About 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters annually and approximately 2.4 million of these animals are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. “We’re making strides in finding homes, but lots of adoptable animals don’t get a second chance,” says Inga Fricke, director of Keeping Pets in Homes at the Humane Society of the United States. “Unfortunately, we hear many myths about why shelter and rescue animals don’t make good pets.”
If you’re looking for a new pet, here’s the truth about some common myths that may make you reconsider adopting a shelter animal.
Myth: Shelter pets are “damaged” emotionally
Many animals aren’t given up because of their own problems. “More often [than you think], the pet comes to rescue because people experience tragedies that impact their pets,” says Fricke. Common reasons for surrender include a death in the family; not being able to find rental properties that accept pets; unplanned litters from pets who are not spayed or neutered; or serious illness such as a stroke that requires an owner to go into a rehab facility leaving no one to care for the pet, says Fricke.
Myth: Shelter pets have behavior problems
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), more than half of all dogs and cats in shelters are strays, but that makes them no more (or less) likely to have bad behaviors. When adopting, ask about the animal’s behavior and personality from the shelter staff or foster home. “The people who work at these facilities are professionals,” says Fricke. “They’ve been interacting with the animal and are motivated to help you find a pet that’s a good fit for your family and lifestyle.”
Myth: Shelter pets are sick or unhealthy animals
Pets usually are not surrendered because they’re sick. Besides, shelter and rescue pets typically receive a full exam that includes vaccines and treatment for conditions such as mange, fleas and ticks. “A pet adopted from a shelter or rescue group is often healthier than those you purchase from a pet store, which acquire animals from dealers who are more interested in profit than health,” says Fricke.
Myth: Adoption fees are expensive
The small adoption fees ranging from less than to a few hundred dollars (tops), are used to offset rescue costs and include medical care at a fraction of a typical veterinary bill. Depending on the organization’s resources, most shelter and rescue animals receive vaccines, parasite protection, microchipping and spaying or neutering before going to their new homes. Additionally, many rescue groups sponsor low-cost adoption days or give discounts to seniors and veterans looking to adopt.
Myth: Shelters don’t have the kind of pet I’m looking for
Shelter and rescue pets come in all shapes, sizes, personalities and breeds. There are breed-specific rescue groups, too, if your heart is set on a particular animal. “If the pet you wanted gets adopted, don’t give up,” says Fricke. “Your perfect companion is out there. Adoption makes a difference and the emotional rewards are endless.”
By Arricca SanSone