Tag Archives: adoption

SE Wisconsin humane societies waive cat adoption fees in July

Six shelters in southeastern Wisconsin have agreed to waive adoption fees for adult cats (1 year or older) throughout the month of July.

The initiative, the first ever of its kind, comes in response to a recent spike in abandoned cats in the region, according to a press release.

“Just eight weeks ago we had empty adoption suites and today, we have more than 160 cats and kittens on our adoption floor looking for new homes,” said Anne Reed, president and CEO of Wisconsin Humane Society. “We’re hearing similar trends from our colleagues throughout southeastern Wisconsin and we’re hoping this initiative will inspire more cat adoptions throughout the entire region.”

Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, Milwaukee County’s stray holding facility, reports receiving between 30 and 50 cats and kittens daily.

“The only way to keep up with that is by adopting or transferring out the same number each day,” said MADACC executive director Karen Sparapani. “With all shelters overwhelmed this time of year, we truly count on the community to adopt to keep our population moving through.”

“While summer is known as ‘kitten season’ in our area, there are so many wonderful adult cats needing homes,” said Lynn Olenik, executive director at the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha, in a press statement. “Don’t overlook these amazing pets — they are grown up, fully trained and settled into their personalities. What’s not to like?!?”

You can visit the shelters’ websites to view available cats and learn more about the adoption process. The participating shelters include:

  • Elmbrook Humane Society, http://www.ebhs.org
  • Humane Animal Welfare Society, http://www.hawspets.org
  • Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, http://madacc.org/
  • Sheboygan County Humane Society, http://www.myschs.com/
  • Washington County Humane Society, http://www.wchspets.org/
  • Wisconsin Humane Society Milwaukee Campus, http://www.wihumane.org
  • Wisconsin Humane Society Ozaukee Campus, http://www.wihumane.org
  • Wisconsin Humane Society Racine Campus, http://www.wihumane.org


Maine governor uses clout to adopt dog wanted by a private citizen

A woman is angry with a shelter for breaking its own rules to give Maine Governor Paul LePage a stray dog the day before the dog was put up for adoption.

Donna Kincer, development director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, acknowledged the Jack Russell terrier mix was supposed to be made available a day later and on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The governor walks in your front door and it sort of shifts things a little,” Kincer told the Sun Journal, acknowledging elected officials get special privileges over ordinary citizens at her shelter.

Kincer said she hoped for good publicity from the governor’s adoption of the rescue dog from Louisiana.

LePage is a right-wing extremist who was dubbed “America’s craziest governor” by Politico. His positions on a wide range of issues have put him at odds with the Legislature in a state known for centrism. As a result, LePage is Maine’s veto champion.

With that in mind, the governor, who refused to attend a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast and then told the NAACP on camera to “kiss my butt,” named his purloined dog Veto.

But what was a happy moment for the governor, who thinks windmills are run by electric motors, proved heartbreaking for Heath Arsenault. She burst into tears upon learning the governor adopted the dog she wanted.

Arsenault said she’d been going through an emotionally difficult time and hoped the adoption would boost her spirits. She’d already talked to shelter staff about the adoption and she’d taken the day off from work to be first in line when the dog now known as Veto became available for adoption.

“I felt like they lied to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, the governor’s family had been looking for a new dog after the death of LePage’s Jack Russell named Baxter.

The governor’s family alerted him to the dog after spotting him on the shelter website. The governor visited the shelter the day before Arsenault had hoped to adopt him.

“He just stopped in to see the dog,” said LePage spokesman Peter Steele. “He was very pleasantly surprised when (the shelter) allowed him to take the dog home.”

Arsenault says the shelter was wrong to give the governor the dog he wanted while other people must wait in line.

“No one should be given special privileges, even if they are the governor,” she said.

Partnership brings cats into businesses to up adoption

An Elkins, West Virginia, animal shelter is collaborating with businesses in the region to provide temporary homes for resident cats, with hopes of increasing adoption rates in the county.

