FAIRMONT - It's been several years since a local man was arrested for breaking his puppy's leg and failing to get it treatment, but the episode still haunts Karen Folkers, president of the Martin County Humane Society.
It was Folkers who allowed the man to adopt the dog, and the pain of that decision is still evident on her face when she talks about it.
The man had been screened and passed inspection. But the shelter just didn't have all the information it needed to know the puppy would be in danger.
FUN?IN?THE?SUN?— Dogs frolic at the animal shelter in Fairmont. The process to adopt the animals is somewhat lengthy, but the shelter believes it is necessary to ensure animals are placed with people prepared to house a pet.
Today, volunteers at the Humane Society in Fairmont take time with every potential adopter, ensuring every cat, dog or other animal will be a good fit.
"We want them to get homes, but we want them to be cared for and loved," Folkers said. "People that love them can't always care for them."
For the most part, those interested in taking a pet home are approved - of the 60 applications submitted to the shelter in the past two months, only six have been rejected.
The applications cover questions about the home the pet will go to; whether there are currently animals or children living there; whether the pet will be an outside animal or live primarily indoors.
Other questions ask if anyone - such as a landlord - is opposed to the animal, if the pet is intended as a gift, or if anyone in the home is allergic to animals.
The answers to these questions aren't typically going to make or break an adoption, but they sometimes raise red flags.
"It is more to make them think about it," Folkers said.
Understanding that some people lie on their applications, Folkers said others are honest. People sometimes tell her they want a kitten to feed to their snake, or they say they want to breed a dog so they can have puppies.
"We are always trying to approve people," Folkers said, "but we do decline people who we think won't be able to care for the animal."
With the application, a potential pet owner gives three references, plus the name of their vet if they have pets or have had them in the past.
Folkers said volunteers call up to five different people when determining if a pet will work for a potential owner, and with good reason. She simply doesn't know everyone who comes through the door. The man whose puppy had a broken leg had not lived in the area long.
"We get people from all over," she said, noting that people have driven all the way from Massachusetts to look at an animal.
Anyone can learn about the animals available at the shelter through Petfinder.com, a website that lists animals available for adoption across the United States.
Folkers said that although most people are accepted for adoption, there are a handful of reasons that will cause someone to definitely be denied.
"I do not like to decline people," Folkers said. "I feel very judgmental, and I know I am not perfect. ... I also know some people shouldn't have pets."
If the wannabe owner is under 18, the answer is no. Plans to kennel a dog 24/7 or a history of animal abuse also will obviously nix adoption plans.
"We are here to look after the animal," Folkers said, "not to look after the people. They have friends and family to do that; the animals don't."
When people are accepted for adoption and able to take home a pet, the shelter loves to hear how they are doing.
"We get connected to these animals," Folkers said, "some more than others, but we love to hear about how they are doing."
The stories of successful placements make the difficult days easier, she said.
For those who adopt and find the placement doesn't work, the shelter wants to see the animal again. Within the first month, the shelter reimburses the adoption fee.
"We always take back pets that we adopt out," Folkers said. "We feel responsible for them."