By Dr. Becker
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month, so if you're planning to add a four-legged family member to your household, I certainly hope you'll consider opening your home to a dog who doesn't have one.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, around 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S.1 The reason? Too many people give up their pets, and too few people adopt from shelters. When there's no room left to house more unwanted animals, shelter staffs are forced to make some very difficult decisions about who lives and who dies.
10 Great Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog
- Adopting a dog from a kill shelter quite literally saves a life. Adopting from a no-kill shelter frees up space for another deserving dog waiting for a forever home, or for an older or special needs pet who may not find a new family before the end of his natural life.
- Every dog not purchased from a pet store or backyard breeder is a vote against irresponsible breeding for profit. When the demand for puppy mill and other inhumanely bred dogs dries up, mill operators and other reckless puppy suppliers will be forced to find other "hobbies."
- There are many dogs to choose from at most shelters. They come in both genders, and every age, shape, size, coat color, and breed mix. If you're looking for a purebred dog, make sure to check both your local shelters and breed rescue organizations.
- If you can't find the pet you're looking for locally, consider widening your search. This is easy to do with online services like Petfinder. If you locate an adoptable dog that might be a good match in a shelter outside your area, contact the shelter to see if they do non-local adoptions and what transport arrangements are available.
- Most shelters charge a nominal fee to adopt a pet – a fee that is quite a bit less than you'll pay to a breeder or pet store. That will leave you with some extra cash for essential supplies and a few goodies for your new canine pal. And don't forget to set a little money aside for that all-important first visit to your pet's new veterinarian.
- If you adopt an adult dog, what you see is what you get when it comes to your dog's size, coat color, and basic temperament. And she might already be house trained and know basic obedience commands like sit, stay, and down.
- Many shelters and rescue groups do assessments on each animal they take in to determine things like temperament, whether the pet is good with other pets and children, whether she's house trained, obedience trained, etc. Another benefit for adoptive families is that many of these organizations also have resources available to train pets and help owners deal with a new dog's behavioral or emotional issues.
- If you have kids, and especially if the new dog will belong to a child, adopting a shelter animal can open a young person's eyes to the plight of homeless pets. It can also help him learn compassion and responsibility, as well as how wonderful it feels to provide a forever home to a dog that might otherwise live life in a cage, or be euthanized.
- An older adoptive pet can make a wonderful companion for an older person. Many middle-aged and senior dogs require less physical exertion and attention than younger animals.
- An adopted dog can enrich your life in ways big and small. The unconditional love and acceptance of a dog can lift depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up in the morning. A dog that loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly.
As many adoptive pet parents can attest, a rescue dog seems to understand you have saved his life. Often, the bond that forms between shelter dogs and their new owners is exceptionally close and enduring.
There is no greater kindness you can offer a frightened, confused shelter pet than a place in your heart and home. I hope you'll give it some thought this month.