Anyone who’s visited an animal shelter knows that some creatures seem to be far more populous than others. There’s rarely a shortage of pitbulls or elderly cats to choose from, but young, small, fluffy and able-bodied creatures seem to be quickly adopted.
What makes some animals “better” to adopt than others? Many animal owners would say, nothing.
One reason that some animals take longer to get adopted is that they belong to breeds that have historically negative stigmas associated with them — namely pitbulls. But that didn’t stop 73-year-old Normalyn Woodhouse from adopting her very own.
Three years ago, when the ASPCA hosted a Clear the Shelters event in New York City, Woodhouse decided she would adopt an animal, though she didn’t have a strong preference for which kind. After all, she had always wanted one and it seemed that there was a high need for people to take them in.
After standing in the long line of other soon-to-be pet owners for over an hour, she entered the shelter and observed that the animals remaining mainly consisted of older cats and pitbulls. Luckily, she quickly connected to one dog in particular, Genesis, who happened to be a pitbull-terrier mix.
She quickly filled out the paperwork and brought Genesis home to introduce her to the rest of her family. Three years later, her gratitude and adoration for Genesis remain boundless.
“Genesis is such a sweet darling. The sweetest dog you’ll ever have,” Woodhouse said. “Whenever I leave Genesis for a few hours and come back – oh my God – you can’t get a better welcome home. She runs to me and dances for me, turns around and around ten times before me! She is so happy!”
Woodhouse’s one drawback of having Genesis seems to be the disappointment she feels when others have unfair judgments about her dog.
“Some people get scared because she’s a pitbull, but when they get to know her, they see she doesn’t attack people,” she explained.
Pitbulls have historically faced stigmas of being aggressive and violent, leading to unfair assumptions made against dogs like Genesis. Some will even refuse to be around pitbulls, which poses a major inconvenience to their owners. This judgment is due to how pitbulls were bred to behave throughout history.
According to TexVetPets.org, an organization created by veterinarians in Texas to help educate pet owners, pitbulls have been forced to be trained to fight for “bull baiting” since the 1800s. Bull baiting is a blood sport in which a bull is tied to a post and dogs are set free to attack it.
Bull baiting was banned in 1835. Dog fighting was not banned until 1976 and still commonly occurs illegally. However, pitbulls are not inevitably aggressive and much of their behavioral future is due to how their owners treat them.
Another population of animals that aren’t always quickly adopted are cats, especially older ones.
According to Shelter Animals Count, cats are surrendered to shelters more frequently than dogs, but adopted less frequently. In 2019, roughly 1.16 million cats were brought into shelters in America (compared to 1.14 million dogs). By the end of the year, only over 872,000 cats were adopted while over one million dogs were adopted.
These numbers are partially unsurprising, as the ASPCA reports that Americans are more likely to own a dog than a cat (44% of the population owns a dog, compared to the 35% of the population that owns a cat). Nonetheless, the numbers are certainly still unsettling.
This means nearly 2 million animals were still waiting for homes by the end of 2019.
Fourth-year University at Buffalo student Lauren Duell saw the ever-increasing need for people to adopt cats and was more than happy to help out. She has personally adopted two cats and one rabbit, and her family owns an additional two cats and two dogs.
She sees the process of adopting as “building a little family” and refers to her cats as her “favorite thing in the whole world.” Similarly to Woodhouse, Duell has an undeniable and profound love for her cats and is excited to adopt more.
One issue she discussed is people going to breeders for animals when the need is so high for animals to be adopted. Only 31% of the cats that people own in America were adopted, according to the ASPCA, and many are attained through unnamed sources. Breeders are the source of adoption for 34% of dogs, which is an issue given the unethical practices used by many breeders and the high need of shelter and humane society animals to be adopted.
For those who want to adopt, Duell is encouraging but firm about the urgency of people who are adopting to ensure they have the time, money and availability to be able to “commit to the animal.”
To adopt nearby, be sure to visit the Dutchess County SPCA to see the plethora of animals ready and waiting to be adopted! If you’d like to help in a different way, you can also foster a pet, volunteer, donate or sponsor a pet. Call 845-452-SPCA(7722) for more information.