Updated: Feb 16
In recent years an increasing number of animal rescues have made media headlines for adopting out sick pets.
The New York Post published an article about an animal rescue who was adopting out sick animals to the general public. The animal rescue was facing a lawsuit at the time.
The workers at the adoption centres would avoid revealing that the animals being re-homed suffered from conditions like kennel cough, canine distemper or pneumonia.
Adopters who adopted animals from the animal rescue ended up spending a lot of money on veterinary care for their new furry companions.
An investigation further revealed that the rescue was housing puppies in unsanitary conditions.
These conditions were a contributory factor to the animal's poor health.
Ultimately the new adopters felt betrayed by the organization.
It was truly heartbreaking but unfortunately, not an isolated occurrence in the field of animal rescue!
Animal rescues constantly find themselves on the news for failing to provide prospective adopters with accurate medical histories.
What are pet medical disclosures?
Medical disclosures are disclosures used to divulge information on any of the animal's known medical conditions.
Medical disclosures should at the very least include:
The names of any known medical conditions
The name of the veterinarian who made the diagnosis
The date of the diagnosis
Any treatment the animal may have received to date
Any treatment the animal may need to receive in the future
Who creates pet medical disclosures?
Your animal rescue can create your own template that can be used to create each of your medical disclosures.
If you'd like you can create the template alongside your veterinary care provider
Even if they're unfamiliar with medical disclosures they will at the very least know what information your animal rescue will need to know each time an animal is diagnosed with a medical condition.
Each time your veterinary care provider diagnoses an animal in your care with a medical condition they will simply fill this important information into the template you provided.
How are pet medical disclosures used?
Medical disclosures are an important part of every adoption interview, as are behavioural disclosures.
Your adoption team will use your animal rescue's medical disclosures to help them educate prospective adopters on how to care for the animal they're interested in adopting.
Your adoption team needs to make sure the adopters fully understand all of the information on these medical disclosures.
If the prospective adopters decide to adopt the animal they're interviewing for then your adoption team will need to ask them to sign each medical disclosure. This can help your animal rescue prove that you educated adopters on each animal's medical history if you're ever required to provide proof of that at a later date.
Your adoption team will need to provide a copy of each signed medical disclosure to your adopter for further reference but you'll want to keep the original copy for your records. Do not, under any circumstances, skip that last step.
Maintaining your animal rescue's records is part of limiting your animal rescue's liability.
Here's Why Your Animal Rescue Needs to Use Medical Disclosures
Animal shelters and animal rescues need to always use medical disclosures during their adoption processes.
Pet medical disclosures can protect your animal rescue from potential lawsuits.
The chances of your animal shelter or animal rescue being sued go up drastically if you even so much as accidentally fail to disclose an animal's medical condition.
Adopters tend to get very upset when they find out their pets are suffering from medical conditions they were not informed of beforehand.
That’s why it’s important to not only have each companion animal seen by a vet but to also include all vet records to prospective adopters during the adoption process.
But they get even angrier when they realize they're the ones on the hook for the veterinary costs! In these instances, lawsuits happen.
You can protect your organization from all of this hassle by using medical disclosures.
Pet medical disclosures tell adopters how to care for animals post-adoption.
Medical disclosures drastically impact the level of care an animal will receive post-adoption.
After all, an adopter can only provide treatment for medical conditions known to them.
Your animal rescue needs to make sure the adopter has all the knowledge they need to successfully care for their new pet. Part of fulfilling that duty includes using medical disclosures.
Pet medical disclosures are useful for insurance purposes.
Some adopters may be interested in applying for pet insurance.
In these instances, adopters will need to have accurate medical information on their newly adopted pet’s health.
If not, then in the event of an insurance claim, they may face difficulty with their insurance company.
Instances like this can have a very negative impact your animal rescue's reputation.
Pet medical disclosures provide useful information for veterinary providers!
Having an animal's medical history also makes it easier for the adopter to provide their vet with a detailed medical history that might come in handy later on.
Providing new adopters with this type of information throughout the adoption process will make it easier for the adopter to provide the animal with veterinary care post-adoption.
As complicated as pet medical disclosures may sound, these disclosures are quick and easy to create.
Typically, all your organization has to do is simply choose a template!
Your veterinary staff will probably be more than happy to follow your organization’s template.
You can learn to make your own pet medical disclosures.
If you're interested in learning how to create standardized medical disclosures for your animal shelter or animal rescue then you should consider taking our adoption e-course.
In this e-course, we teach animal rescue professionals like yourself how to create and explain medical disclosures.
These disclosures can then be provided to your animal rescue's veterinary provider each time an animal is diagnosed with a medical condition.
You animal rescue's veterinary team will need to fill in a separate medical disclosure each time an animal is diagnosed with a condition.
In other words, if an animal is diagnosed with 3 medical conditions then the animal will need to have 3 separate medical disclosures.
It’s important to keep in mind that pet medical disclosures alone simply are not enough.
Here's Why Your Animal Rescue Also Needs to Use Pet Behavioural Disclosures.
Each year millions of people adopt animals from animal shelters.
Many of these people will form lifelong relationships. Unfortunately, many will not.
Many factors influence whether new adopters will be successful at establishing a lifelong bond with their pets.
One of the most influential factors will be the adopter’s ability to manage the pet’s behaviours.
