By DEBRA JENNINGS
Just over a week ago, the Animal Protective Foundation (APF) staff and volunteers were having cheers (and a few tears) of joy when a staff favorite dog, Lula, was adopted after more than 90 days at the shelter.
Though we love playing with her, walking her a few times each day, and watching her slurp up peanut butter (her favorite treat), we were happy to see her heading off to her new life when she was adopted. The next morning, we were bummed to see her brought back to APF — the adopter didn’t realize the responsibility he was taking on. Though it was tough at the time, he really did the right thing for Lula (and she had a vacation from the shelter for a night).
Adding a furry friend to your family can be exciting, but adopting a pet is a big responsibility. There are many factors to consider to make sure that both you and the pet are set up for success. As someone who has coordinated hundreds of adoptions, there are a few key questions I encourage people to ask themselves when thinking about adding a pet to their family.
u Do you have the time to help them adjust? Follow the “3-3-3” rule. It can take three days for the shock of moving from a shelter to a new home to wear off; it can take three weeks for them to start to settle into a new home; and it can take three months for them to really feel bonded to their new guardian(s). Even the best house-trained dog may have an accident during these transition times until they — and you — develop a healthy routine.
u Are you willing to have less free time? When you adopt a pet, they need to be fed, walked multiple times per day (for dogs), and given dedicated attention and enrichment every day. If you lead a very active life, that will change when you become a pet guardian. Pets rely completely on you for their care.
u Do you have the space? All animals, dogs especially, need an appropriate amount of space to be happy. When an animal isn’t given the appropriate amount of space to live in, they can get frustrated and can show their frustration by destroying items or developing other behavioral challenges.
u Have you done your research? Individual dogs and cats may be better fits for your lifestyle, housing and financial capabilities. If you are a very active person who likes to hike and go on adventures, you may want to look for a younger, athletic dog. If you are looking for a companion to chill with you, maybe a senior cat would be a better choice.
u Are all members of the household ready to adopt? When getting a new pet it is very important that all members of the household are on the same page. Every member should be committed to the daily care, training and other responsibilities to ensure the new pet develops healthy routines.
u Can you afford a pet? It is estimated that pet care can cost anywhere from $700-$2000 dollars per year, per animal depending on species and size of the animal. This includes routine shots, veterinary exams, grooming, food and preventive essentials like flea and tick treatments. On top of this, virtually every animal will get sick or have an accident that will require additional financial resources.
u Are you prepared for a lifelong commitment? Becoming a guardian to a pet is a lifelong commitment. Many cats live into their 20s and dogs, depending on their size, will often live 15-20 years. Some can live longer. You need to be prepared to take care of them physically, emotionally and financially for their entire lives, even if you move or experience other major changes in your life. These are all important things to think about before deciding to adopt a pet.
u Do you have pet sitters and others to ensure your pet’s needs are met if you aren’t home? Do you have someone lined up who is going to be able to pet sit when you are away? To ensure quick access to care, do you have a vet lined up and emergency contacts chosen in case anything comes up with your pet while you are out of town?
It is extremely important that you answer these questions honestly.
Our shelter team goes to great lengths to record observations and we are very good about matching people with the animals in our care. But animals behave differently in a home environment and sometimes even the most seasoned guardians may find challenges they haven’t encountered before. A good first step in these situations is to contact the shelter and we may be able to offer tips to overcome behavioral issues.
But, we know that not all matches are meant to be and we will always welcome the pet back to the shelter so they can find the right home where they can live a happy and healthy life.
The bond between a family and their furry friends is unbeatable, but it takes planning and commitment to ensure success.
Lula is now over 100 days in the shelter — and we know she will soon have us cheering (and tearing up) when she leaves APF to go to her forever home.
Debra Jennings is the client services manager at the Animal Protective Foundation (APF). APF contributes Animal Chronicles articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit animalprotective.org, follow us on social media @AnimalProtectiveFoundation or email [email protected]