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Joys and tribulations of doggies in the city

MinnPost photo by Marlys Harris
After we moved to Minneapolis, it was decided that Jackson needed a companion.

Back when I lived in Connecticut and New York, adopting a dog was no problem. Our family simply visited a shelter — the North Shore Animal League and the Connecticut Humane Society, to be specific — and chose a pooch. We submitted one character reference, made a $100 donation and took first Puddle (1984-1998), then Dusty (1999-2008) and finally Jackson (2009- ) home in our car.

After we moved here, I decided that Jackson needed a companion. Truth to tell, Jackson was fine. I needed a companion, someone non-judgmental and adorable who would sit on my lap. (Jackson weighs 90 pounds and really belongs to my husband.) Normally, a grandchild would fill the bill but none were forthcoming.

But there are other reasons for city dwellers like me to yearn for a dog. Oddly enough, a dog connects you with other people. As Dr. Lynette Hart, director of the Center for Animals in Society at the University of California at Davis, wrote, “Dogs facilitate friendly interactions among people, as they so actively solicit play and offer greetings.”

Walk around a lake or down a street with your dog and, unless you own Cujo, passers-by stop to admire him, to ask what breed he is and where you got him. Those are perfect interactions for urbanites, what one of my city planning professors called “connections without intimacy.” With a dog, people know you — but not everything about you — as they do in small towns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that pet ownership has been proven to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and “feelings of loneliness.” And dogs, because you have to walk them, require you to leave your TV or computer screen, get outside and move. Those are crucial health effects for urbanites (and suburbanites) who are stuck for much of the day in an office or car.

Dog hunt

So last summer I started my dog hunt. I focused on rescues, hoping to save from euthanasia one of the 4 million pets who, according to the Humane Society, face that fate each year. Every day, I haunted Petfinder. I went to adoption events. I dibbsed dogs. I emailed queries to rescuers from eastern Wisconsin to western Minnesota. I filled out lengthy applications that asked whether I rented or owned my place, how old I was, how many hours I worked, where the dog would sleep and what he would do all day. (Were these rescue outfits thinking the dog would be reading Proust?) I had to list two references and submit to a home visit. On top of all that, the rescue groups charged $300 to $400.

No matter what I did, no matter how pleading my essay, no matter how dogcentric I tried to sound, I could not seem to persuade a rescue organization to give me — or rather sell me — a dog. Applications and emails went unanswered, or the dog was given to somebody else. Given my great age, one group did offer me a “senior dog” with “dementia problems.” I said “no,” even though I am not quite sure how much cognitive skill a dog needs.

I began to think that it might be easier to adopt a child. Available teenagers profiled every Thursday by Rusty Gatenby, the News 45 traffic reporter, began to look increasingly adorable. Knowing teens as I do, however, I didn’t think that any were likely to sit on my lap and refrain from judging me.

“Why, oh why won’t they let me have a dog?” I whined to my son who had adopted two cats from Chicago rescue outfits. “Why do I have to fill out long applications and have a home visit?” His answer: “Tell yourself that these groups really, really care and be patient.” Patient? You’d think that rescue groups would be in a hurry to move the dogs, what with millions facing doom every single year.  

Finally, I gave up and did the politically incorrect thing. I purchased a dog — a combo shih tzu bichon. For $450, the breeder let me have him without checking my credit score or looking for an arrest record. And other than the fact that he recently left a present on my floor (the dog, not the breeder), he seems to be working out well. With Guthrie (named for the theater) in my lap, my blood pressure doesn’t rise even when I’m watching Rick Nolan on TV talking about how Congress works only 30 hours a week.

The downside

Dogs in a city can be problematic, however. They can’t roam around as they would on a farm — although people used to allow that. When I was growing up, a small pack ran freely in my North Minneapolis neighborhood. When I was a first-grader, walking home from school was a terrifying experience because one dog in particular would chase me home, growling and barking all the way.

Strict enforcement of leash laws has changed all that. If a dog is wandering around, somebody immediately calls Animal Control. Dogs are allowed in city parks but only if they are at the end of a lead. In recent years, however, urban dog owners who want their dogs to get more exercise than a run around the block have lobbied for off-leash parks. The first to be created was in 1983 in Berkeley, Calif., but the movement didn’t get rolling until 2003 when both Atlanta and San Antonio opened theirs. Now there are 2,000 across the nation. 

Guthrie the dog
MinnPost photo by Marlys HarrisWith Guthrie in my lap, my blood pressure doesn’t rise even when I’m watching Rick Nolan on TV talking about how Congress works only 30 hours a week.

