Aside from October (my birthday month), June is my favorite month of the year. Why? Because it’s National Pet Adoption Month! My friends and family know just how crazy I am about animal rescue and how I’ll do whatever I can to help homeless animals find a safe, loving forever home. Because helping pets in need is a cause so close to my heart I volunteer my time in many ways. First, I serve on the Board of Directors for Special Pals, a no-kill animal shelter serving the Greater Houston community. I currently foster a dog from Special Pals as well. Last summer, I fostered a total of 18 dogs from Rescued Pets Movement. These were dogs pulled from BARC’s euthanasia list to be transported to Colorado and their new homes. While my husband thinks I’m absolutely nuts, being active in saving the lives of dogs and cats in need is what makes me happy. It’s such a great feeling to know that I can be the missing link to a homeless animal getting off the streets, off the euthanasia table, and into a new home. The rewards are endless.
Through my work with Special Pals I’ve learned just how many pets are brought (and often times dumped) at shelters each year. The reasons vary. More often than not, an animal is brought to a shelter because the owner doesn’t have the time to properly care for them. Or the cuteness of the puppy or kitten stage wears off and the realities of pet ownership become too “real”. Pets are a commitment. They require attention, love, food, water, exercise, medical care, etc. It’s a lot of work…but I think it’s definitely worth it.
If you’re thinking about adding a four-legged family member to your household, this post is for you. Read through the questions below and gain a little bit of insight on whether or not you’re ready to be a pet owner. If after reading this you determine it’s not the right time for you to adopt a pet, there are still some great options for how you can help animals in need. Here are the big questions for a would-be pet adopter:
- Are you ready to make a long-term commitment?
Dogs can live from to 10-15 years, cats up to 20. Think about your lifestyle now and where you hope to be in five or ten years. Many animals end up in shelters because the owner didn’t think about this ahead of time. While many circumstances are unforeseen such as job changes or moving out of country, try to predict whether the pet is going to fit into your life based on where you realistically think you’ll be both in location and where you are in your life’s plan (marriage, children, etc.).
- Can you afford to care for a pet’s health and safety?
When adopting a pet, you’ll be responsible for the adoption fee, spay or neuter surgery, microchip, and vaccinations. After this, there are the daily costs—dog bed, dog bowl, food, vitamins, treats, etc. Expect to visit the vet for checkups and shots once or twice a year. Some people invest in pet insurance to avoid major unexpected bills if their pet becomes seriously ill or injured. If you travel, consider the costs of pet travel documents or boarding. Are you ready and able to invest anywhere from $300 to $800 a year to keep your pet happy and healthy?
- Will you be able to spend quality time together?
Most pets, particularly dogs, need a lot of TLC. Your dog will need exercise every day, as well as time spent training, playing, and interacting with them. Are you out of the house most of the day? Can you bring your pet to work? Do you travel often, forcing you to leave your pet alone? Lonely pets can be destructive. They get bored just like humans do and look for things to fill their time. Don’t be surprised if a dog kenneled 8-12 hours a day chews, digs, barks, or has some other unwanted behavior. It’s not their fault.
- Are you willing to train a pet?
Many animals arrive at animal shelters each year due to behavioral problems that could have been easily avoided if adequate time was spent training the pet in the beginning. Are you ready to spend the time and effort to properly train a puppy? Are you able to train an older dog that might have bad habits from previous owners? It is possible to teach an old dog (and a young one) new tricks, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
- Are you prepared to pet-proof your home?
If you’re very particular about the way your home is kept, what will happen with a pet in the picture? Cats scratch furniture. While there are ways to avoid this habit, if you have a $10,000 sofa, a cat might not be the best pet for you. Do you know which of your houseplants might be poisonous? Housetraining puppies get can quite messy. Little dogs can create a lot of poop. If you have a sensitive stomach, a puppy might not be for you. If you’re allergic to pet hair, or it drives you crazy, choose a pet that won’t make you sick.
- Is your home suitable for a pet?
Before you choose a pet, consider where they will eat, sleep, play, and live. Is your home big enough the size of the animal as well as the energy level it’s likely to have? Do you have easy access to an outside area to exercise your pet? If you rent, make sure your landlord allows pets, and most importantly, think through how this new pet is going to fit in with any existing pets, your children, and/or your partner.
After answering these questions, you may have determined that now isn’t the best time for you to adopt. That’s okay! There are numerous other ways you can support animal shelters that are just as important and helpful. Other ways to help include:
- If you’ve found a stray and you can’t keep it, here is a list of no-kill shelters in Texas. Give them a call and see if anyone has room in their program. Reach out to friends and family members and share photos of the animal. However, never never never post an animal on Craigslist. NEVER! Unsavory characters troll CL looking for pets that are “free to a good home”. What often happens to these animals is horrible and not something I wish to delve into in this post. But if you want to learn more the dangers of posting an animal to CL, click here.
- If you can devote a couple of hours a week, sign up to volunteer at a local animal shelter. These organizations benefit from extra hands, particularly for playing with and socializing the animals, which is the really fun part anyway.
- I foster, and it’s such a wonderful thing. I temporarily share my home with a pet, enjoy their company, give them love and training while they are here, and when they are ready, send them off to live a happy life with their forever family. Yes, it’s sad each and every time one of my fosters leaves, but I have peace of mind that they’re being rehomed responsibly.
P.S. After the recent flooding Texas has experienced, there has been an influx of dogs and cats turned into local shelters. Many are facing critical overload and have run out of room to house pets lost during the storms. Austin Pets Alive faced flooding in the building and needed help to get their animals to a safe and dry place during cleanup. They posted to Facebook and Austinites answered the call. Hundreds of potential fosters offered their support…both to foster animals and to assist with cleaning up the shelter. This is a feel-good story if we’ve ever seen one. Check out the coverage here.
To find out more about Special Pals, to make a donation, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit their website at www.specialpalsshelter.org. For more resources on adopting, check out PetFinder at www.petfinder.org.