Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adopt and Save a Life

Or, “Why you should look to your local animal shelter for your next pet”
There are many reasons you should adopt your next pet from the local animal shelter.  Most of us are looking for companion animals, not purpose bred working dogs and millions of really great companion animals are put to sleep in animal shelters every year.   In the US alone, an estimated 5 to 7 million companion animals wind up in animal shelters every year.  Of these animals, approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized.  The reality is that 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats that enter shelters each year die.

5 out of 10 dogs are euthanized simply because there aren’t people to adopt them while 7 out of 10 cats are euthanized for lack of adopters.  This means that the vast majority of these animals are put to sleep not for behavioral or health reasons but simply because there are more animals than there are people to adopt them.

How do these animals wind up in shelters?  These animals come in either as owner surrenders or strays.  Many strays are never reunited with their owners due to lack of proper identification (collar tags, microchips, tattoos).  It is estimated that 15-20% of dogs are returned to their owners while less than 2% of cats are.

While some animals are relinquished for behavioral issues, many animals are dumped in shelters for totally unrelated issues including: moving, landlord issues, cost of maintenance, lack of time, inadequate facilities, too many pets in the home, owner illness or death, and personal problems.  Many owners are unprepared or unsuited to caring for the pet.  In my experience, while challenging dogs certainly do exist, most of the “behavioral issues” that dogs are relinquished for are basic training issues.  Many owners fail to understand the time and energy that a pet will require.  Others choose to give their pets up when major life changes make pet ownership more challenging.  Even more owners simply don’t have the knowledge to train their pets effectively.

Very nice dogs and cats wind up in shelters on a regular basis through no fault of their own.  Due to the high euthanasia rate in many areas, animals with significant behavioral issues frequently never make it to the adoption floor.  (This doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it isn’t an everyday affair.)

If you are set on having a purebred dog, it is estimated that 25% of dogs that wind up in shelters are purebred.  I even find purebred puppies in shelters.  You may need to spend a little more time looking and waiting for the right animal but it is well worth the investment of time.  If you want a specific breed, use to search for animals by breed and location.

If you are concerned that adopting a dog from a shelter is buying “damaged goods”, rest assured that I see just as many problem dogs that were raised from puppies in their own home as I do adopted dogs.  In fact, one of my clients bought a puppy expressly because she “didn’t want a dog that someone else had screwed up”.  Two years later she realized that she had “a dog I have screwed up all by myself!”  Most of us raise puppies like we drive cars – we like to think that we are way above average when we probably aren’t.

Finally, few things are as satisfying as knowing you have made a difference for a homeless animal.  I adopted all three of my current dogs from local shelters and pull great dogs out of shelters on a regular basis.  Watching these dogs learn, grow and develop to their full potential is very satisfying.       

So go ahead, get out there and check out your local shelter.  Your new best friend is waiting for you.  Adopt and save a life.

Below, you'll find some photos of just a few of the wonderful dogs I have found in shelters.

 Pip Squeak, Ben, Nellie

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