Before you run out to your local shelter looking for a new best friend, take a moment to think about your decision: adopting a cat or dog is no small thing. It requires the right environment, the right attitude, and the willingness to train, exercise your animal, and pay veterinary bills. You may not find the perfect match the first or second time you visit a shelter, so be patient.
There’s nothing like the unconditional love of a pet.
Almost 60% of homes in America have at least one pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. About half of those owners say they consider their pet a member of the family.
Having a critter companion can be good for your health, too. Studies have shown being around an animal can ease depression, lower blood pressure and stress, and keep you active. Heart attack patients who have a dog can live longer than those who don’t.
Take a little time to investigate the shelter and perhaps visit or foster the pet that could become the newest member of your household. Experts say it will go a long way in ensuring a lifelong, rewarding relationship.
Why Adopt a Rescue Animal?
Pet adoption advocates say a shelter animal is typically housetrained and properly immunized. The dog or cat has lived around people -- if only at the shelter -- and has likely been loved.
Consider also that there are about 4 million to 6 million adoptable pets at any given time in the nation's shelters. About half were given up by owners and the others found on the streets, according to the ASPCA. More than half of them will be euthanized.
The ASPCA and other animal rescue groups have helped to chip away at the number of strays and kills by implementing widespread neuter/spay programs nationwide, and by advocating for adoption of adult or senior pets.
"They're house-trained already, and many people enjoy adopting a more mature pet because they're more sedate. A person might work full-time, they may have kids," says Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach for Petfinder.com, an advocacy and training organization that lists adoptable animals in shelters nationwide and in Canada, free of charge. At last count, there were 350,000 animals listed by about 13,600 shelters.
Robin Johnstone of San Diego and her live-in partner, Archie Smith, set out to adopt an older dog -- and the fit turned out to be perfect.
Three years ago, while they were perusing Petfinder.com, they spotted a picture of Jody, who was living in a shelter in Camp Pendelton, a Marine base about 50 miles away. They drove out a few days later to meet the dog, a casualty of a nasty divorce who'd been left on her own until neighbors called the pound.
"Because this is the first dog between us, we wanted a dog that was a little older, had a little more experience in being a dog, wouldn't chew on the couch, wouldn't have accidents,'' says Johnstone, 45.
The shelter staff was thrilled somebody wanted the old girl, a collie/Jindo mix whose age they estimated at 6 or 7. It turned out she was 9 -- Johnstone learned that when she called the microchipping company to change their new pet's address. She'll be 12 in November. Despite dental issues and stiffness from arthritis, Jody is a happy, active dog who walks with Smith to work every day.
"She's a joy," Johnstone says. "I don't know if there's going to be another dog that measures up.''