So You Want To Adopt An Animal: Where To Start

Deciding to adopt an animal is a big decision.  While it is very exciting, it can also be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or what to expect.  Over the next couple of posts, I will be writing about what to expect when you are looking to adopt as well how to help ensure that everything is successful and goes smoothly.  As someone who has adopted three dogs from three different rescues, and who volunteers with a couple different rescues, I hope to provide some insight. Today, I want to start at the very beginning and before you even submit an application to adopt.

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Before you even start looking for an animal to adopt, there are some questions you need to ask yourself first.

Why do you want to adopt an animal?

This is probably one of the most important questions you need to ask and you will be asked this question on the adoption application (I will be be doing a separate post about the application process and talking about reasons why your application was not successful).  Are you looking to add to your family?  Are you you looking to get a playmate for your one (or more) animal you already have?  Are you looking for a running partner?

One of the worst reasons to getting an animal is because you are looking to get it as a gift for someone (ie. kids or spouse).  I can tell you right now, that it never a good idea, especially if you are looking at surprising someone with it, and if that is your reason your adoption application will most likely be turned down.  Why?  In order to ensure that an animal is going to be the best home, every single person needs to be on board with getting that animal.  No exceptions. Rescues constantly get animals that were gifts that people no longer wanted.  They grew out of being a cute puppy (which in case you don’t know, dogs don’t stay puppies forever.  Shocking, I know) so people no longer find them cute, or they find that an adult dog is more of a hassle or work than they were willing to invest.  As awful as that sounds, it happens more than you think.

Rescues also see animals that were given as gifts that were neglected because people were not prepared to properly take care of them.  I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people get a pet as gift for their kids expecting their kids to care for that pet, and then having to return that pet because the parents were the ones having to take care of it and no longer wanted to.

Are you willing to take care of a pet for the rest of their life?

Tying into the first part about people surrounding their pets, when you adopt an animal, you need to be prepared to take care of that pet for the rest of their life.  I will be honest in saying that pets are expensive.  Are you able to pay for everything they need like food and medial services?  Are you able to afford taking your animal to the vet to get their annual exams and vaccines (which can easily be over $100, if not much more)?  Are you going to be able to afford their spay and neuter?  Are you going to be able to afford it if they require medication for a health condition?  Are you going to be able to afford a trip to the emergency vet if ever needed that can run you into the thousands of dollars?

These are questions you need to ask yourself.  I will honestly admit that it does suck how much some vets charge.  Sadly I don’t have a solution for that.  I do wish there were more low cost care options for people because I really do not feel that money should determine if you should have an animal or not.  I just want to make people aware of the costs before hand. One option you could look into is pet insurance, but that is a recurring payment to add into your expenses, and usually only covers non-routine emergencies or medications.

If you are looking at getting a puppy, are you prepared to take care of that puppy for upwards of 14 or up to 20 years?  Are you are looking at adopting an older dog, are you prepared to give them the best possible life until the end?  Are you able to take care of an animal if something in your life changes?

Do you have time for an animal?

This is another reason why animals are surrendered from their owners is because people no longer have time for them.  Animals are a big commitment and deciding to get one is a big decision.  It’s NOT the same as deciding to cut your hair or what kind of tacos you want on Taco Tuesday.  You are responsible for this animal.  They can not take care of themselves.  They are not like children who eventually grow up to become independent, they will always need you to take care of them.

If you are someone who goes to the gym in the morning, goes to work, goes out for drinks after and then gets home at 7pm, then getting a puppy is not a good idea.  Puppies can only be alone for 4-5 hours (or sometimes less) before they will need to go out, or you risk them relieving themselves in the house.  Or if you are gone all day, I would not recommend a dog with serious separation anxiety.  Cats thankfully can be left alone for longer periods of time so maybe a cat would be a better option if you are still wanting to adopt an animal.  As long as they have food, water and access to a litter box, they are fine to be on their own for a few hours in a day.

If you do want to adopt a dog, understanding the needs of the specific breed you have in mind could be very important to consider. If you want a dog that just sits on the couch with you at night to watch Netflix, a dog that requires to be walked three times a day or is a high energy breed (such a border collie or boxer) would not be the best choice.  Puppies require a LOT of work in training.  Are you willing to put in the time and effort?  If not, maybe consider and older animal.

What can you handle medically or behaviourally? 

