October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and Best Friends Animal Society is encouraging anyone who has been thinking about getting a dog to take the plunge and find themselves a new best friend at a local shelter or rescue, since the need is still great.
Even with the pandemic pooch craze, 32 percent of the 347,000 shelter pets (dogs and cats) killed last year were dogs, according to Best Friends 2020 data of U.S. shelters. Over the summer, shelter intakes were on the rise, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dogs in need of new homes across the country.
Adopting a dog comes with a host of benefits, according to veterinarian Erin Katribe, medical director at Best Friends Animal Society.
“Studies have shown that having pets reduces stress and lowers anxiety,” Katribe said. “This is especially helpful during challenging times like we’ve experienced over the last year and a half. Dogs are also great walking or hiking buddies. It’s like having a personal trainer with four legs.”
Another benefit of adoption is how cost-effective it can be. “Most shelter dogs are fixed, vaccinated, micro-chipped and ready to go home for one low fee,” Katribe said.
Since most dogs in shelters have already been in homes, many of them are housetrained. “For adult dogs, it usually just takes a quick refresher course to become housebroken in a new environment,” Katribe said.
Of course, saving the life of a dog in need is also hugely rewarding. “These dogs are so eager to be someone’s best friend again,” Katribe said. “They’ll pay you back for your kindness with a lifetime of unconditional love and companionship.”
Best Friends has lifesaving centers in Los Angeles, New York City and Salt Lake City, a sanctuary in Kanab and partners with more than 3,300 shelters across America (including Kittyland Cat and Kitten Rescue, Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Animal Samaritans and Loving All Animals here in the Coachella Valley), so finding a shelter or rescue near you is as easy as going to bestfriends.org and clicking on “About” and “Network Partners.”
To help with your search, Best Friends offers the following tips:
1. Lifestyle is huge. Do you enjoy binge-watching TV and prefer quiet nights at home on the couch? A senior dog or one who prefers being an only pet could be your ideal match.
More athletic types should consider a high-energy dog who can keep up on any adventure. High energy doesn’t always mean young, either. Many older dogs are still bursting with energy.
Even if you don’t have a big home, dogs of all sizes can thrive in an apartment or condo (as long as they get the necessary amount of exercise). Large breed dogs are most at risk in shelters, so keep your eyes open for a big boy or girl who may otherwise be overlooked.
2. Ask the shelter team to play matchmaker. Tell the staff and volunteers at the shelter all about who you live or share space with, including any and all pets (rodents and reptiles count). You’ll also want to note any pets you run into on a regular basis (like the small dogs at your apartment complex or a friend’s dog who likes to visit).
3. How much affection do you need? Some people love getting doggy kisses, others not so much. Same with sleeping — do you want to snuggle in bed with your dog or do you prefer them to have their own bed elsewhere? How much (or how little) affection you want from your pet is an important factor in deciding which one to adopt.
4. Involve the kids. It’s important to take your kids with you to meet all prospective pets so you can observe how they interact. Ask the shelter staff if any of the dogs in their care have lived with children previously.
5. Keep an open mind. Rather than fixating on looks, size or breed, focus on characteristics, such as who will fit best into your lifestyle and who you find a connection with.
6. Know your limits. If you’re not willing to potty train a puppy or can’t handle a strong, young dog, don’t feel guilty. Knowing what you can and cannot take on as a dog owner is important.
7. Ask about medical history. Some dogs, especially seniors, can have current or ongoing health conditions that require medications or increased veterinary care. As such, it can cost more money and involve more time to care for the dog. It’s important to factor this into your decision-making process.
8. Foster first. Most shelters allow potential adopters to take a dog home for several weeks or longer. This is the best way to really get to know the dog and can give you the confidence to decide on whether you should make the situation permanent.
For more information or to find a shelter or rescue near you, visit bestfriends.org.
About Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to about 347,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs all across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All. For more information, visit bestfriends.org.