Survey: People adopt from shelters because they like being part of shelter-adoption community

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October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and a survey shows that people adopt from shelters not just because it feels good, but also because they like the idea of being part of the shelter-adoption community. Michael Morefield, director of marketing and communications for the Arizona Animal Welfare League, the state’s oldest and largest no-kill shelter talks about the benefits of adopting a shelter pet. We also hear from pet adopter Sharon Wilson, who adopted a dog named Gilda from the shelter.

Ted Simons: Survey's show that people like to adopt pets from animal "shelters" in many respects because they like being part of the shelter-adoption community. Joining us now is Michael Morefield from the Arizona animal welfare league, the state's oldest and largest no-kill shelter. Also with us is Sharon Wilson, who adopted Gilda "from" the Arizona animal welfare league. Thank you all -- Gilda, thank you for joining us as well. You don't mind if I talk to the dog?

Michael Morefield: Most of my job, I go places and people talk to the dog.

Ted Simons: Tell us more about you?

Michael Morefield: Since 1971 we have been the local community access for being a shelter. We are the oldest no kill shelter in Arizona. We adopt out 4,000 animals, 2,000 cats and 2,000 dogs every year.

Ted Simons: Are adoptions increasing or decreasing?

Michael Morefield: They are increasing. It's been great. It's a campaign where all of the major shelters of the valley came together to say how do we solve the problem of homeless pets? We have been working together and the numbers are going down for animals coming into shelters, but we are finding the tough niches in the community where there are pets that need a home and getting them adopted.

Ted Simons: Okay, Gilda. How did you find Gilda?

Sharon Wilson: About four or five years ago I started getting involved with national mill dog out of Colorado and learned more about the mill dogs that they were being kept, and it horrified me. Four years ago they went on a rescue and brought down probably about 20 or 30 dogs at that point. Arizona animal welfare league was gracious enough to take in dogs for them. That's when I started getting involved over there. I just fell in love. Gilda came from a bad mill. You can tell she's nervous. She came from a bad mill in Oklahoma. She was in there five years. Whenever she came down from Colorado, she didn't spend much time there, came straight down to Arizona. She had never walked on the ground before. She had been in a cage five years except to be bred. Awl worked hard with her. It took a long time, but she can run and play.

Ted Simons: Puppy mills, you must get a lot of animals from these places?

Sharon Wilson: It's difficult. We don't see puppy mills in Arizona. We see them in the south and Midwest. We have taken in 150 puppy mill dogs in the last four years. We work with national mill dog rescue which Sharon worked with as well. They bring them to us 20 or 30 at a time. They need a month of just time. They have never had human interaction. They have never had this. People worry that all shelter dogs are that way. It's not. We get dogs from a bad spot or we had a dog where the child developed allergies. They were caring but we needed to find a new family. Sometimes we have tough situations like Gilda and sometimes we have wonderful dogs that just need a perfect place.

Ted Simons: We have a survey about why people adopt from shelters, and it's the right thing to do, makes them feel good but the shelter community. Was that part of your experience?

Sharon Wilson: It was. Arizona shelter league is one of the best I have worked with as far as rescues. They make sure the dogs have seen the vet, know medically what's going on as well as behavioral wise. It helps to be able to help the stray dogs or dogs turned back in by owners for whatever reason to get them into a home and back --

Ted Simons: Do you hear that kind of story often? When you talk to people, they come to you. They could are gone to a breeder or puppy mill. They come to you.

Michael Morefield: The community is understanding. When people get dogs from breeders or puppy mills, I point out it's not malicious. They don't understand what Gilda went through, what the dogs went through. Once they understand what the dogs -- what the breeders do. There are responsible breeders out there that have one litter a year and are responsible, but those are not the dogs you are seeing here. We have done 6,000 adoptions of rescue animals in five years because people come to the facility saying, these are rescues? Yes, they are amazing animals that need homes. I adopted two animals, one from the county shelter and one awl. They picked me. I like to say my life is dictated by choices I didn't make myself.

Ted Simons: A third of them say the pet saved them. For those thinking, maybe I’ll go to an animal shelter, what do you tell them?

Sharon Wilson: Absolutely. Go see the animals there. They are not all horrible little animals crouched in the corner. A lot of purebred dogs in the shelters. They are wonderful. They are in a scary situation. You have to give them time. One of the great things awl does is allow you to do slumber parties they call it. You can take the dog home because you want to be sure it's a good fit. You are not buying a pair of shoes. It's a lifetime commitment, so they give you time in the home environment to make sure it's a good fit for you.

Ted Simons: That looks like a good fit for you. Gilda, thank you for being so well behaved. I love what you have done to your hair. Thank you both for being here.

Ted Simons: Tuesday on "Arizona horizon," new efforts are underway to improve safety on the valley's light-rail system, and a look at a documentary about the fight over women's re-productive health care. That's Tuesday on "Arizona horizon."

That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons -- along with Gilda. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Michael Morefield, Arizona Welfare League
Sharon Wilson, Shelter Pet Adopter, and her dog Gilda

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