- Health Library
- PetMD U
By Cheryl Lock
The next time you’re in the market for a new pet, try setting your sites on your local animal shelter. Despite any negative stereotypes animal shelters may have, they actually provide a ton of healthy, happy pet options for your family to take home and love.
Here are 5 things you may have heard in the past about shelter animals, and what the actual truth is.
Myth #1: Shelter pets aren’t healthy.
Truth: In fact, shelter pets can be quite healthy. Dr. Jules Benson is the VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan Pet Insurance. When he recently analyzed Petplan’s claims data he found something interesting: Contrary to popular opinion, the claims data revealed that pets adopted from shelters or rescue organizations are actually 5% less likely to suffer an unexpected trip to the veterinarian compared to pets purchased through pet stores. In addition, many shelter pets are spayed and neutered, and some even come with location microchips.
Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM — immediate past president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and interim president and director of Veterinary Medical Services for the Animal Rescue League of Boston — also stipulates that although there is much variety in animal shelters throughout the country, most good shelters almost always provide excellent vet care for their animals. “In well-run shelters,” Dr. Smith-Blackmore says, “animals receive vaccinations upon in-take, and are fed a high quality diet from a single manufacture so they don’t undergo dietary stress caused from a constantly changing variety of donated food on a daily basis.”
Myth #2: I won’t be able to find a pure breed at a shelter.
Truth: According to Dr. Benson, 25% of all dogs in shelters are purebreds.
Myth #3: Shelter pets are unruly.
Truth: Many shelter pets receive training and socialization before adoption to help make the transition to their new family easier, says Dr. Benson.
Myth #4: I won’t be able to properly get to know my pet from the shelter before I take her home.
Truth: Many shelters offer online pet profiles so that you can get to know the animals that are available before you even step foot in the shelter. “In addition, ” says Dr. Smith-Blackmore, “it’s always a good idea to schedule a ‘get-acquainted’ session with your prospective shelter pet and, if at all possible, have a list of questions you can ask the available shelter staff and the staff veterinarian.”
Myth #5: All the pets in a shelter will be older.
Truth: Shelters and rescues have pets of all ages, promises Dr. Benson, including puppies and older pets, which are usually trained and less initial work for the new pet owner and make excellent companions.
Something else to consider: The cute and appealing puppy in the window of that pet store came from somewhere, says Dr. Smith-Blackmore. “Unfortunately, more than likely, its birth mother spent the majority of her life in a very small cage having litter after litter. Adopting from a shelter or a well-known breeder can help to eliminate commercial puppy enterprises.”
At the end of the day, deciding where to get your brand new family member from is a big decision, but with the right information, it can be made a bit easier.
When you adopt a pet from the shelter, it is important to immediately establish a relationship with a veterinarian to care for that new addition to your family. In fact, your pet needs to be examined at least yearly by a vet even if it appears healthy as many diseases are hidden and not apparent. Remember, it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it!