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The End of We and Them

Dr. Emily Weiss shares a phenomenal set of resources that can help create an adoption experience that respects people for where they are, encourages adoption to all who mean no harm, and opens the door to support when a helping hand is needed.

I cannot turn on the TV, Internet or radio these days without quickly running into a story of Us vs. Them. Be it looking different, behaving different or believing differently, we as a species tend to form our tribes and allegiances based on sameness. Making it all too easy (often factually baselessly) to put someone on the other side, make grand assumptions about their beliefs, feelings and expectations and judging and treating them from that baseless perspective…

We all do it to a certain extent – be honest. I know I do, as I am now so conscious of it I find myself fighting old habits almost daily. However, we have the means to stop doing it as much as we do, simply by taking a moment to understand how we are the same. The forming of tribes – Us vs. Them – turns Them into something other than Us, something that does not feel the same as we do or behave as we do. We lose empathy.

In dog and cat adoption, we tend to have an Us vs. Them focus – the adopters coming into our doors are often thought of as Them. As you may have heard me mention before, my first dog (as an adult) was obtained through an Us vs. Them experience. Often, we develop road blocks and barriers for those who come to our facilities – wanting them to prove themselves good enough, to prove they are enough like us to not be them.

We at the ASPCA have been working for several years on the research and development of programs to eliminate the perception of Us vs. Them. We have developed and promoted programs such as Meet Your Match™, Adoption Ambassadors, fee-waived adoptions and pets as gifts. Our latest study on this subject examined the treatment of pets adopted through a policy-based adoption vs. an open adoption program and found that people loved and treated their pets the same. 

At the 2014 HSUS Expo, I had the honor of sharing some of the ASPCA research at the plenary session and I had chills as I watched my co-presenter Betsy McFarland (vice president of companion animals for HSUS) share the experiences of those living with much less means than most coming to our shelters. The love, compassion and strength of bond these folks had was palpable – opening the hearts for many in the room for a moment of true understanding of Us.

This year HSUS has blown the doors off of Us vs. Them with a phenomenal set of resources aimed at facilitating a dog and cat adoption experience that respects people for where they are, encourages adoption to all that mean no harm and opens the door to support when a helping hand is needed. They have produced an incredible manual titled Adopters Welcome. You can download your own free copy right here.

But wait – there is more! They are also launching a webinar series on the topic – a series of five workshops that are aimed to help you increase adoptions through a shift in perspective and philosophy. Learn about the webinar series here.

They are Us. We are Them. And together we will make a difference.


Related links:
Blog: “I Was Them”
HSUS Adopters Welcome manual


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