by Katherine Turner
Located south of Downtown, a mere three blocks from the Starbucks Corporate headquarters, Emerald City Pet Rescue (ECPR) is a quintessentially Seattle animal shelter. Walking in, volunteers and potential adopters see a comfortable and clean waiting area festooned with colorful art and attentive, cheerful greeters behind the front desk. Barking can be heard coming from the back of the building, but it is quickly corrected by the kennel staff.
A small and still relatively young shelter, ECPR keeps about twenty to thirty dogs in the kennels at any given time. Because space is limited, most of the dogs are small breeds. Larger dogs come to the shelter more rarely and are kept with foster families. In addition, they usually have six to eight cats on hand and a few other small animals, such as rabbits. They also lease stable space outside the city for rescued horses.
Anyone looking to walk in, browse the dog and cats, and leave with a new pet that day, however, is bound to be a bit disappointed. ECPR is methodical in its adoption practices and only allows potential adopters to meet individual animals by appointment.
All of ECPR’s adoptable animals are either listed on their website or in binders kept at the front desk. Potential adopters are asked to read up on any animals that they are interested in meeting. The front desk staff, who study up on and spend time with the dogs and cats, are more than happy to answer any questions about temperament or compatibility. When a potential adopter picks someone to meet, they fill out a questionnaire and then make an appointment for a “meet and greet,” where they get to spend some supervised time with the animal in a quiet room.
If they fall madly in love and want to adopt, the shelter may require a second meet and greet if there are members of the family that weren’t present the first time, such as children or other dogs. Then contracts are signed and the adopter is asked to give both personal and professional references. Finally, on the day of adoption, ECPR staff drives the animal to the adopter’s home, both to deliver the animal and to perform a home check, making sure that the home is a safe and appropriate place.
“I would say that what makes us special and more individualized is that we do take a little more detail in our adoption process,” says Maxine Holtzman, ECPR’s Program Manager. “Knowing that we will retain animals for as long as it takes makes Emerald City a little more specialized in what we do. With home checks, contracts, and reference checks we really put an emphasis on insuring the proper fit.”
Vivian Goldbloom is ECPR’s founder and the driving force behind its rescue philosophy. For most of her life she has been a one-woman animal shelter. Even before creating Emerald City she would bring animals in need onto her own property, paying for veterinary care, adopting out any that she could and keeping any that she couldn’t. In these less formal days, Vivian was meticulous about who she would adopt to, personally checking adoptees homes to make sure they were good for the animal.
This deep dive into adopters’ backgrounds, including asking for personal and professional references, checks with an adopter’s previous veterinarian, and a lengthy questionnaire can turn off some people who just want a pet.
“Some people are really not for it, and maybe don’t understand why we do it,” says Vanessa Cason, Vivian’s Administrative Assistant. “Other people, for the most part, if they’re really excited about a pet, they understand our process and are more than happy to supply us with the information.
“Viv just found that this was the most successful way to do it, ensuring that they end up in long-lasting, forever homes.” Developing such a thorough adoption process grew out of her desire to see every animal go to a great home and stay there. “It was a little bit of both trial and error and due diligence on her part for making sure that she found excellent candidates for everyone that’s adopted out.”
In 2013, Vivian entered into a partnership with her regular vet, the VCA West Seattle Veterinary Hospital. VCA donated a back room of their clinic to house up to six rescue dogs at a time. From this back room, she recruited like-minded people to help her make Emerald City into a fully functioning rescue organization. In June of 2014, she saw an opportunity to grow into a larger space in South Seattle.
Helping Those in Need
Believing that being a rescue means more than just adopting out animals to great forever homes, Vivian works hard to support people who may be having difficulty keeping the animals they have. Often, people in need will come to ECPR seeking to relinquish an animal that they can no longer afford to keep. Vivian looks at these cases on an individual basis and will provide resources to make sure that the animal can stay in its home.
“We help other people’s animals besides our own adoptable animals,” says Maxine. “We provide medical care, food, behavioral training and support for basically anyone’s animals who comes to us for support.”
Vivian’s philosophy is that if an animal is already in a loving home then it’s imperative to keep that animal in the home at all costs.
Not-for-Profit Pet Store
ERPR, in addition to being a rescue, contains a boutique pet store. Resembling one of the high-end shops, such as All-the-Best or Mud Bay, Emerald City Pet Supply sells everything from food to toys to beds.
As part of the shelter, the store is also non-profit and every penny made in the shop goes directly back to the shelter. In addition, the store is able to make purchasing deals with suppliers that the shelter can’t, so they can bring in supplies for the rescue animals at a lower cost.
People who adopt animals from ECPR are entitled to a ten percent discount at the store for the rest of their lives.
Part of what makes ECPR different is the way they handle their kennel. Dogs are only kept in cages overnight, during meal times or if they have special needs that preclude activity. During the day, all of the dogs are kept in a central play room, overseen by kennel staff. Resembling a doggy day care, the playroom is a safe space for dogs to socialize with other K-9s as well as new people.
Many rescue dogs come from traumatic circumstances, and have few or poor socialization skills. Kennel staff spend their days observing the animals, giving them personal attention and singling any out who may need additional training to ease anxieties, curtail aggression and just generally make them more adoptable. Volunteers help with this as well, spending one-on-one quality time with certain animals to help them overcome behavioral issues that might keep them from finding a forever home.
ECPR helps a number of dogs with medical problems as well. One such dog is Chewey, a four-year-old Chihuahua Dachshund mix. He came to ECPR with a ruptured disk in his back, rendering him partially paralyzed. ECPR paid for all his necessary surgeries, physical therapy, and the wheelchair that he needs in order to regain his mobility.
In many shelters, especially those in Southern California where ECPR gets most of their animals, dogs like Chewey are quickly euthanized. Vivian and ECPR make a point of taking in such hard cases and doing everything possible to see that they get homes with loving families. For ECPR no animal is ever unadoptable and all are worthy of the highest quality and attention and care.