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Firing Raises Questions About Shelter Policy
Why not encourage good photography?
Palace is currently available for adoption through Project Pet.

Bark contributor Anna Jane Grossman (famously of the recent East Village Halloween parade post) recently wrote a fascinating piece about the firing of Emily Tanen at NYC’s Animal Care & Control. Until recently, Tanen was liaison between the shelter and its many rescue group partners. (She is the founder of Project Pet, Inc.). According to the story, Tanen was fired for taking photos of dogs in violation of the shelter’s policy. In particular, she did not heed the prohibition against including people (or parts of people) in those images.

We’ve always been believers in the key role good photos play in getting dogs adopted, promoting the efforts of groups such as HeARTs Speak, an alliance dedicated to helping photographers volunteer at shelters to improve the quality of images. Pros are pros for a reason. With better equipment, hard-won skills and an artist’s eye, they can capture a dog’s wonderful essence even in a stress-filled environment. Instead of what looks like a perp shot, you get a portrait. We all know stories of folks who were motivated to take the all important first steps to adopt a dog on the strength of a compelling photo. There’s no one in the animal welfare community who can say it’s not critical.

Grossman’s story and the criticisms of Animal Care & Control are disturbing. Since Animal Care & Control officials have not spoken about Tanen’s firing, we don’t know their side of the story but any policy that discourages employees and volunteers from taking steps that can only help more dogs find good homes seems ill advised—especially when there is a track record of success.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Photo courtesy Emily Tanen of Project Pet, Inc.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | November 23 2011 |

"A picture is worth a thousand words" is even more apt when it is a homeless animal whose life is at stake. Emily Tanen's job at ACC was to get adoptable animals out to rescue groups and she did get their attention with her beautiful images. Pity on ACC for not being open to the possibility that something besides what they were doing could improve the adoption rates.
Glad you mentioned projectpetinc.org. Great place to make donations that really make a difference!

Submitted by Jen Medlin-Lloyd | November 26 2011 |

I hear so many times about how shelters euthanize dogs that rescues are trying to get that I wonder if they really want to help the dogs or just euthanize as many as they can. If better photographs can help get more dogs adopted, then for crying out loud, give it a try.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 25 2011 |

The photo of my dog Mitzi was extremely important in deciding to adopt her. And the photos of my dog Slick and his brother got me to drive 95 miles and call a rescue to help me save them. Now I volunteer at a shelter and I hear all the time from people that photos on the internet are the first contact the potential adopter has with the potential adoptee. Nice photos make a big difference.

Submitted by Susan | November 25 2011 |

The last seven dogs I've received have been rehomed from either my vet or someone asking me to take a fellow. I never saw them until they appeared. BUT the whole idea that photos are not allowed sucks, big time. One of the best ways they adopt from K-9 pals and Dawg is photos in the local independent weekly. Either you want them homed or you don't. Animal control there needs to talk to Animal Control in Santa Barbara County California. I can furnish them with the phone number if they can't find it. Shesshhhhhh.

Submitted by Julie Isidro | November 26 2011 |

I do volunteer foster care for a large humane society in CT. They believe strongly in the importance of good photos to help generate interest in the pets that are available for adoption. I only foster kittens right now, but I put together collages of the kittens at various ages. These collages are posted on the society's website and Petfinder. People actually ask to see kittens and dogs with interesting pictures posted. And the society asks the foster volunteers to provide photos, otherwise all that is available is the initial photo taken when the animal is first brought into the shelter. I also print out the collages on photo paper to be given to the new "parents" of my kittens. I know this works for dogs too. Our shelter even posts videos if they are available. It's hard to understand ACC's position.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 27 2011 |

This firing is ridiculous! I drove for five hours to see my newest dog, based on the wonderful photo of his silly smile. We don't know the other side of the story -- but it seems that anything that helps dogs find people is of great benefit.

Submitted by Mary Cruse | November 27 2011 |

After losing 3 dogs - 13, 14 and 17 yrs old - within 8 months we searched our geographic region for the "right" dog. We did visit shelters within a 150 mile radius but the majority of the searching was online. When I saw the photo of an 18-month old border collie/spaniel mix online I told my husband, "she's the one." I met her, fell in love and couldn't be happier with our choice. We had been looking for a Jack Russell or some type of small terrier mix. Because of the photo, her demeanor in the photo . . . her eyes . . . her grace . . . we connected.
A note. When we searched Craigslist or any other site for that matter - if there was NOT a photo, we didn't even click on the ad and read about the dog.
Photos are essential. Especially photos without people. I want to see the dog, not the dog and an arm or foot.

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