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What you Need to Know About Adopting From a Pet Shelter

Published: February 22, 2018 | Updated: January 25, 2019

If you’ve always wanted a pet but haven’t been ready—until now—to make the commitment, there’s a lot you need to know. First? Before you head over to a pricey pet store or high-end breeder, consider adopting from a shelter. There are plenty of pets already born who desperately need a happy home. Could yours be it?

Here’s what you’ll need to know about adopting a pet from a shelter:

  1. The animals are there for many different reasons. Some cats and dogs are rescued by the shelter’s team or a Good Samaritan. But many of them were already someone’s pet. People sometimes surrender even beloved pets when they move to a new living situation that doesn’t allow animals. Sometimes, when a pet owner dies, there is no one else to care for the animal, so they’re sent to a shelter. Sometimes pets are abandoned. Other times, a person just isn’t the right fit for that particular pet. Or the pets are abused and need some attention, care, and love.
  2. Adoption isn’t free. Some shelters do offer pets to adoptive owners at no charge. That’s most likely to be true for pets that have been at the shelter for a while. The shelter is motivated to find a happy home for an animal they’ve probably grown attached to. But for most adoptions, there is a fee of a couple of hundred dollars, especially for purebred animals.
  1. Older animals need homes too — and can make great pets! Kittens and puppies are always the fastest to be adopted, but older pets offer some benefits above their young counterparts. Older cats and dogs are typically already trained and also tend to be calmer and more relaxed. They’ve already learned some people rules and have had years of experiences. This might make them great companions if you have small children or older adults at home, or just want lower maintenance pets and little to no training.
  2. An animal’s history may be a mystery. Some shelter pets will have plenty of documentation. Others will have next to nothing. It depends on how the animal got to the shelter, and where it might have seen a veterinarian. You need to decide whether a lack of a documented medical and behavioral history concerns you. If it does, get to know another pet at the shelter.
  3. The shelter tries to make the animals take-home ready. In most states, shelters are legally required to spay and neuter the animals they adopt out, so by adopting a pet, you save paying for those costs yourself. Shelters also perform basic intake exams, to screen for wounds and issues like heart murmur, tumor, and ringworm. Their aim is to give you as clean of a bill of health as they can.
  4. Shelters hope you will provide a forever home, so prove you’re ready to commit. Adding a new cat or dog to your household can be a big change for you and the soon-to-be adopted pet. The animal has already gone through the stress of moving to a shelter. Make the next home his last. Do everything you can prior to adoption to make sure you will give that animal the home he deserves.      
  • Decide who will be the primary caretaker. Are you gone for long stretches? Do you travel a lot? If you cannot be the main person to clean the cat’s litter box or take the dog out and make sure they’re fed, who will handle it?
  • Think about the other family members — furry and human. If you know your current pet doesn’t get along with other animals, you may want to rethink adopting a new one. And if you have members of your household who have allergies or are really against getting a new pet, seriously consider if adoption is right for everyone. And if there will be small children or frail adults in the home, small, hyper, and jumpy pets or rambunctious big ones might not be the best idea.    
  • Make sure you have the right amount of space inside and out for a new pet.
  • Work the pet’s costs into your finances. Food, medical bills, supplies, and toys add up fast. If you adopt a pet who has medical issues that require ongoing care and medication such as diabetes or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), also known as feline HIV, costs get pricey. Make sure you can afford what it will take to properly care for the pet.

Would you like to care for animals and help others learn how to do that too? A career as a Veterinary Assistant could be perfect for you. Contact Charter College today to learn more about our Veterinary Assistant certificate program.