American Boston Terrier Rescue
Read All About It
What Is Rescue?
Bostons Looking for Forever Homes
So You Think You're Ready for a Boston?
Health and Well-Being
Spay/Neuter and Heartworm Prevention
Hot Topics
Pet Memorials
The Rainbow Bridge
Read All About It
ABTR and Friends
Affiliate Programs
Friends of ABTR - Thank you!
Adoption Application
Contact Us


Read All About It

You may have noticed our disclaimer at the bottom of nearly every page on our site.  We DO NOT subscribe to Sue Sternberg's notion of a 'temperament test'. 
That's not to say we do not test temperament.  We test all of our rescues.  However, we test them our way, in a home environment over time, not in a stressful, unfamiliar shelter environment.  
I urge you to read the article below and draw your own conclusions.

A Dirty Little Secret
By Francis Battista

It's the latest big controversy at shelters and humane societies. The issue: which dogs and cats get to be labeled adoptable, and will therefore get saved, and which will be deemed unadoptable.

At the heart of the issue is the practice known as temperament testing.

Applied primarily to dogs, temperament testing purports to separate the doggie wheat from the doggie chaff, recommending the former to the eternal bliss (relatively speaking) of a new adoptive home, and the latter to a rapid demise.

Before getting into the details, a little perspective.

If I had been temperament tested as a child, I would have been declared an unadoptable boy. The same with most of my friends.

We were just your average kids growing up in the 50s with more energy than sense. We loved sports, chafed at education, and took pride in driving our teachers to distraction. Today we would be dosed with Ritalin, but in an era that extolled the value of a good smack, we received liberal doses of corporal punishment. Like the poor kid we coaxed into belching his way through the alphabet one too many times for our second-grade teacher's liking. She grabbed him by the collar and the seat of his pants, dragged him over his desk, hurled him into the blackboard, and sent him to the principal's office...again. This was great entertainment for the rest of us, but it did nothing to help that poor kid who, in hindsight, probably did need medication.

Today, we're all a bit more enlightened in relation to our kids. Why, then, the rush to judgment on our best friends?

The logic goes like this: There are too many dogs in shelters for the number of people wanting to adopt them, so it's better to concentrate on the ones who are well behaved out of the box, since these will be least likely to cause problems in their new homes and the most likely to stay adopted rather than be returned.

This can be translated more bluntly thus: Identify and kill the potential troublemakers right away, and bring the numbers of dogs available for adoption more in line with the number of people looking to adopt.

And the method that has been devised for sanitizing this troubling business is the temperament test.

Now, let's be clear. Behavioral evaluation goes on all the time, and we use our own version of testing here at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary -- not as a life/death, pass/fail regime, but as a way of learning what areas of behavior need attention or what kind of home would be best for a dog.

However, temperament testing is hardly a science and, as used and abused in most municipal shelters, it has become a license to kill.

Paradoxically, all of this is being driven by the public demand for humane societies and city shelters to move to low-kill or no-kill protocols. The temperament test simply enables the shelter to tell the public that fewer and fewer adoptable animals are being killed. In fact, by this logic, a shelter can actually kill more animals and still declare itself a low- or no-kill organization. After all, the only dogs being killed now are the ones that failed the temperament test and are, therefore, officially  unadoptable. By counting only the so-called adoptable animals in the no-kill equation, such organizations are attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of their membership or citizenry.

Don't be fooled by the air of clinical authority that is invoked by the term "temperament testing", especially as practiced in many municipal shelters where dogs are frightened, confused, and possibly injured or under attack by cage mates, and the smell of death is in the air. How in the world is anyone supposed to get an accurate reading on a dog's real nature in such threatening and unnatural surroundings? Dogs are brought into a testing area that is often stained with urine and feces from the other terrified dogs that preceded them.

Their ears are pulled and their toes are pinched. And if they have an inappropriate response, they fail.

If they are not attentive to the tester, they fail.

If they don't let the tester roll them on their back, they fail.

In short, if they behave like anything other than a laboratory beagle, they can fail.

One of the leading proponents of temperament testing is on record as stating that something like 70 percent of shelter dogs in the Northeast are unadoptable and should be killed.

The point of a test given from this mindset is to find reasons to fail rather than to pass a dog.

Adoptable and unadoptable are very relative, woolly, and ultimately meaningless terms.

