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Rescued Pets:
What You Need to Know When Adopting a Rescued Pet

Every year, between 6 million and 8 million cats and dogs enter animal shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Some of them were abandoned, others found as strays, others left there because their previous owners underestimated the time and effort it takes to care for a pet.

rescue a pet

Millions of rescued pets enter animal shelters every year ... is your new pet one of them?

Shelters are an ideal place for people to find a new pet, and about 3 million to 4 million pets are adopted from shelters annually. Sadly, because pet overpopulation (largely from dogs and cats that are not spayed or neutered) has reached crisis levels, about half of the animals that enter shelters -- about 3 million to 4 million -- must be euthanized, simply because there aren't enough people to care for them, HSUS says.

Why Rescue a Pet From a Shelter?

There are a number of reasons why rescuing a pet from a shelter is an ideal way to find a pet. For instance:

  • You'll find a large selection of breeds and ages (cats and dogs, kittens and puppies).

  • You CAN find purebreds. About 25 percent to 30 percent of the average shelter's dog population is purebred, according to HSUS.

  • Animal shelters screen animals for temperament and health issues, and often are already vaccinated, dewormed, and spayed or neutered.

  • The adoption fees from shelters are considerably less than buying an animal from a pet store or breeder.

  • Most animal shelters will provide resources for behavior training, pet sitters, medical services and more.

  • You are saving the life of an animal that needs a home.

What to Know Before You Adopt a Pet

rescue a pet

Your whole family will need to be there when you go to the animal shelter to adopt a pet. This is to make sure that everyone gets along great.

Animal shelters are independent organizations, typically governed by local ordinances, which means most of them have their own guidelines and procedures. Many operate solely on donations and volunteer workers.

In general, however, there are a number of aspects about rescuing a pet that are the same at most shelters. For instance, most animal shelters do require that you fill out an adoption application and speak with a member of the staff in order to adopt an animal.

This, of course, is to ensure that you and the pet are compatible, and to weed out anyone who may mistreat or neglect the animal. Most shelters do require that every member of the family (and often existing dogs) be present before an adoption can take place.

After filling out an application and being approved for an adoption, you'll be able to view the animals for adoption (sometimes this happens before the application procedure).

You and your family should take your time getting to know the animals, and will be able to spend time one-on-one with the potential pet before making a decision.

Keep Your Pet's Paws Cleaner Than Ever!

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Here's more on what you should know about rescuing an animal:

  • Take into account the animal breed, how often you're home and the space in your home. Shelters will help you determine a pet that's right for you (and will often require that large dogs that need to run only be adopted by people with a large, fenced backyard, that puppies and kittens only be adopted by people who will be home to care for them, etc.).

  • Shelters require that pets be spayed or neutered. This is to help control the pet overpopulation problem. Many shelters will have already done this procedure prior to the adoption. If not, they will require that you have it done. Some shelters will also only adopt a cat if the owner agrees not to have it declawed and will keep it indoors only.

  • Shelters do have a veterinarian check animals for medical problems and will only adopt out an animal that's healthy. However, they may not have the money to test for every disease, and you should still take your new pet to a veterinarian to be checked out after adoption.

  • There is an adoption fee, which varies depending on the shelter. Since most shelters run on donations, they use adoption fees to help pay for food, medical care and shelter for the animals. The fee is almost always much less than you would pay at a pet store or breeder.

  • Many shelters microchip their animals, so they can be identified if they're lost. However, if this is important to you, ask the specific shelter to be sure.

  • Shelter workers or foster owners have typically spent a considerable amount of time with the animals. Before adopting, you can ask them about the animal's personality, behavior -- even their preferred toys -- so you can get a better picture of your new pet.

  • Some animal shelters adopt not only cats and dogs but also small animals like rabbits, ferrets, birds and guinea pigs.

If you would like to rescue an animal from a shelter, you can locate your local animal shelter by looking in your phone book. Be sure to check under a variety of names, including "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control."

Many animal shelters have also begun listing their available pets online at sites like,, and Sites like these allow you to search for pets from shelters across the country.

If you would like to help your local animal shelter, most accept monetary donations or donations of pet food, cat litter, supplies and more. You can also volunteer your time -- an excellent way to help the animals and your physical and mental health!

Recommended Reading

Dog and Cat Vaccines: One Size Does NOT Fit All

How Can Having Pets Improve Your Health? Let Us Count the Ways ...


The Humane Society of the United States

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