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
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
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
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,
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.
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 thats 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