Some dogs are clearly unadoptable. Responsible no-kill organizations will agree that a dangerously vicious dog or one that has zero quality of life due to illness or age should not be offered for adoption and should probably be euthanized. It doesn't take a temperament test to figure that out.

On the other hand, Best Friends and other rescue organizations routinely find good homes for dogs that have one or more fatal flaws according to the temperament tests. We don't label them "unadoptable." We call them "special needs." And just as a dog with diabetes needs the right kind of home, so does a dog who, because of some earlier trauma, tends to snap at men who wear hats.

Communities and organizations that are truly committed to saving lives are moving away from the whole notion of rating their success on percentage of adoptable animals placed. Instead, we focus on the "live release rate," a calculation that includes all the animals that come into our care.

The no-kill movement is not a numbers game or an accounting scam that shifts column headings on the numbers of animals killed to alter the balance sheet. It is a repudiation of the whole idea of using mass killing as a means of pet population control. Instead, it calls for a commitment to the lives of those animals already born, a reduction in the pet birth rate through spay/neuter, and a dramatic change in the way we, as a nation of self-described animal lovers, regard our pets.

There is, after all, more than one way to recite the alphabet.

So you want to breed your dog?  
You know what to expect if  everything goes right.   But what if one little thing goes wrong?....

ATTENTION All Potential Novice Breeders - Read This First

More than you ever knew about the pet overpopulation problem in this country.  Thank you to the HSUS for providing this stark look at the reality of pet overpopulation.

Pet Overpopulation Statistics

A listing of all the essential tools your rescue 'kit' should include.

What Does It Take To Rescue??

A very well-written and complete guide explaining what people can expect from rescue.  This document outlines exactly what rescue IS and what rescue ISN'T.

What To Expect From Rescue

Think about this before you decide to surrender your faithful companion to your local shelter...

Euthanization In Our Shelters

Moving into an apartment?  Have a dog (or two or three)?  Think you can't find a place that will accept your dogs? 
Well, my friend, this link is for you!

People with Pets

The Last Will and Testament of An Extremely Distinguished Dog

The reputation of Eugene O'Neill as the American Shakespeare was established even before his death in 1953. O'Neill's output was formidable - more than 30 plays, including the posthumously produced classic, Long Day's Journey Into Night. He was a Nobel Prize winner. Reflecting his own tempestuous emotional background - he came from a yeasty but tragic Irish-American family - his plays are rarely engaging.


So his epitaph to his dog is a rarity among O'Neill documents - sentimental, even whimsical, close in spirit to his one major comedy, Ah Wilderness!  The dog was acquired at a relatively peaceful period of O'Neill's life.  He and his protective third wife, the actress Carlotta Monterey, looked upon it as their 'child.'  O'Neill wrote Blemie's will as a comfort to Carlotta just before the dog died in its old age in December 1940.

The Last Will and Testament of An Extremely Distinguished Dog


What do we do when our loving pets face the last leg of the race?

We do all we can to help them finish well, of course.

We take time to read the unspoken needs of the friends we've come to know so well.

We give the simple reassurance of a loving touch when the old boy seems confused for no reason.

We groom them faithfully, but more gently, as age brings muscle wasting, and the arthritic bones aren't so well padded.

We learn to slow down for their sake, as they enjoy the scent of the wind, or track a visitors trail across their yard.

We expect to be inconvenienced, and aren't angry when it happens.

We watch for pain and treat it, watch for changes in vision and hearing and do what we can to help preserve those precious senses for as long as possible.

We take care of their teeth, and make sure their food is a manageable texture for them.

We remind them of the need for a potty walk when they seem to forget.

We remember the little rewards. We scratch the graying ears and tummy, and go for car rides together.

When the pet we love has an unexplained need for comfort, we give it freely. When infirmities bring a sense of vulnerability, we become our old guardian's protector.

We watch their deepest slumbers, when dreams take them running across long-forgotten fields, and we remember those fields too.

When they cannot stand alone, we lift them. When their steps are uncertain, we steady them.

And if their health fails, it falls to us to make the choice that will gently put them to rest. But until that is absolutely necessary, we pause to let the autumn sun warm our old friend's bones.

And we realize, autumn is not a bad time of year at all.

Old age is not a disease or a reason to give up. It is a stage of life that brings its own changes.

Autumn can be a beautiful time of harvest.

And, sometimes, the harvest is love.

Author:  Christy Caballero