Ellen's Doggie Trouble: The Darker Side of Pet Adoption

Meet Iggy - the dog at the center of the Ellen DeGeneres dog adoption brouhaha. For you who don't know anything about it (like me before this morning, since I don't watch much TV), here's the story from LA Times:

Iggy's odyssey began about a month ago, when DeGeneres saw a 2-year-old on petfinder.com offered by Mutts & Moms, according to Kelly Bush, DeGeneres' publicist. The DeGeneres and de Rossi went to Paw Boutique, a Pasadena shop affiliated with Mutts & Moms, to adopt that dog and then spotted Iggy, thought to be a few months old.

They adopted the older dog, who did not get along with their three cats. They returned that dog; later, de Rossi went back and adopted Iggy, signing a contract. But Iggy had no better luck with the cats, despite the efforts of a private trainer, so the couple reluctantly parted with Iggy, giving the dog to Marks, DeGeneres' hairstylist and friend.

But when the rescue organization got word that DeGeneres had, on her own, "re-homed" the dog, the group said she had violated their rules and Iggy was taken from the hairstylist's home as her children cried, Bush said.

Ruby, the 12-year-old girl to whom Ellen gave the dog was (naturally) upset:

"I was extremely upset and my parents were extremely upset," Ruby said on "Good Morning America." "All I want is my dog back."

How crazy is that? Taking a dog from good home? I thought that to give stray pups a good home was the whole idea behind placing dogs for adoption in the first place!

Do you think that Mutts & Moms are wrong? Are they fanatical or just trying to protect the dogs?

Links: LA Times | ABCNews | KNBC has videos of the Mutts & Moms owner

First off, I got my dog at Mutts & Moms. The owner of the non profit organization is Marina. She has dedicated her life to saving animals that would otherwise be euthanized.

Marina doesn't like placing puppies with young children because puppies often nip when kids play too rough. Second, she has to thoroughly interview the family before giving the dog. She has to determine it's a good match. She doesn't just unload dogs all willy nilly. Many puppies have had a history of abuse by kids. She knows their history and matches them to the right family. If the family wants the dog, they need to go in, fill out an application and go thru all the proper channels. It is as simple as that. I don't understand why this private matter had to go all public on the Ellen show.
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Having worked in dog rescue for more than six years, I can only say that there may be more to the story than we know, and it's not a good idea to second guess the rescue group. I've heard plenty of people gripe about rescue policies, but it's out of ignorance. Once the reasons are explained, people accept the policies for what they are.

I always make a point of explaining the 'return' policy on dogs from our group. I also explain why we have the policy. People sign the contract and they should abide by it. Their failure to abide by the contract should not be held against the rescue group. Ellen has said as much and I applaud her for her honesty.

From the outside it seems that they could have handled it better, and used this situation as a way to open dialogue about rescue and adoption, and why policies are the way they are. I do think they have the dog's best interest at heart, but they probably could have handled things differently and had a more positive impact on the rescue community as a whole.

Ultimately, though, there are hundreds of thousands of needy dogs and cats and other animals in the world. All this fuss over this one dog is sort of overshadowing the bigger problem and I feel that it may negatively impact people's willingess to work with rescue groups in the future.
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A contract is a contract is a contract...
and is there to PROTECT the animals.

Obviously Ellen feels that she is "above" us common folk in having to obey the rules and follow a contract she signed.

....too bad her followers are so gutless they are now sending DEATH THREATS to the adoption agency.

STFU and do what's right, Ellen...
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I've been following this story at TMZ.com and they have a video of the owner of Mutts & Moms actually taking the dog away from the house and being quite nasty about it too. I tend to side with Ellen on this. What kind of person takes a dog away from a child? That's just cruel. At the very least they could have done a background check on Ruby's family and let her keep the dog. I just don't understand why they didn't make an acception.
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I wonder what someone from a third world country would think about all of this. This strikes me as an issue of such underwhelming triviality that it makes me wonder why its worth wasting this amount of time and resources on. Hasn't anyone got anything more important to focus on?
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Why do people keep saying Ellen is "abusing her celebrity?" I think any decent person who tried to do the right thing by giving the dog a good home -- which is all anyone's trying to do -- has the right to be upset. Just because she's famous doesn't mean she should be cold or heartless. I don't get the impression that she felt she was above the rules at all, rather that she just didn't read or remember that clause. I don't see how taking the dog away from a loving family does any good, simply because the girls don't meet the age criteria. I at 12 was VERY different than most other 12 year olds. I get that the agency doesn't want to have to make individualized exceptions, but I also don't think anyone was out of line in simply ASKING for them to make an exception. They exercised their right to say no, for whatever reason. It's upsetting, but honestly... the dog AND the kids will get over it, if people could stop being so harsh and judgmental...
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Fanatical is the correct word to use. Adoption agencies are so fanatical these days that these sorts of events happen all the time. I can't figure out what they are seeing on their side. One too many abused dogs has created this environment though.

