Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of humanity is our willingness — and passion — for caring for animals. Having a pet enriches our lives, both for the animal and for the caretaker.
People who share their homes and their lives with their pets know that unconditional love, both given and received, enhances our life experience. While there is nothing inherently wrong with having a pedigreed pet, more and more animal lovers are discovering that a pet adoption from a shelter or rescue organization is a viable and rewarding choice.
Here are six solid reasons why you should consider adopting your next pet.
1. Adopt a pet, save a life.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has published estimates showing that 6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters annually. Nearly half of them are euthanized. Though these figures are appalling, they represent great strides in progress. Just 40 years ago, HSUS records showed that American shelters euthanized 12-20 million dogs and cats. At that time, there were 67 million pets in homes. Now it is estimated that 2.7 million cats and dogs in shelters are euthanized annually — approximately 3% of the 135 million pets in homes in this country. By adopting your next pet, you can help to reduce the number of pets killed by euthanasia to zero. Learn more at the Humane Society’s site.
2. Pets are good for kids.
Both dogs and cats are a very healthy part of the lives of millions of children, and studies by child psychologists, doctors and pet trainers conclude that having a pet aids in the development and social well-being of a child. Immune systems develop faster when kids are raised in homes with pets, and they tend to have fewer incidences of common colds and allergies. Kids with dogs also spend more time outside playing with their pets, which reduces stress, loneliness and anxiety, and may even help lower blood pressure. As children learn to feed and care for their companions, they are encouraged to become more responsible and they show better impulse control, higher self-esteem and better interactive social skills. Parents report that sharing the love and care of animals forges better sibling bonds, too.
3. No-kill shelters need your help.
Choosing a dog or cat from a no-kill shelter allows that shelter to take in a new animal. Most animal sanctuaries are non-profit organizations that survive on the goodwill of pet lovers, Good Samaritans and volunteers who staff these facilities. As their population increases, each life-sustaining shelter faces the costs of expansion, greater food and medical expenses and, often, limited resources. As the population of pets that are not adopted ages, they must care for more special-needs pets that must be cared for until the end of their natural lives.
If you are adopting a new pet for a child, choosing a shelter animal can open a young person’s eyes to the plight of homeless pets. In addition to teaching the child compassion and responsibility, sharing in the decision to provide a home for a pet that might otherwise be caged for life is a character-building and rewarding experience. The Shelter Pet Project is a great starting place.
4. No housebreaking required.
The majority of animals in shelters are housebroken or litter box trained, and more mature dogs know basic obedience commands. Many shelters have dedicated staffs that work with animals to overcome training or behavioral issues. When you adopt a pet from one of these organizations, you will know what to expect from your dog or cat when you bring your new pet home. The Best Friends Animal Society is a great resource for learning more about shelter animals.
5. Adopted pets are healthier than you think.
Animal shelters have happy, healthy animals waiting for someone to take them home. Not only do most shelters vaccinate, spay or neuter animals before adoption, they also screen animals for specific temperaments and behaviors to ensure you get a pet that fits your lifestyle. A common misconception is that animals are in shelters because they were abused or have behavioral issues.
Animals enter shelters because of circumstances beyond their control. A new baby, death in the family, divorce, illness or a move that excludes the pets are common reasons for pet abandonment. Unfortunately, many animals are simply discarded by pet owners who should never have had a pet in the first place. Most shelter dogs and cats are healthy, affectionate animals. According to the ASPCA, less than one in 100 people who adopt a pet from a shelter are dissatisfied.
6. Shelter animals are a bargain.
Adoption fees at most shelters are very reasonable — usually between $50 and $250 —making your decision to adopt a pet a financially smart one. Buying a pet from a pet store or breeder can cost thousands of dollars, and the costs just begin there. Shelter animals are spayed or neutered before adoption, so you immediately save the cost of surgery. Physical examinations and vaccinations are routine, and some shelters microchip animals, too.
Choose your pet carefully, taking into consideration your personal lifestyle, the ages of your family members, the behavioral characteristics of the breed, and the amount of care and maintenance your new pet will require. A good choice will bring you immeasurable joy and happiness, and you’ve already made a great choice if you choose to adopt a pet from a shelter.