I was cheered to learn that Minneapolis came in 15th in a 2012 ranking by Men’s Health magazine of the 100 best cities for dogs. Such a kooky rating is a bit suspect, but its authors claim to feed many factors into their calculations, particularly the per-capita number of dog parks. Leading the pack were Portland, Ore. (which tiresomely seems to score best in almost everything); Colorado Springs; Wilmington, Del.; Seattle and Denver.

Sorry St. Paul, but you were number 38. Los Angeles came in dead last, possibly because it has only nine dog parks for a population of 3.8 million while Minneapolis has six for a city a tenth the size. St. Paul has just two off-leash sites, but they are rather large. (Perhaps Men’s Health should have measured acres per dog population rather than number of parks per humans.)

Doggie dustups

Dog parks have not come without controversy. Giving even a tiny bit of precious city parkland over to dogs, rather than children, has provoked furor in some communities. And neighbors sometimes complain that the parks bring litter and pollution. Two years ago, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board took Martin Luther King Jr. Park in the Kingfield neighborhood off a list of possible sites for an off-leash park because the proposal drew criticism from members of the African-American community who felt that the park would be an affront to the civil rights leader’s memory.

There is a huge downside to dogs in the city, however: poop. Judging by the number of companies in the area called Poop 911, Pet Waste Professionals and the like, a lot of people allow their dogs to do their business in the backyard. And my own personal survey tells me that many Minnesota Nice types who walk their dogs in public areas do not pick up their pet’s offload. And there’s a lot of it. The Citizens Committee for New York City, which took the time to figure this out, estimated that each of the city’s 2 million pooches produced 275 pounds of waste a year. Surely, Twin Cities dogs do-doo as much. 

Either way, to paraphrase Martha Stewart, that’s not a good thing. The Stormwater Manager’s Resource Center points out that “non-human waste represents a significant source of bacterial contamination in urban watersheds.” The bacteria poses health risks to humans and can spread disease. It may be time to start a dog-composting program —  gather the stuff in bins and let people use it to fertilize their lawns. The Citizens Committee for New York has been making $1,000 grants to neighborhood groups to create compost stations. If you want to go DIY, you can find instructions at CityFarmer. If we can conquer the pooh problem, dogs truly will be urban assets.

Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/22/2013 - 10:37 am.

    Rescue screening procedures

    Amongst animal people, the subject of rescue organizations’ overzealous screening procedures can generate as much heated discussion as – say – the subject of gun control on a site like MinnPost. Here’s one example:

    People are concerned – and not without some justification – that if you don’t do SOME level of screening, that pets will wind up in abusive homes, or homes without the financial means to provide ongoing care or the space to provide a proper living environment or even that dogs will be used either as fighting dogs or to train fighting dogs. And so on. And there are some truly horrific stories out there to provide support for some of these concerns.

    However, your experience is not all that unusual, and illustrates the hazards of a shelter or rescue imposing too many demands and restrictions on the homes they will place an animal into. All too often – just as happened with you – they end up driving potential adopters to the very kinds of breeders they are most against.

    Moderation is key. It’s true here just as in so many other places.

    But people get so emotionally tied up in the whole “we have to save them and then make sure we don’t let them go to anything short of the most perfect homes” mentality that they lose the ability to recognize how counterproductive that is.

    I’m glad you were able to find and love Guthrie. I’m sorry you felt driven to get him where you did, but I do understand the dynamics that drove you there.

    On a somewhat-related note, it would be a lot easier for a lot more dogs and cats to find homes if rental situations weren’t so restrictive. And given how many people have been driven to renting by this economy, that’s becoming more and more of a problem. Pets don’t always automatically trash a property. At least to no more or no less a degree than children do.

    The more accessible pet ownership is made to more people, the fewer will find themselves in the kill room of the local shelter.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/22/2013 - 06:13 pm.

      Long Story Short

      Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/23/2013 - 08:49 am.

        You nailed it

        But as the comment thread developing below is doing a nice job of illustrating, that is precisely what tends to happen.

        The example I provided of rescues requiring fenced yards was called into question, but the fact is that it is a common requirement imposed by rescues. Not all rescues, but many.

        There is a lot of logical inconsistency in what many rescues require, and it can be daunting wading through all of them. Filling out an adoption application can be a veritable minefield rife with opportunity for “wrong answers” if you don’t know what the particular rescue requires. For example:

        – The requirement of a full time source of income to prove a pet can be cared for
        – The requirement that someone be available to be at home all day with the pet so the pet won’t be alone

        – The requirement that children be in the home
        – The requirement that NO children be in the home

        – Refusing to place a pet in a home if the potential adopter has other pets that are unaltered
        – Imposing this prohibition even if the new pet is already spay/neutered or even if the new pet is a different species than the unaltered pet already in the home.
        – Refusing to place a pet in the home if the potential adopter has EVER had other pets that are unaltered.

        – Refusing to place a pet in a home if the adopter plans to feed raw
        – Refusing to place a pet in a home UNLESS the adopter plans to feed raw

        – Refusing to place a pet in a home unless a certain kind of training is committed to (i.e. “positive” v.s. “traditional”)
        – Refusing to place a pet in a home if the “wrong” kind of training is committed to (i.e. “positive” v.s. “traditional”)

        – Refusing to place a pet in a home unless the adopter will agree to yearly vaccinations
        – Refusing to place a pet in a home unless the adopter will promise NOT to agree to yearly vaccinations (many new vaccination protocols are every three years rather than yearly, but not everyone is aboard with this yet)

        And so on. Just the fact that so many of the commenters below somehow “know” that Marlys would have provided an inappropriate home based on what was in her article (Really? Like what, for example?) can give you an idea of how daunting running the rescue gauntlet can be.

        And then they wonder why people decide not to put themselves through it.

        And the shame of it is, it’s the animals that suffer. Because getting more pets into more more homes – even if those homes are merely “good” rather than “perfect” – means fewer animals die.

        And I thought that was supposed to be the ultimate objective.

  2. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 01/22/2013 - 11:33 am.


    My current dog (an Australian cattle dog) came from a rescue organization. I did fill a detailed description of my character, assets, home life, and housing situation. I finally qualified, I guess, because I brought Mandy home eventually but I was shocked at the cost — over $350 I believe. And even more so when a second shelter person came along and upped it $100. I protested and she dropped it again, but I was astounded. How can people adopt dogs at that kind of money? You can get a purebred for the money some charge. I know the rescue groups have financial needs, but why can’t they set more realistic costs so that more people could afford to adopt their dogs. Especially I wondered why they don’t have some special fees, like discounts for “seniors,” as I clearly am.
    Isn’t there a way to make it easier for people to adopt those dogs who so desperately need homes? I don’t blame the author for going off to buy a dog; I thought about it too.

    • Submitted by Barbara Heideman on 01/22/2013 - 06:26 pm.

      Rescue dogs

      Keep in mind that rescue groups generally spend quite a bit of money on veterinary care (vaccinations, spay/neuter, sometimes rehabilative surgeries) PRIOR to adopting the dogs out to new homes. When dogs come into rescue they usually come from “challenging” situations and are fostered for at least a month by volunteers in a home setting in order to learn about the dog’s temperament and address any outstanding health issues. Often these dogs have special needs (physical or behavioral) that must be addressed before they are ready to go out to new homes and they remain in foster care for many months. With all of the upfront effort that goes into their dogs, rescue groups want to ensure the adopters are truly able and willing to provide an appropriate and loving environment for the dog. The money you pay is a bargain.

    • Submitted by Monique Julian on 01/23/2013 - 03:23 pm.

      Rescue Fees Absurd. Really??

      You say that you can go and get a purebred of some sort for the amount a rescue is charging for their aoptions. Well, good for you for thinking about getting a genetically inferior dog. I’m glad that is the first thing that came to your mind. When you get the purebred, probably from a puppy mill or some sort of breeder situation, does it already come to you spayed/neutered, fully vaccinated, and other vet treatments that are neccessary for a puppy’s health? Probably not. So after you spend your $350 with the breedr, you then have to go spend an additional $300-$500 depenfing on your vet for spay/neuter, de worming, rebies shots, distemper, etc. Also, this purebred, I’m sure was just kept in a cage defecating all over itself until you came and purchased it. At least the rescue dog was in foster care being trained and taught it’s boundaries in a home.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/23/2013 - 04:11 pm.

        There go those assumptions again!

        And you know for a FACT that “this purebred, I’m sure was just kept in a cage defecating all over itself”?

        Well, maybe in some cases.

        But there are also plenty of breeders of purebreds who also train their dogs and teach them boundaries and appropriate behaviors before placing them in a new home.

        Not all rescues are the same. Not all breeders are the same.

        And using broad brushes and assumptions do no one any favors.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 01/22/2013 - 12:09 pm.

    To each one’s own perspective…

    I cannot say enough ‘positives’ about the one rescue group out of the Twin Cities that indirectly had been the initial contact with my brother’s dog Diego. A Missouri ‘import’ ready to be put down, with lots of health problems which cleared up before adoption, and yes, found it reassuring knowing dogs rejected at some point in their lives would be carefully placed in a home that fitted the dog and his new owners.

