Harrison Forbes Helps DeGeneres Fight BackPublished December 15, 2008
Now that the fur has stopped flying in the Ellen DeGeneres dog adoption fiasco, PetSide.com spoke with animal expert Harrison Forbes. Forbes has trained dogs for over 20 years and currently hosts Pet Talk, a nationally syndicated radio talk show. He offered comments about the DeGeneres case and advice for families planning pet adoptions.
Q. How do you assess the DeGeneres case?
A. Dog adoptions are a big emotional issue. Clearly, the story was distorted because the facts got ahead of the events. The pet rescue agency (Mutts & Mums) had a contract which stated, "no small dog placements in homes with children under the age of 14. The woman at the agency was sticking to their rules.
But you cannot repossess a dog regardless of the contract. He was in a happy home. Maybe there should have been some leniency.
Q. Is the Brussels Griffon terrier mix too small for younger children?
A. The under 14 age cut off is not good. It may leave out lot of good adoptions. If I were writing an animal shelter contract, I would not exclude small dogs for eight- to 14-year-old children because it's a good age for a pet.
Children between the ages of eight and 14 are hanging around the house most of the time. They cannot drive. And the girls are not boy crazy. Some girls still play with dolls and often times a pet can be a substitute for that doll play.
Q. What's the best way for a family to adopt a pet?
A. Families need to do their homework and take time to make a plan. It's a family decision. I suggest families should sit down and talk about adopting a dog. First, you should narrow down the choices. Which type of dog fits your lifestyle? What size dog? Do you have allergies? Obviously if you live in the desert you don't want a dog with a thick coat of hair.
After narrowing down the choices, call several animal shelters. Speak to someone about the kind of dog you want. Many shelters have detailed knowledge of their dogs, especially the ones with foster care programs. They often keep observation notes on each dog's behavior. They will be able to assist you and even help refine your search. Then make an appointment to visit to the shelters.
Q. How many shelters should be visited?
A. I believe in the power of three which means you should visit three shelters before making any decision. Be sure to tell the kids, we are going to look at three shelters. Hold your decision until after you have visited all the dogs.
The people working at an animal shelter will respect you for being so serious about the adoption. It's also a good time to begin the paperwork and to read the adoption contract. This is the best approach and you are not wasting anyone's time.
Q. How can a family avoid overly emotional decisions on a pet adoption?
A. By waiting 48 hours. A family should spend several days thinking about the adoption before making that final decision. If you want the very first dog you saw, you can always go back to that shelter. There is no need to rush. There's a big choice for adoption among thousands of dogs at animal shelters.