Rescue and shelter pets have been a part of my life since I was old enough to form memories.
I grew up with dogs, cats, and rodents, but am primarily a proud rabbit person as an adult. I’ve also volunteered with pet rescue and shelter organisations since I was old enough to scoop a cat litter box.
There are probably of reasons why you should consider adopting your next pet from a shelter – but here are the key points to get you started.
You’ll be helping a pet who needs it.
According to the ASPCA, around 6.5 million dogs and cats enter shelters in the US every single year– with around 3.3 million being dogs and 3.2 million being cats.
Those numbers don’t account for other types of companion animals, although the House Rabbit Society reported findings from a University of Guelph report that showed rabbits were about tied with birds as the third most-surrendered animal in North America in 2012.
Only you know what pets – if any – are best suited to your lifestyle. But no matter what type of pet clicks with you, there are likely animals in shelters just waiting for you to take them home.
Animal homelessness is also a serious problem.
Most pets in shelters are either strays who have been found roaming the streets, animals rescued from cruel and inhumane situations, or pets who have been surrendered by their previous owners, according to the ASPCA.
Shelter animals aren’t any more likely to be flawed in some way than pets obtained from breeders, according to Lisa LaFontaine of the Washington Humane Society.
Usually, they end up in shelters because of bad luck. Perhaps the previous owners didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they brought a particular pet home, or for some other reason were unable to take care of their pets. Maybe they were rescued from a hoarding situation. Chances are good that if you ask, your local shelter will share any information they have about an individual pet’s previous circumstances with you before adoption.
No matter what specific circumstances brought them there, these animals depend on humans to stay healthy and happy and live their lives – and through no fault of their own, have lost their homes and the humans they loved. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking – but if you’re looking for an animal companion, this is an excellent way to make a difference.
Better still, you might find two or more pets who are already bonded — which means less work for you.
The more time you spend with animals, the more you learn that they have individual personalities. Just like humans, some pets instantly take to one another. Some others may need time to get to know each other – or maybe even just won’t get along at all.
It’s rarely a wise move to simply throw two pets together that don’t know each other at all and hope they will magically get along. However, since many shelter animals are owner-surrendered, it’s often possible to find bonded pairs and trios of your favourite animal type who are just looking for their forever home.
As you might expect, it can be more difficult for a shelter to find a home that’s ready to take on two big dogs together instead of just one – so the shelter will be thrilled that you’re interested in keeping a loving furry family together.
You’ll have an easier time finding pets who are housebroken or litter-trained when you adopt.
No baby animal is born knowing where and when it’s appropriate to go to the bathroom – they have to be taught. That takes time and can be a frustrating process.
Typically, the people working at your local shelter will know some details about the pets in their care. Some may be in a file from an owner who surrendered them, while others may be observations from that pet’s time at the shelter – or a veterinary checkup administered after they have arrived.
In any case, most shelters will be happy to steer you toward pets with good potty habits if you let them know that’s what you want.
You’ll have an easier time finding pets at your local shelter who are already spayed or neutered — it’s even a requirement at some shelters.
In addition to promoting pet health and preventing behavioural problems, the ASPCA also adds that spaying and neutering pets can help curb our nationwide pet homelessness problem.
Unfortunately, spaying and neutering can be expensive – and if you didn’t plan on that cost, it can pack a significant financial punch. There are low-cost spay and neuter clinics around the country, and the ASPCA has a handy locator for those clinics available.
Checking at your local shelters, you may be able to find the perfect animal companion who is already spayed or neutered and has fully recovered – and is just waiting for you to take them home.
Shelters charge adoption fees — but considering legit pet veterinary costs, they can often save responsible pet owners some serious money.
In addition to some shelter pets already being spayed or neutered before you can bring them home, some shelters will do first vaccinations and microchipping, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Adoption fees are a bargain when you take that into consideration – which leaves you more money to spoil your new animal friend rotten.
You may even save a wonderful companion animal from potential euthanasia.
No one likes to think about this part, but the latest ASPCA estimates show that around 1.5 million dogs and cats are euthanised in shelters in the US each year. There are no-kill shelters, of course – but not all shelters operate under a no-kill policy.
The House Rabbit Society reported a 22.61% euthanasia rate for rabbits in the US. The ASPCA estimated that around 48% of dogs in shelters are adopted and 20% are euthanised, and around 50% of cats in shelters are adopted while 27% end up euthanised.
By choosing to adopt from a shelter, you’re helping to give loving, wonderful pets a second chance at having a beautiful life.
Baby animals are great — but if you want a range of animals of all ages to choose from, shelters are where you need to go.
Pets you can buy tend to always be very young – but if you stick with adopting from shelters, you can see every type of pet, from the very young to the very old.
You can meet wonderful senior dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds – which are all the more impressive when you consider that some birds can live from 40 to 80 years, according to the Avian Welfare Coalition.
Depending on your own lifestyle, a more laid-back, older pet may be just the kind of companion you need.
When you adopt one or more pets from a shelter, you’re helping more than just the animals you bring home.
Animal shelters around the world constantly face the threat of overcrowding. Dedicated local pet fostering networks spring up around shelters, and can help somewhat – but any time that shelter intake is high and adoptions are low can make things difficult.
By adopting from a shelter, you’re not only taking that pet to a loving home – you’re also making room for a new animal who needs your local shelter’s help, according to HSUS.
If you love a certain breed of any animal, there are probably several waiting for you in shelters right now.
No matter what breed of animal you’re looking for, it’s likely that shelters in your area will have that breed available.
Now that you’re ready to adopt, here are some shelter resources in the US to help you with your search.
The Shelter Pet Project can help you find dogs and cats in your area if you type in your ZIP code.
If you’re considering bird adoption, check out these helpful resources from the Avian Welfare Coalition.
If you’re interested in adopting just about any kind of animal – from small and furry to avian or reptilian – check out Petfinder.
Finally, if you’re considering adopting an animal that isn’t a dog or a cat, you’ll need a veterinarian nearby who specialises in your type of animal. Dog and cat vets are wonderful, but you wouldn’t see a dermatologist about a problem with your eyes – so you also want the right doctor for your particular pet.
Check out these links to begin your exotic animal veterinarian search:
- Association of Avian Veterinarians
- Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians
- Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians
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