Adoption Counselors are Animal Resource Counselors
by Lee Chambers
Dakin Humane Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and of all the changes we’ve seen, few are as significant as the role of our adoption counselors. They’re often the first Dakin staff member you’ll interact with when you arrive at either of our locations in Leverett or Springfield, and they have a wide range of responsibilities.
More to the Job than Adoption
First and foremost, they’re admission specialists. Dakin takes in nearly six thousand animals a year, and typically just over half of these admissions are scheduled in advance, the rest are walk-ins. Adoption counselors also monitor information about how pets are faring in their new homes, and sometimes reach out to offer help to new adopters. They need to have baseline knowledge about wildlife, since people often turn to us for advice. It’s also imperative for them to know how other departments operate, so they can be ready in a second to offer back-up for anything from foster care coordination and dog evaluations to overall animal care.
With all that in mind, the title adoption counselor seemed inadequate to describe their duties. Recently Dakin retitled them animal resource counselors (ARCs). Moon Wymore, manager of Dakin adoption centers for the past 15 years currently works with a team of about a dozen ARCs. Their importance to our organization can’t be understated for several reasons.
Helping People Making Hard Choices
“When they’re working in admissions, they have really tough conversations with people who are surrendering their pets,” said Moon. “The process is emotional and stressful, and the vast majority of people don’t want to be doing this. An ARC’s job is to help people get through this without feeling guilty.”
The changing face of adoption also provides new challenges for ARCs. Large numbers of older, medically and/or behaviorally complex animals are brought to Dakin each year, and ARCs are often interacting with adopters who might not be prepared to take on animals with these issues. With that in mind, they work hard to help make an effective match of pet and person.
With the variety of skills needed to be an ARC, Moon estimated that “it takes about a year to be really up to speed and be able to help anyone that they may encounter.” As far as what traits are required, Moon seeks people who are – at their very core – patient and empathetic.
Changing How We Handle Adoptions
Considering how adoptions were handled in the past, Dakin has evolved over time. As Moon noted, “We used to be judgmental about vetting adopters. We checked veterinarian references, we asked to see leases that proved that pets were allowed in homes, and if your resident animals weren’t up to speed on their vaccines, you couldn’t adopt from us.” In short, many of those decisions were made without having a meaningful conversation with potential adopters.
The adoption process transitioned when we embraced the belief that people are good and will make good decisions for animals when they are treated with kindness and understanding, and when they have enough information and resources. We now lead with more of an innate confidence that people will do their best, and we understand our role in supporting them.
Basically, we have shifted our gears from worrying about when people came in to adopt, to being grateful that they were coming in and making the decision to adopt in the first place. And we’ve got a top-notch team of ARCs ready to help them find a great new pet.