2017-06-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Location, Location, Location”. The familiar real estate slogan applies to homeless pets too. Being at the right place at the right time can make a crucial difference to whether a desperate dog or cat finds the perfect home in a timely matter. Let’s take a look at two variations on this theme.

Spotlight at a Smaller Venue: On LI and much of the US, municipal shelters are filled with Pits and Pit permutations. The shift in the canine complexion of shelter intake from an overflow of Shepherd and Lab mixes to Bully breeds happened gradually over the last 15 years or so because of several socio-economic factors. One factor is people attracted to Bully-types for the wrong reasons (including dog fighting or pseudo- protection by chaining the poor dogs outside 24/7) breed their dogs continuously to sell to each other; whereas responsible owners have gotten the message about spay/neuter as a way to lessen the suffering of pet overpopulation.


Columbo getting his symbolic “wash away your old life” bath. Columbo getting his symbolic “wash away your old life” bath. Hempstead Shelter has about 150 Pit types; Babylon and Islip about 40 each while at times Brookhaven has had 200. The poor Pits are in competition with each other. When you walk down a kennel aisle and see so much “sameness”, you tend not to see individual dogs. You may have walked by the greatest dog ever but he blends in with many clones. California has a similar problem with their overload of Chihuahuas. Certain East Coast rescues have airlifted Chihuahuas here where small dogs are adopted quickly.

“Columbo” entered Babylon Shelter in April supposedly found as a stray in the rain. He’s relatively small, affectionately called a “pocket Pit”. Despite sores on his legs, he is personality plus. He came to Last Hope last Friday; had his symbolic- “Wash -away -your -old -life-to-begin -anew” bath the next morning and by the afternoon had an adoption application from a lovely couple.

Columbo wasted no time winning the hearts of Last Hope volunteers the way he did for his months at Babylon Shelter where he had many admirers among the staff and volunteers. Every shelter veteran who meets Columbo sees his potential as a lovable, kissy-face, family dog. Cynthia, a volunteer at Last Hope and Hempstead, posted a photo of Columbo on Face book with the caption: “If there’s such a thing as a charismatic dog, this would be it. Columbo at Last Hope.”

So why was he overlooked at the town shelter? Folks there knew he was an exceptionally friendly dog. At Babylon, he was one of 40 Pits; at Last Hope, a smaller, private facility, he was one of three.

“Drake” a brindle Pit understands the “spotlight” phenomenon. He grew up at Babylon Shelter. His stay there over three years. A young couple fell for him an hour after he entered Last Hope in 2014. They were closing on a house in several months. We didn’t hold him for them, but as fate would have it, Drake was still available when they closed on their home, so he moved in with them. Brindle dogs blend into the background just like black dogs. Drake needed the smaller spotlight like Columbo.

Cat Placement: Partly due to the feline birth cycle, shelter cats are also in competition with each other for limited homes. Unlike dogs, cats reproduce for only a portion of the year. Kitten season begins mid-April and goes until the end of November. It’s difficult to find a young kitten around Christmas.

As soon as kitten season starts, kittens upstage adult cats looking for homes. In April and May, most available kittens are scooped up immediately. By the start of summer, every shelter and rescue has a waiting list to take in kittens. At the end of summer, the overload gets worse. I tell the Girl Scouts visiting Last Hope: “If you are ever reincarnated as a kitten, you want to be born in April. That’s when you stand your best chance of being adopted quickly.”

Kittens only stay “birthday card tiny” for a short time. Many shelters are doing kitten pediatric neutering when each baby weighs just over two pounds which is about ten weeks old. The kitten adoption window of opportunity is fleeting. If a kitten gets sick, and is put in isolation, by the time the cat is recovered he’s grown more.

Besides our main Cat Adoption Center in Wantagh, Last Hope has satellite centers in two Petcos and two PetSmarts. Last year the cat adoption center at our busiest store was moved from the longtime, front location near the cash registers to a side near fish tanks. The cats are not as visible as before. In 2016, Last Hope cat adoptions dropped from over 600 to 499. We attribute much of this adoption decline to the move at that satellite store. Two great Last Hope brothers- “Tom & Jerry” got caught in the move, and were overlooked. They are grown Kitten Class of 2016 competing with the Class of 2017 now.

Cats are often in rows of cages. Those in eye level cages rather than top shelf or bottom cages tend to be adopted faster. Colorful toys and blanket in the cage are eye-catching too, and make for better photos. Toys prompt playfulness when adopters are choosing cats.

There’s research to back this claim. A March 25, 2010 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found: “This study performed a multi-factor analysis of the effects of the provision of toys, cage location, and cat characteristics (activity level, age, sex, and coat color) on 111 cats available for adoption in a nonhuman animal shelter. The analysis revealed a greater adopter viewing of cats housed at eye level and of those with toys—even though the toys did not affect the cats’ behavior. Adopters viewed cats who were active for longer periods of time. The active cats were more likely to be adopted during the 16-week study than cats who were less active.”

Changes in venue can alter a shelter dog or cat’s life. A little “window dressing” can lure their new best friends to them This study findings make me happy as a big fan of colorful props or blankets when photographing cats, especially black ones.

Adoptable at Babylon Animal Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Sylvester” is a pee wee, longhaired tuxedo cutie ready for a home. His smaller brother “Tweety” will be available soon. “Venus” 17-88 is a lovely, brindle Pit who goes to adoption events. She is wearing a cone because she had tail surgery.

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