Adopting a Rescue Pet


If you’re looking to bring a new pet into your home, one of the nicest things you can do is adopt a rescue animal. With so many pets out there looking for a home, adopting from a shelter can truly help you to save an animal’s life. Better yet, shelter pets could save you over a grand by coming pre-vaccinated and spayed/neutered. There are a lot of myths about shelter adoption, and also a lot of things you should know first.

Shelter Myths

  1. You won’t be able to find certain breeds of dogs at a shelter. FALSE: While some dogs may be more common than others, if you take the time, keep checking back, and submit an application showing that yours would be a good home, you can find dogs of all types. Also, many breeds will have their own rescue organizations. For best results, try Googling [name of breed]+rescue+[your location].
  2. Shelters only have dogs and cats. FALSE: You can actually find all types of animals at a shelter, and some of them will be way cheaper than in a pet store (particularly rabbits and guinea pigs).
  3. Shelter animals are abused. FALSE: While some shelter animals have been abused, many were simply returned by people who did not have the time or resources to properly care for them.
  4. Shelter animals are mean. FALSE: Shelter animals are tested for temperament issues. Shelter staff will put food in front of a dog and take it away, or pull on its tail to see if it becomes aggressive. They will not adopt out pets who are likely to bite or harm someone, and they are good judges of which pets are safe to have around children, which dogs are safe to have around cats, etc.

Tips for Adopting from a Shelter

  1. Get to know the shelter staff and pets before you adopt. Shelter staff are friendly and will help you get to know what kind of animal will be the best match for your home. They’ll also tell you if a pet is social, what its likes and dislikes are, and what kind of environment will make them most comfortable.
  2. Consider the pet’s age. Dogs over 6 months old are much easier to care for and train than a puppy. Even older dogs are very appreciative of being adopted, and often come well-trained. While kittens can be lots of fun (and are quite plentiful around shelters in the springtime), they also demand a lot of play and attention, and their temperaments can change a lot as they grow up. Getting an adult cat means you will have a better sense of what your cat’s attitude is like, and it will be less likely to change as it grows.
  3. Consider the pet’s health. Shelter staff will be upfront with you if a pet has any health issues. Mixed-breed dogs are less likely than purebred dogs to have significant health challenges.
  4. Consider adopting a black dog or cat. Black pets are less likely to get adopted. this phenomenon has been dubbed “black dog syndrome,” and it’s very real – black pets stay in shelters for almost 4 times longer and are more likely to be euthanized.
  5. Don’t adopt a pet that you don’t think you are going to keep. While shelters will always allow you to return a pet you have adopted, this can be very hard on an animal. It’s very stressful for pets to be continually abandoned or changing homes, and even the nicest shelters are crowded and rarely have to capacity to give each pet the care and attention that they need.

Bonding with Your Rescue Pet

  1. Be patient. Shelters are stressful places, and lots of pets will need some time to adjust to their new home. They may not be very social right away, but don’t give up! Lots of times, pets are simply stressed out by the transition, and will come out of their shell after a few days if you show them enough love and attention.
  2. Introduce them to new things slowly. Pets have likes and dislikes just like people do, and you never know what they will like until you give them a chance to try it. Your new dog may love playing fetch or frisbee, or maybe they would just love to cuddle on the couch.
  3. Don’t overwhelm them. Introducing them to other people and pets is healthy, but you have to do so at a comfortable pace. Try inviting just one or two people over at a time to meet your pet at first, rather than having a big party. Rather than taking them to a big mixer with a bunch of other dogs, take them to the park by yourself, and introduce them to just one new dog at a time.

The ASPCA is a great resource for anyone looking to adopt a pet. They have a great directory for finding dogs and cats in your local shelter, as well as some great articles and advice.


* The sweet dog in the picture’s name is Casper, and he is adoptable!

**I could not have written this article without the help of my sister Stacie, who has been working at the West Hills Animal Hospital since 2008. West Hills Animal Hospital and Emergency Center is open 24/7 hours and is located on Long Island in Huntington, NY.

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