Sunday, March 05, 2006

Adopting Pets With A Past: Welcoming Rescued Pets into the Family is Both Rewarding & Beneficial

Millions of adoptable dogs and cats are killed every year in animal shelters and pounds across North America. While it is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of this needless suffering and waste of life, you can begin to have an idea of this tragedy if you think about a pet you are fond of and all of the animal's wonderful qualities. Then, consider that thousands of pets with equally wonderful dispositions, who want little more than to be part of a loving family, are killed every day in North America. The reason for this atrocity is simple - the supply of adoptable dogs and cats far exceeds the demand of responsible people who are seeking to provide a pet with a good, caring home.

The vast majority of companion animals who are killed in animal shelters and pounds are friendly, innocent creatures who have paid for humane ignorance and disrespect with their lives. While the pet overpopulation problem is a tragic example of how many dogs and cats are treated, it is a serious situation which can be significantly improved upon with knowledge, understanding and compassion.


Reducing the Killing

One way to ensure that you do not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem is to have your canine and feline family members neutered (spayed - female, castrated - male). Besides being unable to contribute to the serious problem of overpopulation, neutered pets are often healthier and better behaved animals. There are no benefits to allowing your pet to reproduce, but there are many repercussions. Discuss the idea of having your pet neutered with your veterinarian.

Another simple way to reduce the number of pets destroyed is to adopt from animal shelters and pounds when you are ready to add a four-legged member to your family. Dogs and cats waiting in these facilities to be adopted are not inferior to those who come from breeders or pet stores. Often shelter animals make better companions than those bred intensively for the pet industry.

While having your pets neutered and adopting animals from shelters and pounds are important ways to fight pet overpopulation, so too is educating others about this problem. Inform people about the magnitude of the pet overpopulation problem and what they can do to improve the situation - including adopting "unwanted" pets when they are looking for canine or feline family members.

Dispelling the Myths

There are many myths associated with adopting pets from animal shelters and pounds including:

1. Shelter Animals Have Behavioural Problems

Many people believe that pets in shelters and pounds are there because they have behavioral problems. The sad truth is that most of these animals are where they are due to their previous guardians' ignorance and indifference. Often, people who have acquired pets from shelters and pounds are pleasantly surprised at the fine companions they have adopted. Animals with serious and obvious behavioral problems are not put up for adoption. Remember, many excellent animals waiting to be adopted will exhibit minor behavioural problems. Some are scared while others are excited. This should not be held against them as they are in a stressful environment.

2. Shelter Animals Are Older & Not Trainable

While most of the pets in shelters and pounds are mature animals, there are also puppies and kittens available for adoption. The saying "You cannot teach an old dog new tricks" is false. Shelter animals respond well to good, effective and humane training techniques. When training your pet it is important to be consistent, patient and understanding.

3. Shelter Animals Are Inferior To Purebred Pets

Some people mistakenly believe that purebred pets are superior to animals of mixed breeding. Purebred dogs and cats are not smarter, healthier or more even tempered than canines and felines of mixed breeding.

If you want a purebred pet you should visit your local animal shelter or pound. There was a time when purebred dogs were seldom found in these facilities. Unfortunately, due to mass breeding, purebred dogs are common and more are being surrendered to animal shelters and pounds.

If you desire a particular breed because you like the character that breed displays, why not visit your local animal shelter or pound and adopt a pet with the characteristics that you are looking for? Often a pet of mixed breeding has a disposition and character similar to the breeds who were responsible for his/her creation.

Benefits of Rescuing a Pet

There are numerous benefits with providing a good home to a pet who needs it. An obvious benefit is the rewarding experience associated with saving an animal's life. This good act is returned several times over by the loving and devoted nature of the canine or feline family member who improves the lives of his/her guardians by providing companionship, loyalty and love - to name but three things. Other benefits of adopting a dog or cat in need of a good home include:

The cost of adopting a pet at a pound or animal shelter is usually inexpensive compared to buying one from a breeder or pet store. Often animals adopted from shelters and pounds have already been neutered or there is some economic incentive to have the animal neutered. Most of these animals have also been wormed and vaccinated.

