Adopt Don’t Shop – Why Pet Adoption Rocks!!

Hola mi gente!

This is a happy month for my household. On April 20th we will be celebrating the 2nd birthday of our pit bull Kalel. He is one of the 3 dogs we have saved from a shelter. Adopting is really important to us because we know the benefits this has for both our family and the pet. I thought it would be a good idea to share the importance of adopting and not shopping for a new pet. So, while we get ready to make plans to celebrate the life of this amazing dog we adopted you all can read up on how you too can adopt a great pet from a shelter.

1. Choices

Step into a pet store, and you’re likely to be bombarded with puppies with multiple folds in their skin and kittens with enormous drooping eyes. Such sights are more than enough to convince anyone to rush the cage to the checkout stand. However, there are several important factors to consider first.

A new pet is not like a new car or computer. The dog or cat you purchase can be with you for 15 or even 20 years, which makes it a decision that’s right up there with other life cycle decisions like choosing a mate or buying a house.

The most precious kitten or puppy found at a pet store might not be right for someone who doesn’t have time to give the young animal the constant attention and care it needs. Pets, especially puppies, need house training, obedience training, and regular medical attention. An older animal found at a shelter, on the other hand, can be a lot calmer and may not need as much training or attention.

In addition, you are more likely to find a wider variety of animals large and small, energetic and kid-friendly, among other characteristics, at a shelter than anywhere else. With rescue shelters across the country taking in so many dogs and cats every day, sooner or later you’ll find a pet that will fit well with you and your family.

2. The Right Pet

Appearance is what draws you in. But I don’t take home [a pet] based on appearance alone.

More important than color, breed, or size, a pet should match your style of living. Some people think yellow labs are adorable as puppies and beautiful dogs. But a person who lives a sedentary lifestyle and does not like to go running or exercising should not have a lab.

An important distinction between shelters and pet stores is that shelters are not providing their services for profit, and therefore they are more concerned about other factors, such as finding the perfect match between the pet and owner. Because they’ve spent time rescuing them and resuscitating them, most shelters know their dogs and cats well. Using various screening methods, they can help you find a dog or cat that fits into your family and lifestyle. They know whether their animals are good with babies and toddlers, are active or more sedentary, independent or just need lots of love. Every adopter gets a write-up from ‘couch potato’ to ‘marathoner. I can tell you which one of my dogs is a lap-dog or which one has a really high play drive.

3. Test Drive a Pet

Since pet ownership can be daunting at first, the ASPCA offers a fostering program for prospective pet owners. Those who have never owned a pet before can take home an animal and experience the day-to-day situations and problems that arise, like late-night bathroom walks and housebreaking trials. Afterward, the individual can decide if adopting is right for her or not.

Adopters tend to feel more secure with the fostering program. Very often it leads to adoption.

4. Purebreds

A common myth exists that the only way to get purebred animals is through a breeder. This is not true. People might prefer a purebred dog or cat because of family tradition or personal preference. In that case, shelters again should be the first option. At the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines, Iowa, over 20 percent of dogs rescued are purebreds. Other shelters around the country also carry a significant number of purebreds.

Breed rescue organizations are yet another option — and a better one than a breeder — for purebred seekers. These organizations focus on rescuing a particular breed and finding homes for the animals.

5. One-of-a-Kind

Certain pet owners feel that owning a rare and exotic purebred is unique, or even a symbol of status. Others feel the opposite is true. Rather than one particular breed, you can get the benefits of many breeds. I have adopted many mixed breeds, in part because they have genetics of several breeds in them. That’s a real value.

Today, with more and more people adopting from shelters, the status once associated with purebred is shifting to mixed breeds from shelters.  People generally feel adopting pets is a status symbol. People like the fact they have rescued an animal. I know I love it.

6. Beyond Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs may get all the headlines, but if you’re looking for a different kind of pet, a shelter can be the best place to go to. Many shelters, like the ARL in Des Moines, rescue every type of animal, from rabbits and turtles to iguanas and guinea pigs. This is great for families who are interested in a smaller pet.

7. Behavior

To certain people, animal shelters, and the term stray, conjure up feelings of uneasiness and concerns about the animal’s behavior. A lot of people think there is something inherently wrong with pets in animal shelters. Purely for the reason that someone doesn’t want them, something must be wrong with them. The term stray is a misnomer. The word stray just means that an animal has just strayed from home. The animal was either abandoned or it wandered away and got lost. Most, if not all animals are in shelters due to “bad” owners.

In fact, a shelter is an excellent place to acquire a safe and healthy pet because the shelter’s main purpose is to tend to and revive lost and ailing animals. Animals may come into a shelter with an illness or a problem, but they are evaluated and cleared before being eligible for a forever home. They are providing state-of-the-art vet care with PhDs in animal behavior. Because their mission is to alleviate suffering and prevent cruelty, they are making sure they are giving the best of care.


