What do you do when unforeseen circumstances force you to give up a beloved pet? Maybe you or your spouse are about to be deployed, or you’re moving to an apartment complex that doesn’t allow dogs, or you have a new baby on the way, or your new significant other is severely allergic to cats.
Not so many years ago your choices were limited.
You could ask friends, family, or co-workers, you could post flyers in the neighborhood, and once those options were exhausted, you had two choices.
You could drive out in the country, release the pet, and hope that he/she would find a home, or you could drop the animal off at the Humane Society.
The out-in-the-country idea for drop-off was (and is) the worst option. Rural Colorado is not populated by big-hearted ranchers who want to adopt your mutt, but by angry, exasperated folks who are sick of city dwellers abandoning their animals.
The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region contracts with local governments in Colorado Springs and Pueblo to perform a wide variety of tasks related to animal control. The organization runs animal shelters, picks up strays, investigates reports of cruelty to animals and mediates animal-related neighborhood disputes.
Most visibly, it offers surrendered or unclaimed animals for adoption — and kills those that attract no takers.
In 2011, the Humane Society had revenues of more than $8.7 million. Of that, $4.6 million came from contract services (i.e., government sources), $2.6 million from contributions, and $1.1 million from shelter fees. During 2011 (the most recent year for which figures are available), the organization took in a total of 27,961 animals, of which 7,326 were “euthanized,” while 55.9 percent of cats found new homes, as did 79.8 percent of dogs.
Pretty good for a kill shelter, but not good odds from the standpoint of a person surrendering a beloved pet.
So what do you do?
You post on Craigslist. You reach a much larger audience than does the HSPPR website, you can describe your pet in detail and attach multiple photos, and you can deal directly with potential adopters.
Here, for example, is HSPPR’s description of an adoption-ready golden retriever, accompanied by a somewhat grainy pic:
“I am a neutered male, red Golden Retriever (adoption fee: $130). The shelter staff think I am about 5 years old. I have been at the shelter since Jan 07, 2013.”
And here’s a typical ad from Craigslist:
“We have to give up our beautiful Aspen (a yellow lab) nine years old. I want to make sure she goes to a good home. She is older (9 years) but she is awesome. She still likes to play but she’s calm and she doesn’t chew. She is completely house trained and will alert you to having to go to the bathroom. She is a great comfort when you are sick and sweet as can be. I’m completely devastated about this. She’s perfectly healthy and is good with other animals and great with kids. She’s been in my baby’s life since he was 1 and he’s 3. She doesn’t bite. She’s protective but not violent. All she does is bark when the door bell is rung or someone knocks. Please only serious inquiries. She also comes with collar, leash, food bowl and food. Please email or text the number…”
Earlier this week, 26 dogs were listed for adoption at the Humane Society. Many more were posted on Craigslist, although the exact number isn’t clear since posts stay up for a month unless deleted. Craigslist is also used as a resource by small nonprofits that shelter or foster unwanted animals.
A post (http://cosprings.craigslist.org/pet/3519560914.html) earlier this week listed more than 100 organizations statewide where animal owners can “get help with Food, Vets, Lost/ found, deployment, surrender, and adoption.”
Business model disruption via Craigslist is nothing new, but it’s interesting to see the site accidentally take over part of a crucial governmental function.
Just as charter schools have diverted thousands of the most educable students from public schools, Craigslist diverts adoptable animals from the Humane Society.
That may in turn increase kill rates, reduce public funding, and worsen the problem of animal overpopulation, since private owners don’t spay or neuter their animals before giving them away.
That’s why HSPPR needs to change. Its website should be less opaque, offer more information about pets, and cooperate more fully with private owners who want to offer their pets for adoption on Craigslist or other social media.
In an era of fragmentation, disintermediation and infinitely adaptive personal networks, government-financed command and control nodes are vulnerable. Just ask the School District 11 board of education.