What Are Your Experiences With Animal Adoption or Fostering?

Have you ever been around animals in need of adoption? If so, was it at an animal shelter, a cat cafe, a pop-up event at a place like a farmers’ market or community fair, a store that sells pet food and other supplies, a storefront in a shopping center or anywhere else? What was the experience like?

If you haven’t, would you like to go to one of those places? Why or why not?

In “Can Actual Rats Save the Mall?,” Claudia Rosenbaum writes about the growing number of animal shelters that have opened in vacant storefronts in shopping malls. The article begins:

When Alia Mahmud visited Westfield Annapolis Mall in February 2022, she didn’t go to buy clothes, or to watch a movie or to even meet up with her girlfriends. She was looking for rats.

A week earlier, Ms. Mahmud saw a post online about a pack of rodents at the SPCA of Anne Arundel County, whose shelter opened an outpost at the mall in September 2020. When she arrived at the new location and approached the rat enclosure, she saw Snoofles, Algernon and Ikit, 5-month-old sisters who perked up and pressed their pink noses through their crate to get a better look at Ms. Mahmud and her boyfriend.

“They kind of ran up to us and said hi,” said Ms. Mahmud, 32, a school therapist in Alexandria, Va. “They melted our hearts with how little, affectionate and outgoing they were from the beginning.”

But it wasn’t until a meet-and-greet days later when Ms. Mahmud finally decided to take them home, where Snoofles proceeded to run down her shirt.

“At that point, I was like, Well all right, I guess they’ve chosen,” Ms. Mahmud said.

Snoofles, Algernon and Ikit are just some of the thousands of pets that have been adopted from animal shelters sprouting up in malls across the country in the past three years. A growing number of shopping centers are offering animal rescue groups empty storefronts for free or at a significant discount, sometimes as much as 90 percent. According to Shelter Animals Count, an animal welfare national database, shelters reported that intakes increased 4 percent in 2022, leaving them overburdened with animals that were once hard to obtain during quarantine.

With collaborations like the one between the SPCA and Westfield Annapolis gaining popularity, malls and animal havens are hoping to attract more pet owners and customers to these retail spaces that were already struggling before the pandemic forced temporary closures.

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • Has your family ever adopted or fostered a pet? If so, what was the experience like? What did that pet bring to your life, or the life of your family? Would you recommend adoption or fostering to others?

  • Have you ever visited an animal shelter or rescue, or volunteered at one? If so, what was it like? What, if anything, did you gain or learn from the experience? If not, would you like to do something like this someday?

  • Have you ever been to a mall or other shopping center that had a designated area for animal adoption? If so, what are your thoughts about it? What might be some pros and cons of this idea?

  • The article’s author discusses the decline in popularity of malls over the past few decades. Do you visit malls regularly? Do you notice empty storefronts and a lack of crowds, or are the malls thriving?

  • Other than animal centers, how else can empty spaces in malls be used? Suppose you are a consultant for a mall that has many closed storefronts and little foot traffic. What strategies would you recommend for getting people of your generation to visit? What sorts of companies or organizations would you approach about renting space in the mall? How would the relationship benefit the mall as well as the renter?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.

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