I remember growing up I asked for a puppy for Christmas every single year. My mom never caved though. She said it was too big of a responsibility. Looking back, she was definitely right. My sister and I were involved in so many activities we had no time for a puppy. We did have 3 cats that we loved dearly. Our first cat, Sox, came from a pet store in the mall. Our other cats just kind of showed up at our door and eventually made their way inside. I’m sure there was a local pound, but I can’t imagine it was anything like the shelters we have today.
I never really understood the problem of pet overpopulation or shelter crowding until I moved to Las Vegas and got involved in the world of animal rescue. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., approximately 3.4 million animals are euthanized in U.S. shelters annually. The Animal Foundation, our local open intake shelter, took in 33,982 pets in 2014 and euthanized 13,828 . They have recently announced that they will go “no kill” by 2020. That is why pet adoption is so important, especially here in Nevada. “No kill” can only be achieved with the help of everyone.
Now that we know WHY adopting a pet is important lets talk about HOW you go about adopting one.
1. Decide what kind of pet you want
Shelters and rescues are filled with cats and dogs, but most people don’t realize there are also many other adoptable animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds, pigs and more. Consider what kind of pet might work best for your household. Not everyone has time to devote to a dog. Cats can be more independent since they use a litter box and can be left alone during longer work days.
Two important factors when deciding on a pet are children and other pets. Since small children and pets can be an unpredictable mix, it’s best not to leave them unsupervised. This isn’t to say that children shouldn’t have pets. In caring for pets children can learn great compassion and love, but teach your children boundaries and how to safely handle any kind of pet. If you have kids and are looking to adopt a dog make sure the dog you are interested in has been tested with children. Most rescues place their pets in foster homes so the foster parents usually have a good idea of the pet’s behavior. Whereas, shelters may not have that info.
Kids aren’t the only hurdle when choosing to adopt a new pet. If you have existing pets, make sure your potential pet gets along well with others. Some dogs don’t do well with cats or other dogs. When adopting from a shelter, bring your existing dog with you to do a meet and greet. If you choose a dog from a rescue they will likely bring the dog over for a home check and to meet your other pets. Keep in mind cats sometimes won’t get along right away. If you are adopting a new cat with an existing one, be prepared to put time and effort into their relationship. Jackson Galaxy’s website is an excellent resource for cat lovers.
Claire Ramsey of the Churchill Foundation here in Las Vegas says ”The most important aspect of adopting an animal is to evaluate your lifestyle and find the appropriate animal whose personality and activity level matches that lifestyle. This goes beyond breed because although breeds of animals can share certain traits, every animal is an individual.”
2. Get Prepared
A lot goes into getting a new pet because it is a lifetime commitment. While some small animals like hamsters and rats may only have a lifespan of 2-5 years, bunnies can live 8-10+ years. Small Dogs and cats have been known to live up to 20 years.
Make sure you have everything you will need before bringing your new pet home. This includes cages, crates, food dishes, beds, etc. Be sure to ask the rescue or shelter exactly what you will need for your pet to thrive. Also, make sure your house is safe and secure. Check gates and places where small dogs could squeeze through. Cats should be kept indoors for their safety.
The aspect of medical care for pets often gets overlooked and can sometimes be costly. The great thing about adopting a cat or dog is that they come vaccinated, fixed and microchipped. You will still need to do annual exams, update vaccines and, if your pet falls ill, they will need medical attention. Some people buy pet insurance like VPI or Pets Best for their pets so they can be reimbursed for medical expenses.
3. Get out there and ADOPT a new best friend!
You can search sites like AdoptApet.com and Petfinder, or you can go directly to local rescues and shelters. You might have your heart set on a chihuahua and then walk into the shelter and fall in love with a pit bull. In the end, rescued pets are the best kind of pets.
I’m so fortunate I get to spend my days working with animals and my husband and I have been lucky enough to be able to both adopt and foster. I hope everyone gets to experience the love of an animal at some point in their lives.
Not sure you are ready to adopt? Try fostering a pet. Most of the supplies and medical are covered so you only need to provide shelter and love.
Kristen is owner of Little White Dog Co., a pet services company specializing in pet sitting, animal massage and dog yoga. Email her at email@example.com.