Opinion: Animal shelter background checks do more good than harm

(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

Most people love their pets. Without this immense love of our fury cohorts, we would be without long walks, constant companionship and soft, gentle cuddles.

Unfortunately, some people do not love their furry friends as much as others and feel the need to neglect or abuse them.

“Since the 1970s, research has consistently reported childhood cruelty to animals as the first warning sign of later delinquency, violence and criminal behavior. In fact, nearly all violent crime perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their profiles,”Joni Johnston said in the Psychology Today article “Children who are cruel to animals: When to worry.”

Despite this fact, animals are still being adopted by people with inadequate history; a problem that could be solved by running a simple background check.

A background check can encompass looking at an individual’s criminal record, credit report, driving record and drug test records to name a few, according to the Criminal Watch Dog article, “What shows up on a background check?”

Without a background check, people at shelters have no idea who is actually adopting a pet.

Each year, about 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters nationwide. Of the 7.6 million pets that find themselves in shelters, only 2.7 million are adopted, according to the “Pet statistics” page on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website.

Many pets lose their opportunities to live in homes because pets and families are mismatched or not prepared to care for a pet, according to, “The adoption process: What to expect,” page of The Humane Society of the United States’ website.

The same article also lists the top five reasons people give up their pets and two of those are lack of time and inadequate facilities.

With pets being given up for adoption because they are not receiving enough love, time or care, why should there be a chance of them ending up in a situation equal or worse to their previous one?

“Animal adoption groups say they want to avoid giving pets to owners who will abuse them and, perhaps more important, to make sure an animal that has been given up once will find a permanent home,” Anna Bahney said in The New York Times article, “So you think you can just adopt a dog?”

There should be no chance of them ending up in any situation that is not centered around love and care, and animal shelters allowing and encouraging background checks before adoption can make sure that does not happen.

On the other hand, there are some shelters that make it nearly impossible to get one of the 7.6 million animals a home because of their strict requirements.

“People are heartbroken when they are told they can’t adopt because they can’t offer a ‘good’ enough home,” Lindsay Stordahl said in the ThatMutt.com article, “Too difficult to adopt a dog?”

Without background checks before animal adoption, shelters are giving people with animal abuse backgrounds the opportunity to be cruel or abusive to animals, thus ultimately allowing a cycle of abuse and violence to continue. At the same time, some shelters are being too strict and taking a perfectly good home away from an animal.

Animals are one of God’s greatest gifts, and we need to do everything we can to protect them. I, however, feel the animal adoption system is either too strict or too lenient, and it’s time we found an in-between.