Ellen and pet rescue


OK, so Ellen DeGeneres adopted a dog from a rescue organization. The dog didn't work out with her cats. Rather than returning it to the rescue, as the contract she signed stated she was obligated to do, she gave it to her her hairdresser (read about it here). When the rescue called to check on the adoption and was informed that that dog had been given away, a rescue representative went to the home of the hairdresser (who has pre-teen children) and reclaimed the dog. The Ellen went on her show crying and apologizing, saying that she thought she had done the right thing by finding the dog a family, and that the rescue is not a home or a family, and that her mistake shouldn't be taken out on the dog or the children, who had become attached to it.

Got it?

Now imagine livid little me.

Ellen's "I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can't keep Iggy, it goes back to the rescue organization" doesn't cut it. If you adopt a pet from a rescue, it is standard procedure to agree to give the pet back to the rescue if you cannot care for it. There is a really good reason for this--rescue organizations put a ton of time and money into their rescues, and we are absolutely committed to finding appropriate homes for our animals. Your home may have been screened and found appropriate, but that doesn't mean the home of whomever you decide to give the animal to will, and it is both the right and the responsibility of the rescue to make sure the placement is healthy and happy.

The obligation of the rescue is not to you, to the family you decide to give your pet away to, or to any other human. The responsibility of the rescue is to find the best placement for that pet. And even if the family to whom DeGeneres gave the dog is perfect, the responsible thing for the rescue to do, in my opinion, is to reclaim that dog until that judgment can be made. I understand why that would be hard on the kids in that family, but the emotions of those kids cannot be the rescue priority--the rescue priority HAS to be the dog.

DeGeneres' flip attitude toward this rescue policy (which is, to my mind, the single most important policy a rescue can have) is the thing that bothers me most. To me, it implies that she never took rescuing seriously enough--she clearly didn't even read the contract! I also wonder about her reasons for giving up the dog--shouldn't it have been tested with her cats before the adoption ever happened?

We will probably have an adoption go through for Eugene this week. Not only will the adopters sign a contract that says they'll return Eugene to us if they can't keep him for any reason, we also institute a seven day trial period wherein Eugene will live with them but can be returned to us at any time if it isn't working, for a full refund of his adoption fee. Mark and I will make sure our adopters are aware of both of these clauses before they ever take possession of the animal for which we've been caring. And if we find out down the line that they decided to give him away to someone we've never heard of, rather than bringing him back to us, you can bet your ass I'll be at that person's door taking the dog back. He's my obligation.


I couldn't agree with you more. When I saw Ellen first bring that puppy on her show, she admitted that she really shouldn't get a puppy because she's so busy. Then she said something about him being so cute. She reinforced the general public's tendency to make impulse decisions regarding adopting pets just because an animal is cute without thinking about the responsibility involved. She had no right to place that dog and the rescue organization is not obligated to return this puppy to a home they never would have placed the puppy in in the first place.

OK - Ellen signed an agreement with the agency and clearly violated that agreement. How does that give the agency the authority to enter someone elses home and take their "property"? - I hate to refer to a pet as property, but use the term for legal discussion.

If the agency has some kind of legal claim to title of the dog (again with the property talk) - they should have / could have obtained a court order. My understanding is that they did not repossess the dog thru legal channels but thru intimidation tactics. If so - where do they get off with their talk about being bullied by Ellen?

I would suggest that the family file a theft complaint with the local police.

I have discussed this so many times over the past few days that I am honestly just about done talking about it. However, I will say two things:

1. I don't think this rescue handled things well.

2. I still think that the return clause is absolutely essential to good rescue.

Grace - I don't disagree with either statement. I think a well written return clause makes a lot of sense. I just think than in order to enforce it - especially against someone who wasn't a party to the agreement - you MUST go thru the courts. Mutts and Moms is very lucky that they haven't been sued (yet) because of their action.

One note on this particular agency. They waived Ellen thru their screening process because of who she is - then they complain about her using her public platform when things don't go well. They didn't handle the matter well at all (the adoption, the return, or the PR aftermath) - the worse part is the damage they are doing to well run rescue agencies.

Obviously not my area of expertise, but when rules come before an actual relationship with an animal a family who wants and can take care of a pet has, that seems bad. Good rule, bad application.

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April 2012

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