By Karen Geissert, D.V.M.
Adding a pet to your life is an enriching experience. Deciding whether to adopt from a shelter or buy a puppy or kitten from a breeder is the first step. Either way you will need to do your research and choose what is best for you.
When you adopt from a shelter or breed rescue group, you are giving that animal a fresh start in a loving home. In shelters, you will find all shapes and sizes to choose from including mixed breeds and purebreds. You’ll also find a range of ages – from puppies and kittens to more mature animals.
A few considerations before you decide:
• Do you have space for a pet? Ideally the pet should be housed indoors so that it feels part of the family unit and included in daily activities.
• Do you have the time and money for a pet? Every pet needs proper nutrition and appropriate medical care during its lifetime. Dogs and cats need to be properly groomed. Dogs need daily outdoor exercise to keep them healthy, and training so they behave appropriately with people and other animals. All pets, including those who only live indoors, need exercise and mental stimulation for their optimal health. If you work, will you be able to make arrangements for your pet to have a walk and some interaction in the middle of the day?
• What breed is most suitable for your home and lifestyle? Some breeds of dogs require more exercise and need to be kept busy. Some cat breeds are very sociable and need more daily interaction. Will the pet fit into family life with young children? What is the best temperament and age for your situation? A puppy may be good playmate for children but an older pet may be more appropriate if you don’t have the time or patience for housebreaking and training.
After considering all these aspects of pet ownership, you can consider where to adopt a pet. The ASPCA estimates that five to seven million animals enter shelters each year. Unfortunately, only 10–20% are adopted, most are euthanized. Surprisingly, 25% of animals in shelters are pure bread. If you are interested in adopting a particular breed, you may also find rescue groups for that breed that can help with pet placement.
Your vet may offer you advice on the process of adopting. He or she might also know of a situation where immediate pet adoption is needed due to a particular owner situation.
Many of the adopted pets we see at our veterinary practice have become cherished members of their families. Many more pets are waiting for good homes, so please consider adoption the next time you are ready to acquire a new pet.
Karen Geissert, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and owner of Acton Animal Hospital. Email your pet questions to her at ActonAnimalHospital@comcast.net.