I'm glad there's a recording of Ellen going around bawling her eyes out over the issue. Perhaps this will help change the trend.

As for the dolt who suggested there are more important things to focus on. I put forth the thought that there are even more important things to focus on then the problems of a third world country as well.

There is ALWAYS something more important to worry about. It's our fortune that humanity is able to multi-task.
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Why should a celebrity be able to circumvent the rules? Because she has the ability to broadcast her side of it to millions of people?
It's very sad, and those kids must be heartbroken, but the fault lies with Ellen and not the rescue group. They have those rules for a reason. If Ellen had checked with the group first, letting them know that the dog wasn't working out and she had a family interested in the dog, they might have been able to work something out.
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The Rescue put the return policy in with good intentions and good reason.
However the inforcement of taking the dog back, seems more like a power play because they had a celebrity not follow the rules. In the rescue groups rules they do not allow small dogs to go to homes with children under 14(they might hurt the dog). Instead of taking it as a case by case basis, and evaluating how the family was adjusting to the dog- they took it back because the children were under 14.
I have nothing but respect for rescues, and the people who devote themselves to caring for homeless and neglected animals- but many rescues set such a high bar and become very beaurcratic, that loving homes are overlooked. Sounds like this little 11 year old girl (only 3 years shy of 14) really loved the dog.
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Ellen's cry-fest on her show was ridiculous. It's a dog! I'd like to see someone get that worked up over children in foster care or the homeless instead of pets and their adoption agencies.
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This is why I will never use an "adoption" agency ever again. Pets are considered personal property under the law, but when you go through an agency they typically don't release all rights to you as the new owner.

Instead of going through an agency, we recently took our chances bought two kittens at a pet store. Craigslist is another good way to find a pet without the strings of an agency.
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We signed a similar contract when we adopted our rescued dog. I think it's pretty standard for animal adoption organizations, and it is intended to keep the animal from being placed in a bad environment.

We understood the terms of the contract, and if for some reason we would have had to get rid of the dog, we would have taken it back to the placement organization AS WE AGREED WE WOULD DO when we signed the contract.
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dumb move by ellen.

ignoring the contract and giving the dog away is understandable and common. My parents own 2 cats that were originally adopted by other people and given to them, and it might seem like a good idea. But bringing up a personal matter on her show was incredibly irresponsible on her part, especially when she was clearly in the wrong (which she admitted to in her little plea).
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I'd suggest it would have been irresponsible on the part of the rescue to back down, especially after Ellen had her public bawl-a-thon on national TV. If they had let the family keep the dog, the result would likely be many more people deciding on their own who they can give their own pet to. Placing pets properly requires careful consideration and should be undertaken by people who are trained -- not just anyone who thinks they know what they're doing. The rules are there to protect both the pet, and the new adopters.
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When I first heard the story, I assumed that the children in question were "young children"... you know, four or five years old. But they're pre-teen girls! I don't understand that part of it at all. Ellen was allowed to adopt a dog into a home that already had other animals (a situation which ended up being a problem); I don't understand how two pre-teens who want to love a puppy are more dangerous than cats who don't want to make room for a newcomer.

Ellen made a mistake, which she freely admitted. But the woman who runs the dog rescue is punishing the girls, which isn't right. From the nasty comments she's made, I suspect she's a closet homophobe who's just trying to take Ellen down. Well, she's made her choice and she's going to have to live with the consequences. She'd better not start whining about how her business is in trouble -- she brought it on herself!
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That stipulation is absolutely standard for rescues (and even some breeders.) They don't want an animal ending up in an inappropriate home, or dumped at the pound, or coming back to rescue even more skittish. You would be shocked at some of the flighty, cavalier people who want the perfect, effort-free pet and would think nothing of burning through ten or twelve misfires to get there.

