15 Reasons to Adopt a New Pet from an Animal Shelter

Are you looking to adopt a new pet soon? Have you considered going to a nearby animal shelter? You may think it would be a better choice to go to a pet store or look online instead, but there are actually good reasons to adopt from a shelter over the other options.

Although pets are available from other sources, animal shelters are excellent and reliable places to find the perfect pet for you and your family. If you need some reasons why, we have fifteen! These include a number of good personal decisions, good animal-protection decisions, and good local community decisions.

Personal Benefits from Adopting Pets from Shelters

  1. It is less costly to adopt a pet from a shelter than from a breeder or a pet store. In fact, the cost of adopting a pet from a shelter is usually less expensive than adopting your new pet any other way. Even if you acquire a pet from a friend for no cost at all, you must still pay for their vaccinations, neutering or spaying, and for a checkup by a veterinarian before you take your new friend home. These services are mostly provided (partial or complete) for pets at shelters already.
  1. You can adopt an adult or baby animal, whichever you prefer. Pet stores usually handle only young animals, but some people want an adult pet more used to children and family life, and they can be found at shelters. Animal shelters will also take in any babies from owners whose pets have offspring after a “whoops” incident, so you can count on puppies and kittens to be available for adoption as well.
  1. Animals at shelters receive good care. Shelters treat animals that are sick or hurt and do not allow them to be adopted until each one has been given a clean bill of health. They will have been given their vaccinations and, if old enough, will be spayed or neutered. Animals at shelters are inspected by veterinarians and will be assessed for their temperament and response to children and other pets. If an animal requires long-term healthcare or possesses unwanted behaviours, potential foster pet parents will be informed so that there are no unpleasant surprises.
  1. You will have a wide choice of pets. Shelters are not restricted to particular ages or breeds of cats and dogs, and you will have a good choice of animals. In contrast, breeders usually specialize in raising and selling particular breeds, and pet stores tend to deal in only selling young animals.
  1. Older animals will likely already be housetrained and socialized. Older pets that have never had loving owners and are not sociable will be identified so that you will know what to expect.
  1. Pets help keep you active—especially if you have a dog that needs to be exercised—which, in turn, can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your weight stable. Even a cat forces you to get up off the couch every now and then to feed and play with it.
  1. If you live by yourself but talk to and care for a pet, it can be a great source of company. If your family doesn’t live nearby and your friends have moved away, a pet can play an important role in your life and increase your overall well-being.
  1. If you have children, they can learn how to be kind and responsible by helping care for an animal. A pet will become a very important part of your household. They can comfort unhappy youngsters as well as anxious adults and may watch over ill or injured members of the family.

Benefits that Animals Receive When You Adopt Them from Shelters 

  1. It is untrue that most animals in shelters have personality issues because they are there after being mistreated and abandoned. Most of the pets in shelters have been lost or are brought to the shelter by people who are no longer able to care for them.
  1. Overpopulation is a serious issue even in BC. Because of the misconception that all animals in shelters have personality issues, some shelters cannot hold on to all of the animals they receive. You can literally save the life of a helpless little animal by adopting them from a shelter.
  1. You reduce the discomfort of animals that are kept in overcrowded shelters when you adopt one of them. Not only is it kind to offer a home to a homeless animal, it decreases the problem of animals living unhappily in small quarters and not getting the individual attention they can get if they’re adopted by a loving pet parent or family.

Community Benefits by Adopting Your Pet from a Shelter

  1. You support a charitable and community institution by adopting animals from shelters. Animal shelters discourage the unfortunately commonplace and terrible practice of pet owners abandoning their pets and leaving them to fend for themselves. Knowing there are institutions that will take an unwanted pet off their hands reduces the odds of treating animals in this fashion.
  1. You encourage other people to adopt pets from shelters so they know it is a safe and economical practice. If your friends and neighbours discover your new, adorable pet came from a shelter, they may be more inclined to consider adopting one themselves.
  1. Animal shelters are an important resource in the community. They reduce the popularity of puppy mills that often supply pet stores and deceive pet owners online. Also, shelter workers will give you information about pet care.
  1. The most important reason of all: by adopting from a shelter, you’ll give a little animal a safe and loving home, all while increasing your own happiness and satisfaction at a price you can afford.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic in Burnaby and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Choose Your First Family Dog

Do you have children in your life who love dogs as much as you do? If you do and your family is ready to raise one, your first family dog should be an affectionate, kid-friendly companion. It’s a good idea to choose a breed that will be patient even if tiny hands pester them.

