Established in 1965, HAWS assists over 6,000 animals and welcomes more than 31,000 human visitors annually. As an "open admissions" shelter we lead the community in animal welfare and assure sanctuary for all animals in need, regardless of age, health or temperament. HAWS is a non-profit, entirely donor-fund organization with an active humane education program, and both wildlife and companion animal rescue services for Waukesha County.
HAWS License #267280-DS
One of my HAWS co-workers related a story to me of an interaction she had recently with a potential adoptive family. It centered around her trying to give a dog and a family a chance - a situation that, on paper, didn't look possible.
Whenever a dog comes to our shelter, our highly-trained behaviorists take it through an extensive evaluation process. The eval helps us determine - through exercises with the dog, past history given to us, and applied knowledge - what will be an appropriate new home situation. These evals can take hours, and are not done haphazardly. The utmost in care and consideration are put into the evals. We want every pet that comes to HAWS to have an equally great chance to find their new, FOREVER home. We want to set everyone up for success and a long happy life together.
The particular dog in this story has been given an "age restriction." He's mouthy during play, so we have determined he wouldn't do well in a home with younger kids (less than 6 years old). Younger kids don't understand "dog play" - and often dogs don't see younger kids as anything other than a littermate - or even a squeaky toy. (Kids make great squeaks!) Sure enough, when the family with a younger child was allowed to interact with the dog, eventually play became rough and the mouthiness occured. To protect the child, my co-worker stopped the interaction, explained why, and guided the family to choose another dog. Unfortunately, the family didn't like this part, as you can imagine, even though my co-worker was trying to protect the child from a potentially serious bite situation!
So, now we're stuck in an awkward position - a position where trying to think outside the box and be situation-specific (rather than in generalize rigidly) turns around and...nips us in the hands. My co-worker wants the dog to go to a loving family, but the family needs to understand we're trying to protect both them AND the dog entrusted to us. Our responsibility is to both, and we don't take that responsibility lightly. (And, unfortunately, we see all to often the results when the wrong dog and family get together - it is one of the reasons we're so badly needed in our community, and why education has become such a huge part of our mission.)
Just a day in the life...but we'll keep trying...and educating...and thinking outside the crate!
By the way - Fashion for Paws for HAWS tickets are now available! Join us for cocktails, appetizers and a runway fashion show on Friday, October 14th. All the details are at our Fashion for Paws webpage!