How To Adopt

Are You Really Ready To Adopt?

Pets are truly members of the American family. About 60% of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird, or other companion animal. Many have more than one. Pets are popular because they provide companionship, joy, unconditional love, a sense of safety, and often a service. Your pet-owning experience will be most enjoyable if you take the time to consider which animal best suits your family. You can start by answering some easy questions and gathering sound information and advice.

Remember a pet will become your daily responsibility, so make an informed pet selection. Don't let the playful antics of the first puppy, kitten, or bird you see or the latest status-symbol pet charm you into accepting a responsibility for which you and your family are not prepared. You've read articles about the millions of unwanted pets that have to be put to death each year. Pets selected on impulse, "for the children," or as a gift during the holidays sometimes end up this way. These pets once belonged to people who fell in love--and then changed their minds.

Selecting a pet should be a family project with everyone's needs, concerns, fears, and medical history (including allergies) considered. Family members should decide together what kind of animal they want, the amount of time they anticipate spending with it, and the amount of responsibility each person is willing to assume. Be realistic. Promises from some family members, particularly children, may not be fulfilled.

Your goal is to identify the best animal(s) for your living space, lifestyle, and budget. Take time, involve the family, and answer the following questions.

Why Do You Want a Pet in the First Place?

Are you considering a pet because you have resolved in your heart and mind that you truly want to include a pet in your family?

What Activities Do You Enjoy?
You and your family should discuss the reasons you want a companion animal and what you expect an animal to do with and for you. Most people keep pets as companions, whereas others enjoy animals for competitions, jogging, or other reasons. Will the animal you're considering have the temperament and physical attributes to participate in your outdoor activities (hiking, hunting, or camping) or in quiet pastimes at home? If your leisure activities take you away from home, who will care for your pet during your absences? Read about the temperaments and needs of species and breeds, and identify those that best match your lifestyle.

How Do You Spend Your Day?
Pets depend on people for daily affection and attention. Young puppies require time for housebreaking, training, and feeding. Do you live alone and work a lot? Are you gone all day? Do you frequently work late? What will you do with your pet during long absences? Do you have a support network that will co-companion your pup with you so that the animal is not alone as much as you are away? Feeding, exercise, grooming, and play are daily time commitments that must be considered in caring for a healthy, happy pet. Will your working hours allow enough time to provide the care and exercise a dog needs every day?

Have You Truly Assessed Whether or Not Your Lifestyle Can Accommodate a Canine Companion?

Do you understand that you will have to modify your day-to-day activities to accommodate your pet? Are you ready to get up a couple of hours earlier every morning for the rest of your animal's life so that you can get in a walk with Rover before work? Are you willing to forego that Friday night right-after-work get together with your office mates because it's important that someone be home to let the dog out to pee--and while you're at it, how about that evening stroll? Dogs, like children (and many adults), need consistency and to have a canine companion in your life will mean sacrificing to greater or lesser degree the spontaneity you may now enjoy. Many behavior problems can develop with dogs who are left alone too much. Dogs are smart and easily bored, and they long for human companionship. If you're a student, a proverbial social butterfly, or your work often takes you away from home more than 9 or 10 hours a day, you may want to consider waiting until you settle down before adopting a pet.

What kind of dog is right for you?
Have you done homework, such as reading about housebreaking, training, behavioral problems, and daily care of a dog? And what kinds of dogs are best for you and your family? Here at Mutts & Moms we have mostly mixed breeds with a few purebreds as well. Even with a mix, you can get a basic temperament measurement because there is usually a more dominate part of the breed-mix shows through both physically and behavior wise. There is a big difference in the temperament between small terrier mixes and labradore mixes. (See suggested reading at the end of the Resources Page.) After discussing the role a pet will play in your life and talking with knowledgeable people, you may conclude that your first choice for a pet is not appropriate, so be flexible. Your veterinarian may suggest other companion animals whose needs more closely match your own.

