According to statistics from the latest APPA National Pet Owners Survey, over 79 million households have at least one pet. 37 percent of those surveyed adopted their pets from a shelter or rescue. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are approximately 3,000 shelters and 10,000 rescues or sanctuaries in the U.S. Together, they serve the 6-8 million dogs and cats entering the shelter system every year. Perceptions about shelter pets are changing and even though adoption rates are increasing as a result, there are still an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats losing their lives every year simply because they don’t have a home.
Adoption gives homeless pets a second chance and will change both of your lives for the better, but it’s also a big decision. Whether you’re adopting your first pet or considering adding additional furry companions to your home, there are important things you should consider before making the adoption final.
Make Sure You Understand the Commitment
One of the common reasons given for surrendering an animal is that they don’t have time to take care of a pet. Life happens, but far too often people don’t fully understand the responsibility, or they make a spur-of-the-moment decision only to realize later that a pet is too much for them to handle.
Pets, especially puppies and kittens, are a lot of work, so it’s important to make sure you are ready for a full commitment. Puppies have accidents and need to be house-trained, and older pets may need to be let out more often due to weakened bladders. Dogs need to be walked and taken to the park to expend energy, and all pets need love and attention to keep them emotionally healthy. Even smaller pets like rabbits, hamsters, and birds require a fair amount of attention and care. Training and helping pets adjust to a new home takes time and patience, and you need to be prepared for veterinary expenses associated with basic care and emergencies.
All animals deserve to have a loving home, and while some circumstances that cause people to rehome their pets truly cannot be avoided, when you choose to adopt you should be prepared for a lifetime commitment.
Find a Pet That’s Right for You and Your Family
Before choosing a pet, consider your family’s lifestyle and activity level. A large, energetic dog might not the best choice for someone who isn’t active. And a busy, chaotic household with a lot of young children around might not be a good fit for some pets.
One of the benefits of working with a foster-based rescue is that pets are exposed to a household environment and experiences such as riding in a car or being around children and other animals. Shelters are also working to mimic these environments by creating spaces set up like a typical living room, and by having volunteers bring pets on outings so they can get a better read on their personalities.
Take time to talk with the shelter staff or foster parents about the personality of the pet you’re considering. Their goal is to help people find their best match, so be open and honest with them, and know that you can never ask too many questions.
Check Housing and City Regulations Before You Adopt
Each dog is unique and their breed shouldn’t deter you from adopting, but the sad reality is that some landlords, associations, and cities have discriminatory rules or ordinances that prohibit people from having certain breeds of dogs. Breeds lumped into the “Pit Bull” category are often victims of these unfair laws, though breeds such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Akitas, and others are also unfairly judged. Some places also have weight restrictions or a limit on the number of pets you can have, and certain landlords require that cats are declawed, a practice that many find inhumane.
Discriminatory breed restrictions and inhumane declawing requirements are slowly being eliminated as people advocate for change, but it’s always best to check with your landlord and city office first just to be safe. By knowing the restrictions and requirements ahead of time, you’ll prevent the stress of finding new housing or the possibility of being separated from your newly-adopted pet.
Know You’re Making the Right Choice
When you choose adoption, you save a life. There are millions of animals out there waiting for a home, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find the perfect match right away. The belief that you can’t find purebred pets, including puppies and kittens, in shelters is completely false. And there’s no reason to go to a breeder or pet store when so many animals are already in need of a loving family. Check reputable online services like Petfinder to find adoptable pets in your community, and visit local adoption events until you find your perfect match.
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