Pet Adoption Options

Shudder at the thought of adopting a shelter pet? OK, so it may not be Paris Hilton-approved, but adopting an animal has a host of unique benefits, the greatest of which is the knowledge that you helped save a life. Here are some things you thought you knew about pet shelters that just aren’t true.

Scared Dog at Pound

Stigmas surround shelter pets, which causes the general public to overlook pet adoption as an option. But before you dial that breeder, you might want to give your local shelter a second chance. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about shelter pets… busted!

Shelter pets have been abandoned for a reason

Contrary to popular belief, shelter pets are simply unlucky rather than unlovable. In fact, the majority of shelter pets have been surrendered not because of their own problems, but because of their owners' issues.

According to John Snyder, vice president of companion animals for the Humane Society of the United States, the number one reason that owners give away their pets is because they are moving. Other common reasons include the onset of allergies, an elderly person's inability to care for the pet and, quite commonly today, financial troubles and home foreclosures.

With shelter pets, you never know what you are going to get

There are no secrets when it comes to shelter pets: What you see is what you get. For example, if you see a dog that snaps at everything in sight, odds are he will act this way at your home. The same goes for a cat that is docile and constantly purring.

Shelter animals tend to be adults, so their personalities are more developed and their behaviour traits are easier to detect than those of puppies or kittens, says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of ASPCA Adoptions. Take it upon yourself to eliminate any guesswork and pay attention to the animal's interactions.

Shelter pets are sickly

Shelter pets aren't invincible when it comes to illness, but, to be fair, neither are pets purchased from pet stores or breeders. That said, shelters do take actions to ensure their animals are in good health. "All reputable shelters provide medical care to pets including basic wellness exams, routine vaccinations and treatment for any medical conditions," explains Buchwald. When visiting shelters, ask questions to determine the state of your potential pet's health and what type of medical programs they have in place.

Shelters cannot guarantee an animal's long-term health, nor can breeders, for that matter. However, should your pet become afflicted with an unexpected illness right after you adopt, rest assured: "Reputable shelters will have mechanisms in place to help adopters deal with any medical issues that may crop up shortly after adoption," says Buchwald.

Purebreds are impossible to find at animal shelters

Just because your heart is set on a purebred doesn't mean you have to rule out your local shelter. It is possible to find purebreds, though you may have to look a little harder. According to co-founder Betsy Saul, approximately 25 percent of adoptable animals in shelters or rescue groups are purebred.

Of course, it should be noted that although you can expect certain characteristics from pedigrees, this doesn't necessarily mean that they have an edge over their mixed breed counterparts. "Studies have shown that because mixed breeds are from different genetic backgrounds, they generally live longer than purebreds and have fewer health problems," explains Saul.

Animal shelters only have cats and dogs available

"Depending on the shelter, many species are out there including fish, birds, rabbits, pigs and even horses!" says Saul.

When picking out a pet, puppies and kittens are the way to go

Puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable, but as anyone who has ever had her favorite pair of stilettos chewed to bits knows, they can require an ample amount of time, patience and energy. On the other hand, older pets are often less demanding, as they usually do not require constant supervision.

Many still fret that they won't be able to form quite the same bond with an older animal as they would with a kitten or puppy. The truth is that though rescue pets can require a period of adjustment, they usually flourish when placed in loving, nurturing homes. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly teach it how to love again.

"Animals have proven themselves to be astoundingly resilient, and they will adapt to new homes with relative ease," says Buchwald.

Do you have a shelter pet? If so, share your story below:

For more pets advices on SheKnows:

Five tips for cutting petcare costs
Five tips to keep your furry friend in top shape
Pet separation anxiety: 4 Tips to help cope

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Comments on "6 Myths about shelter pets"

Gabby February 03, 2014 | 7:00 PM

My husband and I found a half frozen young cat on the side of the highway. He was covered in ice and snow and was trying to pull himself forward on his front two legs only. I wrapped my coat around him and we drove a half hour to the nearest vet. He was dehydrated, emaciated, frostbitten, hypothermic, matted and filthy! He lost his ears, some skin, and his entire tail. We paid for all the help he needed. Then we brought him home. He never made it to the shelter. I have never seen such a grateful animal!

