Article By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM

Adding a new pet to your family is always a big decision. It takes time and patience to find a companion with just the right temperament to take home. Whether you decide to adopt or ultimately purchase a pet, local animal shelters and rescue groups should always be first on your list of places to search. Why should you consider adoption first? There are lots of good reasons! You’re saving a life. Millions of animals are euthanized each year in shelters (an unknown total number in Canada, and an estimated 3-4 million in the United States). Adoption also helps curb pet overpopulation, reducing the likelihood of future animals ending up in shelters.

A common myth about rescue pets is that they must have been relinquished by their owners for bad behaviour. In fact, shelter pets usually have already been trained. The most common reasons people actually give up cats and dogs are:

1. Moving
2. Landlord not allowing pet
3. Too many animals in the household
4. Cost of pet maintenance
5. Owner having personal problems

Unlike a brand-new kitten or puppy, a slightly older pet may already be house trained and may have learned other good habits from their previous owners. Any animals with behavioural problems or health issues will have accompanying documentation, and shelters take special care to ensure they are only adopted to a home that can handle their special needs.

You’re saving a lot of money, and the money you do spend goes to a good cause.
Adopting a pet will save you hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of buying one, especially when you factor in the healthcare, vaccinations, microchipping and even desexing that shelters will perform before you take your new pet home. The small adoption fee will support the shelter’s efforts to help other animals in your neighbourhood.

Mixed-breed animals can be healthier than pure breeds. While not all animals in a shelter are mixed-breed, many of them are. Mixed breed animals benefit from what is known as “hybrid vigour”, or the protective effects that come from a diverse genetic background. These animals are less likely to suffer from health problems associated with inbreeding that can, unfortunately, affect purebred animals.

You can pick just the right age of pet for you.

Kittens and puppies are adorable, but they aren’t the best pets for everyone. Not everyone can handle the task of training a new puppy or keep up with the high energy of a new kitten. A fully-grown animal is easier to integrate into a busy routine. Senior pets are often ideal companions for people looking for pets that can match a slower pace of life.

You can avoid supporting puppy and kitten mills. New legislations are making it easier to avoid purchasing from kitten and puppy mills, but they, unfortunately, have yet to be stamped out entirely. With a shelter pet, you can be completely certain that you are not supporting one of them.