Shooting down common myths about pet adoption

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golden retriever 2.jpg

Jake is available for adoption at Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue in Plainview, NY.

We recently ran a post about a New York Times columnist who bought a dog even though her young son had urged her to adopt.

The reason? Her husband wanted a Golden Retriever — or at least a “bigger dog … who fetched and swam” — and they didn’t think they’d find one in a shelter.

Our blogger wrote that it’s a common misconception that there are no purebreds in shelters (in fact, 25% of shelter pets are purebred). One commenter suggested another misplaced belief:

[T]hat somehow a shelter animal (even a purebred rescue) is somehow less
healthy or less valuable.  … People feel [that] spending
$800 or $1,000 on a purebred dog or cat is a symbol of how high-class
they are as individuals.

So we decided to put together a list of common adoption myths, in the hopes that you can gently point friends toward this post when they talk about why they’ve got their heart set on buying.

Myth #1: I don’t know what I’m getting
There may in fact be more information available about an adoptable pet than one from a breeder or pet store.

Many of the pets posted on Petfinder are in foster care. Foster parents live with their charges 24-7 and can often tell you, in detail, about the pet’s personality and habits. If the pet is at a shelter, the staff or volunteers may be able to tell you what he or she is like.

At the very least, you can ask the staff if the pet was an owner surrender (rather than a stray) and, if so, what the former owner said about him or her. Quite often pets are given up because the owner faced financial or housing issues (more on that later). You can also ask about the health and behavioral evaluations the pet has undergone since arriving at the shelter. In contrast, pet store owners rarely have an idea of what a pet will be like in a home.

Myth #2: I can’t find what I want at a shelter
While it’s true that adopting a purebred or a young puppy can require more patience than going to a pet store or breeder, it can also lead to a better match for you and your family, for the reasons described above.

If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. Some shelters even maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

Myth #3: I can get a free pet, so why pay an adoption fee?
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (via the ASPCA), approximately 65% of pet parents in the U.S. get their pets for free or at low cost, and most pets are obtained from acquaintances or family members. The NCPPSP also reports that pets acquired from friends make up more than 30% of pets surrendered to shelters (read the article here).

While getting a “free” pet may seem like a bargain at first, you’re then responsible for veterinary costs that shelters and rescue groups usually cover, including:

Myth #4: I’ll be “rescuing” a sick puppy from a pet store
Pet stores play on our sympathies by keeping pets in small enclosures and in storefronts. But paying the pet store to let you “save” the puppy or kitten gives those stores exactly what they want — income — and perpetuates a cruel industry (read more about puppy mills).

Myth #5: Pets are in shelters because they didn’t make good pets
In fact, the main reasons pets are given up include:

  • Owners are moving to housing that don’t allow pets (7% dogs, 8% cats)
  • Allergies (8% cats)
  • Owner having personal problems (4% dogs and cats)
  • Too many or no room for litter mates (7% dogs, 17% cats)
  • Owner can no longer afford the pet (5% dogs, 6% cats)
  • Owner no longer has time for the pet (4% dogs)

(Read “Why Are Pets Relinquished to Shelters?”) As you can see, many of the reasons have nothing to do with the pets themselves. Working with shelter staff and volunteers can be a great way to figure out the best match for you and your home.

Myth #6: Shelter pets have too much baggage
Rescued pets have full histories … something that can actually be GREAT for adopters. Remember, all pets– even eight-week old puppies and kittens — have distinct personalities. Those personalities will either jive with your home and lifestyle or not.  Work with rescue group or shelter staff to find the right fit for you.

What adoption myths have you heard, and how do you address them? Tell us here!

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