I don't think anyone was trying to do anything bad here, but I agree with Lisa that there's likely more to the story.
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The problem with all this high handedness (on the part of EVERYONE involved) is that it ignores the massive problem of strays and those in local dog pounds. Honestly, placing a dog in ANY home (other than the Vick's household) is better than having them be executed en mass.

I have 4 dogs, 3 of which were "adopted" off of the street, and the other was taken from a poor family that had just had 10 puppies (they obviously couldn't afford to feed the pups--there were just too many of them). Just about anything is better than execution or rotting in a shelter.
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Though I didn't watch Ellen's tearful episode, from what I read, I didn't get the impression that she was trying to bully anyone.

I think this is a classic case of idealism gone awry: the adoption agency's fanatical pursuit of the letter of the contract ultimately does more damage to the spirit of placing dogs in good homes. Why not be a little flexible and see how the kid and the family interact with the dog before being high-handed and take the dog from a loving home?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
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Why do you need dog adoption agencies? Go to the pound, find a nice stray, take it home. If it doesn't work out, bring it back. If you find a willing person to take the dog, have them take it.

In some cases, this is probably a good policy, to ensure that people are serious about adoption. And look at that dog - I bet it doesn't like kids at all.

I suspect the agency was miffed because they charge per contract, and it wasn't able to make money on her simply giving the dog away to another person.

This is a travesty of what agencies are there to do: help animals.
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I was interested in adopting a parrot with my mother 2 years ago. We wanted an older parrot who would be trained, but because my mother is older, we didn't want a parrot that might outlive her. The first thing the adoption people said was that my mother was too old to own a parrot and they refused to talk to her. I explained that was illegal age discrimination and they said that they didn't have to follow any rules regarding discrimination. I asked to speak to the head of the group and in my conversation with her, I reminded her that they MUST follow age discrimination rules. She reiterated that old people should not own parrots but she might make a "Special case" for my mother. I refused to deal with her.

The idea that kids can't be around puppies is nothing short of illegal discrimination. Of course a large percentage of us, including myself, had puppies as kids and the puppies were our companions and good friends.

Mutts and Moms is wrong and they deserve everything they created for themselves. They're guilty guilty guilty!

I would NEVER deal with a restrictive pet adoption group and neither should you.
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The law is the law. The contract specifically states they can’t do that, so what’s he big deal? Abide by the law.

what if the contract isn't legal? When I investigated my house history I found in the 1940s there was a restrictive covenant saying the owners weren't allowed to sell the house to Jews or African-Americans- that was a signed contract that's illegal.
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@ Dave A:

Hi, I'm from a "third-world" country (Philippines) and I see it in the same light as you do : another triviality. Nice of you to think about us... but please, get off your horse and back to the topic.
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i really doubt that mutts and moms puts down dogs they can't adopt. regardless, dogs and cats will continue to be put down or die in the streets simply because of irresponsible owners who don't bother to have their pets fixed and let them roam the streets.

a good way to prevent all these animals being put down would be to screen potential adopters to find responsible pet owners who won't just add to the problem.

So it really doesn't make sense to say that as long as a pet gets adopted it helps solve the pet overpopulation problem.
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I hate that this happens, but humane societies near me (atlanta) would rather see cats put down than have their new owners declaw them and practically the same goes for dogs.
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Mutts & Moms are wrong. Period.

Each case has to be decided individually. Hell, I've had dogs (and many other pets) since I was two years old.

If the dog nips, so what? The kid learns to be more gentle. The dog learns to avoid the kid.

I have to disagree with those who are defending Mutts & Moms because they didn't consider the facts of the situation.

I get so frustrated by people who think they have the right to dictate to others. If the kid's happy and the dog's happy, what's the problem?
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"Why do you need dog adoption agencies? Go to the pound, find a nice stray, take it home. If it doesn’t work out, bring it back."

Pet adoption agencies usually work with the local pound. It gives the pet a more stable environment and, where I am at least, costs little more than the pound does (about 20 dollars difference). Volunteers typically take the pet into their home as a foster family.

They all make you sign a contract and one of the stipulations is that instead of giving the dog to another home they must be returned to the agency to find a new home. Everyone who adopts through an agency signs this. I got my first dog through an organization like this and I couldn't be happier with him.

