In light of how stressful and unreliable a cat test can be, what is your shelter's stance/policy on cat testing dogs?
We don't perform cat testing as it does not necessarily or reliable transfer to how a dog may react to a cat in a home (or outside the shelter environment). We provide detailed instructions how to introduce cats and dogs to adopters.
As someone who has often had fosters who won't take a dog into their home unless it was cat-tested at a shelter, I hope the solution isn't "we don't ever do it." When I was at shelters that had outdoor managed feral cats in the parking lot, those were great helpers for me. The big old Tom cats would sit and stare at the dog from a distance, and we could evaluate the dog's reaction on-leash, far enough away that the dog couldn't bother them. There was also a time when one municipal shelter had a dog-loving "office cat" who loved to interract with dogs--he was a great reader of dog body language and fantastic at helping out (and he went home with one of the directors on weekends and holidays, I think).
I know several rescues that have passed up pulling several dogs from high-kill shelters that desperately needed those rescue pulls but lost out on them because the shelter "had a policy" of refusing to allow cat testing...and the rescues had foster homes that wouldn't take them without that because they owned cats. Those dogs were almost certainly euthanized because of that "policy." That sucks, but if a foster home won't take a dog without a cat test, then the rescues can't work with shelters that say "no." If you're in an area where every overcrowded shelter is competing for rescue pulls, some rescues will just move on to other shelters that are easier to work with.
Try to find a way to say "yes" in a creative way that minimizes stress for the cats -- unless you're in an area where rescue pulls don't matter, and then do whatever feels comfortable.
Our rescue has office cats we use for cat testing. We got really lucky with the one tabby we rescued from the local SPCA, as he seems to have a really good sense right away whether a dog wants to hurt him or not. While we understand that an introduction in this way is no guarantee a dog will live harmoniously with a cat in the home, it gives us a general idea if the dog wants blood immediately. And if the dog is too interested in the cat, we err on the side of caution and place him/her in a cat-free home. We send adopters home with instructions on how to safely introduce a new dog to resident cats.
We cat test on request, but we ensure potential adopters understand the limitations to our cat testing. We don't have the cat/s and dog meet each other face to face, as we find that is very unfair, stressful, and potentially dangerous. We do walk the dog we are wanting to 'cat test' by windows that the cats look out of, and take note of the dog's behavior. A foster environment would be a much better indicator of how a dog may do with cats.
It's pretty easy to see a dog with "prey drive" engaged when they so much as see a cat at a distance or through a window -- that's a really good sign it will chase cats, and probably small dogs too. There are ways to work through prey drive (and it's actually something that dog sport people channel into high intensity working drive), but as a quick reference point for inexperienced fosters and adopters, just learning to understand what prey drive looks like can be a solid quick check (not fool proof, but also a good way to avoid sending dogs into inexperienced homes that may not be able to keep resident cats safe). I think shelters that do nothing, shrug their shoulders because "meh, may not be accurate" and send high prey drive dogs into homes where they kill resident cats are really doing their adopters and the community a real disservice.
You can't get 100% accuracy, but you CAN spot really serious, big issues if you try.
------------------------------Maggie ThomasPresidentRed Stick German Shepherd RescueLA------------------------------
------------------------------Mary FurbyVeterinary Medicine SupervisorHumane Society of Southeast TexasTXOriginal Message:Sent: 09-17-2023 07:39 AMFrom: Anonymous MemberSubject: Cat testing dogsThis message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous
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