Every year, U.S. animal shelters care for six to eight million dogs and cats, according to the Humane Society of the United States. And roughly half of these animals, many of them healthy and adoptable, are euthanized. The chief culprit: low adoption rates, a problem exacerbated by erroneous assumptions.
Do you plan to get a dog or cat one day, but find yourself resisting the idea of adoption? Here are 10 common myths about rescue dogs:
As a rule, rescue dogs are examined by veterinarians, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated. (Most are microchipped, too.) Also, any reputable shelter or rescue group is upfront about health issues or concerns, and stand behind all their dogs after adoption. Puppy mills and so-called backyard breeders aren’t nearly as diligent.
According to Petfinder, most dogs are relinquished due to life-changing conditions, such as illness or joblessness in their previous homes, and not due to behavioral problems. Yes, some rescue dogs, for one reason or another, have behavioral issues requiring special attention. On the whole, however, they’re lovable animals simply seeking a forever home.
Rescue dogs are profoundly grateful to have a second chance. In fact, most don’t miss a beat and bond quickly and readily with their new owners. Some may need more time to adjust, perhaps due to initial fear or anxiety, but come around in due course.
An estimated 25 percent of rescue dogs are purebreds, some of who even have papered pedigrees. And if your heart is set on a certain breed, there are breed-specific rescue groups who can help. They can explain the breed’s characteristics — key areas such as adaptability, trainability, health and grooming, all-around friendliness, and exercise needs — and guide you on fit. (Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all breed.) Then, depending on your mutual decision, they can facilitate your search.
Shelters and rescue groups generally have puppies, often even large litters of them. But know this: Puppies may be adorable, but they’re not right for everyone. Make sure you understand the months of extra energy and effort a puppy will require before adopting one.
All dogs, regardless of age, breed, or life experience, require training to coexist with their humans. Many rescue dogs have gone through some training, whether in their previous home or a foster home, or with volunteers and professional trainers connected with their shelter or rescue group. They’re also evaluated for temperament and activity level, among other things, in order to be matched with the best-possible home.
Many rescue dogs are relinquished to shelters or rescue groups by their previous owners. This means you can seek out dogs where there’s a known history, considering their overall past and specific issues, such as health, temperament, and daily routines. On the other hand, not knowing a dog’s history can offer benefits, too. Together, with no baggage from the past, you can create an all-new start.
In most high-kill shelters, a dog has only seven days to be adopted. And all shelters operate with tight budgets, spaces, and staffs. The reality is they can’t, and don’t, save every dog.
Sure, most rescue dogs come with a suggested or required adoption fee, generally around $200. But “free” dogs, such as those regularly advertised in Craigslist or similar print and online classifieds, can wind up costing much more. Too often, they come with undisclosed health or behavioral issues. And, unlike with shelter dogs, there are no assurances or agreements to fall back on.
Dogs in pet stores generally come from puppy mills — large-scale commercial dog breeding operations that prioritize profit over animal welfare. Breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality, resulting in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects. What’s more, the lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified. By adopting a dog, you challenge the cycle of cruelty embedded in the puppy mill industry. And that is a first-rate thing to do.
So why not save a precious life, and add a special love and joy to your own? Debunk these myths and adopt your next dog.
Learn more about dogs with Dogster:
Dobie Houson is an animal communicator and the author of Four-Legged Wisdom: Sacred Stories from an Animal Communicator (2014) and Finding Forever: The Dogs of Coastal German Shepherd Rescue (2011). She is founder and executive director of Finding Forever, a foundation dedicated to raising money and awareness for animal rescue efforts. Keep up with Dobie on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.