Adopting a Rescue Pet: What to Consider
Things to keep in mind if you're adopting a dog or cat from a shelter.
What to Consider Before Adopting a Pet
Look at your lifestyle and means before committing to adopting a pet.
If you are stable - you don't travel extensively or plan to move and you have the financial resources to cover the cost of the pet's care - that's a big plus. According to Petfinder.com, the annual veterinary costs for an average dog come to about $1,000; an average cat's medical care can run about $650 per year.
The ASPCA advises would-be adopters to think about their living space and whether a big dog is the way to go. Ask yourself whether you want an energetic pet or a couch potato. If you can't provide the exercise an animal needs, consider the latter.
Of course, you'll need to spend time with your pet or you'll invite trouble.
Not all shelter animals will be properly trained, so be prepared to retrain your dog. It will help build your relationship. As for cats, adopt with some understanding of their scratching and litterbox behaviors.
Finally, consider whether your family is ready for the new addition, says the ASPCA. Is everybody willing to pitch in to care for the pet? It's a good idea to create a schedule of responsibilities.
What Kind of Shelter Should You Adopt From?
Look for a shelter that does behavior assessments on dogs and/or cats and that has veterinarians who are providing medical exams and treatment, says Gail Buchwald, vice president of the adoption center at the ASPCA in New York City.
"I think it's a great idea for a prospective adopter to go to the shelter and check it out, get a visual. If they see animals that don't look healthy, they should ask some questions," she says.
If the animals seem well cared for, talk to the staff about your needs and get their observations about the dog or cat you're eyeing. If a shelter doesn't do any testing of its animals for diseases that aren't obvious, an adoption may be riskier, Buchwald says.
"The biggest drawback is not knowing what you're going to get, but it's the same drawback with breeders and pet stores," she says. "Choosing a shelter that provides as much information as possible about the animal is important."
Keep in mind that you may not find exactly what you're looking for the first time around.
''This is up there with getting a car or a house; expecting to walk out the same day with a shelter animal may not happen. It may require several visits," Buchwald says. "Making the commitment to adopt means you're going to help a homeless animal, even if it doesn't happen instantly.''