Three local businesses have agreed to foster shelter cats and the Randolph County Humane Society’s program organizer Carrie Shupp said five additional local businesses have expressed interest in the program.

Shupp said the program took root in December, when Fancy Paws owner Ann Kreps-Weber offered to groom RCHS cats in preparation for Christmas, so store employees could obtain certification as cat groomers to meet a growing demand.

“(Kreps-Weber) mentioned they were considering a shop cat and the idea transformed into Fancy Paws becoming the first RCHS off-site partner location,” Shupp said. “Our first adoption was Dec. 23, only a week after initiating the project.”

Fifteen adoptions from Fancy Paws have followed. Shupp attributes that success to an increased visibility of the cats and a successful adoption event hosted by the shop. As of March 11, there were two cats — Bijou and Meatball — featured in the store’s front window for passersby to see, although the cats are free to roam behind the counter after business hours.

Kreps-Weber said the arrangement is mutually beneficial because the cats bring business in, but they also free up space at the shelter.

“It’s just a really good feeling to have people who work downtown stop by on their lunch breaks to come in and talk to the kittens, play with the cats or just stand outside the window,” she said. “It’s just been really great.”

Shabby Avenue was the next to offer space for fostering services. Shupp said Cowboy, a friendly orange tabby with special needs, roams the Elkins business and has been delighting shop patrons ever since.

“Cowboy has been so popular with the public that people have stopped by just to meet him,” Shupp said.

Store owner Jamie Rush said when she heard about the program and learned that RCHS hoped to expand it, she “thought it was a wonderful idea,” and decided to participate.

“Being an animal lover myself, I expressed to (Shupp) that I would be willing to help with getting their program started and would consider fostering a cat at Shabby Avenue,” she said.

At first Rush wasn’t sure if Cowboy, who had been returned to the shelter twice because of a feline illness condition and was in need of immediate temporary placement, was a good fit with her business. Rush added she initially wondered what she had gotten herself into, but the cat has proven to be a welcome guest at the shop.

“I can honestly say that I am very glad that I did agree (to foster Cowboy),” she said. “He has been a well-behaved and gracious guest during his stay at the shop and my customers love him.”

Rush said Cowboy is very friendly and greets every customer as they enter. She added that he is “quite a character.”

“He has a fondness for wearing bow ties, which has gained him his own following on social media,” she said. “Customers tell me that they watch for his photos and enjoy reading Facebook posts about the silly things that he does or seeing him posing for the camera in one of his many bow ties.”

Rush said customers often express their gratitude that she is willing to participate in the program.

“I feel that by fostering him at my business I am providing him a better chance at finding a forever home because potential adopters get to see what a great personality he has without the distraction of dozens of other animals,” she said. “It also helps free up space at the shelter for other animals in need.”

Rush added she would “absolutely encourage” other local businesses to consider partnering with RCHS.

Shupp said the most recent partnership — with Triangle Heating and Cooling — was also initiated by the business owner. Emerald, a 16-month-old female with special needs because of an injured left foot, was adopted just days after being introduced at the business.

Business owner Kristie Stalnaker said she wanted to participate in the program because “cats don’t always get a fair chance when they’re at the shelter.”

“We wanted to bring her in, just so more people could see her,” she said. “I think it’s a great program they’ve got going on and I’m happy to help.”

Stalnaker said she already misses having Emerald around the office.

“Emerald is just a sweet little girl,” she said. “I can’t say enough about how sweet of a kitty she is.”

Stalnaker said she’s looking forward to meeting a new work companion as she continues to foster cats for the RCHS.

“I’m really soft-hearted for animals and I think every pet deserves a good home,” she said. “Often they don’t get that when they’re in the shelter because a lot of people don’t like to go there because ‘it’s sad’ and can make people uncomfortable.”

Each of the participating shop owners have opted to supply food for their foster cats, although this is not a requirement. Shupp said the RCHS is committed to supplying basic needs for foster pets.

“We are so very thankful for (all our partnering businesses) and humbled by their interest in helping us help homeless animals,” Shupp said. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are so appreciated.”

