I’ve heard the phrase ‘having a baby is more than a notion’ and the same holds true with pets. Cute and cuddly, yes. Low maintenance and inexpensive, no (occasionally, but not something that should be assumed). When thinking of adopting a pet into your family, there are a few factors I urge everyone to consider.
First, get all the legal stuff out of the way. Can you legally own a pet where you currently live? If you live in a home that you own, this will not apply to you. But many tenants must check with their landlords prior to adopting a pet to determine breed restrictions and limitations. For instance, some apartment complexes will only allow cats, or small dogs. Most will require a limit of the quantity of pets you own. Almost all will require a pet deposit (this can be refundable or non-refundable- it’s important to find that out first!) and a monthly pet fee added to your rent. Often times, when you are in the shelter or rescue, you get so caught up in the moment of adopting that you don’t verify with your landlord first to make sure it’s ok. Do not attempt to hide a pet from your landlord- failure to discuss this prior can result in eviction and high legal fees; not a pretty picture.
Once you get all that stuff out of the way, it’s time to determine which breed is best for you. Cats are generally easier going in temperament, being able to be left alone with food, water and a litter box. There is much more to research when desiring to adopt a dog, but research any animal you are interested in adopting just to be sure they fit in with your family. Do you have children? Other pets? A job that requires a lot of travel or a very busy schedule? If you answered yes to any of these, that doesn’t mean you should not adopt a pet. What it does mean is that you need to research breeds to find one that will adapt best to your lifestyle.
Puppies are by far the most sought-after at the Oakland Pet Adoption Center, but they also generally require the most work. They are like babies- they need to be taught (and often re-taught) everything! For the most part, animals in a shelter environment will need a refresher course in most day-to-day things, simply because they are often not kept in a routine at a shelter. It is your job as their owner to establish that routine, not only for their comfort, but yours too.
Finding a dog whose breed and temperament will blend well with your family directly correlates to successful placement. It you live on a busy street with a tiny backyard, a Husky would probably not be the best, as Huskies are very active and need lots of exercise. Certain breeds of dogs do not get along well with small children, so if you have (or are planning to start) a growing family, this is something you need to be aware of before seeking a pet.
It can be difficult to research breeds and visit shelters because there are often a variety of animals, and sometimes they can get adopted quickly by someone else. Try not to be discouraged. By putting in the extra time to make sure you find the perfect pet for you and your family, you are ensuring a more successful and happy relationship with the pet you do end up selecting. Patience is key.
Finally, one of the most important things to consider: are you financially ready to take care of a pet? A shelter or rescue will provide basic vet care to an animal before it’s placed for adoption (spay/neutering, vaccines, etc), but problems, sometimes unforeseen, can arise after adoption that can add up to lofty vet bills. A month or so after my husband and I first adopted Rylee, she suddenly had a seizure one night. We rushed her to an emergency vet, where she spent the night, racking up close to $1000 in vet bills. This definitely caught us off guard- she had no pre-existing conditions. Even the doctors were baffled. We weren’t expecting our 5 month old puppy to have a seizure and require such intensive care, but worked things out and made sure she got all the treatment she needed. I’d love to tell you that situations such as that one are rare. But the honest truth is they happen more than you think I never considered brining her back to OPAC because of her seizure; she was part of my family and I wasn’t willing to lose her. If you are prepared to handle any emergency that your pet might encounter, you will be ready for anything, even if you never need to be. Aside from extreme situations and emergencies, pets require yearly care, and even more as they age. Factor that into your budget to make sure you can afford a pet in your home.
I would also like to take a moment to emphasis the term ‘forever home’ when it comes to adopting a pet. I understand that sometimes there are situations where a pet just does not work well in your family, and they need to be returned. But do not simply return a pet because it is ‘no longer cute’ or you want a newer pet. There are so many animals in shelters right now that were returned because their owner didn’t feel like taking care of them anymore, or they wanted a new pet. When you do adopt, do it with the intention of forever. It’s a lifelong commitment, and should be taken seriously. If you don’t think you can make that commitment at this time, there is no shame in not adopting. You can interact and help these animals in other ways, such as volunteering or raising money/awareness for your local shelter. Do not rush into something that you aren’t ready for.
These are just a few major points I’d like for anyone who is thinking of adopting a pet to take into consideration. The goal of every shelter is for happy and successful placement of animals into forever, loving homes. If everyone takes the time to do their research, not only will adoptions increase, but so will awareness on responsible pet ownership.