By Karyn Collier, DVM, chief medical officer of St. Francis Veterinary Center.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has designated October as National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. More than three million dogs are currently in shelters across the United States and are in need of a good home.
The month-long observance encourages animal lovers across the nation to raise awareness about the positive aspects of adopting a pet from a local shelter.
It’s important to educate yourself before making the commitment to love and care for a pet. Here are some tips to guide you through the process:
- Make sure you are ready for the commitment: A dog is an extension of your family, so it’s important to make sure that you are ready to add more responsibility to your daily life. With good care, most dogs can live 12 to 15 years, so it is critical that you consider what is likely to be happening in your life over the next few years before you adopt a pet. Be sure to discuss the decision with your family and research what breed would work best for you and your loved ones. You can read up on the ASPCA's tips on adopting the perfect family pet, and the American Humane Association's tips on recognizing whether getting a dog is the right choice for you.
- Know the facts: Many shelter dogs are pure breeds, and most will offer additional vetting, with basic vaccinations and microchipping options. Most shelters will also provide assistance and referrals for affordable spaying and neutering. Shelters and rescue groups offer a wide variety of purebreds, mixed breeds and big and little dogs, making it easy to find the perfect dog for you.
- Be prepared: Once you have done your research and determined that you’re ready to adopt a dog, make sure you know what paperwork you’ll need in order to complete the process, as well as any other materials you’ll need—from a leash to two forms of identification. Your local shelter can provide you with this information. Once the adoption is final, you can brush up on helpful health and wellness tips for pet owners at St. Francis Veterinary Center’s Pet Health Library.
- Select a primary care veterinarian: Once you've made the commitment to open your home to a new family member, take time to research the primary care veterinarians in your area. Your family veterinarian will become the person who knows your pet's medical needs better than anyone else, and over time this is the person you'll rely on most to help you keep your pet happy and healthy. For help finding a veterinarian in your area, you can search St. Francis' website.
Adopting a shelter dog can be a truly rewarding experience, and it gives a dog a second chance at life. The following links will help you find a local shelter in your area and begin the adoption process.