The program benefits the shelter animals “in so many ways,” Shupp said. She added the partnerships reduce the risk for illnesses, increase socialization and allow cats the chance, in some cases, to roam free and “just be cats.”

“If we had a dime for every time someone says they cannot come to the shelter because it is ‘too sad,’ we would be very rich. This arrangement changes that,” she said. “The cats are not at the shelter, they are there in the store you walk by on your way to lunch. They are at the business you frequent. Seeing them makes all the difference.”

Shop owners also benefit from having a cat onsite, Shupp said.

“Having a cat creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “Let’s face it, animal lovers stick together. Given a choice, Elkins residents who are animal lovers will give business to a shop that demonstrates their love for animals, too.”

Shupp added shops also benefit from the partnership because the RCHS promotes participating businesses. She noted these arrangements are good for the community because they foster awareness and increase public exposure to adoptable pets.

“This allows us, at RCHS, to make room for other homeless animals and prepare them to be adopted. As long as we are at capacity, we can’t take in others,” she said.

Freeing up shelter space allows shelter officials to more actively pursue the Trap Neuter Release program, which Shupp said, in the long run, will reduce the number of free-roaming community cats.

“I am sure the public is familiar with ‘it takes a village.’ It is the same in animal welfare,” she said. “Instead of focusing on homeless animals as an issue, we should see this as a community challenge. That challenge is to reduce the number of homeless, unwanted animals and see higher adoptions, more TNR support and a responsive community to be a component of change.”

Shupp said the program is just one step in the right direction for Elkins to be a “humane city.”

“A humane city is one in which the leadership and residents make a conscious decision to provide resources and strategies that protect the health and safety of all animals. It reflects respect for — and value of — all life,” she said. “As part of that campaign, we hope that businesses will choose to become humane businesses, whose practices and policies reflect those values.”

The joys and perils of fostering dogs

Ask anyone who fosters dogs and they’ll tell you that everyone says it.

“I hear it almost every time I adopt out a dog: ‘I don’t know how you do this, I wouldn’t be able to let them go,’” says Anne Auditore of Richmond, Virginia, intake coordinator for Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue.

But many people who foster dogs have pretty much the same reply: Sure, you sometimes feel that way — but not as much as you might think. Says Auditore, “You can love them all, but they’re still not a good fit for your family.”

The kids wouldn’t be able to stand it, though, right? Forming an attachment and then saying goodbye?

In fact, in Denise Dunn’s case, fostering was her daughter’s idea.

“We had the dog for one day and she was all, ‘We can never give this dog back,’” says Dunn, who fosters for the Southside SPCA in Virginia. “However, after several days, she came to her senses and realized we were not looking for another member of our family, we’re looking to help find this dog a home.”

OK, so maybe the kids are good with it, but what about the dog you already have?

First impressions are important. “You have to understand that each animal is going to change the dynamic of your household in a different way,” says Carrie Santiago of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, who fosters for The Southern Dog. “I always introduce them in a neutral area. I don’t bring a dog into my home and say, ‘Have a free-for-all.’”

Supervise all early encounters, separating the dogs with crates, baby gates or securely closed doors when you go out. “From there, we slowly integrate them all together — let them be together for short amounts of time — and then, if that goes well, we leave them out with our guys during the day,” says Auditore.

Still, aren’t these going to be dogs with big problems? Sure, some of them. Auditore often fosters dogs who need surgery, and others in her group specialize in blind, deaf or old dogs. Santiago’s interests tend toward behavioral rehabilitation.

“I’m really big on positive training to get them socialized and more adoptable,” she says. “I’m a sucker for the hard cases.”

Shelters in particular are often looking for foster homes for animals that need special attention. But many private rescue groups have all their animals in foster homes, and many of these are normal, healthy dogs.

What Auditore’s group is looking for in a foster home is simply a responsible dog owner, and they need a lot of them: Last year, they found homes for around 450 pugs.

You don’t need to live on a big ranch or be home all day to foster an animal. “Most of us work full time. A lot of people have kids and families,” she says.

