Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Alternately drowsing and stretching while lying in a puddle of sunshine on Angela Wallace's desk, Tux is the local animal shelter's best example of a successful adoption: Happy … making others around him happy.
Brought in as an injured kitten several years ago, “we went through about three weeks of hot and cold baths within multiple times a day (as part of his treatment),” said Wallace, executive director of the Richard D. Klein Animal Shelter. “Once we got through that, we just couldn't see him going anywhere else, and he became our shelter kitty.”
The love between Tux and the Klein staff is evident, and very much the goal the shelter has for their residents that are up for adoption. With that in mind, they are very careful to let potential new owners know that adoption is a lifelong commitment, especially when someone asks about adopting a pet as a Christmas gift.
“We actually a lot of people coming in, looking for animals as Christmas gifts – typically it's going to be parents for their kids, or family members looking (for a pet) for close relative,” she said, “but we're very careful in who we adopt to during the holidays – we have a policy where we don't actually adopt animals as gifts.”
These kinds of adoptions tend to be a spontaneous decision, “which is why we're not in real big support of people giving away animals any time, let alone at the holidays,” Wallace said. “People see a cute little fluffy puppy or kitten and think, 'Oh this will be great – it'll make my daughter happy,' but they don't realize it's 12- to 15-year commitment. It's adding a whole new member to your family.”
To ensure their animals will go to 'forever homes,' Klein Shelter offers counseling and conducts interviews before arranging a meet-and-greet between animals and their prospective owners.
“Typically we ask questions about how long you've been looking for an animal when you made the decision you wanted to adopt, based on whether or not the person is doing this on the spur of the moment, or if they've actually considered the lifelong ramifications,” she said.
There is also discussion of veterinarian care and the kind of environs the animal will be living in, even whether clients are allowed to have animals if they are renting or leasing property. Children and other pets also are considered, so that the right match is made with a family.
“The last thing we want to bring home a new animal in the household that disrupts the pets that are currently there,” she said.
These processes are in place to help people better realize the decision they are making when they seek to adopt, as well as help them ensure they are in a position to adopt at that particular time.
“We're very careful, especially during the holidays, to try and discourage spur of the moment adoptions. We want to give quality, long-term adoptive homes,” Wallace said, adding that counseling is especially important around the Christmas holidays “so that we can avoid as many returns after the holidays that we normally get.”
During the months of January and February, the shelter receives “a lot of animals” that were intended as a holiday gift but are subsequently surrendered because the owners begin to realize just what they've signed on for.
“They're purchased pets, either from people who are breeders or (those) animals that someone had gotten over the holidays and realized that the free puppy from out of the back seat of someone's car in (a store) parking lot was not necessarily the best choice for the family,” Wallace said. “It's unfortunate, but luckily, at least they're bringing them to the shelter where we can help try to find them a more suitable home for them.”
The local shelter processes an estimated 25 to 35 adoptions a month, and transfers about 50 animals to the shelters it works with each month.
“We don't just want to place (a pet) in a home to give it a home, but to place him in a lifelong home,” Wallace said.
To learn more about the Richard D. Klein Animal Shelter, 208 E. Tena, contact Wallace at 903-586-7336, or visit the website at www.kleinshelter.org.