2010-09-30 / Pets

ASPCA adopts October as Shelter Dog Month

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsors October as Adopt-a- Shelter-Dog Month to encourage Americans to turn their houses into homes by adopting a shelter dog. Each year, millions of dogs enter the nation’s shelters, yet of the almost 59 million owned dogs in this country, fewer than 20 percent are shelter adoptees.

Diane Pomerance, Ph.D., an activist who has owned more than 40 shelter dogs in her lifetime, thinks it’s a shame that more people don’t adopt from a shelter because the most faithful, healthy and loving dogs are waiting there for new homes.

“People sometimes don’t go to animal shelters to adopt a dog because they have a lot of misinformation about these animals,” said Pomerance, author of seven books about pets, including “Our Rescue Dog Family Album.”

“They think, ‘I don’t want to inherit someone else’s problem,’ or they simply think all the dogs there are abused or hard to train or that they won’t be able to find the breed that they want. All of those notions couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, up to nearly 60 percent of dogs in shelters are not strays but pets whose families had to give them up because of a loss of income or a change in location. These are faithful, loving dogs who just need a home and some love.”

The key is to know how to choose the right pet for the family.

Breed. Check online about the different breeds, their temperament, health and physical characteristics. Find out about the specific animal from shelter workers.

Lifestyle. Think about the family’s lifestyle and personality in terms of the kind of dog that would be more compatible with that home and living situation.

Activity level. Assess the activity level and exercise requirements of the dog under consideration. Are family members able to walk the dog several times a day and play with him?

Age. Figure out what age animal is best suited to the family— an active puppy that needs attention and training, a middle-aged dog with established behaviors or an older, less active dog.

Time. Is there enough time for a quality relationship with a dog? Like children, they require attention, companionship, patience and interaction. They also require socialization and obedience training.

Budget. Research the costs of not only adopting a pet (adoption fee), but veterinary care, including spaying or neutering, vaccinations, potential injuries or illness, regular checkups, toys, accessories and licensing. Factor in costs of food, pet sitters or boarding while the family’s away.

Many pet shelters offer these services as part of the adoption fee, or at a discounted rate because many are not-for-profit organizations supported by donations.

Space. Is there sufficient room for a dog to move, eat and sleep comfortably? For renters, are pets legally allowed on the premises or in the community?

Shelter. Find out about the shelter. What is its reputation? Is it a kill or no-kill shelter? What is the track record of the successful adoption of its dogs?

“Adopting a shelter dog is a lifetime choice, as these pets will likely spend the rest of their lives with you, and it is not something that should be taken lightly,” Pomerance said. “That being said, it is a positive choice, and one that will bring joy and love into your home and provide your family a loyal, caring companion.”

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