As of 2019, two-thirds of U.S. households owned a pet or pets. Thankfully, as this number has increased over the years, the number of animals left in shelters has declined. Currently, about 6.5 million animals enter U.S. shelters every year, compared with 7.2 million in 2011. Although that number is still high, pet owners nationwide are recognizing the benefits of adopting a pet from shelters, which is improving the outcomes of these animals’ lives.
Adoption is incredibly important for the millions of animals left in shelters every year — and it’s a great option for aspiring pet owners. However, misconceptions about shelter animals and the adoption process may make potential pet parents apprehensive. Here’s what you should know about adopting animals from shelters — and whether this move is right for you.
Misconceptions About Adopting
People without shelter experience may think that all shelter pets are going to be traumatized or difficult to care for, but this isn’t the case. Many came from good homes and were simply given up because their owners were facing financial or personal problems.
Of course, some animals do have a history of abuse or neglect, but adopters frequently reflect fondly on the challenge of adopting a disadvantaged pet as a rewarding and life-changing experience. Veterinarians are also able to help pet owners with behavior-modification techniques to help pets overcome emotional hurdles and change their reactions.
While some pet adopters are happy to take home the first lovable mutt they connect with, others have their heart set on a specific breed; many areas have breed-specific shelters or rescue organizations.
Here are some benefits to adopting animals from a shelter, and some practices to follow during the process.
Benefits of Adopting
Besides changing the life of an abandoned animal, there are many practical benefits to adopting a pet from a shelter.
New pets can be expensive, but adopting could help you save on some of the initial costs of pet ownership, since shelters often pay for vaccines, spaying, neutering, and microchipping.
Adopting older pets saves you from even more of the hard work of pet ownership. If you adopt a mature, housebroken animal, you’ll have fewer potty accidents to clean up and can save on puppy training and day care. Plus, you get to skip the teething phase and save yourself from buying all new shoes.
How to Adopt
If you decide that it’s time to bring home an animal in need, start your research on a site like Petfinder, or visit shelters. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a great resource for finding reputable local shelters.
When it’s time to choose your new best friend, consider bringing a trainer or a friend who is experienced with animals. An expert can help you assess the animal’s personality, ensuring you choose a companion that can mingle well with your family. To guarantee a good match, allow for introductions between pets you already own and any animal you might end up taking home.
The First Day Home
When you first arrive home, your rescue will need special care and attention as they adjust to their new environment. Cats tend to be territorial and need time to settle in, so give them plenty of alone time and be patient. Dogs should be brought to your backyard or outdoor space first to do their business and sniff around. If you have other dogs, remove their food and toys and let them play with their new buddy outside to reduce the chances of a territorial squabble.
Most importantly, remember how you felt on your first day of school. Your new pet will likely be thrilled to be adopted, but they may also feel overwhelmed. Pets of any age will need time to adjust to the change of scenery. Make them feel at home by providing plenty of exercise and outdoor time, and change their diet gradually to avoid distress.
Why Adopting Matters
When you adopt from a shelter, you’re doing more than saving one pet’s life. Your adoption fees equip the shelter to continue giving animals the care they deserve — and you’re creating a space at the shelter, making it available for another animal in need. There are abundant emotional rewards and benefits of adopting a pet from a shelter. Caring for a shelter pet gives adopters a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment and, for many, the simple act of showing an animal kindness has life-changing power.