Bark and Purrtect

Animal Welfare, Rescue and Advocacy

Bark and Purrtect
Why Free Isn’t a Free-For-All

This past week, we’ve been busy on social media sharing news about a huge adoption event that was held the first weekend in June: Maddie's® Pet Adoption Days, the biggest free pet adoption event in America. Organizers were projecting about 5,000 pet adoptions at 200 participating shelters and rescues across the country.

Now that’s a lot of adoptions in just one weekend, which, of course, everyone is happy to see. But what put us on the receiving end of more than one negative tweet was the use of the word “free” in our promotion of the event. Every time we wrote about the event on our website, sent out a tweet or posted about it on Facebook, we received instant notes of concern from readers who were worried that the free event would attract people who intended to do harm to the animals. We’ve run into the same thing when we’ve helped publicize other free adoption events around the country. Our local shelter (where we adopted our dog Tiki and our cat Inca) is hosting a free “Summer Lovin… for Life” adoption event to kick off their participation in the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge so we’re going to be promoting it on our accounts but we’re already bracing ourselves for the misunderstanding that this type of event always generates.

So let’s set the record straight: a “free” adoption event does not mean a free-for-all.

Boxes of puppies and kittens are NOT set out on the curb in some kind of first-come, first-served giveaway. Unlike “free puppies” listings online, these adoptions are not a sure thing.

When you see a “free” or special low-cost event at shelters (we’ve seen $14 adoptions at Valentine’s Day, for example), that does not mean that the shelter or rescue is dropping its usual protocol when it comes to adoption. All that’s being dropped is the fee. The professional care and concern that comes with the adoption process remains in place.

Rescues and shelters still require the same paperwork that they do on a regular adoption day. That varies from event to event but it might mean a home check, veterinary references, a letter from your landlord if applicable, personal references, and more. It means you’ll be talking with an adoption counselor to make sure that the pet is a good fit for your family and that you understand everything that adoption will entail. In some cases, it might mean bringing in everyone who lives under your roof to talk with the adoption counselor just to be sure that everyone in the home shares your enthusiasm regarding a new furry family member.

Of course, no pet is free. There are numerous costs involved with adopting a pet, from food to veterinary care throughout the pet’s life. The decision of whether or not to adopt shouldn’t be made based on a one-time savings. During a free event, many adopters choose to go ahead and donate money to the shelter or rescue that cared for their new family member.

A free event can help generate much-needed publicity for shelters, often at a time of year when puppy and kitten intakes mean that, without adoptions, tough decisions will have to be made about the future of many adoptables.

Photo via Shutterstock/ Liliya Kulianionak is North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption web service. We help homeless pets at more than 13,600 animal shelters and rescues connect with the millions of potential adopters visit our website each month. To date, we’ve facilitated hundreds of thousands of lasting connections between great people and loving animals.

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