Fido, Snowball or Goldie–no matter the critter, study after study shows that pets are good for our health. Their unconditional love and wonderful kindness reduce our stress levels and increase our serotonin intake. Sadly, fewer than half of family pets live out their lives with their original families. That’s an estimated seven million animals entering our shelter system every year, many simply through the irresponsibility of careless owners. If you’re thinking of adopting an animal for yourself or your family, here are some tips:
• Avoid impulses “There are so many great (shelter) dogs and cats in need of a home,” says Babara Savidge, owner of Olive: Green Goods for Modern Dogs. “That said, don’t be completely swayed by a cute face. Take some time to think about what’s important to you in a pet. Make a list of what you want, what you don’t want, and what you can compromise on–before you even look. A little pre-thought will go a long way to ensuring a good fit for both parties.”
• Meet Your Match. More than 250 shelters across the U.S. use a “Meet your Match” program. The potential owners are required to fill out lengthy questionnaires stating desires and behaviors. In this way, the more knowledgeable handlers at the shelters can point the owners in the direction of a breed or animal that would suit their lifestyle well. Occasionally, owners are introduced to breeds that they never would have considered, helping “less-popular” pets find loving homes.
• Rely on the shelter workers for advice and knowledge. Many pet stores view each pet as a potential sale, while the shelter workers, often volunteers, are invested in every animal they help and want to find the placement that will work best for all parties.
• Do your research. Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t adopt. “Several large breed dogs, older dogs and cats are well-suited to apartment life,” says Shannon Boyer of the Arizona Animal Welfare League. “These animals are pretty sedentary and are very happy and healthy with just a couple short walks each day.”
• Introduce your current pets. Many shelters will allow you to bring your current pets into the environment to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with the new addition. If your adoptee is shy, many shelters have programs that will help with training and socializing.
Remember, you are now responsible for a life so this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Consider the pros and cons. Are you ready for both the work and rewards that come with owning a pet?