Local animal shelters have developed stricter adoption methods to prevent indecisive pet owners from returning their animals. This has been a strain on the organizations and increases the likeliness of unwanted pets being euthanized.
With most of the area’s shelters reaching capacity due to lack of funds, volunteers, resources and space, staffers have become more jaded and weary about picking potential adopters. Practicing more thorough procedures is their attempt to find permanent homes for rescued animals.
Kathy Finelli, director of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue, said her shelter has reached capacity and is in desperate need to find adopters, but is only seeking serious clients.
Although she appreciates people showing interest in her rabbits, she said she’s fine if they don’t end up taking them in.
“(We’re not) going to try to convince you to get a rabbit,” Finelli said. “When you leave us, you’re going to make your decisions based on facts.”
Most of the potential owners mistake rabbits’ calm behavior for being an easy pet, when in fact that’s not true, she said. They are extremely fragile, and the average person cannot commit to their upkeep.
Finelli said to filter out fickle or impulsive clients, she plans on making multiple visits to the clients’ home to see if their lifestyle fits housing rabbits.
She also plans on having more personal conversations with the owners to educate them on not only physical care, but how financially draining it could be to house rabbits.
Leslie Kutner, a frequent volunteer at Gainesville Rabbit Rescue, said she believes more thorough procedures are necessary because most people cannot handle rabbits properly, which leads to them being released outside or euthanized.
“I would rather see the rabbits here than with anyone else,” Kutner said.
Patricia Diskant, co-cat coordinator of Helping Hands Pet Rescue, said she understands how Kutner feels.
Even though Diskant tries her best to find permanent homes for her animals, some impulsive adopters can make volunteers uneasy.
“Working at a shelter definitely gets you frustrated on the lack of knowledge people have with pets,” she said. “Some people do not understand the responsibility of bringing a new pet into their home.”
She said she’ll have more conversations testing the adopters’ knowledge on animal care. Diskant believes a good counseling session would help the potential pet owners determine if they are prepared to house a new animal.
There are currently no plans on making the adoption process any more tedious, she said. She does not want to fully discourage everyone from potentially owning animals.
Tara McParland, a shelter assistant at Gainesville Pet Rescue, said although finding new fosters is the center’s biggest challenge, she does not wish to discourage people from owning animals in any way.
“We do have returns, we do our best to prevent them,” McParland said. “But if we discouraged ownership, we wouldn’t be in business.”
She said although there aren’t enough fosters for the number of homeless animals, the organization’s network is big enough to where they can still find a foster if needed.
Jonathan Miot, director of the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, said he deals with a wide range of animals and believes not everyone is fully aware of the extensive care they require.
Especially during the holidays, it’s important to educate people on pet ownership, he said. A lot of children are expecting pets as gifts but may give up on the animal.
“It all boils down to education,” Miot said. “Everyone needs to be educated and understand what sort of commitment they’re getting into.”
Albert Rese, a Levy county resident and pet owner, said he recently adopted two dogs from a Levy County Animal Services event and believes most animals are blindly purchased on impulse.
Too many people see pets as a novelty instead of a family member, Rese said. Unfortunately, the novelty of an animal fades.
“If you love animals, you’re going to find a way, and you’re going to do the right thing,” Rese said. “To some people, it’s just not in their character to do the right thing, and that’s just sad.”