It's unfortunate, but she signed into it.
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The last dog we adopted was from a no-kill shelter -- she was essentially impossible to adopt out because she bit everyone else (9 people) who came to see her. Not nipped, BIT. She was a little 6-pound Japanese Chin, and she was hell on wheels.

The agency wanted 2 references, checked our credit, and made us fill out a 4-page application. All this for a truly un-adoptable little hellion. I understand their attitude, but inflexible policies are just not productive. The reason we have brains is to allow us to make exceptions based upon knowledge and reason. Blindly following 'the rules' is just lazy and stupid.

BTW, we tamed our little dog by taking her away from there in a 2-seat sports car, and stopping for burgers on the way home. She loved her cheeseburgers!
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THE CONTRACT -- traditionally, when one party violates a signed contract, there are many stages of recourse and redress -- usually involving lawyers, demand letters and various stages on the way to civil suits and court decisions. the issue is not that Ellen violated the contract; it's that the agency took it upon themselves to enforce the letter of the contract. as others in this comment section have pointed out, in this case it might have been better for all to review the new family and see if things could be worked out, despite the contract violation

ADOPTION AGENCIES -- they are as a whole, fairly decent and well-meaning folks, though some individuals appear to be too "pro-pet" and make no effort to mask their resentment of would-be pet owners. Regardless of a feeling of zealotry throughout the pet-rescue world, their efforts are humane and only in response to the millions of mistreated, neglected and finally destroyed animals (annually).

THE PUBLIC -- most folks think it's great to own a pet and think of pet ownership as a God-given right and part of the American Tradition. However, as the pet-rescue folks know, all too often even "good" families are terribly irresponsible and though they had good intentions, all too often, "Spot" or "Fluffy" is given away or worse and the animal winds up at a shelter scheduled to be destroyed. People like Ellen who have the eye of the media establishment AND the public have an opportunity to help promote public awareness about the greater issues of animal abandonment and pet care. The lessons that can be gained from this one unfortunate case are lost if one only reviews the case-specific elements instead of the larger and more complex social issues.
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I highly disapprove of Mutts and Moms, Marina Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun's actions. They acted on impulse with vengeance on the goodhearted-ness and best interest between a celebrity and deserving children; not with empathy or forethought. In researching the web, PETA, Humane Society, BBB, and SPCA historical information, these owners have not proven themselves respectful or caring. In fact they show spite, more than anything. Reviewing everything to date re. Marina. She still doesn't show any emotion for the human bond between animal and a well deserving family. A reasonable human would not act on impulse driven by a bogus contract but allowed time for review and reasses the situation. A responsible business owner would have responded by now to the media, attorneys, and press with a RESOLUTION and not hiding and REACTING with negativity. When one appears as a villain one would naturally want to disarm the situation; not in this case. Nothing on the news has touched me in such a way that i would be actually reaching out and being an activist.
This is Marina's quote: “Celebrities you know, they, they get preferential treatment. They have lots of money. They go into a restaurant they get a table.”
Look close at her glasses <>. I try not to be judgemental but something doesn't seem right.
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Two words, folks: Bill Frist. In his autobiography he wrote that he pretended to adopt cats only to take them nome and dissect them. (hat tip to Rachel Maddow for making this point) People in the business of saving animals have rules to avoid this kind of behavior.
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I think the Mutts and Mom's are suffering for their incompetence. They handled the situation VERY POORLY and deserve their license taken away just like they snatched that dog away from that kid. I would NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER adopt a dog from these people if they open their business back up.
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The contract exists for the protection of the animal and each rescue group has the right to create the agreement. Whether the group's people are "good" or "mean" really doesn't matter. There isn't time to work things out nicely when the animal's life could be in danger in a non-screened home.

Additionally, each group is an independent organization. What one group does should not negatively impact the view we have of other organizations. Review their policies and contracts, and if it's too much for you, don't adopt from them. An awful lot of animals DON'T die in shelters thanks to the hard work of private rescues who pull their animals directly from those shelters. They invest a lot of time and money to do what they do; trust me, they aren't making any money.
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Everyone involved failed to behave to the best of their abilities. Ellen shouldn't have used her celebrity to try to force the agency to accept her unilateral decision to re-home the dog, in violation of the agreement she made with the agency. The agency should have evaluated the family before taking the dog to see if an exception could have been made, not because it was Ellen asking, but because the dog was already placed there (being shuffled around is traumatic for the dog). And frankly, if this hadn't blown up in the media, that exception would not have become a problem because the vast majority of people wouldn't have known an exception was even made here.

