Millions of dogs go into shelters across the US every year. About half these will be adopted. Sadly, up to ten percent will then be returned to the shelter. There are many reasons for this, but often it’s because the dog wasn’t matched very well with the new family. Getting a new dog is a life-changing event, regardless of any trauma issues your adopted dog may have.
It’s essential that you consider all aspects of your life, and your potential new dog’s life, before you jump in and take one home. It’s devastating for the dog, and the family if they have to return to the shelter. Knowing what questions to ask yourself before choosing a dog, will make the process much easier and more likely to be successful.
Why Adopt A Dog?
They need you
There are 70 shelter and rescue organizations listed in the state of Mississippi. All these places are full, busy, stressful and often overcrowded.
The state of Mississippi has the 19th highest rate of pet euthanasia, with 9186 dogs euthanized in shelters in 2019. The highest rates are:
- California (100, 239)
- Texas (96,707)
- North Carolina (47,652)
- Florida (45,503)
Shelters are always short of space. When you adopt a pet, you will provide valuable room for another animal who needs help.
There is no statutory requirement for Shelter and Rescue organizations to provide information regarding animals in their care.
A study carried out by PEEVA in 2019, estimates the number of dogs euthanized in U.S. shelters every year to be between 9.4 to 9.6 million. This is a hugely different number to the 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats reported by the ASPCA.
Less cost to you
When you adopt a dog, they have usually been vet-checked. They may have been spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and flea treated. Some shelters also take care of vaccinations and any medical treatments required.
Most states require shelters to take care of sterilization of dogs before they are adopted. There are a few exceptions, but generally you will never be able to adopt a dog that is not sterilized.
Help stop puppy mills
These are dog breeding facilities. They have a high-volume production of puppies for the domestic market. The dogs are kept in atrocious conditions, often being left to die from malnutrition, injuries and infections. They have no regard for animal welfare, and the puppies are sold to pet stores or online markets. When you adopt from a shelter, you are not supporting this cruel industry.
Am I Ready to Adopt a Dog?
What type of person are you? Are you energetic? Do you work long hours, then like to go home and relax or do you enjoy long hikes in the countryside? You may live in a big city. Are there parks close by? How dog-friendly are your neighbors? Is your road dog-friendly? Is there a vet in the area that you can get to? Asking yourself these types of questions helps you to think about how you can fit a dog into your life.
When you adopt a dog, you take on the responsibility of caring for them for the rest of their life. They may live for up to 18 years so it’s important to take that into account. It’s a big commitment and one which should be taken seriously.
What plans do you have for the future? Moving is one of the top reasons that dogs are surrendered to shelters. New landlords say ‘no’ to dogs, or the new house is too small for everyone. This especially applies to big, energetic dogs like Rottweilers and Retrievers.
Is the entire family happy to have a new pet? Who will be the main caregiver? Someone should have ultimate responsibility for feeding, walking, toileting, and socializing your dog.
Will this be your first dog? What kind of dog do you want to share your life with?
History and Temperament of The Dog
How did the dog come to be in the shelter, and how long has he or she been there? If a dog has been traumatized, more care may be needed with integrating them into your household.
Was the dog surrendered and if so, why? You should be informed of any problem behaviors. It’s unlikely that any shelter facility will attempt to re-home a dangerous dog.
Is he or she house-trained? You may need supplies of paper or training pads.
Is it possible to take the dog for a trial period? What is the return policy if things don’t work out?
It’s very difficult to judge a dog’s temperament when they are in unfamiliar territory. They will be feeling stressed and fearful anyway, regardless of their natural personality.
Has the dog been vet-checked, and are there any medical issues that need attention? Have they been neutered or spayed? Have they been microchipped, vaccinated and flea-treated? Most shelters and rescues will take care of these things. The price you pay to adopt a dog will cover some of these costs.
How Can You Help Homeless Dogs?
Best Friends Animal Society aims to have 100% no-kill shelters by 2025. Animal shelters can only operate within their budgets, but communities can help by being informed and supporting local and national organizations. Visit https://bestfriends.org/2025-goal to get involved.
Since the major contributor to shelter numbers is strays, get your pet microchipped. Once your pet and their microchip are registered with a company like PEEVA, there is less chance of your beloved hound being lost forever.
And finally, the big one. ADOPT, ADOPT, ADOPT!
Enjoy the process of adopting your dog. Remember it may take some time before you feel bonded with your new family member. They need time to adjust to a new environment, new routines and most of all, learning to trust you.
Laura Horton, MSc. is founder of Hound101.com, a website which helps you to be your dog’s best friend.