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
I urge you to read the article below and draw your own conclusions.
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.
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.
I had been temperament tested as a child, I would have been declared an unadoptable boy. The same with most of my friends.
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.
we're all a bit more enlightened in relation to our kids. Why, then, the rush to judgment on our best friends?
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
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.
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
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.
you want to breed your dog?
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
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
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