    Everybody loves a dog but that sense of attachment sometimes wears off if the dog doesn’t perform as expected.

    And this story is not ours but my brother’s and Diego…this dog had separation problems. But as German Shepard is a breed, been attached to our family for years – 6 or is it seven dogs so far – and time tempers most things and gave D that sense of security to a great extent…although when we occasionally babysit he haunts the windows until his master comes back to pick him up; out of habit now, rarely, and realizes he’s being a baby and eventually gives a sigh and sleeps.

    All things take time and patience and this dog is the love of his neighborhood and good with children because he thinks he is one I suppose…so what if early on when brother left him alone for a few hours, he chewed through the Arts and Craft’s front door and waited with tail wagging and a ‘smile’ on his face, framed in the rough cut hole-in-door; so pleased with his achievement brother could only laugh at the picture – we received one handsome photo of the deconstruction as a memento from brother . And you can always replace a door,eh?

    Yes indeed we have a wonderful ‘family member’ who visits occasionally, expecting his toys to be in the box, the rug in place in the kitchen, the treats on the chair and water dish out because we are recognized as ‘grandparents’ maybe if only for a few hours.

    Can’t say enough for this particular German Shepard…and fills the loss of our past four footed buddies…and he no longer feels insecure. No more doors devoured etc. Time heals..

    Don’t know about other groups but this rescue group was never intimidating but reassuring in their initial checks and followup…just another point of view?

  4. Submitted by amy rice on 01/22/2013 - 12:44 pm.

    I don’t buy it.

    There was a good reason they wouldn’t let you adopt a dog and it’s been left out of the story.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/22/2013 - 02:30 pm.

      Not necessarily

      For example, I knew a woman who was trying to adopt a Toy breed dog and she didn’t have a fenced yard. As far as she was concerned, that didn’t matter, because she would never have just turned her dog out into a yard anyway since she had seen hawks and eagles in her area. Instead, to be safe, she walked her dogs daily.

      But she ran into group after group who wouldn’t even talk to her about getting a dog. The “fenced yard” requirement was a dealbreaker for no really good reason.

      There are also rescues who won’t place anything but elderly dogs with elderly people because they don’t want the dogs outliving the people. Never mind that the definition of “elderly people” is often anything from the mid-50s on up and that most breeds of dogs have an expected lifespan in the mid-teens. It’s a policy, and by gum, they’re sticking with it!

      So no – there isn’t necessarily a “good reason” that’s been left out of the story. But it makes people feel better to think that must be the case, I guess.

      • Submitted by shanna klingbile on 01/22/2013 - 10:20 pm.

        Fenced yard

        Yes, some rescues require this but there are some that don’t. I have fostered dogs for 3 years now through a local rescue and I live in a studio rental apartment in mpls. If you have patience and are willing to put in the work and not looking for instant gratification one could have been found. Rescues have reasons why they have these rules and they have more experience in this subject than anyone. Thank god someone is looking out for the best interest of the dogs by not letting just anyone adopt. I can find numerous reason in this article that I wouldn’t let the author adopt so even if things weren’t left out of the article it gives enough reason she should be declined.

      • Submitted by Monique Julian on 01/23/2013 - 03:29 pm.

        How do you know there was not a good reason for her not to be approved? She still didn’t reveal it. You can’t speculate this just because you have previous experiences and think you understand what it is you’re talking about.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/23/2013 - 04:05 pm.

          My point exactly

          None of us know if there was or was not a good reason because she did not say. Until and unless she does, it’s all speculation by you, me, or anyone else.

          But this speculative bashing of her is not exactly painting an approachable picture of rescue organizations. If I was a person who didn’t know much about the various ways available to me to get a pet, I might very well get taken aback by reading some of the comments here and decide that going through the application process with a rescue would not be something I wanted to put myself through.

          How about trying for a more compassionate tone? It makes you more approachable, and increases the likelihood that people will be interested in coming to you when they decide they need a pet.

    • Submitted by Mandi Morgart on 01/23/2013 - 09:21 am.


      You are so right, Amy Rice. I thought the same thing, as did many of my friends who read this article. How do you even begin to comment or reply to such a disjointed mess?

  5. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 01/22/2013 - 02:44 pm.


    An associate of mine, Diego, requested that I quit misspelling his breed GERMAN SHEPHERD,YES

  6. Submitted by Cathie Witzel on 01/22/2013 - 08:56 pm.

    Very Unfortunate

    Dear Ms. Harris –

    I am dismayed and disgusted with you and your article.

