Even after you make the decision to bring a companion animal into your home, several questions are often left unanswered. While many people pay exorbitant prices to specialized breeders, pet shops, humane societies, or rescue missions, often the best place to find a loving pet is at the local animal shelter.
Why choose the animal shelter? For starters, animal shelters offer the lowest prices for adoption and even go beyond these already low prices by giving senior discounts and presenting deals where the adoption of a second animal is even lower (often $1 or sometimes free). There can be so many costs involved in bringing a new pet home – purchasing food, a bed, toys, not to mention medical fees – that it can be fruitless to spend more when you don’t have to.
Even if the lowered costs at the animal shelter don’t entice you, the plight of the animals should. While many humane societies and rescue missions expressly set out to keep animals from being “put down,” animal shelters typically don’t have the same luxury. Most animals stay at the shelter for 60- to 90-day cycles and then are systematically exterminated due to the high volume of animals at the shelter. To feel like you are truly saving an animal – and making a friend – the animal shelter affords you the best opportunity to make a difference in the animal’s life.
A trained staff, which includes veterinary technicians, takes care of animals in the animal shelter. In contrast, those housed in pet shops or littered by breeders can be at risk for illness or even genetic defects. Many shelters have volunteers that come in each week to play with the animals and walk them outside, whereas pet shops simply have the workers and a constant flow of consumer traffic to keep the animals entertained. Shelters often employ local inmates or juvenile detainees to clean the cages and floors each day, whereas pet shops may only have [sometimes disgruntled] employees take care of such necessary duties once or twice a week. For those concerned with animal temperament, most animals are much more adjusted to humans after the constant interaction in a shelter than those always behind the glass in a pet shop.
Community involvement. At your local animal control shelter, there is often the sense that you are working with and helping out part of the community. If you make donations to the shelter, either monetary or in material goods, it is easy to see how your donations have helped. Upon return visits to the shelter, it’s not uncommon to find that the toys, food, or beds you donated are already in use, or that the money has been put toward animal health care or renovations that help the animals directly.
It’s often the “mutt” that is the best companion. While purebred animals are surely gorgeous, and many make the greatest of friends, the proverbial crossbreed is often who will win your heart. Shelter animals frequently seem almost grateful for their new home and as such are ready to play, cuddle, and lavish you with attention in ways that express their thanks for “saving” them. Given the nature of the shelter and an animal’s limited time there, it often begs the question – why breed while others die?
So many bonuses! While the good feelings and community involvement are definitely great bonuses on top of your new companion, many animal shelters also make the transition for you much easier by providing care packages and assistance. Most likely, you will find yourself coming home not only with an animal friend, but also a package of food, an animal travel box, literature, and contact information for support at the shelter. Even at nominal fees (often a travel box is $3 to $7), the savings are huge and the items allow you to go straight home with your new pet, rather than having to make a stressful trip to the store. Pet shops typically don’t offer such bonuses with the purchase of an animal, because then you will be forced to pick up items from the shop and spend more money while you are there.
If you’ve made the decision to bring an animal into your life, your local shelter should be your first stop. One recommendation for those who haven’t been to an animal shelter is to consider a few ways to approach the experience. For some, it can be heartbreaking to see so many animals in need of homes and there is often the desire to adopt them all. For these types of people, I recommend coming up with a plan and discussing the plan with any family members that are also going. For instance, perhaps the family will agree to only consider orange male cats who are neutered. This sort of approach can limit some of the emotional experience once inside the shelter.
For others, I recommend simply going with an open mind and an open heart and seeing which animal “speaks to you.” Plan to spend more time at the shelter this way, but allow yourself the opportunity to engage in some play with a variety of animals until you find the one that is right for you.
No matter what kind of person you are (dog people, cat people, and chinchilla people alike), the best time to visit the animal shelter is about one to two hours after opening. This allows for animal shelter personnel to feed the animals, attend to any animals that may have become sick overnight, and do any necessary cleaning. The animals will be happier and ready to “meet and greet” after eating and using newly cleaned restroom areas and it will make your experience more pleasant overall. Keep in mind if you go later in the day that the adoption process can take up to 45 minutes, so be sure not to start too close to closing time.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Jennifer Lamb is the “cat-momma” of three orange-buff neutered male cats rescued from the Ingham County Animal Control Shelter in Mason, MI.