Adopting Dogs from Shelters May Be Hot New Trend

 |  Oct 18th 2007  |   4 Contributions


This sure sounds like a pretty good new trend!

Thanks to the Chicago Tribune for this article.

Looks like it's shelter animals' turn to strut
By Barbara Cooke | Special to the Tribune
October 14, 2007

Dog rescue is hot these days, maybe even trendy.


"Adopting is a noble form of recycling," said Nadine Walmsley, vice president of development at Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society. "It makes you seem like a good person. People know they can't change the world, but they can do something dramatic to change the life of one dog and give it a second chance at a good life."

Janice Brown has seen the trend toward both shelter adoptions and breed rescues across the country firsthand. Brown started Chicagoland Tails Magazine in 2000 as a resource for adoption groups and pet lovers to come together. Today Brown's magazine has expanded to 10 metropolitan areas, and six more cities will be added by the end of the year.

Seeking to Save Shelter Dogs From Death
"I've seen a huge shift in the past five years as people become aware of the injustices of so many good dogs dying because no one wants them," she said. "You find one-of-a-kind, smart dogs at a shelter. And did you know that more than 25 percent of shelter dogs are full breeds?"

Terri Sparks, marketing manager of the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, agrees: "We always have purebreds in our shelter. Right now we have a tiny Japanese Chin and some St. Bernards. In fact, I own a golden retriever who was dropped off here by a breeder."

"It's very chic now to say you've adopted rather than bought a dog from a pet store or breeder," said Paula Fasseas, founder of PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving), a Chicago rescue organization that showcases hundreds of homeless dogs at adoption events such as Angels with Tails on North Michigan Avenue. "When I walk my three rescue dogs, people say, " 'What beautiful dogs you have.' I can't wait to share their stories and show them shelter dogs are not damaged goods."

The shelter-adoption trend has been working its way from the coasts toward the Midwest. A few years ago, The New York Dog magazine dubbed shelter dogs the "new black" among trendy East Coast singles and families. Celebrities such as Jon Stewart, Isaac Mizrahi, Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Kera Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon gush over their mixed-breed dogs. Wildly popular "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan brings viewers into his Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles, where his own pack of well-behaved rescued dogs helps him rehabilitate unruly canines.

Stephanie Shain, director of outreach companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States, knows the best advocates for adoption are adopters themselves.

"They say, 'I can't believe someone let this dog go. He's the best dog ever,' " she said. "Most are strays or surrendered because they grew too big, their owners got sick, died, moved, got divorced or married, or a new baby came along. But one thing for sure, most are there through no fault of their own."

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that out of 68 million dogs owned in this country, about 14 million are shelter dogs. Every year more no-kill shelters and organizations with foster volunteers spring up across the country to rescue dogs from euthanasia at municipal pounds.

Many people like to feel that "pat on the back" when they adopt a dog, said Karen Rappaport, president of the board of directors of Save-a-Pet. "I love hearing about the positive responses people get when they have a personal hand in saving a life."

Yet animal-welfare workers recognize a sad undercurrent of "reverse snobbery" in the rescue movement that surfaced in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. People rushed to adopt "Katrina dogs" while millions of dogs waited in shelters.

"It's human nature to jump in and adopt a Katrina dog or one that's been abused," Shain said. "But when a dog is given away by a family that's moving, her world is being turned upside down. It may not be as sexy as a Katrina rescue, but for that one dog, it's a huge tragedy."

"There's always someone right for every animal," said Save-a-Pet's Rappaport. "And every dog seems to know the right thing to do when given a chance."

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