Some dog breeds make good family dogs because they have mild temperaments, but there are other considerations to keep in mind when choosing your new pet. This includes your family’s lifestyle.

Characteristics to Consider When Choosing a Dog

  1. Size – Is a small dog a good choice for your family, or would a medium or large dog be better? Think about where you live and how you are going to exercise and raise your new pet. Do you have a small apartment? Do you have a house with a big yard? Do you live in the city with a dog park nearby or further out in the countryside? Large dogs are, in some cases, very calm and easy-going but need lots of room to move around, while some small dogs can be very high-strung and excitable but don’t need a lot of space in which to live in or exercise.
  1. Temperament – It’s certainly best to choose a dog with a mild temperament and lots of tolerance, especially if your children are too young to understand exactly how gentle they need to be with animals. Even if your kids are older, you need to make sure your new dog has an agreeable personality and can form strong bonds with everyone in the family.
  1. Vigor – Will your new dog be able to keep up with your active family? Will your family be able to keep up with your new, active dog? Make sure you choose a pooch that will be a good fit with your family’s lifestyle. There is no sense in choosing a dog who requires more exercise than your family is able to supply. A dog who needs and wants to run off their energy but has no opportunity to do so on a regular basis will become very unhappy, anxious, and even overweight.

Questions to Ask the Breeder or the Caregiver at an Animal Shelter

Depending on whether you are choosing your new dog from a licensed breeder or from an animal shelter, there are important questions to ask before you finally decide:

  • Is this dog gentle and will he be friendly to everyone in the family? Some dogs become attached to only one person, or will prefer only males or only females, or only adults.
  • How much care does this breed need? If they are a long-hair who requires lots of grooming, drools all over everything, or sheds a lot of hair, you must decide if you can handle the dog care he or she needs or not.
  • Will this dog require a lot of exercise or will they often expect to be carried around in your arms? If you are frequently carrying a toddler around, the addition of a little dog in your life may be an unreasonable burden. You may be happier taking a long walk twice a day with a big dog, or you may not be able to work that much exercise into your busy schedule. Be realistic.
  • Will he or she get along with other pets? This question is particularly important if you live in a multiple pet household, but even if you don’t, you may want to have another pet someday.
  • How old is the dog? A puppy will need lots of training, but will probably adjust to your family very quickly. An older dog will already be trained but may not fit into the family so easily and may not feel comfortable with visitors. If he or she is a senior dog, they may have health issues on the horizon, meaning they will need to see a veterinarian more often.

Popular Kid-Friendly Dog Breeds

There are many appropriate choices of kid-friendly dog breeds that you can safely invite into your family. Here are eight good choices in no particular order:

  1. Bulldog – This breed is known to be patient, docile, and friendly, and will get along well with kids and other pets. Because they are smaller breeds, they can be happy in an apartment or a large house. For these brachycephalic breeds with short noses and flat faces, extra care is needed for the care of their teeth, but their coats are easy-care (so long as they’re not overly exposed to warm weather), and they don’t require a lot of exercise.
  2. Beagle – These dogs are smart, sociable, friendly, and happy, and they love being outside. They are small and can be carried, and get along well with children and other pets. Expect them to shed and require frequent bathing.
  3. Collie – All collies, from border to bearded, are gentle and easy to train, and very protective of their families and love children. Their long hair requires regular grooming. They also require a great deal of exercise and will not be happy cooped up indoors all of the time, given that the Collie is bred to be a herding dog.
  4. Newfoundland – This large breed loves and protects children, and they are kind and gentle dogs. Expect lots of shedding and daily grooming, especially during the spring and fall. Although they need lots of room, you can train them to stay in rooms that are easy to clean and, fortunately, they are easy to train. They are also great swimmers and will protect their family in the water.
  5. Irish Setter – These sociable dogs, easily identified by their red coats, are friendly, energetic, love children, and love their families. They need lots of exercise and are sometimes anxious if left alone for long stretches of time.
  6. Poodle – Despite popular culture portraying them as over-stylized, poodles are actually one of the smartest, most obedient, and gentlest breeds of dogs. Their size ranges from miniature to standard and so you can pick the best size for your home. They are devoted to the family, good with children, and get along well with other pets. Find a good dog groomer as their coats must be cared for properly and regularly. This is the breed you can consider if you or your children suffer from allergies, as there is very little shedding or dandruff from their coats. They love swimming, running, and retrieving.
  7. Labrador Retriever – This breed of dog is very smart, very easy to train, gentle, loving, and playful. They need lots of exercise, lots of room, and love to swim. They are strong and obedient, good with children and other animals, and their short coats require very little care.
  8. Bull Terrier – These dogs love children and adults, and they are good with young children who are still learning how to treat pets. They love to be indoors with the family but still need lots of exercise in the yard or on walks, and their short, flat coats require very little care.

