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Choosing a pet from an animal shelter with Paula Miller

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When it comes to choosing a pet, there are many factors to consider before picking an animal. 

One of the most important is whether you choose a pet from an animal shelter. We all know the message of ‘Adopt, don’t shop’, but what does that actually mean?

Mobile Vet Nurse Paula Miller has years of experience volunteering at animal shelters across Christchurch, and some of her own animals have been from adoptions.

In this article, Paula gives us a practical guide to anyone thinking of adoption, and why those who aren’t, should.

Taking time to think

Welcoming a pet into our families is an exciting time, as a result, you may not have given the option of adoption much thought. There are many real benefits of considering getting your pet from an animal shelter:

  • Save a life – Some of the animals that end up in shelters have had a terrible past or were abandoned. You would be giving a pet a happy and safe home
  • You won’t be supporting backyard or unlicensed breeders – it’s easy to hop on Trademe and see all the pet listings. Do your homework and make sure you purchase from a reputable breeder supporting animal welfare
  • Adopt a healthy pet – animals from adoption agencies will have received any necessary vaccinations, microchipped and likely to have been sterilised
  • Find the pet of your dreams – The shelter will pair you with a pet that suits your lifestyle and family life.

The initial step will be having a good think about what you want from a pet, and how that fits in with your current lifestyle. Firstly, think about:

  • Can you afford this pet and identify all the ongoing costs
  • The type of pet, and how they will fit in your household
  • How much exercise/play they will need
  • How would they fit in with existing pets
  • Brushing up on your training skills and where to find advice
  • Are you ready to commit to this pet for their lifetime

The next step will be doing your research:

  • Local and national animal shelters, check out their websites or social media profiles
  • Different breeds of pets, their traits and requirements
  • Costs involved in pet transportation (if you not adopting locally)

Yes, I’m ready!

Secondly, if your answer is a big YES, you will need to:

  • Start visiting local shelters and make yourself known to shelter staff
  • No shelter is going to hand over an animal to just anyone. To make sure you are a responsible person with the right home environment, expect a property inspection, especially if  you are after a dog or larger animal
  • Manage your expectations, you probably won’t find your ideal pet straight away. Be patient and don’t be tempted to agree to take a pet home if your heart is not in it
  • Spend time observing the animals and interactions with them before making a choice. Ask the shelter staff about the animal’s background and find out if they have any special needs or medical conditions
  • When your match has been approved, make sure you are well prepared for their arrival. Ensure your home and garden are safe, secure and pet-friendly.

It’s okay to not be sure

Taking on a pet from a shelter is a big responsibility, and perfectly natural to be unsure or not ready for the commitment. Thirdly, consider the alternatives:

  • Fostering will give you an insight into what it’s like to give an animal from a shelter a caring home on a short-term basis
  • Volunteering at a shelter not only helps you build a relationship with the animals but gives your local shelter invaluable support
  • Try walking your neighbour’s dog, or looking after your friend’s cat while they are aware without the long-term commitment

In conclusion, adopting a pet from a shelter does so much more than getting a new pet. You give many of these animals a second chance, the right pet that suits your lifestyle, and most importantly a new best friend and the life-long journey you will take together.

We’d love to hear your adoption stories, or if you have any questions – get in touch.

Happy adopting!