    As you are no doubt aware, you could have walked into any one of the Animal Humane Societies in the Twin Cities area and walked out with a dog. Instead, you selfishly chose to get a dog from a breeder, and allow another dog in a shelter to die. I’m sure it didn’t occur to you to wonder why you were not allowed to adopt from a rescue, or to wonder if that might actually mean that you ought NOT adopt a dog. Rescues put the individual dog first – not the adopter. You clearly put yourself first. How abhorrent.

    Have you ever read about puppy mills? Do you know that tons of dogs just like the one you purchased are bred in those types of facilities every day? By purchasing a dog, rather than adopting, you have reinforced the demand for dogs bred under those conditions.

    I find you repugnant. I find it doubly repugnant that you’ve chosen to write about your limitless selfishness while you defame dog rescue and the people who work tirelessly and endlessly to deal with the problem of homeless companion animals.

    And shame on MinnPost.


    Catherine Witzel

    • Submitted by Monique Julian on 01/23/2013 - 03:26 pm.

      Well Said

      Not to mention, most of the people whorun these rescues do it for NO PAY and do it on top of our other responsibilities like full time jobs, schooling, and family.

  7. Submitted by shanna klingbile on 01/22/2013 - 10:03 pm.

    “purchase” a dog???

    How do you think these non-profit rescues are able to survive without people “purchasing” the dogs? They run solely on donations and from the adoption fees. You are obviously ill informed on anything to do with rescues and adopting a dog. They pay for vet bills (most of the dogs they take in from animal controls are not fixed yet or need medical attention), food (if not donated), pet supplies, office supplies and so much more. You are not purchasing a dog you are donating money to a good cause that helps them save more animals. If rescues rushed to get dogs out the door the dogs would most likely end up back in animal control or returned. Dogs are not meant for instant gratification, if you want one for the right reason you would have been patient. Do you know why you can just purchase a dog from the Humane Society? Because they are a kill shelter. They euthanize dogs everyday, they are not a true rescue. Good luck with your puppy mill dog which in itself is a whole other topic that you probably know nothing about either. Your article screams of the perfect person who should NOT be allowed to adopt.

  8. Submitted by Hilary Simonson on 01/22/2013 - 10:15 pm.

    Rescue procedures

    I understand the frustration of not being allowed to adopt when you want to but I suspect that the whole story of your denials isn’t represented in this essay.

    Having performed many home visits as a volunteer for a local rescue for some years, I can attest to the desire of rescues to place dogs. Even when I judged a home or potential adoptees to be unfit for adoption (and there were specific factors that contributed to those rare instances) another volunteer would meet with the people to verify the reasons for denial.

    If I were to judge based on your essay, I might be somewhat disinclined to want to place one of my beloved animals with you because it sounds like you view them more as possessions and entertainment than members of the family. But that’s just my take on one essay. I hope I’m wrong.

    Without full knowledge of your adoptee profile or which rescues you attempted to work with it’s difficult to pinpoint why you have been consistently denied but I can state with 100% confidence that dog rescues in Minnesota are actively looking to find homes for dogs. The network is passionate and has nothing but the best interest of dogs at its core and its rare for reasonable people to be denied a dog. Your story is likely a greater reflection of you than it is of any shortcomings in the local rescue community.

  9. Submitted by kathy florczak on 01/22/2013 - 11:10 pm.

    adoption fees

    have a lot to say on this article since I foster dogs who need re homing but I am only going to comment on the complaint of the adoption fees. As a client take your puppy to the vet to have
    lab work, dental, spay/neuter, all vaccinations and a microchip implanted. You will now pay much more than any adoption fee in the Twin Cities area. Since you bought a puppy from a breeder your dog’s first year will be well over $1000.00. No one in rescue makes money at it and are lucky if they break even. There is all the costs of picking up dogs from what ever source they rescue from whether it be a dog pound, puppy mill, meeting a owner who wants to relinquish their pet. The cost of gas and car repairs are just as high for us as you. Then frequently a dog comes into rescue but then is found to have multiple medical problems, escapes from the foster home gets hit by a car and needs extensive medical care including a leg amputation. The dogs and cats in rescue need food and the kitties need litter. Some dogs on intake are found to be heartworm positive and that treatment is quite expensive. Since we are responsible toward our fosters we provide monthly heartworm treatment and Frontline.
    Then the state of MN made it mandatory that adoption fees are taxable which we have no control over but yes you do have to add that to the adoption fee. So my belief is that you really get alot of good health care for $350.00 and you don’t support a breeder

  10. Submitted by Wendy Doric on 01/23/2013 - 05:38 am.

    Rescue Work

    I’m sorry that you had such a hard time getting approved for a rescue dog. I have worked in a shelter setting, I have worked with various rescue groups over more than 30 years and find it odd that you were not approved through any rescue groups. Each rescue has their own set of guidelines as to what is an approved home. Having worked in an animal shelter in Houston Texas, and volunteered with many different rescue groups across the US, I have seen only a couple whose guidelines were to restrictive.

