5 Shelter Pet Myths Debunked
Shelter Pet Myths and Realities
Myth: There must be something wrong with a pet if he’s in a shelter.
Reality: More often than not, something has gone
wrong with the owner, not the pet. Most animals end up in shelters
through no fault of their own. “One of the main reasons animals are
given up is because their owners are no longer able to provide proper
care, perhaps due to financial hardship, a move to a new home, illness
or death of the owner or a change in lifestyle,” says Aimee Gilbreath,
executive director of Michelson Found Animals, a nonprofit organization
dedicated to helping shelter pets find homes. “In all of these
situations, the animal is relinquished for reasons unrelated to [its]
health, temperament or behavior.”
Myth: Shelter personnel don’t know anything about the personalities of individual animals.
Reality: Making the right match
between people and pets is Job One for shelter staffs. When possible,
staffers gather information from former owners; in addition, they make
their own observations over time as they interact with the pets awaiting
adoption. In order to find the dog or cat that’s right for you,
Gilbreath suggests, chat with the shelter volunteers: “Often, it’s the
volunteers who have the chance to spend the most time with individual
animals and can help match you with your new best friend.”
Myth: There’s no way to ensure that I will get the right pet for me.
Reality: Shelters are constantly
looking at ways to create an easier adoption process, provide adopters
with more information and make sure there’s a really good match between
person and pet. Lisa Pedersen, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley
in Boulder, Colorado, says that at HSBV, counselors have individualized
conversations with potential adopters about their pet-owning
experiences, lifestyle and wants and needs from a pet.
But not every match is perfect; sometimes a pet is brought back to
the shelter as part of HSBV’s adoption satisfaction program. And that’s
not a terrible thing.
“That animal has gotten a chance to go into a home environment,”
Pedersen says. “When it comes back to us, we have a better
understanding of what that animal is like in a home, so we have more
information to give to the next potential adopter. That’s been a hugely
successful approach for us. We want the chance to create a better match
for that animal, as well as send that family an animal who might be
more suited for them.”
Myth: Cats in shelters are sick or have behavior issues.
Reality: The standards of care for
cats in shelters are very high. “Shelters practicing good shelter
medicine screen for diseases, prevent the spread of infectious diseases
through proactive preventive care, and provide positive behavioral
support and enrichment,” says Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, a director of
shelter medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Additionally, shelters are saving cats with treatable conditions,
which can involve managing the cat through an illness and then providing
the adopter with a cat who has a resolved or manageable condition.”
Your new kitty is also more likely to be up to date on vaccinations and
already spayed or neutered, and she may even have had her personality
charted during her stay in the shelter — so there should be relatively
few surprises when you get her home.
Myth: The shelter won’t have the type or breed of animal I’m looking for.
Truth: You can find all kinds of great animals at
shelters: puppies, kittens, adult animals, purebred dogs and cats,
rabbits and a range of other exotic species. Most shelters have
websites where you can see at a glance what animals they have. You can
also visit www.adoptapet.com
to see descriptions of the pets available in your local animal care
centers. This can save you time and energy if you’re looking for a
specific breed, a pet of a certain size or age or one with a particular
coat type or color.
And don’t assume that all dogs and cats in the shelter are mixed
breeds. According to several studies, between 15 and 25 percent of
animals found at shelters are purebreds. “Owners of purebreds can
experience personal, financial or medical hardships that can cause them
to give up their dogs,” Gilbreath says. “If your heart is set on
adopting a purebred, visit animal care centers regularly, as specific
breeds can sometimes be in high demand.”
Just because a shelter doesn’t have the kind of pet you’re looking
for doesn’t mean it can’t help you find one. Many shelters have transfer programs
that allow them to move animals in high demand in one area from
shelters in areas that have too many of them. Transfer programs help
reduce pressure on overpopulated facilities and ensure that shelters can
provide a good variety of animals of different ages, breeds and
species. For instance, Arizona exports an abundance of Chihuahuas
to areas of the country where they are less common and highly sought
after. Pedersen says that HSBV is one of the few shelters that brings
kittens in, because the Boulder community has done such a good job of
spaying and neutering cats.
The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to adopt
a shelter animal. The love you can share with even an older pet is
amazing. I’ve witnessed the incredible bond that is formed when somebody
chooses a pet from a shelter both in my own life and in my veterinary
practice. It’s strong, resilient and lasting.