By Rebekah Wolf
It’s difficult not to fawn over pet-shop puppies and kittens while window-shopping at the mall. Fuzzy faces with doe eyes and wet noses stare out at passersby. But playing “How much is that doggie in the window?” leaves customers penniless and shelter pets homeless.
With increasing overpopulation in shelters and rescue organizations scrambling to save animals’ lives, there has never been a better time to adopt. When faced with a choice between adopting and buying, consider this: Adoption saves lives and money, not to mention possibly hours of training time.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), five out of 10 shelter dogs and seven out of 10 shelter cats are euthanized each year simply because no one will adopt them. Shelter animals are almost evenly divided between those who are abandoned by their people and those picked up by animal control services. Adoptions reduce euthanizations and make way for others who need homes.
Purebred dogs are in high demand, but they too are likely candidates for euthanasia. An estimated 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebred, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). If you are seeking a specific kind of dog, there are rescue groups for every breed.
Spending long days in a noisy, cramped kennel is no way to live, but that is reality for many animals. According to the HSUS, adopting animals can improve quality of life by reducing stress, anxiety, and social isolation for both the animals and you.
Research shows that pets reduce anxious outbursts in Alzheimer’s patients, help college students cope through transition periods, and reduce risk of heart attacks by almost one-third. Going for long walks and playing Frisbee improve cardiovascular health in canine companions, and cohabitating with a cat can lower blood pressure.
With food, supplies, medical care, and training, the average cost of care for dogs and cats can total more than $800 annually, according to the ASPCA. Purchasing from a breeder or pet store can tack on $1,000 or more in the first year. Most animals can be adopted from shelters and rescue groups, often already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, for around $100 or less.
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, taxpayers spend about $2 billion each year to impound, shelter, kill, and dispose of unwanted animals. Keeping breeders in business not only costs the customer extra money, but also affects everyone else if unwanted purebreds end up behind bars.
Find a Perfect Match
While what you see is what you get at the pound, pet purchasers often don’t know what’s in store for them. Kittens and puppies are cute but eventually grow to have big personalities. Most shelter dogs are at least 6 months old, and rescue groups often place pets in foster homes, so animals’ temperaments and projected size are pretty clear. With 8 to 12 million cats and dogs entering shelters each year, according to the HSUS, the odds of finding a great pet are favorable.
Often shelter dogs are already housetrained and cratetrained and know obedience commands. Shelter and rescue group employees know which animals get along with other animals and children, and sometimes offer a trial or foster period to see how they adjust to home life. There are plenty of volunteers and employees available to provide adoption counseling to prospective parents and follow-up assistance to ensure the adoption was successful.
Gain a Best Friend
Life on the streets and in crowded shelters makes for grateful pets. Because they’ve had difficult lives and uncertain futures, rescued cats and dogs often form deeper bonds with their adoptive parents. These loyal animals can also teach children about compassion, responsibility, and friendship.
Not only do pets and people provide emotional support for each other, but an adult dog is ready to go anywhere with his or her person. From playing in the park to swimming at the beach, people get out more with their dogs, and those looking for love or friendship always have a furry conversation starter by their side. Adult cats are good companions for people who work long hours. Their independent nature keeps maintenance minimal, and they’re content to cuddle on the couch after a long day at work.