    Your story does not fill in the missing information as to why you were not approved through, so I feel that your story is extremely incomplete and one sided with regard to rescues and how they work.

    Having worked in a large shelter in Houston Texas as the shelter manager, I always felt that their application process was not strick enough. My experience as a volunteer at another shelter in Kentucky proved that not only was their application process extremely lacking, they allowed animals out of the shelter un-altered which promoted additional unwanted and un-cared for animals.

    So, yes rescue groups do have strict guidelines as to who they will adopt to. They do home visits to safe guard that the animals they have spent time and money on are going to quality homes. The animals are all medically screened, often rescues spend thousands of dollars on a specific animal with the adoption fee remaining the same as any other animal in their care. Rescue groups do not make money on adoptions very often, but they don’t do it for the money. They are non-paid volunteers, they work hard for the animals in their care and quite frankly I find your article offensive.

    You are promoting buying, rather than adopting and therefore creating more un-wanted animals within the community. Just because someone breeds two dogs who have papers, does not make that animal a quality pet. The breeders don’t care who you are, where you live or what you are going to do with that animal once you fork over the high purchase price. They often have health problems as a result of careless breeding and often end up in a shelter needing rescue.

    Shame on you!

    • Submitted by Rachel Dougherty on 01/23/2013 - 10:59 am.

      Story Incomplete, But Makes Good Points

      I do not think the author is promoting buying versus adopting at all. I think she is making a simple cause and effect argument. Some rescues are too restrictive and that causes MANY people and not just her to go purchase dogs rather than adopt them.

      I think some screening procedures and restrictions are necessary. It is actually unfair to keep certain dogs in certain environments. A 700 square foot condo is probably not the best environment for a sporting dog with lots of energy. Some small breeds are notoriously nervous around little children. However, it is stupid to have a no children or no small children requirement for every single dog. It is dumb to require a fenced-in yard for every single breed and situation. In fact, a fenced-in yard is not a substitute for a couple of long walks a day and so many people act as if it is. I wish rescues could look at individual families and ask appropriate questions given the situation. If a rescue thinks a small child might be problematic they should ask appropriate questions. If they think the dog will not get the right about of exercise and attention, they should ask about it. Home visits should happen if there is a good reasons to do so–but every time?

      The fact of the matter is–people who want a dog, one way or another will get one. There is no preventing that–I think that is the point this author is making. Personally, I would rather them get a fixed rescue than an overbred dog from an irresponsible breeder that the new owners may not bother fixing, unless of course there is a good solid reason why the person cannot get adopt the dog. I think it is important to consider how many people are steered towards bad breeders because they do not want to jump through 500 hoops to get a mutt from a rescue.

      I also have to wonder how much all of these restrictions and screening procedures add to the cost of the dog. Something to ponder at the very least. I do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but I think some reason is in order here. Also, it is not exactly great for these dogs to be sitting in shelters either. My grandma’s adopted dog is profoundly effected by the time he spent in a kennel without getting regular affection and normal interaction with humans.

      We do not know why the author cannot get a rescue, but to me it is irrelevant because I am well aware of the 500 hoops you must go to, to get an adopted dog. As I help a friend get ready to add a dog to her family, I have become keenly aware that most dog owners, think they are the only people capable of owning dogs. I have to wonder how many dogs could be in loving homes if that attitude was not so prevalent.

      • Submitted by Monique Julian on 01/23/2013 - 03:41 pm.

        This story does not make any good points

        By reading you reply it is clear that you are unware of what rescue groups do. My rescue requires home visits by me or ne of our volunteers so we can not only verify the truth of the application, but to see the individualy family situation as well. I placed apit bull in a home a few months back, and did have hesitations. Even though pit bull are the best family dogs, the small child was very hyperactive, and I was unsure how she would behave with the dog. We can’t place dogs in a new home if there is a child that i ready to jump at the dog at first sight. So I asked the questions like, “how will you prevent your child from scaring the dog, or churning it’s anxiety?” The dog was placed into the home and everyone gets a long fine.

        Don’t dis-credit every rescue, my partner and I started our rescue so we can be more efficient in the rescue process and help out as many dogs as we can. We follow up evey application with questions. We can’t dis credit everyone based off of what they put on paper.

