Whenever someone is interested in adopting an animal from a shelter, he wants to know the personality of the pet. He wants to make sure that his environment is suitable for the pet’s temperament and that it will be a good fit.
Riverside County Department of Animal Services in California has been using a standardized test, the SAFER test, for the past six months to gauge a dog’s temperament and adoptability.
The test is usually done about three days after the dog has been brought into the shelter because that day is when the dog usually has the least amount of stress. The test involves pinching a scruff of the coat, darting back and forth in a playful manner, using a fake arm to gauge “food aggression”, and bringing in another dog to observe.
Riverside County is using this test as one of their tools to minimize euthanizing animals and increasing adoptions.
“On the one hand, this tool is used to screen and protect the public,” said Robert Miller, department director. It assesses the likelihood that a dog will bite or attack other animals. It also is a standard to determine the adoptability of the animal, he said by phone. Miller said the test is based on science “to be able to evaluate their true temperament.”
Under Miller’s leadership, the county has a policy of keeping dogs for placement unless they have medical or serious behavioral problems such as viciousness that make them unsuitable for adoption.
The county has done some follow-up phone checks, comparing 50 tested and 50 untested dogs. People reported incidents of growling in 14 of the untested dogs and one of the tested dogs; seven untested and one tested dog bit but did not break the skin; and two untested dogs bit someone and broke the skin.
“I think that it is commendable for any facility to try to do all they can to make responsible adoption placements,” said Kim Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States.