Should people take a written test before adopting a cat or dog?

In order to raise the standard of cat and dog ownership (guardianship) Melbourne Council in Australia are proposing that people who want to adopt a pet take a written test to ensure that they are suitable. I don’t know whether this only applies to adopting from an animal shelter or whether it applies to all areas where cats and dogs are adopted such as from a breeder.

Cat rescue kittens waiting for an adopter
Cat rescue kittens waiting for an adopter – Photo: 2nd Chance Cat Rescue
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Councillor Kris Bolam told the Herald Sun:

Those who didn’t pass shouldn’t even be looking at owning a pet. We expect parents to demonstrate capability to be responsible parents but we don’t expect the same standard when talking about pet ownership. As a society, we should be expecting the same level of personal investment and responsibility by budding pet owners towards their pets.”

Councillor Kris Bolam

That’s his reason for introducing a written test for potential cat and dog owners. I would have to take issue with his statement about parents and children. I don’t know of any test to check whether a couple who want to have a child are knowledgeable and committed enough to bring a child into the world. Anyone is free to have a child and I don’t know any country where a test is required beforehand.

That said, there is some merit in the idea because overall, standards of cat and dog caretaking need to be improved worldwide. This will always be the case. As long as you have unwanted cats ending up in shelters and feral cats in the urban environment, you have evidence of inadequate cat caretaking. Therefore it could be argued that a test is required.

The big problem is: is it feasible and workable? Australia leads the way in seeking methods to improve pet ownership and to limit the impact that companion animals have on the community. They are not frightened to take quite bold moves but sometimes they are very negative such as the culling of feral cats in high numbers.

There is also an enforcement problem with this test. It’s a bit like limiting the number of cats that people can have. How you know how many cats a person has? It means knocking on every door in every city and searching which is obviously impractical and it would not work anyway. If someone adopted a cat without taking the test who would know? It could only apply to animal shelters where the adoption is in public.

There is also the question of what sort of test would be presented to adopters. It may not be able to take into account all the variables in order to make it fair. Also people lie and may present false information about themselves.

Finally, if there is an oversupply of unwanted cats and dogs at shelters you don’t want to put people off or turn them away. It would be better to take a risk with someone than turn them down if they failed the test.

My thoughts are that the idea is laudable but not quite workable and therefore it won’t be introduced.

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