  11. Submitted by Mandi Morgart on 01/23/2013 - 09:39 am.

    Where to Begin?

    I read your article twice, and I’m still not sure where to begin. I will start at the beginning, and perhaps most frustrating part of your article. You claim you were declined by a number of rescue groups. Yet – I don’t see any commentary about WHY you were declined. Most rescues in this area do their due diligence to see that the animals that they’ve taken the time, money and effort to save don’t end up in a situation that will likely lead to them having to take more time, money and effort to re-home because they’ve been treated improperly and/or you’ve decided you don’t want your new dog anymore. As someone who has done NUMEROUS home visits for multiple rescues in this city, I can tell you that I have only had hesitations at ONE house. One house out of at least fifty that I have found to be an incompatible match to the dog they were trying to adopt. Which tells me that you were likely declined because 1) your current dog didn’t get along well with the dogs you tried to adopt; 2) your references didn’t have positive things to say; 3) your home was not conducive to the dogs you were trying to adopt… and we could go on. But note that all of these reasons are specifically due to something YOU, yes YOU, were not providing, could not provide, or could not offer to the dog you were trying to adopt. That is assuming you made it past the initial screening. If you didn’t make it past the initial screening – then it was likely something in your application that caused you to be declined. Have you had a number of animals that have been rehomed for various reasons? Did you say you didn’t want your new pet to be spayed or neutered? Have you switched vets multiple times for no explained reason? Do you have a felony on your record that would show up in public documentation? Do some thinking – I’d love to see a follow-up article whereby you’re willing to reveal why you were declined by all of these organizations. If you spend some time on it, you may discover that each rescue had a perfectly legitimate reason for not adopting a dog to you.

    While there are debates that some rescues have standards that are too strict – the bottom line is that you were declined by MULTIPLE rescues. Well done. Now – the next step would be to go to a local impound (there are many) and adopt an animal from an animal control or shelter facility. Most of these facilities do not require home visits, and their fees are usually lower. Granted, you won’t get an animal that is temperament tested thoroughly, or even up to date on shots, or spayed or neutered… but hey! You need to save some money here.

    But no – you choose to go to a breeder. A breeder, which based on the price you paid for your precious specialty mix dog – is probably doing business out of their backyard. Did you get to see where the mom and dads were kept for your precious puppy? Did you get to see where they slept? Are they kept in cages or kennels? Do they even still have fur? Is the mothers face disfigured from trying to chew her way out of bars she’s been kept in for years because she’s a baby making machine and good for nothing else? Or maybe you just went to a pet store – where they source adorable puppies from even more horrific locations than I describe above. Either way – well done! I’m so happy that not only are you perpetuating the horror, but you’re excited and bragging about it to boot. I love it when people are so determined to get an animal that nothing can stop them! Not even ethics!

    Let’s move on, shall we? How about your complaints about leash laws. Are you implying that strict leash laws shouldn’t be enforced? Awesome. Then next time you let your yappy fluffy dust mop off its leash, let’s see how long before it obnoxiously approaches a responsible dog owner walking her 70 pound dog. How long will you let it bark and jump all over that person’s dog before you call it away? Or will you just say “oh, he’s just playing”? What will you say when that dog has had enough and snaps at your tiny fluff ball? You’ll get pissed at the dog, and the owner… and it will be their fault. Can’t wait to see you at the park. I’ll be the first person calling 411 asking for police to come ticket your irresponsible self.

    Small note regarding dog parks… it sounds like you’re not the most responsible owner, so please stay in the “small dog” area at the dog park. My dog doesn’t like obnoxious, rude dogs, and I don’t feel like having to apologize to you for your stupid dog getting growled at because it’s trying to hump my dog’s leg. Make sure you buy your license too – both for your dog and for the dog park.

    Finally, I seriously have no idea why you’re talking about dog crap. I really don’t. But yes, it’s considered good form to clean up after your dog. Even when your unleashed, un-neutered dog runs onto my lawn and poops. Even if his poop is small – it’d be great if you had a bag to clean that up with.

    Good luck to your designer dog. I feel really, really sorry for him.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/23/2013 - 02:08 pm.

      Commentary v.s. Complaint

      You said you read her article twice. Perhaps you should read it a third time with and eye to what constitutes “commentary” v.s. what constitutes “complaint”. Marlys is a columnist. Her reason for being here (‘here” being MinnPost) is to write commentary.

      I will agree with you that I’m disappointed she felt it necessary to go to a breeder of designer mixes for her Guthrie. But that’s all I’m going to say here about that. The rest of my thoughts appear earlier in this thread.