Dia October 08, 2013 | 4:20 PM

A huge problem is also breed discrimination. I volunteer in an animal shelter & when families are forced to move into apartments, it is nearly impossible to find a place that doesn't have breed restrictions & size guidelines. So not only are they having to uproot their family, they're also having to lose a family member. As a result our shelter looks like a pit bull convention.

Stacey September 24, 2013 | 3:36 PM

I adopted a 10 year old dark brown pibull mix from my local shelter two years ago. He was found as a stray, so nothing was known about his history. He had three strikes against him being adopted. 1) He is a pitbull. 2) He is an older dog. 3)He is dark in color. Two minutes after I met him, he was on his back wanting a belly rub. He is the BEST dog I have ever had. He is very well trained, very gentle, and loves everyone. I asked to see the kennel staff's favorite dog, and I was awarded with a great dog. Listen to the kennel workers, they know the dogs better than anyone else.

Vanessa September 19, 2013 | 11:31 PM

we have 3 shelter dogs. Our first one came from a puppy mill and had never been outside of his crate. It took a lot of patience and work to bring him around but now, he is absolutely wonderful, well trained and we constantly have ppl say that they didn't like chihuahuas till they met him. Our next dog was a cruelty seizure from the SPCA. After a few chances he was taken away. His previous owners had him malnourished, he had to fight for his food, and they were beating him to train him to attack people. We have had him for a year now and when we take him out, people often comment on how well behaved he is. It is so hard to believe how vicious he was when we first got him, he is so fun loving and precious now. Our most recent one we have had for a few months and she was a stray from the streets of los Angeles. We are still working with her on her fear issues but we see improvements all the time. As far as bonding, I've had puppies and I've had adult dogs, it makes no difference. It is spending time with your dogs, training them and taking them for walks that develops the bond between owners and thier dogs.

sharon durham September 19, 2013 | 11:26 PM

after my german sheperd died 2 yrs ago i got a cross ridgeback dog from a shelter hes the most loving well trained dog iv had and iv had some dogs lol im so glad i got him hes wonderfull with all friends and all children x

lidia September 05, 2013 | 4:58 PM

All my babies had come from shelters. Emily was a chow mix and lived to be 13 yrs and was my best friend she is in heaven now. I also have a pit bull mixed with Great Dane he is also a shelter dog, he is 127 lbs of pure love. Dexter is 2 yrs old and also a pit bull mix with Jack R, he is very active I got him last year after Emily died so that my big boy would not be lonely. He was 10 months old and he has been a wonderful addition to our family. I love my shelter babies they are the best. I also have 3 cats yes all from local shelters (all adult cats)

Donna August 25, 2013 | 11:56 AM

We adopted our dog seven years ago from a local shelter. We know that this was the dog that God sent to us. Our youngest son had gone home to heaven and we were so lonely and devestated, so my husband decided we needed a pet. He was house broken and just needed a good home with lots of love and attention. He is now ten years old and we would never have thought we would get this attached. He is a jack russell and corgi mixed, very layed back and so smart. We are both diabetics and this dog has woke us up in the middle of the night when our sugar has dropped so low that we were almost in a coma. Thank God for man's best friend. I never knew that we would ever love a pet like we love our Donny. We all need to give thought to these pets that are truly wonderful companions and victims of bad situations and just need a good home.

Dagmar Finch August 20, 2013 | 3:56 AM

I have fostered over 300 pets and there were only one or two that could not learn anything new. Yes, it took the Hound a year to understand that he didn't have to poop in front of his house anymore - he had been kept in a bathroom sized pen that was never cleaned for 7 years. Amazingly, this dog learned to be housebroken and lived his last years in the house with me. You can teach on old dog many tricks, you might just have to remind him more often.... The number of purebred dogs, cats, birds and other pets in shelters and rescue is steady increasing. So yes, please look in your local shelter and on Petfinder first.

