Pet adoption requires serious commitment

Adopted dog

COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP: A puppy brought home from a shelter can bring joy to a household for as many as 15 years – a kitten for 20. Adopters must be able to commit to the responsibility of caring for the pet through the years.

– Courtesy of Family Features

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How much will owning a pet cost? How much time do I need to devote to a pet? These are questions potential pet owners should ask before adopting. Not everyone takes the time to assess the responsibilities and requirements associated with pet ownership, however – increasing the likelihood a pet will be surrendered to an animal welfare organization. Sometimes a pet is given up for hardship reasons, such as displacement after a natural disaster or home foreclosure. Yet one of the biggest and more controllable factors affecting pet relinquishment is a lack of knowledge on the owner’s part.

The good news is that pet relinquishment is often preventable through education. Potential pet adopters who truly evaluate their situations and get answers to important questions before bringing pets into their homes can increase their chances of a permanent pet adoption.

Adopt-A-Pet.com is North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption Web site, with more than 5,766 public and private animal welfare organizations posting information on adoptable pets. Their vast resource of shelter and rescue organizations provides thousands of pets with loving homes each year. These organizations serve as local experts to anyone in search of the perfect furry friend. Recently, Purina Pets for Pet People surveyed more than 180 Adopt-A-Pet animal welfare organizations nationwide to develop a “Permanent Pet Adoption” checklist of the Top 10 most important things pet adopters should consider to ensure they have a successful adoption experience. You can find the complete checklist online at www.AdoptAPet.com/public/guides/permanent_pet_adotion_checklist.pdf.

Making a lifetime commitment is key

According to the survey, the number one thing a prospective pet owner should consider to ensure a permanent adoption is whether they’re ready to make a real commitment to care for the new pet for its entire life – just as they would with a child.

Another important factor to consider is that a pet affects other parts of owners’ lives, such as housing and travel, for as long as owners have the pet – as many as 15 years for dogs and 20 years for cats. More tips from the “Permanent Pet Adoption” checklist can be found at Adopt-A-Pet.com.

Victoria Stilwell, a respected dog trainer, author and host of the television program “It’s Me or the Dog,” believes that potential pet owners need to ask the right questions before adopting, so they are prepared for the rewards and challenges that come with pet ownership.

“Education prior to adoption is one of the best ways to reduce the number of pets surrendered by their owners,” Stilwell said. “Prospective pet owners need to clearly understand how a pet will fit into their lives for the long term, and whether or not it’s a good fit before they adopt. It’s my goal to keep as many deserving dogs and cats in forever homes as possible, and it starts with proper education.”

Deserving of a permanent home

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 5 to 7 million pets enter shelters every year. They are not typically bad pets, but often victims of unfortunate circumstances or a lack of education on the part of their former owners. The solution for keeping pets in forever homes lies in education, and the “Permanent Pet Adoption” checklist can be a valuable resource for potential pet adopters. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy cites proactive educational efforts as essential to reducing the number of pets that are relinquished to shelters and rescue organizations.

“Selfless animal welfare organization workers are extremely knowledgeable on the pets in their care,” said Brenda Bax, of Purina Pets for People. “Whether they’re mixed or breed-specific organizations, they can offer advice, resources and valuable information to anyone interested in adopting a dog or cat. The better educated prospective adopters are about the pet they are bringing into their lives, the greater the chances that the pet will have a loving permanent home.”