Truth of the Trade: Finding a Furry Family Member

Jennifer Galloway, executive director of Gulf Coast Humane Society, debunks myths about animal shelters.

It’s easy to judge another industry from the outside, with ideas formed by what we see on TV, hear on the news or experience through our friends. But not all stories and stereotypes are true. The best way to debunk myths about an industry? Turning to those who know it best.

 

The Myth: Animals in shelters are damaged goods.

The Truth: “Animals in shelters end up here through no fault of their own,” says Jennifer Galloway, executive director of Gulf Coast Humane Society. Many animals come to shelters after family deaths, divorce, or lifestyle or job changes. “Moving into a nursing home is one of the most common reasons why animals end up here because of our demographic,” Galloway says. Another big factor is pet restrictions the many gated communities in our area may have.

That means all types of ages and breeds can end up in our animal shelters. Galloway says there’s no shortage of puppies or purebreds at the Fort Myers-based not-for-profit, no-kill, animal welfare organization. If the breed you’re searching for isn’t there, you can always ask for help finding a nearby breed-specific rescue (Gulf Coast Humane Society partners with a few).

But Galloway encourages people to look beyond breeds when shopping for their new companion. “Come in with a picture but leave with a personality,” she says. “Are you a runner who wants a dog that’s going to end up running with you every day? Or maybe you love Friday nights watching movies, so you want someone to curl up on the couch with you. Look at who is going to benefit your home and lifestyle.”

You may even find the right fit in a stigmatized breed, such as an American Pit Bull Terrier or terrier-type dog. “One of the biggest things we face in rescues anywhere is the whole ‘pit bull’ myth,” Galloway says. “Their jaws don’t lock, and all the things people put out there about them being vicious and attacking, that’s not true. Any breed can do that—they’re dogs.”

In general, since many animals who end up in shelters once had homes, they can make especially good pets, Galloway says: “They already know about having good house manners.” And if a potential pet’s behavior needs work, there are plenty of resources available, she added. A new friend might already be waiting for you in a nearby shelter.