8. Pet Store Dangers

Dogs have been bred for hundreds of years, and today, the American Kennel Club recognizes over 150 breeds. With so much breeding going on, genetic problems caused by inbreeding are inevitable. “There are all kinds of problems because of this. People are almost trying to get clones. If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing from a breeding standpoint, it can accentuate negative traits like aggression, congenital problems, and physical problems.

Breeders of all types face these challenges, but responsible breeders take special precautions to prevent their dogs from carrying on genetic defects. Many good breeders limit the number of litters their animals have to one or maybe two each year.

When you buy a pet from a pet store, you have no way of knowing whether your animal will be healthy or not, because you don’t know the breeder. Further, to bolster profits, pet stores, notoriously buy their animals from so-called “puppy mills” who focus on sheer numbers, not on the health and welfare of their animals.

But the mixed breed dogs you’ll find at a shelter are less likely to carry the problems of heredity, simply because they’ve come from a larger and more diverse gene pool. Crossbreeds are healthier than purebreds. With every breed, there is some genetic disorder that is associated with the gene pool in that breed.

If you do decide to go to a breeder, do plenty of research to find a breeder who is reputable and responsible, so you can make sure your new pet is healthy and happy.

9. Health Concerns

Whether you adopt a pet from a shelter or buy one from a breeder, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and other medical tests are essential before the animal is brought home. Shelters make it easier for owners by covering a large portion of the costs.

The ASPCA’s total medical package includes spaying/neutering, vaccinations, worming, a free medical exam within two weeks of the adoption, 30 days of free shelter care health insurance, and a microchip inserted in the animal for tracking purposes, among other benefits. The organization estimates the cost of these services to be $2,000, but they charge $75 to $125 depending on whether the animal is an adult or a kitten or puppy. Des Moines ARL offers a similar package for $95, and your local Humane Society probably offers a comparable rate.

10. Pay or Free?

It’s not uncommon to see a hefty price tag of $700 or more on a dog at a pet store. Breeders can charge much more than that. And these charges don’t include any of the medical expenses. Paying $700 for a puppy at the mall is not a good decision.

11. Lifetime Support

Raising a pet, in many ways, is similar to raising a child. Just as you would ask questions about parenting and get advice from experts, you need that same support for your pet. The ASPCA offers that service by providing lifetime support for the pet you adopt from them. You are free to ask any question from: “What do I do when my dog wants to be in my bed?” and “What if my dog chases my cat?” to the very basic, “What do I feed my dog?”

Things will come up that you weren’t ready for. Any question is a good question.

12. A Community of Pet Lovers

Once you adopt a pet, you’re automatically enrolled in a community of animal lovers and pet enthusiasts. Many people that adopt later become volunteers. It’s a wonderful relationship because shelters encourage and depend on such help, and volunteers lend their time to help the animals and to share their fondness with other pet-loving individuals. Not only can you adopt your best friend at a shelter, but you’ll also be doing valuable community service.

Establish a relationship with a local vet as soon as you bring your new pet home. For dog owners, getting to know a reputable trainer and taking classes is another great way to enrich the human-animal bonding experience.

13. Setting a Good Example

Taking in an animal that needs a home sets a great example for your children, and teaches them important moral lessons. Adoption teaches children how to care about those that others may view as cast-offs..

This is especially true of children who don’t have any siblings or who are very close to their pets. It’s a great way for children to see that they can make a difference in the world. When we adopted our pit mix we brought along our son and our other dog so that they could be a part of the process. It also made our dog feel good about the home he was coming to. We showed support, interest, love and empathy.

14. Time Well Spent

One big advantage pet stores and breeders have over shelters is that they don’t require the prospective owner to spend any time with their pet before they take the pet home. But the major downside is, you may not always get what you hoped for. At a pet store, you get what you get. And hopefully you like what you get.

Shelters invest more time in their services. We were interviewed and were given a home visit and needed to provide references. This was not a 30 minute trip to the market. We cleared our day to be able to meet with the shelter and get to know our new baby Kalel. People have to understand that it takes patience and a few rounds to find a pet with a personality that matches your personality, your lifestyle, and your housing situation. Try a few shelters. Talk to the people there. Let the process evolve. In the end, you may or may not find the perfect pet at a shelter. But the important thing is that you tried. And there is nothing wrong with purchasing a pet directly from a responsible breeder. After all, most breeders love their animals just as much as the staffs at rescue shelters across the country love theirs.

15. Save a Life

While it’s a common cliché that there are too many animals and not enough homes, it’s also very real and dangerous. Homeless animals are at serious risks in the streets. They can get hit by a car, be abused, even get set on fire. Shelters bring in these animals and invest a lot of time, money, and energy to help them recover from injuries and maltreatment they received on the streets. And though more people are adopting pets, the numbers aren’t high enough. Nationally, only 20 percent of pet owners have adopted from shelters. Think of what we can do if we can raise that to 50 percent or 70 percent.

I really hope this article helps you all. I also hope it allows you to appreciate your pets a little more. Animals are like children. They all deserve love and a happy home.

Have a great one mi gente and remember adopt don’t shop.

Dira Monroe ©

Photo credits to Animal Savers and Help the Animals, Inc.

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