In more than two years of operation, despite our best efforts, we've had basically zero adoptions. We industriously followed every lead. We came very close to getting a dog adopted. But in the end none of the adoptions worked out. Zero is a shocking number. At animal shelters in developed countries, several dogs are adopted every day. In this post, we provide some background as to why getting the animals adopted here in the Philippines is so difficult.
Puerto Rico is a US territory, and has a much higher standard of living than the Philippines (the GDP per capita there is $34,000+ whereas in the Philippines it's only $7,000). Puerto Rico has a major problem with stray dogs, especially with unwanted dogs being dumped at a place called Dead Dog Beach.
There are about a dozen high-profile, well-funded US animal rescue organizations operating in Puerto Rico, as well as a few local ones. All of these organizations have given up on adoptions and are dedicated to flying the dogs to the United States so they can get adopted there instead.
In this article, CNN reports about the US non-profit The Sato Project which airlifts dogs to the United States. There are numerous such non-profits, and they all rescue dogs from Puerto Rico and ship them to the US, because getting them adopted in Puerto Rico simply does not work.
It's not just the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It's the same in all developing countries. For example, Sean Casey Animal Rescue, a large no-kill animal shelter in New York, often offers dogs rescued from Baku, Azerbaijan, for adoption.
Should we too forge ties with a US non-profit and send our dogs to the United States? We're hoping it won't come to that. There are enough unwanted dogs in the US. In fact, there are so many unwanted dogs in the US that countless thousands are euthanized every month. The number of forever homes available is finite. Every dog sent to the US and adopted by a loving family replaces one unwanted American dog who will end up getting killed instead of adopted. Behind every success story of a dog flown from the third world to a welcoming family in the US there lies a hidden tragedy.
Everyone here wants a pure-breed dog. Although many of Ken's classmates expressed an interest in acquiring a dog, they all ended up buying pure-breed dogs at the mall or from breeders. Mongrels are considered unworthy, little better than rats. Pure-breed dogs, referred to here as "imported" even if they were born in the Philippines, are prized as luxury possessions. Although prized, they aren't always loved - many, many German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, etc spend their entire lives confined to small cages. They are often considered as must-have status symbols to be owned, rather than pets to be treated with love and affection.
This attitude that pure-breed dogs are valuable while mutts are worthless is certainly not unique to the Philippines, but it is particularly extreme here.
Many people mistakenly assume that we require an adoption fee to fund our operations. Since we've had zero adoptions so far, this is clearly not the case - we'd have gone bankrupt a long time ago if we were relying on adoption fees to fund our operations.
We charge an adoption fee as proof that the adopter is willing to spend money on the animal. If we were willing to give away our dogs for free, most would've been adopted by now. Many would also be dead by now. People unwilling to spend a little money to acquire the dog, are unwilling to spend money to take care of the dog. There are many people like this. They are not too poor to take care of their dog, but they are unwilling. They only feed their dogs table scraps, which leads to malnutrition, and do not take their dog to the vet when it gets sick, because getting a new free dog is cheaper than fixing the old one. There are always free dogs to be had, because few people spay/neuter their dogs.
The adoption fee we charge is very low, and insufficient to cover the money we spent on vaccinations and sterilizations, not to mention food and care. The adoption fee we charge is much, much lower than the price of buying a pure-breed dog in the mall or from a breeder. Yet pure-breed dogs sell at a brisk pace. People are willing to spend money on dogs - as long as they are pure-breed.
Our founder Ken went to a pet shop in a mall to find out exactly how much puppies retail for. He found a Beagle puppy selling for p20,500 or $450, a Chow-Chow puppy selling for p28,800 or $640, and a Lab selling for p16,800 or $370 (video proof). This wasn't a particularly swanky mall. It was in fact one of the least upscale malls in town.
Our adoption fee is far, far less than the prices charged for these puppies. It is not unreasonable, and it is a necessary precaution to ensure that the animals will receive adequate food and veterinary care.
We will never, ever waive our adoption fee just to make room in the shelter. In fact, our founder Ken wants to hike our mininal adoption fee to the same level as that of retail prices for pure-breed dogs, because the mixed-breed dogs at our shelter are in no way inferior to the pure-breed dogs people spend so much money on.
Many animals are kept in terrible conditions. Easily one third of all pets are kept under conditions which in other countries would land the owner in prison. We've put up a separate update with photos we took in our local neighborhood to show just how rampant animal abuse is in the Philippines.
Although many animals are taken good care of, abuse is common and widespread. Because of this, we can't let just anyone who pays the adoption fee walk away with a dog. Our volunteer adoptions coordinator inspects homes to ensure that the animal will be going to a good home. If living conditions are inadquate, or if the animals they already have are not being cared for properly, then we will not allow the adoption to go through. We also have a mandatory waiting period of 2 weeks to discourage impulse buying, and require the adopter to visit the shelter at least twice. So far, only one potential adopter visited the shelter. It is difficult to tell if the hurdles we put in place discouraged them from coming back to get the dog they wanted. However, it is essential that we continue vetting adopters, because it would be a terrible shame if the animals from our shelter were to end up in a deplorable state requiring them to get rescued all over again.