Sometimes, you can become too fixated on adhering to the rules and throw common sense out the window. That’s what happened in the case of a little black Brussels Griffon terrier mix named Iggy and a dispute over the dog between the television host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres and a Pasadena, California-based private pet rescue, Mutts & Moms.
Apparently Ellen adopted Iggy in September and, for a few different reasons, later gave the dog to her hairdresser, whose two daughters became enamored with Iggy. When the rescue group learned of Iggy’s transfer they took him from his new home, citing a violation of the adoption contract.
They may have been right on the letter of the law, but not in the spirit of the mission of Mutts & Moms.
Ellen broadcast this turn of events on her television show Tuesday, begging that Iggy be reunited with the hairdresser’s family. Ellen pleaded with the rescue to allow Iggy to stay with the new family, since a strong bond had already been formed and because they were capable of providing a great home.
Ellen acknowledged she shouldn’t have given Iggy away, but it’s clear she had genuine concerns about providing the pooch with a good home. Ellen has a long and consistent record of being on the side of animals, and that counts for a lot in a case like this. She has the interests of Iggy at heart.
Mutts & Moms was too rigid, even though I am sure they are very fine and dedicated people. They were a slave to form and forgot the real-world circumstances. They lost their chance to have Ellen serve as an advocate for them and for animal adoption, instead turning a potentially positive event into a distressing experience for all involved, including Iggy.
The episode won’t help the reputation of animal rescue organizations. And that is a shame. One adoption mishandled should not define their work. Rescues serve an invaluable role for animals, and the vast majority of people who run them and work for them are remarkably selfless people—investing their own time, energy and resources to place unwanted animals who might otherwise be euthanized.
If rescues and shelters want to set high standards for adopters, they should be free to do so. Adoption policies exist and are enforced to protect the adopted animal, who is hopefully being placed into a home for life that is free from harm. But adoption counselors should—and usually do—give the benefit of the doubt to their adopters, and try to work things out in the best interest of the animal. And most do this because it is in their interest, too.
Every day, shelters and rescues are working to hone their adoption processes that safeguard the animals entrusted to their care. I hope would-be pet owners won’t shy away from adopting a homeless animal—there are still so many in need.