, if you can get past the initial adjustment stage, you’ll look back and wonder why you ever questioned if the relationship would work.