Orange County Animal Shelter in the Dog House With Local Couple
Posted December 8, 1999
CHAPEL HILL — An animal shelter can be a good way to find a pet, but one Orange County couple in search of a dog was turned down by their local shelter. Now, the Rossis say policy has prevented a pet from living in a loving home.
Animal shelters are packed with thousands of cats and dogs who are killed each year because their owners do not want them any more. So why would officials turn away a couple that promised to care for an otherwise stray dog?
Orange County animal shelterofficials say they have one of the highest adoption rates in the state. They also have some of the strictest guidelines.
They say the guidelines are strict because they do not want to see the animals mistreated or neglected. But one couple who is willing to spend $1,000 to fence in their one-acre backyard feels the guidelines may be misguided.
Ed and Jeanine Rossi enjoy their neighbor's dog and want one of their own, but the Orange County animal shelter told them they could not have one.
"Unless the animal is going to be sleeping inside and have outside privileges, we will turn down the adoption," explains Dean Edwards.
The Rossis say the dog they planned to adopt would be an outside dog and come in occasionally and during bad weather. That plan did not fly with shelter officials.
"I said, 'You're telling me it's better to destroy an animal and put him to sleep than give him to a couple who will love him but give him -- in your minds -- a less-than-ideal home?'" she asked. "'Yes, I'm sorry, that's our policy,'" Jeanine Rossi was told.
If an animal is not adopted, it will eventually be euthanized. Ed Rossi wonders whether the county has the right to do that in this case. "Does the county have the right to take an animal's life when somebody wants to adopt him and give him a good home?" he wonders aloud.
Edwards says the guideline is in place because the cats and dogs are companion animals, and if they are not allowed inside, studies show the animals can become troubled.
"Once the animals is outside, doesn't have companionship, doesn't have interaction, is not allowed into the home, then you end up with behavioral problems," Edwards says.
But the Rossis believe their home would be a healthy one for a pet. "I think we would offer him a good home," Jeanine Rossi says. "It might not be the perfect home, but we would give him a good home. We would love him. When that policy is more important than that, then I don't think it's a good policy."
The Rossis have asked the county health department to review their case. They do not want to see the dog put to death if no one adopts it who will keep it inside, and they say they are prepared to go to court if they must.
Edwards says he does not think the shelter will have any problem adopting this dog out to a good home where it will be kept inside.
The state has some minimum guidelines, but the Orange County shelter has stricter guidelines for adoption.