Humane Society's Pet Adoption Tips
HSUS' KC Theisen on three tips every potential pet owner should consider
Petside is celebrating its fifth annual Pet 'Net event this week. In the spirit of this year's theme of pet adoption, The Humane Society's Director of Pet Care Issues has these three tips for potential pet owners.
Finding your best friend
You’ve decided to bring home a new furry family member—congratulations! You’re beginning a rewarding adventure. The first step after you’ve chosen what type of pet you want is to decide where you’ll go to find your new friend.
Try your local shelter first
Your local animal shelter is a great place to find your next companion animal. While they’re best known for helping dogs and cats, most shelters also have many types of pets who need homes, everyone from parakeets to guinea pigs.
You may be surprised to learn that pets in shelters generally are there because of “people” problems—moving, landlord issues, or too little time to spend with a pet—not because there was a problem with the animal. These pets are often house trained, friendly dogs and cats who are simply in need of a new chance at a forever home and brimming with love and loyalty. They are more likely to have been walked, groomed and socialized by shelter staff and volunteers, unlike dogs in puppy mills—sold through pet stores and over the Internet—who often receive no exercise, veterinary care, socialization or human companionship.
The shelter staff can help you find the best match for your lifestyle and personality. If you haven’t been to your local animal shelter, visit The Shelter Pet Project (theshelterpetproject.org) and search for shelters in your area. Don’t be in a rush to find the perfect match on the first day you visit; remember that you are starting a lifelong relationship, and if no one cat or dog “clicks” at first, you can go back again. Plan to spend a good bit of time getting to know the pets in the shelter. Take dogs out of their kennels, into a play yard if available, to see how you get along outside the noisy kennel area. Most shelters have visiting rooms where you can spend a little time interacting with several different cats to learn who you bond with.
Consider breed rescues
Rescue groups are another great alternative to purchasing a pet from a retailer. If you have your heart set on a purebred dog but don’t find one in your local shelter, many towns have rescue organizations that focus on a specific breed or group of breeds. These groups often know a good deal about the animal’s personality quirks, likes and dislikes so they can help guide you to the perfect dog or cat and can guide you on the successful transition to a new home.
Be wary of false promises
Be very cautious about any animals advertised by online retailers; very often these breeders are not as they appear on their beautiful home pages. In fact, it’s crucial to avoid online pet sellers entirely. With the rise of online pet sales, puppy mills are able to post gorgeous photos of puppies playing in the grass or sleeping by the fire, when in reality the dogs are not well cared for and kept primarily as puppy-makers in miserable conditions. Breeding dogs and cats in mills suffer greatly during a life confined to a small cage in puppy factory farms. The results are offspring who arrive in pet stores or into online sales too young and with health issues that can last a lifetime.
You should visit any breeder or facility that you are considering a pet from; take a full tour and meet both of the parents of the pet you intend to take home. Ask questions and get references. Visit our Puppy Buyers Guide online at humanesociety.org/puppy for more tips on finding a responsible breeder
Be careful also of newspaper and online ads that are “free to good home.” The owners may or may not have invested in good care for their pet, so you should do your homework and understand the risks of taking home a pet “as is.” You may be taking on a pet with medical or behavioral problems that make the pet anything but “free” in the end. When you adopt from a shelter or rescue, you’ll get a full description of the vaccines, veterinary checks and spay/neuter services the pet has received before you adopt, plus have the support of the shelter team or rescue if you have questions after you adopt, stacking the odds in favor of a lifelong happy ending for you and your new companion. Remember that so many great pets are waiting for a forever home at your local shelter or rescue group.
KC Theisen is director of pet care issues for The Humane Society of the United States
Can't make the commitment to adopt a dog or cat? You can still help animals by entering your ZIP code on Petside's Pet 'Net 2012 Hub Page for the chance to win $5,000 for your local animal shelter!