Shelters are so full in part because too many people get puppies on impulse, or don't think through the long-term responsibilities that owning a dog entails. Shelters want to make sure when they send a puppy home with you, he or she is going to be there forever. So don't be surprised if more is involved in pet adoption than simply going to the kennel and taking a new pet home. Here are some things to you should know before you adopt a pet!
Pet Adoption is a Process
Just as with adopting a child, many shelters will require home checks and other personal information about you. The type of shelter will often influence how involved the adoption process is.
Before You Adopt a Pet: Consider Shelter Types
Open access shelters and "pounds" owned by the city or county tend to have the least stringent rules. You may be able to go there, pick out a dog on a first-come, first-served basis, pay a small fee--maybe $40 to $75--and take him home that same day.
Humane societies and no-kill shelters may require more. You may be able to pick out a dog, but you'll probably have to supply more information about your housing, and you may have to wait a day or two before you can bring him home. You will usually pay a slightly higher fee, maybe $60 to $125.
Rescue or foster groups are often aimed at only one breed. Their dogs live in foster homes, so you can't just go there and shop for one. You may be able to see them on internet sites. They tend to have the most stringent rules about where their dogs go to live, and rather than having them available on a first-come, first-served basis, they are more likely to match up dogs and people--or to turn away people entirely. Their dogs are usually spayed or neutered, and have been screened and treated for health and temperament problems. Foster groups will supply advice after you adopt and many groups have frequent get-togethers for adoptees. These groups tend to charge higher fees for their dogs, maybe $150 to $400.
Before You Adopt a Pet: Consider Fees
Why do groups charge fees for these dogs when you're practically doing them a favor by taking them? Because it's one way of discouraging impulse adopting. And because people take better care of something they have a financial investment in. In addition, adoption fees go to pay for that dog's veterinary care, grooming and food, as well as help support the others dogs in the program.
Before You Adopt a Pet: You Will Need to Give Information
Most groups will require some information.
1. Do you live in a house or an apartment? Do you own or rent? Do you have a fenced-in yard? Where will the dog live? They do this for your good, as well as the dog's. They've seen too many cases of families that thought they could keep a large active dog in an apartment, or any dog in an unfenced yard, and even with the best of intentions, it's too likely to fail. They've also seen too many dogs turned back in because a landlord doesn't allow pets, or because the owner has to move to a new apartment that doesn't. And they've seen too many dogs that were neglected because the owners never bonded with them because the dog lived in the yard or garage. Some groups will ask you these questions, while others will require a home visit to see for themselves.
2. Who is the dog for? Giving a dog as a gift is a bad idea, and shelters know it. They also know that getting a dog for the kids is a bad idea unless everyone in the family wants it.
3. Who will take care of the dog? Getting a dog so a child learns responsibility doesn't work. When the child neglects to feed the dog--and they usually will--it's the dog that suffers. Almost always, the woman of the family is expected to feed and care for the dog. So it's vital that she, especially, is enthusiastic about the new family member!
4. What's your prior history with dogs? Obviously, there are several red flags that shelters look for. But perhaps they're best left unsaid here!
5. Will you agree to have the dog neutered or spayed? Most shelters will require all dogs leaving them to be neutered or spayed. Some will not let the dog leave the premises until they have taken care of it themselves, while others will require a deposit that is only refundable when the dog has surgery.
You wouldn't expect to adopt a child without some questions and requirements. Don't think of it as an invasion of your privacy, but as insurance for your dog.
Now go and embrace the world of pet adoption and find your dream dog!