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Humane Law Forum: Discrimination at the Adoption Counter

Does turning down a potential adoption put your organization at risk of a lawsuit?

Recently, representatives from two area shelters contacted me with questions about adoptions they had rejected. One shelter had turned down an 85-year-old prospective adopter who wanted a kitten. Another organization turned down a family with a child with a mental disability who wanted a small puppy. Both prospective adopters had angrily declared that they would sue the shelter for discrimination.

So the question is, can adopters sue for discrimination—and beyond that, could they sue in these particular cases?

Practically speaking, it costs money to hire a lawyer and bring a lawsuit, so it is unlikely that the aggrieved prospective adopters will follow through. That’s not to say that they won’t tell their friends, neighbors, and co-workers about how horrible their experience was and how discriminatory they perceived it to be.

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