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Helpful Tips For Adopting a New Pet From an Animal Shelter

Photo credit: Sande Hamilton

If you are considering adding a new canine or feline member to your family, you might want to consider visiting one of your local animal shelters before you head to the pet store. These shelters house animals that in most instances, have been members of other families and are hungry for love and affection once again. People often think of animals shelters as places full of viscous strays and sickly animals that no one would want, or could love. However, shelter animals are often there because they became lost or separated from their family; a family no longer had the space or time to care for the animal properly, and in some cases, the pet was abandoned by a family because of the need to relocate a great distance to another state or perhaps to a new residence locally that is either too small, or will not allow pets.
It is estimated that approximately 7 million animals reside in shelters throughout the country. Regardless of the reason, these animals can be just as loving as a new puppy or kitten from a pet store, and are in need of a home just as much as their pet store counterparts.

Just as with selecting an animal from a pet store, there are some important things to consider:

  • Don’t Choose Too Quickly – Most locales have more than one shelter, so make sure you visit them all. Don’t be influenced too quickly simply by a cute face, or an over-enthusiastic wag of the tail. You need make sure the animal is going to be a good “fit” for your family.
  • Ask Questions – It is important to find out as much information as possible about the animal’s history, the reason it ended up at the shelter and any significant events that may surround the animal both before it arrived and while at the shelter. Be sure you ask questions about the previous owner if that information is available, as well as, any comments they provided when they left the animal at the shelter. Shelter handlers will be able to give you important information about the animal’s temperament and habits while in their care; facts necessary to help you make an informed choice.
  • Be Prepared – Most shelters in the U.S. will require potential owners to fill out an in-depth questionnaire prior to choosing or taking an animal home, to help determine if the animal is suited to their home and family. The information provided helps place animals with people that ordinarily would not choose them, often resulting in loving homes for pets that might normally be passed over.
  • Remember to Consider Your Current Pet’s Needs Too – If you already have a pet and are looking to add another pet to your family, make sure you consider their reaction and their needs, along with your own. Check with your local shelters to see if you can bring your current pet to meet the new pet you are considering. Some pets will instantly bond, while other will have an adverse reaction. If you really feel strongly about the pet you are about to adopt, check with the handlers at the shelter to see if they offer a training and socialization program, or a trial period.
  • Know Your Options – If you live in an apartment, check to see if you can have a pet, and which size and breeds are acceptable. Don’t automatically assume that apartment living or renting either prohibits pets at all, or allows any size or breed. As the owner of the new pet, it is your responsibility to make sure that the pet is allowed, and that you can provide that home for your pet as long as he needs one.
  • Pets and Children – Most people automatically assume that pets and children will instantly get along with each other, but that is not always true. Depending on the ages of the children, not all breeds are appropriate, or suited to very young children. If you are uncertain which breed to consider, check with a local veterinarian for some advice. They know the various breeds and can offer some great suggestions on what type of pet is most appropriate for your family.
  • Neighbors and Other Factors – If you live in an apartment, or neighborhood where you live in close proximity with others, you need to consider how a new pet will influence your surroundings and the comfort of others. You may need to consider smaller breeds, or quiet breeds if you live in an apartment complex where noise may be a problem. Don’t forget to think about neighbors who may already have pets, especially dogs, and how this new pet will interact with or influence their behavior both directly and indirectly.
  • Be Realistic – Understand fully the responsibilities of owning a pet, the problems that may arise occasionally, the changes that will have to be made for you to have and keep the pet, as well as the time, money and work required in order for your new pet to be happy and healthy and a beloved member of your family. Make sure your expectations are not unreasonable or unrealistic. Data suggests that approximately half of pets adopted from shelters are returned because owners did not understand how much would be required to own a pet.
  • Another very important thing to consider before you bring a new pet home, is how much time you will be able to spend with it. Some breeds don’t mind being alone for a few hours a day if you need to work; while other breeds need lots of human contact continuously, and do not do well when left alone on a regular basis.
  • Wait For the Right Time – Visit your shelters and take your time looking at all the pets that are there, so that you don’t miss that special pet that would fit perfectly in your family. When you do find a pet, or even more than one; tell the shelter you want to think it over and talk to other family members before you make your final decision. Take note of the pets you are interested in, wait a day or two and visit them again. Sometimes your second impression is totally different than your first impression.


  1. Reduced Fees – Shelters are more concerned with placing animals in lifelong homes, than making money, so the fees associated with adopting the animal are usually much less than buying an animal from a pet store or breeder.
  2. Spaying and Neutering – Many shelters spay and neuter animals before placing them in homes, in an effort to keep pet population under control, saving adoptive owners that expense.
  3. Required Vaccinations – Most shelters have already vaccinated and de-wormed your new pet, which helps reduce the initial costs of ownership.

Once you have decided on a new pet for your family, whether it is your first pet, or introducing a second pet into your home, remember to be patient when choosing your new pet. Don’t be discouraged if you do not find the perfect pet on your first trip to a shelter, or even several shelters. There are literally thousands of animals that need homes and are anxious to be loved; the right one is waiting for you. Your patience will be rewarded many times with love from that special animal, once you find it.

Did you or someone you know recently adopt a pet? What advice or tips would you give to those who are considering adopting? Please share in the comments below.

Photo credit: Sande Hamilton

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