Around 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats end up in shelters across America each year. Luckily, adopting shelter pets is becoming more and more popular. According to the ASPCA, around 1.4 million shelter dogs and 1.3 million shelter cats are adopted each year. October marked the American Humane Society’s annual Adopt-a-Dog month®, which encourages people to adopt from their local shelters or rescue groups.
Adopting a shelter pet is a great thing, but it’s also a big decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s tempting to go to a shelter and walk out with the first animal who captures your heart! But it’s important to choose an animal who will fit into your family and your lifestyle. So do your research first! Are you an active person with lots of time in your schedule for training, walking/running, or taking trips to the dog park? Then a younger animal or a high-energy dog like a Jack Russell terrier or Australian cattle dog could be a great new companion. Prefer a more sedentary lifestyle? Consider an older pet, or a less active breed like an American cocker spaniel or a basset hound. Also be sure to talk to the shelter staff to get as much information as possible about the animal’s history and temperament, especially whether they’ve been vetted with children and/or other animals.
- Shelter animals live in close quarters so are more prone to infectious diseases like parvovirus, giardia, and various types of worms. Heartworm is also quite common in shelter animals since many of them have been living on the streets or in situations of neglect and may never have been tested or treated. It’s crucial to have your new furry family member examined by a vet immediately to rule out or treat any infections.
- If you already have other pets in your family, it’s important to introduce the newest addition properly. It’s often best to introduce dogs outside of the home in a neutral location, like a park, so that neither will be territorial. Make sure to set up a separate area for your new addition, like a crate or bathroom with a gate, to give all the household pets time and space to settle in with one another. This is also important if you have kids – they’ll likely be very excited about the new arrival, and your new pet may need some space to “escape” and relax! Consult your vet or a professional trainer for more advice on properly introducing a new pet into your home./li>
- Patience, patience, patience! Shelter pets are wonderful but come with their own challenges. Many come from situations of abuse or neglect. They may be skittish or anxious, and even older shelter pets will likely require some training. Be patient and consistent, and reach out for professional help from a trainer if you need support.
Thinking about adding a shelter pet to your family? Check out these resources for bringing home a new best friend!