There isn’t anything that really compares to having a dog. They’re lovable, loyal, and they’re there to comfort you when you need it most. The ASPCA estimates that there are roughly 70-80 million dogs owned as pets in the United States, which means 37%-47% of all households have at least one dog.
When you get a dog, you make a commitment to care for them for the entirety of their life. It’s your job to love them, protect them, take care of them, and provide them with a forever home where they’re able to be happy and healthy. Unfortunately, many people who own dogs aren’t willing to fully commit to what dog ownership entails. There are a portion of people who decide that they need to get rid of their dog, either because they’re moving, caring for a dog is too difficult for them, or because the dog was a novelty as a puppy but is now grown, and no longer as “fun” as he used to be.
It’s sad and shameful that about 3.9 million dogs are dropped off at shelters each year. What’s worse is that those are the lucky ones; some find themselves abandoned without food and water, or simply dropped on the side of the road. Of the dogs that do make it to a shelter, 1.2 million are euthanized each year.
The good news is this is an epidemic that can be fixed. Educating individuals on spaying or neutering their dogs will go a long way towards preventing a surplus population. But another great option that can help with overpopulation is adopting a shelter pet. And, if you’re more of a cat person, there are plenty of kitties out there looking for a good home. Our adoption tips and resources apply to cats as well as dogs
Reasons to Adopt
There are tons of reasons why adopting a dog from an animal shelter is a great idea. The best reason is: you could save a life. Why support puppy mills or unethically operated pet stores when there are hundreds of thousands of dogs already in need of a loving home? Below are just a few more reasons why a shelter dog could be just what you’re looking for:
- It’s a great deal. You make one dog very, very happy, and you get him or her for much cheaper than you would buying a purebred puppy. It’s a win-win.
- You never know what you’re going to find. About 25% of shelter dogs are actually purebreds, with the remainder being mixed breeds or mutts. So whether you want a big dog or a small dog, an old dog or a younger pup, you’ll have plenty of options when you adopt from a shelter.
- Most shelter dogs are already housetrained. Potty training a puppy can be a little frustrating. If you chose a dog from a shelter, chances are they’ll already be housebroken. No muss, no fuss.
- You know your shelter dog will be healthy. Upon being admitted, shelter animals are vaccinated, fixed (if need be), microchipped, and screened for behavioral problems. Because of this, you can be almost certain you’re getting a healthy, happy dog who will fit right in with the family.
- It frees up space. As mentioned, there is an overpopulation of unwanted dogs, which leads to overcrowding in shelters and causes the need for euthanization. The more pets that are adopted, the more can be housed. So you actually may be saving two lives instead of just one.
- You set an example. People who witness successful adoptions may be that much more likely to give it a shot in the future. With any luck, this simple act of compassion will encourage your neighbors, coworkers, and kids to do the same one day.
Preparing for Adoption
Before you go visiting any shelters, it’s important for you to identify your needs and wants when it comes of pet ownership. Your choice in dogs will depend on several things:
- Are the residents of your household all adults or are there small children around?
- Do you have any existing pets?
- If living in an apartment or renting a home, does your landlord have any pet restrictions or charge a monthly fee for having a dog?
- Do you have enough space to provide for a larger dog or would a smaller dog be better for your current home?
- Do you travel much? Will you board your new dog or will they travel with you?
- Are you looking for a loyal lapdog or a pooch to get outdoors and have adventures with?
Consider these questions and more. Do your research and look up different shelters to ensure you’ve chosen the right one. Come prepared with questions to ask shelter staff. Know that it is important to find the right dog, but you may not find “the one” right away. Adopting takes patience and time, but the results are more rewarding than you can imagine.
The Perfect Match
You may find your perfect pup the first day you start looking, but you may not. Another great aspect of adopting a shelter dog is the ability to spend time with them before you make a decision. You also have the benefit of speaking to the staff who spend every day with these dogs. Staff members know their quirks, their nuances, and are more than happy to chat with you about any animal you are considering.
Additionally, a number of ASPCA shelters offer the help of the Meet Your Match program. This is a personality assessment program that works to evaluate both cats and dogs based on their personality, habits, and preferences. Knowing this helps you to find a dog who jives with your own personality and spirit, ensuring the perfect match. If you’re considering adopting a dog, read more about the Meet Your Match program and ask your local shelter if they participate.
Local Resources for Adopting a Dog
If you’re looking to adopt a pet, checking with your local Humane Society is always a good place to start and a quick internet search can also turn up multiple options. If you live in the Madison, WI area, there are plenty of great organizations that help you adopt dogs. Below are just a few local agencies that rescue dogs and help them find new forever homes:
- The Wisconsin Humane Society: They rescue dogs and cats, not to mention bunnies, birds, hamsters, and more!
- Dane County Humane Society: A more localized branch of the Humane Society, the team at Dane County have plenty of animals up for adoption and offer lots of great events to check out.
- Rescue Me!: This is a local Wisconsin dog rescue. They also offer a service to help you place your own pet up for adoption if circumstances don’t allow you to keep them.
- Adopt Me: A foster and volunteer based non-profit, Adopt Me even has adoption events every Sunday from 10am-2pm at the West Madison PetSmart.
- Fetch WI: The folks at fetch can help you adopt, foster, or surrender an animal. They also offer volunteer opportunities!
- Shelter From the Storm: Aside from your average adoption, here you also have the option to adopt a special needs pet that is older or needs a little more care and attention than some do.
Though the focus of this piece has been on dogs, the idea of adoption is one that applies to just about any pet. Whether you love cats, enjoy the chatter of a bird, or are a fan of bunnies or hamsters, there are hundreds of animals out there in need of a loving home. If you’re looking to add a furry friend to your family, consider adoption before heading to a puppy mill or pet store. Saving a shelter animal will change their life, and it’ll make you feel pretty awesome too!