Volunteering with her group involves basically the same process as adopting an animal: filling out a form with basic information about your home, family, and schedule, as well as providing vet and personal references. Then there’s a home visit, to see which dogs will fit your situation.

“For example, our house has a lot of stairs, so we’re not going to be a good fit for a blind dog or a dog with mobility issues,” says Auditore.

If you’re interested in fostering, research how your local rescue groups work. Ask how they place dogs in foster homes — you shouldn’t be pressed to take on issues you’re not comfortable with. Find out what expenses are covered and whether you need to use a particular vet.

How long you end up having a foster pet depends on many factors — puppies, for instance, tend to go faster — including how expeditiously paperwork is processed. So ask about the group’s average.

Find out how you’ll participate in finding your foster pet a home. Your input should be valued, since you know the dog’s behavior in a home.

Policies differ on who makes the final decision. At shelters, it may be largely up to staff. Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue is at the other extreme. “We leave it up to the fosters, because they’re the ones (who) know these dogs,” Auditore says.

OK, but what if you really don’t want to give them up?

Some people do end up adopting their foster pet, and while that’s jokingly called a “foster failure,” it’s not necessarily bad. Make sure you know the organization’s policies here as well — you may get priority, but not at the expense of putting off other applicants indefinitely.

In the end though, the idea is to let most foster pets go, and yes, it can be bittersweet to say goodbye. “It gets easier over time. The first one is the hardest,” according to Auditore.

But that’s where the real reward lies, as Santiago learned when she saw her first foster pet, whom she had nursed through an illness, at the dog park a few months later.

“It was so awesome to see him with his new family,” she says. “That sealed the deal — it’s worth every bit of energy you put in.”

Same-sex couples sue for equal parenting rights

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer cleared the way for marriage equality across the United States, but a lot of anti-gay rubbish still litters legislative statutes and bureaucratic regulations.

Same-sex couples in some locales continue to fight for marriage licenses, despite the high court’s ruling. And in some states, married gay couples continue quests for equal treatment as parents, as well as equal treatment in the workplace, health care, education and accommodations.

Fifteen years ago, Mississippi lawmakers banned same-sex couples from adopting children and taking children into foster care. The law, staunchly supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, is the only one of its kind in the United States. In early August, four lesbian couples went to federal court and sued Mississippi to overturn the ban.

“The Mississippi adoption ban is an outdated relic of a time when courts and legislatures believed that it was somehow OK to discriminate against gay people simply because they are gay,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, two lesbian couples are suing the state of Florida, which refuses to acknowledge same-sex couples as parents on birth certificates.

“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.

Bondi maintained her defense of Florida’s anti-gay ban on same-sex marriage long after it was clear state and federal judges considered the ban unconstitutional, and she continues to sanction state discrimination against married gay couples.

“Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a newborn baby’s family,” Smith said. “Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections.”

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said continued vigilance is needed, even after the high court’s ruling. “There is still a lot of educating and a lot of litigating to do,” he said.

In Wisconsin, there apparently haven’t been complaints that the state refuses to recognize same-sex couples on birth certificates. Wisconsin also has recognized that same-sex couples have the same right as different-sex couples to adopt children.

“Since the Wolf decision was affirmed, the state has taken the position that same-sex couples can adopt on the same terms as different-sex couples, and there’s no longer a prohibition on adoption,” Dupuis said, referring to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s federal case that secured marriage equality in the state. “Before Wolf, the second-parent adoption had not been allowed in Wisconsin. So that was a big change.”

PBS’ ‘Shelter Me’ puts at-risk pets in limelight

Any animal can end up at a public shelter, but most of them won’t stay long. There, millions of dogs and cats face euthanasia, driving one filmmaker to turn his camera into a lifesaver.

Workers at several of the shelters, where no animal is turned away, say pets have a champion in Steven Latham, who directs and produces a PBS series called “Shelter Me,” featuring animals that are running out of time. Seeing the urgency, he took his efforts a step further, starting a website, helping set up adoption events and coordinating flights full of pooches to cities able to get them adopted.

