The idea of pet adoption is appealing for most people. And with good reason – there are many fine shelter animals out there just waiting for a new home. And who wouldn’t want a cute new dog/cat/bunny/parrot in their life? But before you jump head first into adoption, there’s a few important things to consider. First and foremost – are you and your family ready for the responsibility of adding a family member – a new life which demands care and attention?
Activ4Pets has put together this handy guide to help walk you through the process of shelter pet adoption.
1. Do you really want to adopt a pet?
An obvious question to kick us off, but one than needs to be asked. Take some time to sit down with your family and find out if everyone is interested in bringing a pet home. Don’t forget, the excitement of a new pet might cloud a child’s judgment. Are they (and you) willing to commit to looking after an animal long-term? Can you all pitch in to cover the ongoing responsibilities like feeding, training, exercise, grooming and health care? Do you know what those responsibilities are day in, day out? Are you prepared financially to care for a pet and any health concerns they may have? Are you going to be moving to different cities or apartments in the foreseeable future?
Do some research and try to paint an honest picture of what life with a new pet looks like.
2. Why do you want a pet?
Many people adopt a pet at the request of their kids but are simply unprepared for the realities of pet ownership. Honestly, there are less complicated ways to fulfill a child’s happiness, most of which don’t involve adopting a pet. It can be even more upsetting to the child to have to give a pet back to the shelter because the family is unable financially, physically, or emotionally to care for the new pet. Understand your pet is not just a toy, but a life that deserves commitment, care and respect. You should include all children who are old enough (usually 3 years is sufficient) in the care and training of your pet. All dogs should attend obedience classes, and all children in the family should attend with you and your dog in order to develop skills in caring for your new pet. A shelter pet may take some time to adapt to their new life and their new human (you).
With a little bit of patience, however, the bonds of friendship are sure to develop into something mutually treasured. Be prepared for and open to change during the initial transition. Your routine is bound to shift around a little.
3. Any human health concerns?
Another important consideration to make is your own health. Are you allergic to a certain type of animal? Are your kids? It’s probably a good idea to find this out ahead of time as this could be a deal breaker.
4. What qualities are you looking for?
So you’ve decided you want to adopt a pet. It’s probably time to consider what kind of pet you’re looking for, right? There are many great articles on the web exploring how to ‘match’ the type of pet that best suits your family, lifestyle and available free time. While you might not get the exact breed you’re looking for at the shelter, here are some of the characteristics to look out for in prospective pets:
- Friendly with children of all ages
- Energy levels
- Grooming requirements
- Feeding requirements
- Stranger friendly
- Exercise requirements
- Expenses involved
- Friendly with other dogs, cats or other pets
- Obtain all available medical history on your new pet
While the above points provide a starting point, the best way to approach pet adoption is with an open mind. You could theoretically spend months or even years searching for an animal if you have something specific in mind. Trouble is, during that time you may overlook other great companions because they didn’t ‘fit’ your criteria on a surface level. It’s important to meet potential pets, to see which ones you connect with – it might be the animal you least expected. Which brings us to the next point…
5. Are you ready to visit the adoption center?
Next comes the fun part – visiting the animal shelters! This can be quite overwhelming if you’re not used to these kinds of environments – there will be lots of pets and you may want to take all of them home. Be sure to prepare your younger kids beforehand. Shelter staff are friendly and knowledgeable. They will be able to answer questions about each animal’s personality and temperament. So be sure to ask lots of questions, and interact with the animals.
6. Would you like to foster before committing to adoption?
A great way to ease the transition of adopting a shelter pet into your home (and life) is to try fostering first. This means housing and caring for the animal for an agreed amount of time before (potentially) committing to an adoption. It gives you the chance to monitor how a pet adapts to their new environment and family, to be sure you’re taking the right step. Best case scenario: you all fall in love and go ahead with the adoption. Worst case: at least you’ve given the animal some much needed love and attention for a short amount of time.
7. Now what?
So you’ve found the right pet for you – what do you do next? Aside from enjoying life, snapping pics, telling everyone about your new buddy and the like, an important first step is locating and consulting with a veterinarian in your local area. Pets have many health requirements so it’s important to consult with a professional and discuss any routine care – if this wasn’t handled by the shelter. Veterinarians can provide invaluable advice for new pet owners – issues like behaviour, exercise, feeding, vaccinations, preventive medicines (ticks, fleas, and heartworm medication) and anything else to help prepare you for the journey ahead. Veterinarians can often recommend good training classes for your new pet, as well.
To help stay on top of everything vet-related, the Activ4Pets App stores all your pet’s vaccine records, medications, allergies and more in your very own online pet baby book. Membership starts at just $24 per year and covers up to four animals. Or, if you adopt from one of our shelter partners, you can get an Activ4Pets membership at a discounted rate!