If you are considering adopting a pet, you are in good company. According to ASPCA, about 62% of all American households have a pet, and 20 to 30% of all family cats and dogs were adopted from shelters or rescue centers. Choosing a pet from one of the 5 to 7 million dogs and cats waiting in shelters for someone to give them a happy home, is a great place to start. But adding a new pet to your household, whether you are single or have a family, is a big decision and one that takes some preliminary research and careful consideration so the animal you choose will be compatible with every member of your family, (the two-legged and four-legged kind).
Just a few factors to consider before making your first trip to the shelter.
1. What kind of pet are you looking for? Do you want a lap dog or cat, a buddy to share outdoor adventures, a feline or canine “nanny” for the kids (imagine Nana from Peter Pan), or a loyal guard dog to protect your family and property?
2. Are any members of your household (or close relatives) allergic? Choosing a pet that will send one of kids or the in-laws into anaphylactic shock is never advisable.
3. How much time will you have to spend with your pet? Is anyone at home during the day to feed, exercise and provide supervision and companionship.
4. If there are children in your home, are they mature enough to understand how to treat a pet appropriately? Large, active dogs may be too strong and heavy for very young children or seniors. Puppies and kittens can be vulnerable to unintentional injuries by small children.
5. Who is going to take primary responsibility for feeding, exercising, and grooming the new pet? Adopting a pet brings new responsibilities. Remember they will be depending on their new “parents” to provide food, shelter, safety, protection, medical care, and more.
6. Is your home an apartment or condo, a single family home with or without a fenced yard? What are the leash laws in your neighborhood? All of these factors should be considered in order to choose the best pet for your situation.
7. Have you considered your budget? Beside the cost of food, consider the expense of vaccinations, other veterinary care, boarding, grooming, toys and accessories. Many pets that wind up in shelters are there because their owners could no longer afford to care for them.
8. Do you have other pets? When choosing your new pet, keep your current pets in mind. You’ll want to choose an animal at the shelter that will be compatible with your pet or pets at home.
What to expect at the shelter.
Once you have discussed and detemined the kind of pet you and your family are looking for, it’s time to visit the shelter. A first visit can be overwhelming. Take a walk through the facility first and make note of the animals that members of the family find appealing. Shelter staff members get a chance to see the animals every day and can offer some insights into their habits and personalities, so don’t hesitate to ask them what they can tell you about individual animals. Ask to take your pick or picks into a “visiting room” or an outside run, so you can get to know them better away from the chaos of the kennels.
Some questions to ask before choosing your shelter pet.
• Does the pet like you and vice versa?
• Does it have a pleasant temperament and is it social?
• Does the animal show signs of aggression (such as growling, snapping, etc.)?
• Does the prospective pet appear to be in good health?
• If your choice is a dog, are you able to walk them on a leash (i.e. It isn’t too strong for you to handle)?
• Does everyone in your household like the choice?
• How do you feel about barking or loud meowing – Do you prefer a quieter dog or cat?
• Have you chosen a pet that is the right size for your house or apartment?
• Is the new pet choice housebroken?
• Has it had its vaccinations?
• Has it been spayed or neutered?
• What is the animal’s estimated age?
• Does the shelter staff know if it has had experience with children, other pets?
• If the former owner is known, was it a family or a single person? Pets have preferences as to their living situation too.
Shelter pets come in all ages, sizes, breeds, temperaments and past histories. Taking the time to do your homework before bringing home a shelter pet will help make for a smoother transition and a more positive outcome as your pet and your family get to know one another. Giving a shelter pet a chance to have a loving home is an admirable decision, but one that comes with responsibilities. Knowing what to expect and planning ahead for your new pet can go a long way toward helping build a relationship that will enrich your lives for years to come.
Looking for a shelter pet? Try some of the following sources for shelters near you.
ASPCA | Shelter Finder
Shelters | The Shelter Pet Project
The Humane Society of the United States How to Find Your Local Animal Shelter
More Info on Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds
American Kennel Club | Dogs and Allergies