“The pets at open admission shelters need our help the most,” said Latham, who has made other documentary films and series for PBS and Netflix.

With thousands of public shelters nationwide and just as many no-kill rescues and other animal welfare groups, finding loving homes for pets has become a battleground. Latham believes pets at public shelters should get priority, underscoring the intense competition that exists between the no-kill movement and shelters that euthanize.

Latham’s “Shelter Me” series, presented by Ellen DeGeneres’ natural pet food company — Halo, Purely for Pets — has filmed several shelter animals that became service, therapy and search-and-rescue dogs, or just good pets. Each documentary episode tells two or three stories.

Episode 4, “Shelter Me: New Beginnings,” is scheduled to premiere in Los Angeles on Oct. 8 and features volunteers in Idaho welcoming a plane packed with shelter dogs from Southern California. It also shows a trainer teaching shelters how to hold play groups for pooches. The next episode is tentatively set for February 2015 and will highlight how East Coast police departments turn shelter dogs into K-9s.

Before the first episode of the series aired in March 2012, Latham spent a year visiting shelters around the country. Last year, he started ShelterMe.com, where people can find pets facing euthanasia.

Twenty-five shelters in California, Idaho, New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina post photos, videos and stories about animals that need homes. Thousands of pets have been featured on the site, and most of them were adopted or taken in by a rescue, Latham said.

He has given a leg up to Animal Care Services of Long Beach, California, which was nearly full last week with 112 dogs, 138 cats, and some rabbits and turtles, said Kelly Miott, the shelter’s outreach coordinator.

“We have really limited space here,” she said. “That’s why Steven supports us. Euthanasia is a fact of life. We are what the no-kill people are trying to get rid of.”

Miott said she tried for years to get dogs from Long Beach on airlifts to other cities without success, but Latham made it possible. He also connected her to a store where she could hold weekend adoption fairs.

Members of the no-kill movement are “scaring volunteers away because they are making it very clear that animals are dying at our shelter. We don’t try to hide that,” Miott said.

Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society, a leading no-kill organization based in Utah, said finger-pointing won’t help animals.

“The no-kill movement seeks to collaborate with and support open admission shelters that are committed to do whatever it takes to end the killing of healthy, treatable shelter pets,” Battista said.

Latham’s website helped Alexandra Spinner of Los Angeles find a perfect feline companion last year.

“It wasn’t just a one-sided picture of a cat, but an interactive opportunity to know the animal more intimately,” she said. “I wanted a lap cat, and she was sitting there in a bright room, being petted. Had I not seen that video, I might have passed her by.”

On the Web…


Wisconsin Humane Society offering discounts on pit bull adoptions

The Wisconsin Humane Society is offering discounts to those who want to adopt pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

The Humane Society has an influx of pit bulls and the dogs are typically harder to place because of restrictions by landlords or insurance requirements.

To make it easier to find homes for these animals, the Humane Society campuses in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Racine are now charging $79 to adopt an adult pit bull and $179 to a adopt pit bull puppy. That’s a more-than $100 discount for the puppies.

The Human Society is getting more pit bulls partly because the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission needed space for animals recently seized in a dog-fighting ring. WISN says the seized dogs are not being offered for adoption.

Russia’s Putin signs law limiting adoption by gays

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that sharply limits the adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.

The new law prohibits adoption by same-sex foreign couples whose homeland recognizes their union as marriage, as well as by single people or unmarried couples from those countries.

A Kremlin statement said the measure is intended to guarantee children a “harmonious” upbringing and protect them from “complexes, emotional suffering and stress.”

The bill signed on July 3 is the latest move by Russia to buck the Western trend toward greater acceptance of homosexuality. On Sunday, Putin approved a ban on giving children any information about gays.

The adoption bill further shrinks the possibilities for 600,000 Russian children without parental custody. Last year, Russia banned all adoptions by Americans.

How do Wisconsin LGBT families protect their children?