Your adoption team should be disclosing any behavioural concerns an animal displays to prospective adopters before finalizing any adoptions.
This is very, very important. If this disclosure does not take place than your animal rescue may end up putting innocent children at risk.
Why? Because providing this disclosure allows prospective adopters to determine whether they genuinely have the time, patience and skills to successfully manage the animal's behaviours on a full-time basis.
If your adoption team fails to disclose an animal’s behavioural concerns to an adopter, then your animal rescue is not setting that animal up for success.
What are behavioural concerns?
Behavioural concerns are behaviours that require management. Behavioural concerns come in all shapes and sizes. Not all behavioural concerns involve aggression.
Your animal rescue needs to understand the different types of behavioural concerns. This will help you make sure you're labelling behavioural concerns correctly.
For example, if a cat displays aggression, don’t just label the cat as aggressive. Instead, determine what type of aggression the cat is displaying. Ie. play aggression, petting induced aggression, fear-based aggression etc.
Causes of Behavioural Concerns
Animals don’t develop behavioural concerns because they’re ‘bad.’ They develop behavioural concerns in response to bad things that happen to them.
A lot of the animals who end up in animal shelters have histories that include homelessness, abandonment, abuse or neglect.
Recognizing Behavioural Concerns
Your animal rescue should always be working with animal behaviourists.
These behaviourists are qualified professionals who can provide your team with additional insight into an animal’s behaviour.
Your behaviourist should be performing a behavioural evaluation on every animal who comes into your organization's care.
Your organization’s animal behaviourist needs to develop training programs to teach your animal rescue's team how to recognize and address behavioural concerns.
This training is a crucial part of keeping people and animals safe. The likelihood of one of your teammates being injured on the job will be higher in instances where you fail to provide this training.
Failing to provide this type of training also increases the chance of your team responding to an animal’s behaviour in a manner that will make it worse.
What are behavioural disclosures?
Behavioural disclosures are records used to divulge information on any known behavioural conditions an animal may be suffering from.
These behavioural disclosures are usually prepared by an animal behaviourist or trainer.
In some instances, animal rescues will train animal care workers or foster parents on how to complete behavioural disclosures.
At the very least all behavioural disclosures should include:
The name of the behavioural condition
The date of the diagnosis
The physician or trainer’s name
What has been done to treat the animal's behaviour up until this point
Any treatment that may be needed in the future
Behavioural Disclosures keep families safe.
Behavioural disclosures allow families to decide whether they feel comfortable adopting a particular animal.
Sometimes adopters may decide that an animal's behaviours are too risky for their home.
Adopters with young children are often fearful of adopting animals with behavioural concerns involving aggression.
You should be too. The last thing your organization wants is to be putting children in situations that can potentially turn dangerous.
Behavioural Disclosures can increase the quality of care that an animal receives in their home.
Behavioural disclosures educate adopters on how to manage an animal’s behaviours post-adoption.
Without these disclosures, most adopters would have no idea how to care for an animal based on the animal’s unique emotional needs.
Teaching adopters how to provide a high standard of care is important.
Behavioural Disclosures have the power to save an animal’s life.
Animals with behavioural concerns are more likely to be ‘euthanized’ than animals without behavioural concerns.
That makes them increasingly vulnerable.
If animals with slight behavioural concerns are sent home to adopters who are untrained on how to handle their behaviours the right way – then we run the risk of adopters addressing these behaviours the wrong way.
For instance, a dog with fear-based aggression may begin barking and lunging our of fear.
If the adopter were to strike the dog in response to the lunging than this aggression may escalate into a behavioural concern that is more difficult to manage.
The escalated behavioural concerns may increase the animal's chance of being ‘euthanized’ in the event of a failed adoption.
Behavioural Disclosures can reduce your liability.
A dog with a history of aggression goes home with his or her new adopters and ends up biting one of them.
Can the adopter claim to have been unaware of the animal’s history of aggression?
The short answer is yes.
But if your adoption team had them sign a behavioural disclosure disclosing that history of aggression then this becomes increasingly more difficult.
In the event of an accident, the adopter's signature at the bottom of a behavioural disclosure has the potential to save your animal rescue millions.
Behavioural Disclosures can decrease your failed adoption rate
Behavioural disclosures help prospective adopters decide whether they have the skill set needed to care for certain animals.
Adopters with the skill set needed to handle all of an animal’s behaviours are less likely to re-home their pets than adopters who lack the skills.
You can learn to make your own medical or behavioural disclosures.
The ASPCA has some guidelines on what to include in your behavioural disclosures. Many of their suggestions are similar to ours.
We suggest that your animal rescue’s behavioural disclosures include information from:
The animal’s previous owners
The person who found the animal
The animal’s foster parents
The animal care staff or volunteers at your animal rescue
A copy of the animal’s most recent behavioural assessment
Any relevant information from any animal trainers who have had a chance to either work with or assess the animal
If you'd like to learn how to format effective medical or behavioural disclosures then you should take our adoption course 'the Power of Adoption.'
In this e-course, we teach animal rescue professionals just like you how to create and explain both medical and behavioural disclosures.
We know you want to save animals and we know that you have the power to save them! You just need the right tools to get started. That's why we'll be here with you every step of the way. #Letssaveanimals