In a Nutshell: Many people already know animal shelters are a great resource for rescuing pets that need homes and are also a more affordable alternative to buying animals from breeders. However, not everyone realizes that shelters also play a valuable role in helping prevent pet surrenders. Denver, Colorado-based animal welfare agency, the Dumb Friends League, plays a crucial part in helping animals find loving homes and advocating on their behalf, but it also goes further by promoting education and providing animals with temporary homes until the right family comes along.
Surrendering my dog, Fritz, was a difficult but humane decision.
The energetic mutt I’d gotten as a rescue dog in Florida suddenly became difficult to bring along when I moved to Washington, DC, a city where many apartments don’t allow dogs.
I was a single reporter in a big city, and Fritz was a country dog in need of open space. Soon after surrendering him to an animal rescue agency, a couple with another dog — and a spacious backyard — adopted Fritz. My heartbreak morphed into relief: I knew he was in good hands and would have a better life than the one I could give him at that time.
Surrendering Fritz was the hardest breakup of my life but also one of the best decisions I’ve made. Nobody wants to part with an animal they love, but sometimes financial limitations make it difficult to provide the support a pet deserves.
To find out more about this process and options for avoiding pet surrender, we reached out to a Colorado-based animal welfare agency, known as the Dumb Friends League. The League understands this dilemma well and often helps people through these situations. However, it first helps people with the support and financial resources to avoid surrender since its staff also recognizes that having pets can greatly benefit a person’s well-being.
“There used to be this thought that if you can’t afford a pet, you shouldn’t have one,” said Maia Brusseau, the Public Relations Manager at Dumb Friends League. “Now, there’s evidence that pets are helpful for lowering anxiety and blood pressure. There’s been a cultural shift, so a lot of resources have become available for people to hold onto their pets.”
The League primarily coordinates pet adoption, but it also takes in neglected animals, investigates animal abuse, and provides free animal services, such as spaying and neutering, along with creating pet care educational opportunities for kids. Founded in 1910, the organization took its name from a British welfare group by a similar name (Our Dumb Friends League.)
“In those days, the term ‘dumb’ was widely used to refer to animals because they lacked the power of human speech,” Brusseau explained, adding that today, the League is the largest animal welfare organization in the Rocky Mountain Region. “We give a voice to the voiceless.”
Finding the Ideal Pet to Fit Your Lifestyle
One of the League’s primary services is helping facilitate animal adoptions. All of the animals available for adoption are listed on its website. The first step in the adoption process, Brusseau said, is having potential adopters come in to meet the animals so they have time to interact one on one.
“We encourage people to bring everyone in the family, and other pets, as well, Brusseau said. “We make sure everyone is a good fit before we send anyone home.”
If it’s a good fit, adoptive parents fill out the paperwork and pay a fee based on a sliding scale. Puppies cost $250, and adult animals, $50. There are ongoing specials for veterans and senior citizens; and frequently, other specials as well, which attract many people.
“We’re very fortunate in Colorado because we have a lot of people who open their doors and adopt pets,” Brusseau said, adding that the Dumb Friends League also has programs that bring in animals transferred from other states.
Dogs are the quickest to be adopted, staying an average of 6-10 days in the shelter. Cats stay an average of 15-20 days.
“Some of the smaller animals — the guinea pigs, rabbits, and ferrets — also find homes,” Brusseau explained, adding that their appeal may be partially due to their lower associated costs. “They’re definitely less expensive than an 80-pound dog.”
And since medical costs can be expensive for new adopters, the League makes sure each animal they adopt out is in good health.
“Every pet is spayed or neutered, and we provide a general health exam, behavioral training, and age-appropriate vaccinations,” Brusseau said, adding that it has an agreement with local veterinarians for a free wellness visit. Before they leave the League, animals are also given microchip identification, along with a temporary leash, collar and tag, and a post-adoption follow-up visit.
“It definitely is a good deal to adopt from a shelter versus purchasing an animal from a breeder,” Brusseau said.
Pet Surrender is Sometimes the Best Option
Those free services don’t end with the adoption process. A lot of free and low-cost programs are available to help pet owners who are financially struggling to care for pets. The League offers free cat spay and neuter services and reduced-cost dog spay and neuter services for people who meet income qualifications, which can be very helpful since those services can cost between $200 and $300, depending on the area of the country.
Those services are important for many reasons, Brusseau added, including getting rid of undesirable pet behaviors like wandering. It also helps prevent cancer and other health issues, in addition to controlling the pet population.
The League refers pet owners to pet food pantries, so pet owners can get free or reduced-cost food, as well as low-cost veterinarians.
“The goal is to keep pets in loving homes since you’ve formed a bond with the animal,” Brusseau said, adding that sometimes people aren’t always aware of these helpful resources, including a free behavior helpline available to pet owners that shares best practices that can help keep families together.
If keeping an animal is just not possible, however, Brusseau encourages pet owners to come to a shelter, instead of putting an ad on Craigslist, or abandoning the pet.
“We go through a counseling process when someone comes in to make sure they know other options,” Brusseau said. “We’re judgment-free when people walk through the door. We know the decision is difficult, and we work to find the animal a loving home.”
The Denver Community Opens Its Doors to Homeless Pets
The League also plays an instructional role in the Denver community thanks to its large education department with programs for people of all ages.
“From the start, you can help teach children, not just about the importance of being humane to animals, but how to properly greet a dog,” Brusseau said, adding the well-known fact illustrated by studies, that people who are hurtful to an animal tend to be more likely to be hurtful to human beings.
The League prides itself in educating potential pet owners about getting the right kind of pet for them.
People often fall for cute pet pictures on websites, but they need to realistically assess what kind of pet would meet their needs, she explained, adding that the kinds of questions to consider are: “Do you want a couch potato pet? Or one that hangs out in your lap? Or an active, hiking buddy? Do you go running every morning? How much time do you have? How many people live in your home?”
Since owning a pet is such a personal process, she also discourages people from gifting pets. Instead, the League sells gift cards, so people can cover adoption fees or buy accessories.
As for picking out a pet, make it a “fun family event where everyone comes in,” she said. “Make sure that everyone in the family is on board with getting an animal.”