Being a dog lover makes this a hard post to write in a way, because a big part of me wishes that more people went to shelters to rescue a pet rather than buy a new one -- but on the other hand there is nothing like buying a new puppy or kitten and bonding with it from the outset. The problem is, about 1 in 5 people who get puppies abandon them later when they are bigger and not so cute any more -- that's why shelters are full. 3 to 4 MILLION cats and dogs are put to sleep each year in shelters (ie. killed, euthanized). So I must ask anybody who is considering getting a puppy a couple of questions that you really need to think about, as a prospective owner.... If more people ask themselves these questions before they adopt or buy a dog, there would be fewer dogs in shelters today. WHAT YOU CAN DO IS MAKE SURE THAT A FAMILY OR FRIEND YOU KNOW WHO IS GETTING A DOG HAS CONSIDERED THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS CAREFULLY - OR YOU CAN ASK THEM AND PERHAPS SAVE A LIFE:
Resisting love at first sight is not easy. Those inquisitive puppy eyes, the touch-me soft fur—its playful nature and happy dance when you greet it—of course you must take home this puppy! Certainly, adopting a dog from an animal shelter is a responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, the decision to bring a puppy or mature dog into the family requires more practical considerations. Ignore your tugging heartstrings, at first, until you thoughtfully consider whether now is the right time and whether your lifestyle can accommodate a new “child.” Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want to own a dog? Adopting a pet on a whim or because a child demands a pet are the wrong reasons. Remember, this dog will be part of your family’s life for up to twenty years, depending on the breed.
- Do you have time? You cannot ignore a dog when you are tired or get too busy. Dogs require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day of every year, for as long as they live. Most shelter dogs are there because their owners didn’t realize what an incredible amount of time and energy it takes to care for them.
- Can you afford to properly care for a dog? From licenses to training classes, spaying and neutering, veterinarian care, grooming, toys, food, and supplies, the costs are substantial, especially when added up over the dog’s lifetime. Then there are fees associated with problems your dog may confront: flea infestations, worms, and even cancers. (You can buy pet health insurance. Learn more on our website at wendynanrees.com.) In addition to direct costs, there are indirect expenses. You can count on losing at least one piece of furniture, rug, or household accessory as a puppy teethes and innocently plays with, say, the tassels on your heirloom oriental rug.
- Will your lifestyle accommodate a dog? Are you allowed to have a dog where you live? Many rental communities do not allow dogs, and the majority of the remainder have restrictions. Be sure you know the rules before you bring a dog home.
- Is now the time? If you have a child who is not yet six years old, you may want to hold off for a few years. Children should be responsible enough to help with pet care, such as filling a water bowl. Likewise, if you are in school, the military, or travel frequently for your job, wait to adopt a dog until you settle down. Some animals are independent and require their human family members only to “check in” on them periodically—some cats are like this. Dogs are not; they require attention and love every day of their lives.
- Will you be a responsible dog owner? Remember that getting your dog spayed or neutered, obeying your community’s leash and licensing laws, and maintaining and renewing your dog’s identification tags are all requirements of being a dog owner.
- Are you ready to care for the dog for the rest of his life? Remember that when you adopt a pet, you are making a commitment to care for the animal for his or her lifetime, which includes giving your dog or cat love, exercise, companionship, a healthy diet, and regular vet care.