      But where in the article did you get the idea that she was complaining about leash laws? She was commenting on them. Commenting on how they are more necessary in the city than in the country where you can let your dog run if you have a lot of land. When she said dogs in the city can be problematic because they can’t roam around as they would on a farm she was agreeing that letting dogs run around in city that way would be a bad thing. How does that constitute a complaint about leash laws?

      And then you started in on dog parks and really went off on her. Training, too, which she didn’t even comment on in her article.

      Again, she was commenting on dog parks. Describing them. Discussing them. Including some statistics about them – here and otherwise. Again, that’s what she gets paid to do here. And hey, guess what? There may be some people here who don’t know much about dog parks. She may have even exposed them to some new knowledge. Radical, I know. But that’s part of what a lot of columnists try to do. And she’s a columnist.

      Finally, I challenge you to find where she said she didn’t pick up after her dog. Read the article again. She was agreeing with you that poop left all over the place is a bad thing. And providing some statistics and commentary to back that up.

      I get it that you’re upset about where she finally decided to get her dog. But you’d have a lot more credibility if you didn’t allow it to so badly mangle your comprehension of everything else in the article, and this isn’t the kind of reaction that creates a particularly welcoming image of people who are involved in rescue. In fact, this is exactly the kind of thing that tends to scare people off.

      And is that really what you want?

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/24/2013 - 10:08 am.

    What’s wrong with the Humane Society?

    We rescued our dog from the Humane Society and there was no application. Personally I think getting a dog from a breeder is the worst thing you can do, it promotes animals a commodities turns the enterprise into consumerism. Besides mixed breeds are healthier and otherwise superior in all ways 🙂

    I have no difficulty believing that Marlys had difficulties with the pet adoption process. I know some folks in there and while they are wonderful people, they tend to go a little overboard. Going out to peoples homes to verify their applications? You gotta be kidding me.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/24/2013 - 10:44 am.

      It gets even worse

      There are some adoption contracts that stipulate that the rescue must be allowed at any time during the animal’s life to do unannounced home inspections and have the right to reclaim the animal (with no refund of any kind) if they disapprove of anything about the way the animal is being cared for.

      I have mixed feelings about the idea of an initial (once only) home check. After all, people aren’t always truthful or accurate. A look just to confirm the home is what the applicant said it was can be a safeguard for the animal’s safety. But the intrusive and “guilty until proven innocent” aspects of that bother me. Hence my mixed feelings.

      But anything beyond an initial home inspection – barring legal action for cruelty or hoarding or whatever – is WAY over the line, something I would never agree to, and something rescues (those who use it) really ought to re-think. The old “Well, if you have nothing to hide . . . . ” line just doesn’t cut it.

  13. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 01/29/2013 - 10:00 am.

    Wowa chihuahua

    (By the way, that should rhyme, but a friend of mine introduced me to the pronunciation “chi hooa hooa, so it doesn’t for me.)

    Anyway, I wonder what rescue group sent this article to their mailing list. Hostile, hostile people.

    I agree that purchasing a mixed breed from a breeder was a poor choice, and I am certain that a suitable dog could have been found at a shelter given patience.

    HOWEVER, I agree with the premise that the requirements of some rescue groups is out of line with a purpose of providing every animal a chance and a home. The fees ARE out of line–if it can’t be affordable, then you need to determine whether or not you should be in the business of “rescue.” Making it unaffordable to purchase (or “adopt” if you wish) a pet drives people to do what Marlys did, which helps no one but a backyard breeder who has no concept of responsible breeding (that doesn’t necessarily mean “puppy mill,” by the way).

    And if a rescue can’t make ends meet without exhorbitant “adoption” fees, then they need to push their fundraising and donations. No, it’s not fun and it’s hard work, but there it is. Put your feet to the pavement and fundraise.

    This is not about the good feeling you get for placing a pet in an elite home. It’s about placing as many animals as possible into GOOD homes. Yes, a good home needs a steady income, but beyond that, the rules of providing a good home should be flexible and based on the individual pet and person.

    Many of the other points that Marlys brings up are relevant to the discussion relating to placing rescued animals. The presumption of some rescue groups that you must fulfill certain requirements for ALL animals at their shelter is a particular hindrance to people who live in cities, who are often otherwise completely qualified to provide a good home to a pet.

  14. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 01/29/2013 - 10:41 am.

    Perhaps the author should consider

    placing an ad in her local paper for a dog. That’s how my husband and I found our rescue dog (who is now, happily, just a plain old dog). In the process, we found many, many people who needed to find a home for their dogs because they simply couldn’t afford to keep them.

    The story is here:

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