Janice August 14, 2013 | 6:04 PM

My dog is from an animal rescue group. I was divorced and later became very ill. I had to move because of my work to a place where I knew nobody. My wonderful dog has been a constant and devoted friend through all of it. He is smart, sweet, affectionate, and so protective of me. I can't wait to get home to him at the end of the day. I love him with all my heart. I will never understand why his original owner gave him up. They kept him tied in their backyard day and night until a sympathetic neighbor convinced them to give him to a German Shepherd rescue group. Thank God they listened. My dog is more precious than I can express. I believe he is a gift from God to help me find a reason to live. SO GLAD he's mine!

Jana Adams July 30, 2013 | 10:02 PM

I have a mixed breed I adopted from a no kill shelter 13 years ago and he is still with me. I kid that he has been with me longer than any other male! He has been my kindred spirit and I would absolutely do it all over again and highly recommend shelter pets for anyone looking for a companion.

Elizabeth July 30, 2013 | 5:21 PM

We always adopt DOGS (NOT PUPPIES!) from shelters. I cannot say that it's always flawless in the beginning, but if you're patient- and kind- and do the work you will be rewarded with a loyal companion. We always start with signing up for basic obedience as soon as we bring the dog home. I think that has really helped. I believe that adopting a grown dog is MUCH less work than getting a puppy- don't believe anyone who says a grown dog will not bond with it's people. I think they are MORE bonded if anything. I will never have a puppy,there are too many absolutely wonderful dogs out there waiting for someone to love them.

Jackie Phillips July 29, 2013 | 2:25 PM

Great article and thank you for using the term "Mixed Breed" instead of "All American." It is far more appropriate when talking about both mixed breeds and purebreds. Also, many mixed breeds in the US are from other countries, so calling them All American is not appropriate. It is common misunderstanding that animals in shelters are there for behavioral reasons. Many animals are unclaimed strays, so nobody really knows. And, the vast majority of owner surrenders are for reason as you described: completely due to the person's issues, and not having anything to do with the animal. All my animals (dogs and cat and rabbits and birds) are either from shelters or from people who could no longer care for them. Thank you! I will share this on my Facebook page.

Adora July 04, 2013 | 12:13 PM

Our household consists of 2 pure bred Boston Terriers, one from terrier rescue and the other purchased. We have a dalmatian that came from the shelter and was skin and bones when I brought her home that was in 1999 and she still gives love in abundance. I also got a Rat Terrier from a shelter last year who came from a hoarding home, was adopted once and then brought back because they said he kept peeing in the house. He doesn't have that problem at our house because we pay attention to him and know when he needs to go by his behavior. I took him on a road trip last year and he was wonderful, learned at the first stop that I wouldn't be gone long and never once barked or whined. We also have cats one that just wandered into our yard and decided to stay. She is a great mouser, and worth every penny we've spent on her. Our other Maine Coon cat was dumped at my daughter work. It took her 3 days to get him to come to her. He is the most affectionate cat I've ever met. And last week she brought home a female calico kitten, who loves people but isn't sure about our other children. Shelter animals often show their owners deep devotion and love because they remember being in doggy jail and you nice home seems like heaven to them.

Jerilyn June 23, 2013 | 9:40 PM

I have three cats and three dogs, all rescues. To this day I can honestly say they give me a reason to live. Even the worst days are made better with their company.

jocelyn May 30, 2013 | 11:12 PM

my husband and I adopted 2 cats for a shelter and a dog from a rescue organization. they are the most wonderful furbabies anyone can have. My older cat looks like a Russian blue,the younger cat looks like a Maine coon. Our dog is a Chihuahua,who is 14 years old now. the 2 kitties were adopted from the same shelter, are 10 years apart in age, are like brother and sister, they look after each other.

Tina May 27, 2013 | 2:42 PM

we have a pet from a rescue. he was three years old when we got him. He is a purebred even has papers to document his line. He is the most loveable little Pomeranian. We would have never really thought about a pom but he has such a wonderful personality. he is the same dog we met we have had him for a year. He started out sweet and gentle and still is. I would highly recommend an adult dog. This one has been the best dog we have ever had. The dog even has helped my autistic son learn how to trust dogs again. Rescues and shelters do amazing work saving dogs and I am so glad to have had this experience.