Considering a Puppy?
Puppies come with all their own set of problems, concerns and needs. The time necessary to raise a puppy into a well trained companion can be quite daunting. There is much more involved and at times it can be very frustrating. If considering a puppy, will you be able to arrange for midday visits -- since puppies need to go out every 4 hours or so to become housebroken? What about training? Puppies require a lot of socialization as well as basic training and in some instances extensive behaviour modification. The medical expenses are higher as well. Can your furniture and clothing withstand the teething cycle. How imporant are those Ferrigamo shoes? They will need quite a few puppy shots. They will also need your time. This is very important in raising this dog into a well behaved, normal adult.

What If a Pet Doesn't Fit Your Lifestyle?
You can still enjoy the animals around you if a pet does not fit into your present lifestyle. Try putting a bird feeder outside your window or becoming an active member of a local zoologic society. Volunteer at a humane society or animal shelter. Consider a pet when your circumstances change.

Do You Have Room for a Pet?
Active dogs need more space and more daily exercise than older or more sedentary dogs. Some pets may get enough exercise within the confines of a house or apartment. For their own safety, dogs should not be allowed to run uncontrolled, but should be walked on a leash or exercised in an enclosed area. Most animals are better kept indoors or in a suitable kennel while you're gone. Cats, birds, and small mammals can adapt to any size living quarters.

If you have children consider . . .
Often, adults will adopt animals because the children are pining away for a puppy. The parents might even get the children to verbally commit to taking care of a pet. But what so many people don't realize is that having a pet such as a dog is much like having a child. One would not expect a child to take care of another child, but, not realizing what a big job it is, they believe their children can and will take care of a dog. Most children are not able to take on such responsibility and, as it turns out, the adults of the family end up being the primary care givers of this pet. If you have children under six years of age, you may want to wait a few years. Problem-free pet companionship requires some degree of maturity on the part of children. If you don't want to wait, then consider whether or not you're ready to be the animal's primary caregiver (just in case the deal you make with the kids falls through), and ask yourself if it's something you can reasonably take on given your other responsibilities? If the answer is no or you're not sure, please don't adopt a dog. You may unknowingly be getting the dog into a situation of neglect. Such active and high functioning pets cannot be ignored because you are too busy or too tired. Dogs require food, water, companionship, and exercise every day without fail. So when you agree to adopt a dog, you must fully understand the nature of the partnership you are creating. The shelters are full of animals who were given up because the owners failed to fully take into consideration how much time it takes to properly care for them.

Additionally, can you depend on your children not to pester a dog and let a dog out the door? Will you be able to watch the dog at all times when children visit your home?

How Much Will Your Pet Cost?
All pets need food and shelter, and most should have regular visits to a veterinarian for health checkups and vaccinations. Depending on the type of animal you choose, other cost considerations include emergency medical treatment, grooming, boarding, licensing, obedience training, and accessories. Pet health insurance for unexpected illnesses or injuries is available in many states.
According to a 1991 survey of costs, the Humane Society of the United States determined the average cost of properly caring for a dog:

Adopting a dog from a shelter $55
First Year vaccinations $200
Each year thereafter $65
Initial Training $50-$100
Each year thereafter $50-$200
Other annual veterinary care $135
Annual feeding $155-$400
Annual toys, grooming supplies $160
Grooming per visit $50
Annual flea and tick care $80
Daily boarding $21-$30

Like to Travel?
Do you travel frequently, and if so, what are your plans for the dog? You have to have one of two things if you're not taking your canine companion with you on vacation:
1. Friends who will care for the animal in your absence or 2. The necessary funds to pay for the kennel. Kenneling a dog for a week, depending on many variables (such as size, weight, and accommodations requested), can cost anywhere from $75 to $125. You'll need to figure this into your vacation budget. Though, there are lots of fun places to go where you can take the pie-eyed pup with you. Going on a road trip? Motel 6 gladly takes dogs, as do other motels and camp grounds. Shop around!!

