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Addressing Barriers to Adoption
August 27, 2020

In the shelter world, finding homes for animals is the number one priority for any lifesaving organization. But the application process can vary greatly between organizations and can sometimes create serious barriers to adoption that not only keep animals from going to a forever home, but also can target specific communities, labeling them unfit for adoption. At Morris, and across the nation, a new movement focused on breaking down those barriers is hoping to make adoption more accessible for all and to send more animals to loving homes.

Adoption applications can be denied for a number of reasons, and when done right, it is in the interest of both the potential adopter and the shelter animal. However, the search for the “perfect home” is not only subjective in many cases, but can end up hurting more than helping. For full-time employees, adding a new member to your family could prove to be more challenging than expected. Some shelters believe that an adopter who works full-time will be unable to provide high-quality of care to the animal as they are away for most of the day. For those who are looking to give an animal as a gift, chances of application approval are slim. But the belief that a pet given as a gift receives lower quality of care isn’t supported by statistics. In fact, they are less likely to be returned to shelters than their non-gifted counterparts. Furthermore, an adopter who is set on getting a puppy for their family may turn to an irresponsible breeder or pet store after they are unable to adopt from a shelter.

The barriers do not end there, unfortunately. Applicants can be disqualified for not owning their home, or not having a yard. Sometimes it gets even stricter by limiting qualified yards to those which are fenced. This eliminates significant pools of potential adopters in a way which is discriminatory, unrealistic, and does not reflect the quality of life the animal may have with that adopter. A dog owner with no yard can be just as loving and providing, or even more so, than an adopter who has a fenced yard.

In its entirety, the list of blocks is long. Both the quality of an adopter’s spoken English or inquiries about the adoption fee can disqualify candidates. Applicants can be denied for not having an existing relationship with a vet. And while vet care is nonnegotiable for animals, what if this is someone’s first pet? How would they have a vet if they’ve never had an animal to take to one? These barriers only keep kennels full for longer.

At Morris, and across the country, a movement towards open adoption policies has grown. Instead of focusing on home ownership or the age of an adopter, we work on making good matches between our animals and potential adopters. Removing the barriers to adoptions does not mean sending animals home without first working with potential adopters, talking with them, and ensuring that the match is a strong one. We provide support throughout the adoption process and afterward to ensure that the pet parents and their new addition to the family are adjusting happily, and we do everything in our power to support the matches so that they can last a lifetime. When you start the adoption process at Morris, you can expect a conversation rather than an interrogation. Because while “perfect homes” are limiting and exclusionary, loving homes are everywhere and we know that our animals will be perfectly excited to start their new life with their new best friends.


Article written by Morris team member Rory Raymer

Edited by Morris team member Sarah Meding