And Dcer, there's an enormous difference between a minority's right to have a roof over his head, considered a basic right as a human being in this country, and the right to own a pet, which is wholly discretionary, both on the part of the adopter to choose the appropriate agency and the agency to work with an adopter.

Adopters have choices and so do the agencies. Both parties have valid complaints here and both dropped the ball in terms of how they handled the problem.

FWIW, we adopted 2 dogs from a rescue that holds that same policy. Their personalities were matched with ours and with each other since we adopted them at the same time. The people who run the rescue from which we adopted have gone to shelters to retrieve dogs that were surrendered there in violation of the contract signed. But, I know them pretty well and I think they would evaluate the new home before they'd remove a dog from a re-home situation. A good home is a good home, after all. They also don't have rigid rules about the ages of the household members; it's decided on a case by case basis. Maybe it helps that they also have kids.

And yeah, rescue people are fanatical. Who else would devote their own money, time, energy, and home to helping animals? I, for one, am glad they do. It's what they're passionate about and, usually, it helps make this a better world. What's wrong with that? Being rigid and/or hostile doesn't help anyone, though, in *any* situation.

I'm also a minority and a lawyer. Age discrimination actually has a fairly narrow application and doesn't apply to a private agency that offers pets for adoption.
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This story has been hitting a nerve since it broke because I think these agencies can really go overboard with their rules sometimes.

I was a t a pet adoption agency several weeks ago and saw an older female dog who looked very sweet. She had a skin condition and would have to be given daily medications.

My wife and I discussed it and I began talking to the agency rep. She said that she would need me to fill out an application: OK., they would call my vet to see how I take care of my other pets: um, OK., they would need to come to our house to see the environment the dog would be living in: OK. I agreed to all of these. she then asked about my two other dogs and if they stayed indoors or outdoors. I told them they were outside during the day till we came home from work, then they came in and slept indoors at night.

She said they couldn't let me adopt the dog - or any other dog because they had a strict policy to not allow their dogs to stay outside unattended. Despite the fact that we have a well fenced yard with locks, the agency rep would have preferred I keep the dog locked in a crate inside our house for 8 hours each day. I told her that that policy was absolutely absurd. She didn't seem to care.

Unfortunately, that poor dog will probably live out its days in a cage instead of with a family that really wanted another dog.

I will never adopt a pet from an agency in the future due to their arcane policies.
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This whole thing suggests that at any time, an animal you have adopted could be removed at any time by the organization from which you adopted it from. Does this mean that I don't actually own the pets I have adopted? Or, to phrase it a better way, that they still aren't part of my family - but on loan from the adoption agency for an indeterminate amount of time?
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Ellen is just as screwed up as Britney Spears. What's even more scary is that this adoption place is getting threatening emails from a bunch of losers with no life. She signed a contract, she should have read it, and boo friggan hoo if her hairdresser can't get that dog. It's not like the hairdresser was attached to it. Ellen should just give up on life. More important things to worry about.
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A lawyer representing Mutts and Moms was on The O'Reilly Factor last night and claimed that DeGeneres’ hairstylist was offered the opportunity to submit an application to adopt Iggy but she never bothered to submit one.
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I don't get why people care so much. How is a stray dog more important than one of the rats it eats for food? I can understand if it was an abusive home, but this is insane. (no I'm not defending Ellen, I personally don't like her)

@Jennifer: Yes. That is the way I interpret this. I personally find that disturbing. Caring about pets is one thing, forcing people to jump through legal hoops just to have them is stupid.
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The 2 year old dog is lucky that someone even want to take him into their home and be apart of their family. Fuck you 'rescue organizations' who have no life other than making life hell for other people who are trying to do good. Just because your own home does not give you any satisfaction doesn't mean you can go about fucking things up for other people trying to do good. There are so many problems in the world and your fucking organization is worried about kids with a dog ? Please get a life and just cause you're not getting the attention and sex in your own home doesn't mean you can go about fucking up little things in other peoples life. Fuck you holier than thou' cunts
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