This goes back to knowing the costs of owning an animal.  When my husband, Dean, and I adopted Dolly, we knew she had skin allergies that required daily medication.  Every morning, we have to give her her pill and put antibacterial cream on the spot on her neck.  We also have to give her medicated baths twice a week.  We have to take monthly trips to the vet to get her medication refilled and to check to see if any changes need to be made.  We were willing to take that on when we adopted her.  No, it’s not cheap but because we love her, we do it.  And because of that, she’s growing back hair in spots where she never had hair and her allergies are now under control.

 

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You can see the spot on Dolly’s neck where it was very irritated when we first got her.

Knowing what you can handle behaviour wise is crucial.  Sadly, there are many dogs who need good homes but have serious behaviour issues.  Issues such as separation anxiety and aggression can be anywhere from mild to sever.  Our dog Freckles has separation anxiety and three years later, we are still working on it.  This comes from her history of being a backyard bred girl who’s only purpose was to have puppies.  She was never properly house trained.  If we leave the house (or if she thinks we have left), she will pee and poop on the floor (even if we just took her outside).  We have done everything so now she has to go in a crate when we leave and at night so she does not pee and poop on the floor. We have made her crate a safe place for her so she willing goes in there and snuggles into her blanket.

 

Freckles and Dolly scare very easily so it’s something that we deal with on a daily basis.  Dolly specifically (obviously due to her history), will run and hide in a corner if she feels scared or stressed.  Both dogs will end up with diarrhea when get really stressed.

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Sisters

That being said, I know full well that I can never take on a dog with serious aggression issues.  We already have three dogs and none of our dogs would not do well with an aggressive dog.  And while we do not have kids, we do have two very young nieces and a young nephew that do visit us and sometimes stay over here.  An animal with aggression issues is something that I know that we are not equipped to take on (and that’s OK).  We realize that and therefor would never look at adopting an animal with serious behavioural issues that we know we can not handle that.  You need to really be honest with yourself about that.

Some animals also have issues with being around cats, small kids, or even men. We considered adopting a dog a few years ago, but he was very aggressive and fearful around Dean. It was not be a good situation for us, or for the dog.

What does your current family situation look like?

Do you currently have pets?  If so, how many and what kind?  Are they good with other animals or are they possessive of you?  You you currently have kids?  If so, how old are they?  If you don’t have kids, are you planning on having them?  If you get an animal, are you going to be getting rid of your pet when you have kids?  If so, do NOT get an animal or even think about it!  Has your pet been exposed to kids?  How do you plan on introducing your pet to kids?  These are all questions you need to ask.

Do you or anyone living with you have allergies?

Allergies is sadly a big reason why a lot of animals get surrendered and even adopted and then returned.  What are your triggers?

Dean has allergies.  He is allergic to certain dander and fur in certain breeds.  Because of his allergies, we can never have a shepard, lab, retriever, or husky (or any relation in the husky family).  We have to stick with shorter hair breeds with less dander.  We have found he’s fine with breeds such as Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs.  We still are not sure what Dolly is (as she came from Thailand) but one of the things we had to make sure of before we finalized and the adoption of her was to make sure he was not allergic.  Thankfully, it worked out but if it did’t we would not have adopted her.  He is also highly allergic to cats (as in he breaks out in hives), so for that reason, we can never get a cat.

What does your current living situation look like?

Do you live in a house or a condo?  Do you live in the city or on an acreage?  Do you own or do you rent?

I know almost all rescues will not adopt to people who rent. It is a policy that a lot of potential adopters have issue with.  One of the big reasons is if you are forced to move (for whatever reason), it can be very difficult to find a place that will allow pets (especially multiple pets and dogs over a certain size). This puts people and their animals is a really tough situation and a lot of times, pets are surrendered and I have even read of people abandoning their pets when they move out.  It’s a terrible situation.

This is NOT anyone saying anything bad about renters because owning a place is not possible for a lot of people.  I really wish that more rental places would allow pets BUT I also understand where they are coming from (especially if you have someone who allowed their pet to pee and poop all over the floors or their dog barks all day long and is disruptive).

Rescue organizations also want a lot of people who adopt dogs to have fully fenced in yards.  I understand that yes, dogs can dig and jump fences but, dogs will run off if they see something (like a rabbit).  I know this is a policy that a lot of rescue organizations get push back on.

For that, I will be interviewing some local rescue organizations and asking about certain policies.  Stay tuned for that!

I know I covered a lot of things and ask a lot questions, but it’s necessary.  I feel far too many decide they want an animal but don’t stop and think about things beforehand.  I want to try and educate people about animal rescue and adoption.

Stay tuned for part two when I go through the adoption process including the application (yes, they are long and take time to fill out), the meet and greet and the home check.