If you move, can you be sure your next place will allow dogs?
The number one reason listed for animal abandonment from even the most well-intended owners is "I have to move." Also, statistically nine out of ten landlords do not want to rent to people who own pets, especially dogs. So when you consider adopting a dog ask yourself are you willing to consider that moving without the animal is not an option? If you think the answer is yes, then think further still. Have you considered that when you move you will probably be asked to pay an additional pet deposit, when, in fact, you do find someone who will rent to you? Have you considered what you will do with the animal if you are "between homes"?

If You Have a No-Pets Clause?
Most rental agreement no-pets clauses apply only to dogs and cats; birds or small mammals may be acceptable. If you want a dog but your lease or condominium association rules prohibit them, ask that the no-pets clause be waived or negotiated. Outline your plan to care for your pet, to adapt to your living environment, and to meet your landlord's expectations. Assure your association leaders that you are a responsible pet owner who is aware of the importance of a well-behaved animal and a clean environment. Furnish references from previous landlords or neighbors. Agree in writing to pay a refundable deposit or a small monthly surcharge.

Scoop the poop
If you really mind picking up dog poop, you may not want to get a dog. State and county laws require that owners poop scoop, and besides, it's simply the right thing to do. Many animal diseases are transmitted by feces and dog owners need to share a common concern for the welfare of the dog community at large. Not only that but it's simply a matter of courtesy to others to pick up after your pet. If you're not willing to do that, please don't get a dog. The streets and walking trails are already too full of fecal debris and litter, and like the old saying goes, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

A Check-up for Your New Companion
The rescue or shelter where you obtain your pet should allow you to have the animal examined by a veterinarian and to return it within an agreed-upon time if the animal is unhealthy. Do this as soon as possible, before you become emotionally attached to the animal.

Your veterinarian is best qualified to assure you that your new friend is healthy and to administer the necessary vaccinations. At the same time, you can discuss proper nutrition and feeding, other preventive health measures, and grooming needs. Most veterinarians accept shelter vouchers for recently adopted pets for their first exam. All Mutts & Moms dogs have been medically screened prior to adoptions and are either given a clean bill of health or all health problems are disclosed. We also will give you a copy of their shot record and any other necessary medical information your own veterinarian may need.

Veterinarians and Other Community Resources
When your family decides it's time to actually look for a pet, each person should participate in the selection process. A good place to start is a family consultation with a veterinarian to determine the compatibility of your needs with those of the animal(s) being considered. Veterinarians can offer expert advice on the physical needs, health, and behavioral characteristics of particlular animals, and can direct you to other resources.

Other good sources of guidance and literature on pets include public libraries, the internet, humane societies, animal shelters, animal control agencies, obedience classes, and local kennel clubs. We also offer a list of selected reading on our links and resources page to help you pick the dog that’s right for you.

Are You Ready for a Life-long Commitment?
What people need to realize is that animals should not be considered expendable or adoptable only as long as it's convenient. Are you in a stable living situation where you don't expect to be moving, or if you do have to move, are you willing to make a commitment to ensure that where ever you move, the animal will move with you? (see above). Remember, providing a high quality nutritional diet, medical care when needed, annual inoculation, grooming, training, and obeying leash & licensing laws are all part of responsible pet ownership. Deciding to find the money to maintain a pet should be an absolute consideration when contemplating pet ownership; five bucks here, ten bucks there adds up quickly.

Please, if you can't deal with the hardships that you might incur in owning a pet, don't adopt in the first place. Save yourself the guilt and the heartbreak of having to leave a family member behind, and save the animal the sadness, anxiety of instability & abandonment, and, quite possibly, death in a shelter.

Adopting an animal requires a very pro-active attitude. It has to be a deliberate and conscious decision on your part. Like any relationship, it requires commitment. Can you do it? If the answer is "yes," big rewards will come your way.

Still not sure . . . see Foster to Adopt Option.