There are also many other good family dogs aside from our list including the English Setter, Golden Retriever, Shepherds, and Boxers, among many others. You can check with your veterinarian, local pet breeders, and animal shelter staff who will do their best to steer your family towards the most appropriate pooch.

Keep These Additional Ideas in Mind When Choosing a Dog

  • When a dog is spayed or neutered, it won’t make a hostile dog safe—only safer. Spay and neuter should be pursued for health reasons, but it is training and good dog care that can truly help prevent aggression problems. Lessening aggression is not the point of spaying and neutering.
  • Teething puppies will be happy to teeth on toys but may try and chew on kids and your furniture as well. Good training will help the puppies to learn not to use their teeth during play behavior, but patience and time are both needed to get them fully trained. Adult and senior dogs are gentler than puppies because they don’t jump around as much, and are usually calmer than they were as puppies no matter what breed they are.
  • Holidays are the worst times of the year to get a new dog. The last thing you should do when choosing your pet is be impulsive.
  • Any dog already socialized to be around children may be safer than one who is not.
  • It is important to teach both your children and your dog how to behave in a pet household so that your new dog won’t be thoughtlessly harmed by the kids, or vice versa.

Owning and raising a new family dog is a big responsibility! That’s why for any family with children choosing their first dog, it’s best to select from the many kid-friendly breeds that make good, gentle companions for life.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Pets and Gift Giving During the Holiday Season

There is so much on our minds these days. Finding appropriate gifts for friends and family, organizing and attending parties are at the forefront of our thoughts. Among all the wonderful gifts and good wishes being exchanged during this time of year, occasionally kittens and puppies are also presented to a loved one. What could be a better gift than a cute little fur-ball to an animal lover friend! While the thought behind the idea is a very positive, heart-warming one, it must be remembered that adopting or owning a pet can be a very personal decision.

Pet ownership is a commitment of many years and involves fulfillment; yet time-consuming activities such as socializing the pet, daily care, training (for dogs, and yes it includes house training), veterinary and grooming appointments, etc. Young puppies and kittens demand a ton of time and effort devoted towards them. This is generally while adjusting your lifestyle to that of the new member in the family. Due to careers, school, or relationships, some people may not be prepared to commit to such a huge responsibility – no matter how much they adore animals. Friends that have had previous pets may not be prepared to train a young pet from scratch. Or, worse, your gift may turn them into first-time pet owners, with them having no clue about what they are getting into!

Also, dogs and cats (or rabbits, or fish) make very different types of pets. Each has its own specific needs and personalities. A friend may have been a long-term cat parent, but their home and lifestyle may not support having a dog as part of the family. The same holds for different breeds within an animal species.

So, if you are planning to gift a pet to your friend or family member, be sure to initiate a conversation with them before deciding on the gift. It is also important to talk about what species and breed best fits the home. The most likely time for pets being adopted and finding loving, forever homes is when they are still very young. It would be a shame if the pet adopted by you for a friend does not get the absolute best care and attention it deserves.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian – Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby. BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

 

P.S.: this is my top 5 list of gift ideas for a pet-lover on your Christmas list:

  1. Grooming date for their pet (ideally at their regular groomer)
  2. A commitment to housesitting their pet on their next weekend getaway
  3. Gift card from pet store
  4. Appointment with a pet adoption home to explore the possibility of pet adoption
  5. Bag of their pets’ favorite treats (never goes wrong)

Should Pets be Adoptable in Pet Stores?

It has been very satisfying to witness passionate Burnaby residents discuss the outcome of City Council’s review on Burnaby’s animal control by-law in September.* We haven’t spared any avenue from talking about the issue, from one-on-one discussions with the newspaper and social media. It is lovely to witness what an animal loving city we live in, hence the passion and lively discussion, no matter which side of the fence we might be on.

The two key issues to be discussed by the council at the next meeting on August 26* are – whether or not to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and whether to put in breed-specific legislation on pet ownership. While the former topic has been debated extensively, we must not forget the implications of a breed-specific ban, without stressing the need for pet training, socialization, and leash regulations.