Elaine May 25, 2013 | 12:00 AM

My husband and I adopted a little black 10-year-old kitty from a shelter in December of 2012. I had lost my kitty of 18 years about 8 years ago. I couldn't think of having another kitty without feeling like a traitor. But when we lost our house and moved into a small apartment we soon realized that something was missing. He'd had a kitty years ago and I could feel the time was right to start thinking about having one. So we started talking...and talking...and finally decided we wanted to get a kitty. We started looking online at the local shelters. Originally we had planned on fostering a deaf/blind kitty, but after meeting with the shelter people we all realized that we couldn't give him the constant companionship he needed because we both work. The wonderful woman at the shelter said "Let me introduce you to Cora." We'd seen her picture on the web page and had talked about her maybe being "our kitty" so we jumped at the chance to meet her. We went to her cage and she came up to the bars and rubbed against my hand. They took her out and put her on my lap and she started rubbing and purring and I was lost! Then she went to my husband and did the same with him. He looked at me and we knew we'd found "our kitty". She went home with us that same day. I don't have the words to express how much joy and love she's given us. She runs to greet us when we come home and rubs around our ankles until we stop and pat her. Originally she wasn't fond of being picked up and held but I figured out how to do it the way she wanted me to and now she'll cuddle and go completely limp. Our laps are her favorite places to be. When I'm at the PC she'll get up on the couch next to me and talk to me and nudge me until I let her get on my lap where she'll lay down and purr. I've mastered the art of typing around her. Having this little girl is the best thing that's happened to us. We hope we have her for many years to come! Please, consider adopting a shelter pet. They have so much love to give and just want someone to give it to.

Laura May 13, 2013 | 5:11 PM

I decided to take a quick look at the new local shelter. The new facility had been covered in the papers and was supposed to be set up to serve the adopting community better. In the "featured pet" enclosure was a small ratty looking puppy of herding dog heritage. As I chatted with the staff at the counter I watched 2 families look at her and then walk right by. The puppy had been left in the night drop box when she was about 8 weeks old. She was so full of fleas she had no hair left from scratching. Her skin was bumpy and looked bad. No telling if she would ever regrow her fur. She was healing, but no one was interested. She had not had much human contact so the shelter staff had worked with her, but she was now 4 months old and still homeless. Two minutes with her in a visiting room and it was all over. 4 years later she sits beside me, her beautiful soft blue-black coat grown in, a fine and faithful friend. Someone's trash, my treasure. Shelter dogs do not always appear to be the best, but they can turn out to be even more than the best.

Amy May 10, 2013 | 1:11 AM

I just adopted my first shelter dog yesterday, and he's awesome! He's a ~3-year old lab mix who is just sooo sweet and a bit shy; I agree with the other posters who said that sometimes their personality doesn't shine until after you get them home. The shelter is definitely a stark contrast to a nice calm home environment, and it takes a bit of adjusting/patience to work with some issues they might have from the past, but to me a pet is an instant family member for life. I'm a full-time grad student and while my schedule is flexible, I just don't have the time to train a puppy (and now that I've adopted a shelter dog I think I'm hooked!). Also, the county shelter was extremely reasonable and the workers very friendly and knowledgable. There are so many animals looking for good homes so if you can open your home and your heart to a shelter dog, don't hesitate - just do it!

Heather May 07, 2013 | 2:43 PM

One of my two dogs came from our local shelter & I tell everyone I talk to that he was proof of an online "love connection"! His spotted blue merle face drew me in so I jumped in the car with my crippled Golden Retriever. They brought out his brother first & that was fine but I asked to see my future Sweet William. Love at first sight for my Golden girl & myself, followed by the rest of the family. It was the best decision I have ever made & I am so thankful that we have his little worried, sweet, goofy face in our life. As he was sick with pneumonia, the shelter would not let us bring him home for a month & I visited him every day. The bond was already strong before he got in my car & after two years, my canine companions are best friends & we are the lucky people who get to be with them!

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