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Be The Change, Adopt A Pet: What To Know About Shelters

Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess

You've seen the ASPCA commercials. The dogs and cats in kennels staring through the bars with sad and yearning gazes. When watching those I am hard pressed to not leap off the couch and run to my local shelter and adopt all of the pets that are there. That is unrealistic though, but when I am adding to my fur-family I do turn to the local shelter first. 

When you've decided that the time is right to expand your fur-family you need to decide the size, breed
1396032_10201844179841530_2070403009_n and species you want to adopt. Once you've made your decision, you can begin researching which shelters in your area have the type of pet you're seeking. 

As in any industry there are good and bad shelter situations and you need to go into adoption with your eyes wide open. If, however, this is your first time researching adoption from a shelter, here are a few tips for your consideration: 

  •  What kind of shelter do you want to adopt from? A 501c3 (charitable entity) a low-kill, no-kill or high-kill shelter. 
  • Check out the shelter's website and social media pages. Don't let the lack of a website or social media presence turn you away from them, though. Social media and web site management may be luxuries your local shelter simply cannot afford (Editor's note: Continue reading to see how you can help your local shelter) 
  • Spend some time at the shelter. When you walk in you will immediately notice whether it's clean and well-maintained. If your senses are assailed by the stench of urine and feces it could mean potential health issues for the animals housed there. Even if the shelter is operating on an austere budget, cleanliness should not be a back-burner item. The care of the animals should always be paramount and that means clean kennels. 
  • Take a walk through the kennels. If you're not allowed in the kennel area that could raise red-flags. You should be allowed to observe the animals in their kennels. Remember, though that any aggressive or compulsive behaviors a dog or cat exhibits in a kennel or shelter situation may go away once he is in a loving home environment. Shelters are stressful settings for pets, especially those that may have been raised in a home and all of a sudden find themselves in unfamiliar situations surrounded by strangers and missing their families. There are some behaviors though that may not go away once you have taken the dog or cat home. You will want to ask the shelter its "return" policy. Even though it may be heartbreaking to have to return a pet, it may be in the best interests of all concerned if it simply isn't working out. 
  • Does the shelter partner with any local veterinarian with whom you can visit? Are you adopting a pet that has been spayed or neutered? If not, what is the shelter's policy on that and do they offer any discounts on the procedure as an incentive to make certain it is addressed. Many shelters work with a local vet that provides a reduced rate for spaying and neutering. It is crucial to spay and neuter your pets. 
  • How are you treated by the shelter personnel? We'd like to believe that those who work at shelters truly love what they do and their love of animals will translate to their being friendly and welcoming to a potential pet parent. They may be harried and busy, but their ultimate goal should be to place the animals in their care into loving, forever homes. 
  • Are there any toys in the kennels that the animals can play with? Are the kennels clean? Do they have beds to lie on or are they forced to lie on concrete or the cage floors?

 Once you've made your decision and completed the paperwork necessary to adopt your fur-baby you've taken a step in being the change for a pet. What can you do to further that change and potentially impact even more pets? Here are some of my thoughts: 

  • Do you have the skills to set up or manage a website. Can you offer social media support? If so, make the offer and help the shelter have a more vibrant internet presence. 
  • When you're grocery shopping, is it possible to pick up a few items a week that the shelter has on its wish list? While cash donations are always welcome, many shelters would love to have donations of food, blankets, paper towels or other cleaning supplies. Ask what they need. 
  • Do you have time to become an on site volunteer? Maybe you could clean cages or litter boxes, walk the dogs or spend time interacting with them so they don't have to be continually locked in their kennels. 
  • Are you a shutter bug? If so, offer to take "glamour shots" of the animals to post on their website, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook accounts. If people can see the adoptable pets, they are more likely to find homes. 

 What can you do today to help your local shelter? 


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  1. I love this! I would like to add a couple of things for your readers to consider. When dogs are in their kennels they may have a totally different attitude. If one catches your eye, please ask the staff to bring them out of the kennel. You may find that growling dog is now a kissy wiggle butt that acts like the happiest dog in the world. Sometimes those kennels are all they have and they feel they have to protect them.
    Most shelters (not all) will include the spay/neuter price in the adoption price.
    Shelters really do rely on donations. Even donations of old blankets, towels,used dog or cat supplies can be put toward good use. Did your dog out grow their collar but its still in great shape? I know a shelter dog would love to wear it.

  2. Carma, thank you for commenting — you are the expert and I appreciate your letting readers know how being in a kennel can impact a dog’s personality.
    I hadn’t even thought of items like dog collars! Great advice!

  3. I like the bit at the end about how you can give back to the shelter. A lot of people probably think their job there is done once they’ve adopted. Nice that you’ve planted the seed into their head.

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