The Truth About Animal Shelters
Animal shelters aren't facilities built on sad stories and misfit pets. The truth is they're full of opportunities for people and animals to find a way to help one another. Shelter staff have a real love for helping animals, and the pets they care for often find a great place to call their forever home very quickly. Here are a few animal shelter facts that show how shelters can be great places for pets and their future parents.
1. There's a Pet for Every Person
You've surely heard that pets in animal shelters are somehow broken and won't fit into your life. The reality is that many pets in animal shelters are perfectly lovable; someone else just couldn't keep them for personal reasons.
As it turns out, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests the most common reason for a pet being in a shelter is that their owners were prohibited from raising them due to landlord policy. There are cats and dogs of every breed, mix, age, and stage available at shelters across the United States. Some of them may have special needs, but many shelters will not adopt out pets with illness or injury to prospective pet parents without telling them about the condition first. Each pet has a right person for them, and the caretakers at shelters are committed to finding a genuine match.
2. Dog Shelters Aren't Glorified Dog Pounds
For many people, the dog kennel section of an animal shelter is the most overwhelming. Dogs are often loud and, together, don't always create the best-smelling atmosphere. You might think the noisiness is aggression or bad behavior, but most of the time these dogs are just looking for attention. Liken it to a big party, where they want you to hear them over the music. One of the best things you can do for a sheltered dog is to take them for a walk or a run in the yard. There's an interesting study by the Journal of the International Society for Applied Ethology determining that potential adopters choose whether to adopt a dog within about eight minutes into their interaction with them.
Understandably, you might feel a little guilt about not being able to bring home everyone (or even anyone) at the shelter, but just spending a little time talking, walking, and being around them helps the animals that live there—and can also help you make a more informed decision despite the animal shelter "facts" you walk in with.
3. Adults Are Underrated
Everyone loves puppies and kittens. They're adorable, sweet to look at, and an endless source of entertainment. But their high activity levels, curiosity, and need for training can pose just as many challenges for new pet parents as a more mature animal. And although puppies and kittens can be found for adoption at pet shelters, you may be surprised to learn that the average age for any dog or cat in a shelter is between five months and three years old, as observed by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP).
One of the many benefits of adopting a pet at this lifestage is the ability to choose a furry friend who's beyond the "adorable but troublesome" phase, but within the more lasting "well-mannered but still playful" stage. These young-adult and older shelter pets often come completely house-trained, and many centers now have programs to teach basic commands that address common behavioral problems both before and after they come home with you.
Another advantage of a more mature pet is that you've seen its attitude toward life—which generally doesn't change at this point. If you want an energetic dog, a not-so-vocal cat, or a big or small animal, they're all available and ready to show themselves. For people who want a pet but lack the time or experience for training young animals, adult pets are the way to go.
Don't keep away from cat shelters based purely on the misguided idea that these centers are sad places. A little-known fact is that shelters are very happy environments; it all hinges on the attitude of their customers. On good days, they're filled with hope that you might be the right person for the seasoned tabby who's been there the longest, or the gorgeous brown kitten who's overlooked for a perceived developmental issue. Sometimes the one who looks plain sad just needs your company to snap back into the fun beauty she is inside.
Animal shelters are just as important as the people who visit them. They allow pets in need of new homes to find new people in a safe, secure, and caring way. If you thought animal shelters were marked by imperfection, spend more time in them first. Just remember that pet parenthood is merely built on the goofy—it's what gives the most lovable pets their charm. Visit your local shelter sometime; take a dog for a walk or play with a lonely cat, and you won't forget to tell your friends how great the place you always drive by really is.
Image Sources: Flickr
Jamie Drake is a wild and crazy animal enthusiast. She lives with three dogs and a house rabbit. Out in the barn she has two goats, two alpacas, lots of chickens, and 10 more rabbits that her family shows in competitions around the Mid-Atlantic region. Her family is active in 4H and FFA, and animal nutrition, health, and well-being are a big part of their everyday lives.