The heartwarming pleasure of saving an animal’s life is reason enough to take in a pet from a shelter. But there are personal, financial, and behavior-related concerns that often stand between would-be adopters and their grateful pets, say veterinarians and animal advocates. A closer look at the top adoption anxieties reveals some unexpected perks in going the shelter route—not even counting the part about being a lifesaver.
You’ll learn more about a shelter pet’s personality and health than you ever could when considering a pet from a breeder or store. Shelter staff often care for and train animals for weeks and, in the process, gather lots of information about their charges’ temperaments, according to Sandi Laird, the animal care director at Operation Kindness, a no-kill shelter in Carrollton, TX. “We tell adopters everything we know about a pet so we can place it in the perfect home,” Laird says. The ASPCA, meanwhile, offers a Meet Your Match program: You fill out a survey that will help shelter staff pair you with the best pet for your needs and expectations.
Concern #2: I don’t want to deal with a badly behaved pet.
Most shelter pets are homeless, but not because they’re naughty. In fact, nearly a third of all dogs and 21% of cats are in shelters simply because an owner’s new landlord didn’t allow pets. Others become homeless when their owners die, a family member develops an allergy, or their humans simply change their minds. Only 8% of cats and 10% of dogs end up in shelters because of bad behavior. The staff will generally inform you of these facts to prevent a pet from being poorly placed.
Concern #3: I don’t want a mutt.
Purebred pets account for up to 25% of the animals surrendered to shelters each year, according to the Humane Society. If you can’t find the breed you want at a nearby shelter, look for breed-specific rescue associations.
Concern #4: Why pay an adoption fee if someone will just give me a puppy or kitten?
Adoption fees range from $75 to $100, but they pale in comparison to what you could pay in expenses if you take in a free pet, says Kristen Vance, a veterinarian in Bel Air, MD, who volunteers at Animal Rescue, a large no-kill shelter in New Freedom, PA. Most shelter pets have received their annual vaccinations and been wormed, treated for fleas and ticks, microchipped, and spayed or neutered. That can add up to at least $800 in savings—on top of the joy of having a new best friend.