Adopting a companion animal from a pound or shelter means you are helping, and not contributing to, the pet overpopulation problem.

Adopting a mature dog or cat means that you do not have to go through the demanding stage of raising a puppy or kitten.

With a mature pet you have a good idea of the animal's temperament and you know the animal's adult size, hair coat etc.

Mature pets are often house-trained (although some mistakes will likely occur until the animal is used to his/her new family, home and routine) and may even have some basic training.

Providing the animals get along, an adopted pet can be good company for other pets.

Shelter animals have beautiful temperaments and want to please their new guardians.

While there are many benefits to adopting a rescued pet, there may be a minor concern or two. Depending on how the animal has been treated, he/she may require a little more time, understanding and guidance before being totally comfortable with his/her new family and home. However, with patience, love, understanding and a good training program, even pets with rough pasts become well-behaved family members - if they aren't already!

Where to Find a Pet in Need

There are a variety of places where a healthy, good natured canine or feline family member can be adopted. Unfortunately, most pounds and animal shelters have a large selection of friendly dogs and cats to choose from. Humane societies which do not have animal shelters often have several pets waiting for adoption in foster homes. Occasionally you can acquire a pet in need of a home at a veterinary hospital. Checking advertisements describing pets looking for homes can also result in a happy ending for the animal and his/her new guardians.

People looking for a purebred companion should begin their search at the local pound or animal shelter. If the desired breed cannot be located there, contact the purebred rescue group of the breed you are interested in adopting.

Occasionally stray animals find homes when they adopt their human guardians. People who welcome strays into the family should first check with all of the proper authorities as well as "lost" ads to ensure the animal is not lost. While the animal may not appear to have any identification, he/she may have a microchip identification implant.

Some Things to Consider When Adopting

There are many things to consider when adopting a pet. Once you have carefully considered all aspects of raising a companion animal, such as cost - both in terms of time and money - and you are still sure that you want, and can provide for, a pet, then you are ready to consider specific qualities and characteristics of the animal. Some things to consider when adopting a dog or cat include: size, temperament, sex, age and coat.

Don't overlook older animals as they often make the best pets. As well, don't overlook animals who appear quiet, scared or excited. Many animals in shelters and pounds are frightened and a little overwhelmed and may exhibit some minor behavioural problems due to their stressed state. As Bob Christiansen points out in his book Choosing & Caring For A Shelter Dog, "The trick is to look not so much at what the dog is, but at what it will become under the guidance of a kind, knowledgeable owner."

Successfully Adopting a Shelter Animal

Many adoptions are successful because there are few surprises regarding the type of pet adopted. The people adopting the pet got to know the animal they were adding to their family. When adopting a pet it is a good idea to find out as much about the animal's history as possible. Ask employees how the animal behaved while at the shelter. Do they know if the animal is good with children and other pets? It is also a good idea to have the entire family meet their prospective pet away from the stressful environment of the other animals. Many shelters have designated areas where this interaction can take place. People who already have pets might make arrangements with shelter employees to have their pets meet a prospective sibling in a controlled, neutral setting to see how they get along.

While getting to know pets before adopting them is important, so too is learning how adoptions can be made more efficient and how to effectively raise a companion animal. There are numerous books and other information available that deal with effectively raising a pet.

A Final Word

There are few experiences in life more satisfying and rewarding as saving a companion animal's life and making him/her a valued member of the family. Pets being the wonderful creatures that they are enhance our lives tremendously and give us much more than we provide for them.

If you have adopted a pet in need then you already know this. If you haven't and you are thinking of adding a canine or feline member to your family, start your search at your local animal shelter or pound. And take the time to educate others as to the importance of giving rescued pets a good home. Until the unnecessary killing of companion animals stops, we owe them no less.

I would like to thank Glenn Perrett for this wonderful, informative article. Mr Perrett's website Amorak & Friends consists of articles and reviews on topics of importance to animals, the environment and, subsequently, ourselves.

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