There is a distinction between sales and adoptions. A sale is done on the premises: the product is viewed, the staff explain the terms, the money is paid, and the product is taken home; the seller makes no follow-up calls to see how the "product" is faring, if there are any problems that the seller can help with, were the rotten teeth the product was sold with attended to? did the product bite anyone and is it getting the behaviour modification training that it must have since it was sold with some known concerns about biting? was the intact animal sold, sterilized, etc.
Until recently the BC SPCA didn't even ask any questions, and sadly, some dogs were sold by SPCAs to abusers who chained them or kept them in garages for example. Now staff ask some questions. Some SPCAs even turn away who they deem unsuitable applicants, though some of the reasons for doing so are puzzling.
For example, very recently a person applying for a dog from the Duncan SPCA was turned down on the grounds that she had a cat. Diane Esther, our correspondent on Vancouver Island, told us:
"The first question they were asked was whether they had a cat. When they answered in the affirmative they were told that because of past problems of placing dogs in homes with cats they would not consider adopting to anyone who had a cat. Period. End of conversation. The people left unlikely to return after that reception."
Bob Busch, BC SPCA Manager of Operations, asked by Ms Esther if this were BC SPCA policy, was told that it isn't and that the matter would be brought to the attention of the Duncan SPCA Manager. A long history of the SPCA refusing to answer is many people's off-putting experience, so a straightforward answer like that is certainly progress for the BC SPCA.
Ethical adopting organizations do all the things named above, except checking to see if medical conditions have been attended to: ethical organizations make sure that all health issues are dealt with before making an adoption. And if a dog, for example, bites while in the possession of the new owner, ethical organizations offer the owner free or subsidised training; or the dog is taken back and the organization keeps the dog until training makes the dog safe - no matter how long that takes or what it costs, Not told, as frantic owners of SPCA-purchased dogs which are dangerous have been told, that if the dog is returned, the SPCA will kill it.
Put simply: if an agency were taking money for babies with few questions asked and no home check made and no follow-up monitoring, would most people consider that a legitimate adoption?
I was once taken to task by a social worker who had worked in the baby-adoption field for many years. She was indignant about animal welfare agencies which called what they did "adoptions". She specifically named the SPCA. When I explained what AAS's standards were, she acknowledged that they did meet the criteria for real adoptions.
Another key difference between selling and adopting is the matter of money. No one gets an animal from a seller without paying the money first. AAS refuses to take any money until we know that everyone is happy: the dog, the new owners, and us. Every adoption is a trial adoption. With difficult dogs it may take months before AAS is satisfied that the right family has been chosen.
These points seem to me to make a clear distinction between selling and adopting.