Both issues are multifaceted and it will be challenging to come up with a consensus. Coming up with a simple answer such as banning sales or banning pitbulls would amount to tackling the issue lightly. I sincerely hope that no single answer is sought during this review. We are a forward-looking city in most aspects of business and environmental initiatives. I would like to see the same approach taken to tackle this very sensitive topic on animal care and protection, one that other cities in the province might follow.

I agree with the animal advocate groups and rescue groups about the abundant need for local adoption of homeless or abandoned pets in not just Burnaby but in our province as a whole. We need to consider that a pet store sales ban would address a very small proportion of the homeless pet situation when it comes to local dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Also, a simple ban on pet stores would move the problem to puppy and kitten mill animals being sold through the Internet and backyard breeder type sales which may include the purchase of animals from out of province or even from across the border. If animals for sale are being imported from the United States for sale in Burnaby, it is decreasing the likelihood of adoption of local shelter-based adoptions. In my opinion, it is trivial to discuss whether these animals are coming from puppy mills or not, or if they are being sold by a pet store or an individual; as a city, our emphasis should be on minimizing homeless animals locally.

One of the pet store owners has been reported to contact local feline shelters to help sell their cats and this effort should be lauded and encouraged by not just the city of Burnaby but also the shelters involved. It could be a match made in heaven, assuming both parties meet the quality standards, as the abandoned pets in shelters could replace the sale of imported pets as opposed to competing with each other.

In my opinion, the City Council should consider a futuristic animal control model where pet stores may be able to provide adoption of pets within specified guidelines. The guidelines may include certification and ongoing inspections of the facility where pets are made available for adoption.

This would also include a commitment to home local pets only, which are obtained through the SPCA or local shelters so as to discourage local puppy and kitten mills and out-of-province adoptions. After all, the council is deliberating the draft on animal control issues rather than animal sales alone.

Likely, an association between pet stores and local shelters would lower the cost of adoption for new pet families as most veterinarians in Burnaby are committed to decreasing homeless pets through discounted veterinary services for shelter and homeless animals, TNR (Trap-neuter-return) programs, spay-neuter clinics, etc. Pet stores willing to work within City Council guidelines such as re-homing local adoptable animals only as well as in association with local animal advocacy groups would still be able to provide pet adoption if they so choose. Thus, the suggestion would be to allow adoption through pet stores, as opposed to the current model of pet sales.

Everyone in the pet care industry needs to do more in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Education of prospective pet owners involves a thorough discussion regarding pet care needs, the cost of pet care, licensing of pets, need for neutering, longer life expectancy of pets (thus a longer commitment to your new friend), and support from the avenue it was adopted from. Fostering prior to adoption should be encouraged by adoption agencies including pet stores.

Adopting a kitten or puppy can be a bigger challenge as a first-time pet – new pet owners should be given an option to adopt an adult. This may help make their first pet experience a smoother ride compared to the surprises a kitten or puppy would bring in day-to-day needs.

The way to address the need for responsible pet ownership is not only through legislation but also through public education. As individuals, we should consider adopting locally instead of buying pets.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005 and BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their August 2013 issue

Wait Until After Easter to Adopt a New Pet

How great would it be to have a puppy or kitten or rabbit running around the house for Easter? They sure are cute. But unfortunately, not every cuddly pet adopted during this time of year gets a happy ending. By getting a pet on impulse, you could be putting you, your family, and especially your new pet under a lot of pressure to adapt and get used to something so new so fast…as if Easter wasn’t enough of a busy time of the year!

If you are planning to adopt a new pet, it’s best that you wait until after the busy Easter season. That way, you and your family will have more time to learn about the necessary pet health care and training needed by your new family member.

Why Holiday Seasons Aren’t the Best Time for Adoptions

Adopting a pet is a more serious decision to make; it requires more forethought and planning than you may realize. There are also some dangers in purchasing any pet as a holiday gift:

  1. At Easter time in particular, parents often have a vision of their surprised and happy children holding baby animals when there may be no suitable place on the property to raise them. Any baby animal will grow into an adult, and so they will require extra living space as they grow.
  2. Your child may be too young to accept the responsibility of caring for a pet. Any small animal can be mishandled or mistreated by young children who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Many Easter pets could be hurt by accident when they are dropped by excited children or not given proper support when held. Also, keep in mind that a frightened or hurt animal may harm the child as well.
  3. You may not have the time and opportunity to teach your child how to properly handle and care for new pets that are brought into the family unexpectedly.
  4. All animals need a safe environment, and holiday seasons present particular dangers not normally present, such as decorations, candy, and treats that may attract pets but are toxic to them.

