Require Education Courses for Dog Adopters

Target: Mathew Bershadker, CEO of the ASPCA

Goal: Decrease the number of dogs returned to shelters after adoption every year.

Every year in the United States, 1.5 million companion animals are euthanized in animal shelters. Of those 1.5 million animals, 670,000 of them are dogs. With 3.3 million dogs entering animal shelters each year, adoption remains one of the most powerful tools for saving companion animals. But the pressure of reaching adoption goals, trying to cut down on costs and constantly taking in new animals leaves shelters desperate to adopt out dogs as quickly as they can. Rushing the adoption process can end in disaster and the focus should remain on protecting shelter dogs from being returned, abused or used in dog fighting.

By requiring all dog adopters to attend a basic dog education course with their potential adoptee, shelters would be providing a strong bonding process and a safe trial period for both dog and adopter. This would also allow families to come in and learn how to interact with and train their new family member. This is a skill especially important for children. If the prospective family has other dogs, this would be a good way to introduce the dogs to one another and maintain a positive environment. Requiring a basic course would also allow for seniors to find out whether they need extra help caring for their new dog and begin to establish a routine.

While many shelters have more rigorous screening processes, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to those first few weeks of living with a new companion animal. Numerous dogs spend the majority of their lives in shelters waiting for their forever homes. Some have been returned so many times that they stop exhibiting an interest in potential adopters. Owners often cite unexpected behaviors, difficulty training, and inability to fit in at home as some of the reasons for returning a shelter dog. When a family adopts a dog, they aren’t entirely sure how the dog will fit in and sometimes that can be what brings a dog back to the shelter. By offering a training course to these families, they would be able to get a more comprehensive understanding of their dog’s personality and learn positive training techniques. This would cut down on shelter returns by giving those families some extra tools to use in that first week of trial.

A required training course would also deter potential abusers and people unfit to own a pet. People looking to get a cheap dog in a short period of time would no longer be able to go to the shelter. This would ensure that dogs would go to people willing to spend time with them and properly care for them. Demand this positive change for shelter dogs by signing below.


Dear Mathew Bershadker,

Every year, 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. shelters and 670,000 of those dogs are euthanized. Adoption is the best tool to help combat the euthanization of dogs in shelters, but adopting out dogs to unfit families and animal abusers isn’t the answer. Strong adoption screenings aren’t enough when it comes to making sure these dogs are sent to safe homes. Thousands of dogs will be returned to shelters and many more might end up back on the street. By requiring all adopters to attend a basic dog education course with their potential pets, shelters would be able to ensure that their animals are placed in forever homes.

People looking to adopt a dog for reasons other than rescuing and genuinely wanting to add a member to their family would be discouraged by having to take a class. This would weed out people getting their kids a puppy for Christmas only to return it once it was bigger, or people looking for bait dogs. People who truly have the dogs’ interests in mind would be more than happy to attend such a class. It would also provide the dogs and their potential new families with some bonding time and allow children to be involved in the training. This would cut down on the number of dogs returned to shelters because they didn’t fit in with families.

We have to cut down on the number of dogs entering shelters and the number that are euthanized. The ASPCA can be the leader in moving towards a safer future for shelter dogs everywhere. Require dog adoptions to come with a mandatory education course. By doing this, you will be giving shelter dogs a better chance at finding their forever homes.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis

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