Finding Happy Endings: Shelter Adoption

Pet care & safety

When you think about it, you get a lot for your dollar when adopting a shelter pet. $100 or so gets you a pet who is vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and may even have a microchip or license. So it’s a huge bargain right off the bat.

But you may have some misconceptions about shelter pets. Think you can’t find:

…a purebred pet?

Actually, roughly 1 in 4 shelter pets is a purebred. (Some estimates are actually even higher for large breed dogs, like Shepherds or Pit Bulls). In my couple of years working at the local shelter we housed Airedales, Irish Wolfhounds, French Mastiffs, Dachshunds, and lots of other uncommon and highly-desirable breeds.

…a trained pet?

Think again. Shelters and rescue groups are catching on to the fact that a well-mannered dog, who’s been through the boot camp equivalent of finishing school, is more likely to be happy, calm, and attractive to potential adopters. And they’re less likely to be returned due to behavioral issues. Furthermore, a growing number of rescue groups offer discounted training classes to adopters--another cost savings.

…a healthy pet?

While there can be exceptions, in which a shelter will adopt out a pet currently undergoing minor medical care, in most cases, rescues have veterinary staff and foster families working to help ill pets become fully healthy before adoption. You can expect a flea and heartworm free animal that is current on shots and ready for home life.

…a pocket pet?

When my daughter’s preschool was shopping the local chains for pocket pets, I suggested they check the local shelters for small critters. Sure enough, they found an already bonded pair, complete with cage and starter supplies for a fraction of what they’d have paid in stores. Bunnies, guinea pigs, mice, rats, gerbils, and even chinchillas can find their way to shelters, but can wait an awfully long time before finding their way to a home.

…a backstory?

Ok, well, you’ve got me on this one. None of my adopted pets have had much of a history to share. But, I sometimes think that’s for the best in a lot of cases. The shelter that took in our Rottweiler had noted that she’d been tied to a telephone pole (with her companion dog) for three days before someone had called animal control. I didn’t care to know too much more about a story that had a chapter like that.

Instead, we’d much rather make up our own backstories for our pets. Kayden was found as a stray at a secluded animal sanctuary in the southwest. We don’t think he had any other people before us, so we joke that he’d been raised by a kindly family of jackrabbits and survived off desert lizards. Who knows? But, to us, it doesn’t much matter. We know we got a well-mannered dog, who had been cared for by rescue workers and foster families for 6 months. We even got advice from an expert trainer on personality quirks that had been identified well before he ever came to us. And all that - for less than the cost of a steak dinner for two.

Whether you’re looking at adoption or rescue from a financial standpoint, an animal welfare standpoint, or a convenience standpoint, you stand to gain a lot. But no one is more grateful than the animal who’s found his or her forever home.

In honor of National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day on April 30th, we hope you’ll share your adopted pet’s story with us. And, if you haven’t started a new happy ending for a homeless pet, we hope you’ll consider starting a new chapter for one of them today.