There has never been a shortage of pets available for adoption. Either taken from a home that can no longer meets their needs, or brought to a shelter right from the street, hundreds of cats and dogs are looking for a permanent place to live with loving human hearts. I wouldn’t be too wrong if I say that most animal shelters are overcrowded, and many rescue groups are permanently dealing with the crisis–too many animals, too few homes ready to accept a new pet. Yet, if you want to adopt a cat or a dog from a rescue group, your application will have to be approved, and this is not just a formality. Most likely, you’ll need references, and your home will be checked by rescue group representatives. That may seem weird, considering how many animals need their forever homes. Yet, this practice takes place in most rescue groups.

Second Chance Animal Rescue Windsor-Essex (S.C.A.R.) is one of those organizations that take adoption seriously, and I had a chance to experience that firsthand. Two years ago, my husband and I adopted a cat from S.C.A.R.. I talked to Cherie Smith from the Adoption/Foster Team of the rescue group and asked her about adoption policies and why animal rescuers strictly follow them.

Cherrie and Maggie
Cherie Smith and her dog Maggie

Eugenia Vlasova: Tell me please about Second Chance Animal Rescue.

Cherie Smith: Second Chance Animal Rescue Windsor-Essex opened in June of 2015 to service the Windsor-Essex area of Southern Ontario, Canada. We are all volunteers, with four board members, and it varies how many volunteers we have, but if I had to guess, between the fosters and volunteers, I would say 30-40. In our care we have approximately 40 animals at this moment.

E.V.:To an average person who has never worked with rescue groups, adoption is the best outcome possible, and rescuers should not be choosers. If somebody wants an animal, just give it away! But it doesn’t happen like that. Why?

Smith: We know some people think that we should just give the animals away, but what people fail to realize is that we, as a rescue, took an oath when we saved this animal from either a high kill shelter, off the street, living their life on a chain or being abused.

We are the ones who have looked into these animals’ eyes and promised to never let anything bad happen to them again. We are the ones who have cleaned their wounds and helped heal their broken spirits. We want only the best for these animals.

That’s not saying that people who apply to adopt don’t want what is the best for the animals also. But we have come to know these animals and we endeavor to place each animal into the best-suited environment and family for THE animals.

Sometimes that may break people’s hearts because they fall in love with a picture and think, “That’s the dog/cat for me” but, in reality, that dog/cat is just not the right one for their household. We don’t like to tell people no, but we have to do so for the sake of the animals because we want these animals to SUCCEED in THEIR home the first time we place them and not have to be move them over and over again.

Brenn and Mylie
Brenn from S.C.A.R. and her dog Mylie

E.V.: When you say, “The cat/dog is up for adoption,” what does that mean? What does it take to prepare an animal for adoption?

Smith: When a dog/cat is available for adoption, that means that they have had all their vaccines, had a medical exam and any other medical needs taken care of by our vet, as well as we have had time to assess them and observe their behaviors – including likes and dislikes – and work on some of their house training or leash training needs. If a dog/cat is not available, then that could be because we are still working on their assessment or fixing a medical issue for them to be ready for adoption.

E.V.: What is a standard adoption procedure in SCAR?

Smith: We get the application. We do reference checks, vet checks, and in-home visits. If that goes well, we will then move on to a meet-and-greet with the whole family and the pet.

E.V.: Does following these adoption policies help to avoid adoption failures?

Smith: We have a very high success rate of adoptions since we have started. I can count on one hand the number of animals that have been returned, and that was due to either a death of an adopter, or the family was just not keeping up with the animal’s needs or the animal showing signs of acting out, so they asked us to take him/her back, which we did. We will always take our animals back. And since then they have done very well with structure and positive training. I would say we have a 99% success adoption rate for cats and dogs.

Julie from S.C.A.R.

E.V.: What is an average time an animal spends with SCAR before he or she gets adopted (being with a foster family or at a pet store)?

Smith: That all depends. We don’t rush our adoptions. If an animal is with us for one month or two years before they find their perfect forever family, that is perfectly okay with us because in the end, it all comes down to what is best FOR THE ANIMAL!

E.V.: Do you keep watching your alumni? Do you usually hear back from adopters?

Smith: Yes, and they send updates and pictures, which we absolutely LOVE!!!

E.V.: What is the biggest challenge in running an animal rescue group? What is the biggest challenge SCAR is facing right now?

Smith: The biggest challenge is having to say no when there are so many animals’ lives that need to be saved! If only people understood that spaying and neutering their animals would make a huge difference in the lives of so many unwanted animals who are euthanized daily! Our biggest challenge is finding enough foster homes and dedicated volunteers.

Danielle and Pixie
Danielle from S.C.A.R. and Pixie

E.V.: And what is the biggest reward?

Smith: The biggest reward is seeing these wonderful animals get a second chance at life! To look into the face of a family and watch their eyes light up with happiness because of the animal that you helped bring into their life and to look at that animals’ face that is so grateful just to have a loving family of his/her own! It truly warms your heart each and every time you see it and will never get dull!

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