I am constantly amazed by how many folks don’t know that Wisconsin prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting children – or adopting each other’s children. Not being able to adopt children as co-parents prevents same-sex couples from insuring their children together as legal dependents.

In Wisconsin, two adults of the same gender identity can foster a child, but once the child is offered for permanent placement, only one parent can be the official adoptive parent.

In light of Wisconsin’s adoption laws, there are three steps that same-sex parents should consider.


My partner and I went to children’s court and had her name added as our son’s second legal, permanent guardian. I did not have to give up my legal guardianship – she was simply added. This can be done for biological or adopted children. However, the Social Security Administration does not recognize guardianship status. If our child’s other mother died, he probably would not receive benefits. 

We have often benefited from him having two legal guardians during trips to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital, where we must declare that we are both legal guardians. We also have shown our guardianship papers when applying for a passport for our son. 

My partner insures our whole family on her health insurance, and by being our son’s legal guardian, she doesn’t have to pay extra federal tax on his insurance. 

Other parents leave the child with just one legal guardian. That is the best decision for some families. 

But if something happens to the legal parent, the child may end up being awarded to a blood relative rather than to the partner who has acted as a second parent to that child. 

Choosing names for birth certificates

In Wisconsin, you are only allowed to list opposite-sex married people as a child’s parents.

If we had named our sperm donor on any document, we would not have been able to obtain rights for my partner in any state. Many people think they can name the known donor at the beginning of the child’s life and change it later, but that is difficult. In effect, you are saying that the child had a father in the past but now doesn’t. To get his name off the paperwork, he’ll have to declare in court that he doesn’t want to know or support the child.

Courts frown on a parent giving up parental rights. You will probably have to prove that the biological father is unfit, which is complicated, difficult and expensive.

Power of attorney

Having living wills, trusts and power of attorney documents drawn up as soon as possible can prevent your child from being raised by someone you didn’t select. There are cases of religious right groups trying to claim rights to a child when one parent dies. Prior to our son’s birth, my partner obtained power of attorney over both of us.

Hoping for change

None of the concerns above would be necessary if Wisconsin had fair laws protecting us all. “Children deserve to know that their relationships with both of their parents are stable and legally recognized. This applies to all children, whether their parents are of the same or opposite sex. When two adults participate in parenting a child, they and the child deserve the serenity that comes with legal recognition,” according to an American Academy of Pediatrics Policy statement in 2002.

I dream of the day when Wisconsin lawmakers follow AAP’s advice. In March, the academy came out in support of same-sex marriage, stating that pediatricians advocate for public policies that help all children and their parents, regardless of sexual orientation, build and maintain strong, stable, and healthy families that are able to meet the needs of their children.

NOTE: This is my interpretation of what I have experienced. Please seek your own legal council.

French president signs marriage equality bill into law

French President Francois Hollande has signed the law authorizing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

He signed the bill early May 18 after the French Constitutional Council issued a finding that the measure is constitutional. That review was prompted by a challenge to the law. The council ruled that the law did not infringe on “basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty.”

BBC News reported that Hollande, at the signing, said, “I have taken (the decision); now it is time to respect the law of the Republic.”

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said the first same-sex weddings could take place as early as June, possibly in about two weeks.

The French National Assembly on April 23 cast its final vote for marriage equality. 

In the days and months ahead of the final votes in Parliament, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated, sometimes in violent protest against the equality measure. At one of the demonstrations in Paris, right-wing demonstrators wearing masks charged at police, damaged cars and attempted to reach the presidential palace, according to The Associated Press.

Hollande urged calm and peace and condemned the violence.

France has recognized civil unions – for same-sex and opposite-sex couples – since 1999.

Lawmakers rejected more than 5,000 amendments intended to weaken the marriage equality bill before the final vote.

This spring, Uruguay and New Zealand also have held votes to advance marriage equality.

Same-sex couples can marry in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Same-sex couples can also marry in parts of the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

In the United States this spring, Rhode Island, and Delaware and Minnesota have passed bills to legalize same-sex marriage.