The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) sponsors October as Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month to encourage Americans to turn their houses into homes by adopting a shelter dog. Each year, millions of dogs enter our nation's shelters, yet of the almost 59 million owned dogs in this country, fewer than 20 percent are shelter adoptees. Dr. Diane Pomerance, an activist who has owned more than 40 shelter dogs in her lifetime, thinks it’s a shame that more people don’t adopt from a shelter, because the most faithful, healthy and loving dogs are waiting there for new homes. The key is to know how to choose the right pet for your family, and Dr. Pomerance offers these tips to help families do just that:
Check online about the different breeds, their temperament, health & physical characteristics. Find out all you can about the specific animal from shelter workers and volunteers.
Think about your lifestyle and personality in terms of the kind of dog that would be more compatible with your home and your living situation.
Assess the activity level and exercise requirements of the dog you are considering. Are you able to walk your dog several times a day and play with him?
Figure out what age of the animal is best suited to you and your family. Which is more compatible with your age and lifestyle? Do you want an active puppy that needs attention and training, a middle-aged dog with established behaviors, or an older, less active dog?
Do you have enough time for a quality relationship with a dog? Like children, they require attention, companionship, patience and interaction. They also require socialization and obedience training.
Research the costs of not only adopting a pet (adoption fee), but veterinary care, including spay/neuter, vaccinations, potential injuries or illness, regular checkups, toys, accessories, etc. Factor in costs of food, pet sitters or boarding while you’re away. Keep in mind many pet shelters offer these services as part of the adoption fee, or at a discounted rate because many are not-for-profit organizations supported by private donations.
Do you have sufficient room for a dog to move, eat and sleep comfortably? Further, are you legally allowed to have a dog on the premises/in your community? If you rent, make sure you are legally allowed to have a pet.
Find out as much about the shelter from which you are adopting your pet as possible – what is its reputation? Is it a kill or no-kill shelter? What is the track record of the successful adoption of its dogs?
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