We become responsible forever for what we’ve tamed.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Educational & Skill-Building Adoptions (ESBA)
"A focus on quantity is a set up for mediocre outcomes. A focus on quality is a set up for lasting success."
- Rain Jordan
Why ESBA is Needed
Every time an animal is relocated, there is a decent possibility her emotional state and behavior will be negatively affected. With each new environment come responses to that environment; we can hope for pure good fortune--that the will animal respond positively--or we can innovate, ensuring that each adopted animal has ample opportunity for her emotional and behavioral responses to be or become positive rather than diminished once she’s relocated. But how can we do that? We can equip adopters with crucial skills. To most effectively address adoptee behavior after adoption, adopters must be provided these skills before a need arises--that is, before adoption. Since behavior problems are a main cause of abandonment, surrender, and elective euthanasia, adopted animals have a better chance of lifelong well-being in safe ‘forever’ homes if their adopters are ready willing and able to provide them with an anti-aversives lifestyle that includes non-aversive handling, training, & behavior modification as soon as it is needed. Naturally, some people who don't have access to anti-aversives training often try to ignore an undesired behavior situation, hoping things get better on their own; others may fall prey to promises of quick fixes, entrusting their beloved pet to someone using inhumane tactics, which science repeatedly shows are not long-term solutions and can result in more problems down the road. These situations take a toll on the pet owner and can tend to weaken the human-animal bond such that, by the time one seeks to surrender the animal, it is too late to offer them humane help instead--they have fallen out of love with their pet or simply feel unable to cope. ESBA can prevent needless surrender and euthanasia, so it should be provided as part of the adoption process, before an animal is taken home.
Screening-Inclusive Adoptions: Why is Screening Necessary?
Rescues, shelters, and other animal welfare organizations are supposed to do what is best for the animals. We are not fulfilling that obligation if we neglect to fact-find on the animals’ behalf or if we neglect to prepare adopters with the skills they will need to humanely keep a pet. As the industry has become less careful, people have become less inclined to participate in careful processes, believing them to be invasive or otherwise objectionable. We all must understand and acknowledge that these processes are beneficial to everyone. Screening does help adopters by helping them ensure a good match, and thereby it can spare adopters from heartbreak in the form of surrender or worse. Careful, conscientious placement organizations objectively assess animal and adopter needs, hopes, and expectations as well as trustworthiness and responsibility level. The goal is to make a good match in which both adopter and adoptee will be happy and well together; that goal cannot be met without first gathering data. Screening provides insights that help organizations understand how to best inform, serve, and work in supportive partnership with adopters. Careful match-making coupled with pre-adoption training serves everyone by increasing the likelihood of lifelong success.
Fortunately, EBSA benefits the human public in many ways. What adopter wouldn’t benefit by taking home, along with the new adoptee, a powerful new skillset that normally costs $100 an hour or more? Who of the general public wouldn’t benefit by the pet population becoming more behaviorally sound, and guardians becoming more knowledgeable and skilled--resulting, e.g., in fewer dog bites, more affordable and accessible insurance, more housing access for those with pets, et cetera? Shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries benefit by an increase of space and time for the animals that most desperately need them. Every area of the country benefits from the increase in responsible, lifelong homes for companion animals. The most direct, logical way to achieve that increase is by prevention—by reverting the cycle of surrender-shelter-rehome.
And then there’s the eventual increase in overall societal goodness, not to mention a decrease in the cultural heartache that comes from being part of a society whose beloved companion animals live under constant threat that the revolving doors of suffering and surrender will yet again recall them.
Statement of Intent:
Improve the situation of companion animals offered for adoption through shelters and rescues.
Summary of Goals:
1. Cease putting the responsibility for our satisfaction on animals. For example, a singular focus of making companion animals more "adoptable" ignores the fact that to a large degree, environment controls behavior, and adopters are a large part of the adoptee's environment. This does not mean we stop preparing animals. It means we stop expecting them to shoulder the responsibility. We must prepare humans, too.
2. Refocus efforts toward helping adopters and other caregivers become more adaptable, more responsible, and more capable to humanely provide for an animal. Accept the importance of screening, reinvigorate it, and increase adopter buy-in of same, while implementing ESBA.
3. Implement ESBA to modify "open" adoption practices that put already traumatized and at-risk animals at further risk. Perform outreach and provide education to the public while offering encouragement and assistance with transition to ESBA for those involved in open adoption. (Note: current misleading euphemisms for open adoption include "educational adoption" and "conversational adoption." In reality, a thorough educational adoption is preparational: it includes data collection, assessment of proper match, affiliative practices, and teaching of skills to adopters as part of the conversation.)
4. Enthusiastically promote the ESBA program. Help the public understand that the program is necessary and is the right thing to do for companion animals. Support organizations and individuals in understanding and adjusting to the idea that the adoption process itself should not put animals at avoidable risk of suffering.
5. The Innovation that furthers animal-adoptee protection and well-being: Before taking home an adoptee, each adopter shall be provided, as part of the adoption, not just a new pet, but also a new skillset & knowledge base of anti-aversive Training & Behavioral Literacy (TBL), and shall confirm a commitment to same. In other words, in order to take home an adopted animal, each adopter will take home the gift of anti-aversive Training & Behavior Literacy at the same time.
We the undersigned support this program and encourage others to do the same.
Dr. Jessica Pierce, Bioethicist, Center for Bioethics & Humanities, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center
Dr. Bernard E. Rollin, University Distinguished Professor (Philosophy, Animal Sciences, Biomedical Sciences), University Bioethicist, Colorado State University
Dr. Leslie Irvine, Professor (Sociology), University of Colorado--Boulder
Ms. Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
Ms. Tina Meredith
Mr. G.P. Van Hoy