Consider Your Lifestyle Carefully When Adopting a Pet

Animals always need love and attention, so they require a commitment from owners for a lifetime of pet health care. Ask yourself the following questions before you adopt:

  1. Can you and your family provide the care needed? Do you have time to housebreak a kitten or a puppy? Do you have a place to house your new pet? Will you be able to feed the new pet on schedule? Does your new pet require exercise and do you have time for that?
  2. Do you have the money for pet food or any other supplies that are needed to care for your pet: a leash, a harness, a cage, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, and other accessories?
  3. Will you be able to pay for veterinary care, which may include spaying or neutering, vaccinations, medications, flea and parasite prevention, and emergency care?
  4. If you buy a pet for your child, are you prepared to take over its care if your child loses interest and neglects the pet?

Animal-Related Easter Gifts Can Be More Welcoming and Exciting 

If you have decided to adopt a new pet and wisely choose not to spring it on to your family at Easter (or any other holiday season), consider animal-related substitute gifts. After deciding on the type of animal that would fit your lifestyle, announce at gift-giving time that the family is going to adopt a pet after the holidays. Present gifts of books and videos on pet care for the particular animal on which you have decided, or gift certificates for pet care items and accessories.

Once the Easter season is over, make sure everyone has had time to become familiar with the specific pet health care, training, and attention that will be needed for the animal you have chosen. It will then be the perfect time to select and adopt your new pet and, soon after, welcome him or her into your home. Enjoy your new family member!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Credit: Pixabay

Guidelines for pet parenting and pet adoption | Hastings Veterinary Clinic

Guidelines for pet parenting and pet adoption

Burnaby Now June 2014 article

With increased travelling, pet lovers are adopting pets from places far away from home. California, Texas, and Mexico seem to be common places pets get adopted from these days. Then of course, there are the pets moving in with their families to beautiful BC from the east. So what does this mean for all the existing and new pet parents? It means a lot. Adopting a pet is a major life decision – you are bringing a new member in to your family, after all.

Pets that may come in from southern USA or Mexico are exposed to potential infections that are unheard of in BC – these include deep fungal infections (which can stay dormant in a pet’s body for years) and heartworm (a parasitic infection of the lungs). Pets previously exposed to harsh weather and a high UV-light index can also be prone to skin problems we are not used to seeing in our pets in BC. Other more uncommon infections may be imported with adopted pets from Asia, South America, or Europe. While few of these diseases have potential to spread to other pets, the pet most at risk would be the one carrying the dormant infection.

Adopted pets have usually had some form of care lacking in their history (as well as an incomplete medical history record). Thus, a non-infectious underlying medical condition can also be a concern in newly adopted adult or geriatric pets. Adult cats that have lived outdoors previously in endemic regions for life-threatening viral illness (feline AIDS and feline leukemia) are best confirmed to be negative for such illness before or soon after adoption.

What can pet parents do? Be thorough. It is important to do your research prior to adopting a pet from a different geographical region, even within Canada. Enquire if the pet has been receiving long-term preventive care based on the surroundings. An example would be ongoing heartworm preventives for a pet living in Ontario or California. Ask if the cat being adopted has been an outdoor pet previously, which would indicate a need for AIDS (different from HIV in people) and leukemia testing, if it hasn’t already been performed. Ask for a copy of previous medical history, if available. Ask if there is a specific medical reason for the pet being on its current diet.

Once you have brought the new family member to your house, prioritize a complete veterinary evaluation with your veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know where the pet has come from. This would help potentially detect underlying medical concerns, as well as give your veterinarian a chance to ensure that the diet and preventive care are in line with the individual pet’s needs. For example, pets adopted from Alberta may not be current on flea prevention, which would be absolutely necessary round the year for a dog or cat with an outdoor lifestyle in the Lower Mainland. While I recommend all pets to have veterinary health insurance, I strongly advice health insurance for newly adopted adult pets, as a veterinary examination at adoption does not preclude the chance of medical bills in the near future.

For pets that are moving with their families, again taking the pet to a veterinarian soon after moving would help ensure that you are following a veterinary health program suitable for the new region you have moved into. Because of all the pets moving in and out of lower mainland with their families or through adoption, it is even more important than before to keep them up to date with vaccination, flea, tick, and deworming programs.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.