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    October Is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

     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.

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    Re: October Is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

    Vet Connection Dr. Elizabeth Bradt
    The Salem News

     October, besides being a crazy Halloween month in Salem, is National Pet Adoption Month. After you have made sure that your pets are secured indoors so they are not kidnapped by some nut for an animal sacrifice ritual, you might consider adopting another pet.

    Maddies Fund, a national pet rescue foundation, says that all treatable and adoptable pets from shelters could be saved with just two more pets being adopted from each shelter every day.

    Puppies and kittens are available at shelters, as well as some beautifully socialized and purebred cats and dogs. There are also many rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and ferrets up for adoption. People may be concerned that a shelter pet comes with behavioral or health issues. Usually, this is not the case. The fact is that many shelter pets were relinquished because of owner issues, not animal issues. Some owners ended up being allergic to the dog; others found that they didn™t have time; and sadly, many weren™t prepared for the costs of a pet. Sometimes an owner has passed away and their very devoted pet loses its home.

    Our hospital adopted a pet in a situation where one of our clients died. We had seen her cat Muffie for years on house calls. Muffie was an attack cat when a stranger came into the house. She would puff up her body to three times its normal size and lunge at me with teeth bared and claws flying when I arrived to perform her physical exam, vaccines and lab work.

    Needless to say, she needed to be sedated so we could do her examination. Her owner was a lovely older woman who used to be a nurse and kept fit doing lots of laps at the local YMCA. When she died, her son called me in to perform a physical exam before Muffie went upstairs to the neighbor who was adopting her. Muffie was in the pink of health. Her son and I spent some time remembering his mom and what an independent soul she was before I headed home.

    Unfortunately, the next day, the neighbor called to let the son know that Muffie had sunk her teeth into her and drawn blood, so she did not want her as a pet anymore. I was then called out to put Muffie to sleep. The day I left for the house call, we had some very sad technicians at our hospital. We all have difficulty euthanizing pets when they are essentially healthy, but if they pose a danger to humans, we have to do it. We knew we had a responsibility to keep people safe, but we also knew how much Muffie had been loved so recently by her owner. My techs persuaded me to bring a carrier in case we could get her into it instead of euthanizing her.

    I arrived at the neighbors house with the carrier. Amazingly, as she lunged at me, I managed to swing the carrier with the open door toward her and scoop her up into it. The neighbor allowed me to take her back to the practice. She has now taken up residence at our practice and over time has become an affectionate mush of a cat that rubs up against your legs and purrs loudly when patted. She underwent a complete personality transplant.

    At many shelters, dogs and cats are temperament-tested and their behavior is evaluated before they are put up for adoption. The shelter volunteers and employees can help point out possible good matches for you.

    If you have your heart set on a special kind of dog or cat, another possibility is to look into pure-breed rescues in your area. These groups specialize in particular breeds and have great connections among quality breeders and other rescues across the country.

    Take your time to research and visit the shelters and rescues in your area. Although most are legitimate and working hard to save pets, there are always cases of hoarding and some people looking to cut corners and make money from good-hearted individuals.

    Dont forget to use your veterinarian as a good resource when deciding on a new pet. He or she may know the reputation of local shelters and rescues and, of course, can also help you understand the unique personalities or health issues of many dog breeds. Before you know it, with a little planning, you may have a wonderful new addition to your family.


    Dr. Elizabeth Bradt is a 1986 graduate of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and is the owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem (www.creaturehealth.com). She is a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists.