Why a Shelter Dog Should be Your New Best Friend

By Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My ‘pumpkin’ among the pumpkins!

Ahhh…October. My favorite month of the year! Pumpkin-flavored everything, changing leaves, cozy sweaters. Plus, the cooler weather means more time outdoors for my dog Chilly and me – something that’s good for both of us.

To make it even better, October is also chock-full of some pawsitively pawsome pet-related holidays like “National Black Dog Day,” “National Cat Day” and of course, “HOWL-oween.”

And then there’s the best one of all…”Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!”

Why do I love this holiday so much? Well, the obvious reason is currently curled up next to me as I type this. I’ll never forget the day we adopted Chilly. We went to the animal shelter looking for a cat, and instead we came home with an adorable, eight-week-old black Labrador-something mix. In the years since, he has brought us so much love, laughter and fun that I can’t imagine life without him.

But my own personal experience isn’t the only reason I celebrate and promote “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.” With millions of wonderful pups like Chilly patiently waiting in shelters across the country, this event raises much-needed awareness and helps encourage adoptions. And when you choose to adopt instead of shop, you not only save your new dog’s life, you open space in the shelter for another deserving pup.

Of course, dogs aren’t the only lucky ones in this arrangement! Humans reap some super-sized rewards, too, including companionship, improved physical and emotional health, social interaction and unconditional love. Dogs also encourage people to exercise, enhance family relationships, promote a sense of well-being, and act as a non-judgmental audience and sounding board.

Now, despite the obvious win-win for both human and canine, some people are still hesitant to visit their local shelter. Even though campaigns like “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month” have gone a long way toward educating the public about the joys of adoption, there are a few myths – like the ones below – that somehow stubbornly hang on.

Myth #1 – Pets in shelters have something wrong with them.

This is just plain false. According to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) and published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), seven of the top reasons for relinquishment of both dogs and cats are the same and include, in no specific order:

  • Moving
  • Landlord not allowing pets
  • Too many animals in the household
  • Cost of pet maintenance
  • Owner having personal problems
  • Inadequate facilities
  • No homes available for litter mates

Myth #2: I don’t know what I’m getting.

There may actually be more information available about a shelter pet than one from a breeder or pet store. The staff or volunteers may be able to tell you what he or she is like. At the very least, you can ask the staff if the pet was an owner-surrender (rather than a stray) and, if so, what information or history the former owner provided about him or her. You can also ask about the health and behavioral evaluations the pet has undergone since arriving at the shelter.

Additionally, when you adopt an adult dog, you can easily determine the pet’s full-grown size, coat type, personality and temperament. These are traits that aren’t immediately clear when you purchase a puppy from a pet store or breeder.

Myth #3: Shelter dogs are all mutts.

You can find every breed, from lovable mutts to purebreds, at your local shelter. In fact, up to 25 percent of the pets available for adoption are purebred. Remember, people surrender all kinds of pets, regardless of breed or mix, for the reasons mentioned above in Myth #1.

Myth #4: Shelter pets are more prone to behavior problems.

Some shelter pets may have behavior problems, but pets from breeders and pet stores may have issues too. Remember, all pets – even eight-week old puppies and kittens – have distinct personalities. Those personalities will either jive with your home and lifestyle or won’t.

Myth #5: I can get a free pet, so why pay an adoption fee?

While getting a “free” pet off of Craigslist or from a friend may seem like a bargain at first, you are then responsible for the initial veterinary costs that shelters usually cover, including spaying/neutering ($150-300), vaccinations ($70-120), flea/tick treatment ($50-$200), and microchipping ($50). As you can see, this all quickly adds up…making the average adoption fee of $25 to $300 considerably more appealing than the “do it yourself option” or the hundreds of dollars to purchase an animal from a breeder.

Take it from me…there are few experiences more satisfying and rewarding than saving an animal’s life, and making them a valued member of the family. So when choosing your next four-legged, furry addition to the family, I hope you’ll consider checking out the shelters in your area or throughout the country.

Have you adopted a pet from a rescue or a shelter? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.