You’ve probably heard animal rights advocates say, “Adopt, don’t shop!” Instead of buying an animal from a pet store or a breeder, millions of Americans are choosing to adopt a pet from animal shelters each year. But plenty of people are completely misinformed about animal shelters and the pets who come from them. Unfortunately, some myths that people believe may stop them from adopting an adorable cat or dog from their local shelter.
Want to make sure you haven’t been deceived by the biggest misconceptions about animal shelters? Read on to check out the myths that seem to stick around no matter how much those in the know try to set them straight.
15. People think they can’t find the perfect pet at an animal shelter
This is a big one, but it’s important to get this misconception out of the way. When people think about bringing a pet home, they often decide that they want the “perfect” pet. However, that’s an ideal that doesn’t exist, whether you’re looking around at the local animal shelter or talking with a breeder who has championship-winning dogs. The perfect cat or dog just doesn’t exist. Once you get past that idea, you’ll feel better prepared to evaluate what you want in a pet — without placing unrealistic expectations on your new kitten or puppy.
14. They think you can only get an adult animal from the shelter
Have your heart set on a puppy or kitten? We have good news for you: You don’t have to go the pet store or find a breeder. In addition to adult pets, most animal shelters have an abundance of young animals who are up for adoption. Especially during the spring and summer, most shelters end up with lots of litters. That means there are plenty of puppies and kittens to adopt.
13. People think the shelter staff doesn’t know much about their animals
Some people, especially those who have never walked into a shelter, imagine that the staff doesn’t know much about each of the animals. That couldn’t get further from the truth. First of all, many educated and experienced professionals volunteer at their local animal shelter. (We wouldn’t be surprised to find vet techs, veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and researchers among the ranks.) They also work hard to observe each animal’s behavior and temperament. They can probably even tell you which food, treats, and toys each animal prefers. And of course, they’re well-informed on the animal’s medical status and any special needs.
12. They think an animal from a breeder will be healthier than a pet from a shelter
Potential pet owners worry about the health of the pet they’ll bring home. Many erroneously cross the animal shelter off their list because they think that an animal from a breeder will be healthier. However, that’s often not the case. It’s well-known that many kinds of purebred dogs are prone to genetic disorders and predisposed to specific ailments thanks to the narrow gene pool of the breed’s bloodline. Broadly speaking, a purebred from a shelter and a purebred from the breeder will have the same likelihood of developing those diseases. But a mixed breed animal adopted from the shelter will likely develop fewer genetic ailments and could stay healthier in the long run. Plus, a pet from the animal shelter will almost certainly be healthier than one bred and raised by a puppy mill.
11. People think cats and dogs are the only animals available at the animal shelter
Many Americans want a dog or a cat. But those who’d prefer a rabbit, a bird, a snake, or any other less common pet automatically write off the animal shelter. Not so fast! Many animal shelters host animals of all kinds, not just of the canine and feline variety. If you’re looking for a specific kind of pet, it never hurts to ask! The shelter may either have exactly what you’re looking for or know of another shelter where you could find the pet of your dreams.
10. They think a ‘free’ animal is a better deal than one at a shelter
Most shelters charge an adoption fee when you want to take an animal home. So some people think that getting a “free” animal, such as a kitten from a friend’s litter, is a better deal than adopting an animal at the shelter. However, that’s usually not the case. Dogs and cats at the animal shelter get a health exam, important vaccinations, preventative medications, and often a spay or neuter surgery. If you adopt a “free” pet, you’ll be responsible for the cost of all of those items, which quickly adds up to far more than the typical adoption fee.
9. People think households with children shouldn’t adopt
Many people think that pets who come from the animal shelter are unpredictable in their behavior. So, understandably, they feel wary of bringing an unpredictable animal into a household with small children. However, there’s no need to feel suspicious. Shelter staff assesses the behavior of each animal at their facility. The staff discloses any behavioral issues or suspected problems to potential pet owners.
It wouldn’t do a shelter any good to lie about an animal’s personality or temperament. If you want a dog or a cat who will get along well with your children, just ask. The shelter staff can probably point you in the right direction.
8. They assume they can’t find the animal they want at a shelter
Many people assume that if they go to the animal shelter instead of a pet store, they won’t be able to find the exact animal they want. It’s true that many of the pets at the shelter are mixed breeds. But shelters also end up with purebred dogs and cats, since people buy those animals and then give them up if they can’t take care of them. Some shelters actually maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, and breed-specific rescue organizations can help you find a specific dog breed or cat breed.
7. People think you can’t know what you’re getting
One of the most persistent myths about adopting a pet from the shelter is that you won’t know what you’re getting. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Some cats and dogs available for adoption have been in foster care, so a volunteer has hosted the animal in his or her home. They can tell you lots more information about the animal’s personality and habits than a pet store or even a breeder could tell you.
Even if the animal has only stayed in the shelter, volunteers there can probably tell you about the cat or dog’s temperament. You’ll also get a more candid sense of the animal’s physical health or behavior than you’d get at a pet store or from a breeder.
6. They decide it’s a bad idea to get an animal with a back story
Most people love the idea of getting a kitten or a puppy. That’s not only because baby animals are cute, but also because these animals don’t have a history. But trying to avoid an animal with baggage won’t help you find a better pet. Adult or senior animals are the right choice for many prospective pet owners. And while some animals have suffered abuse and may have behavioral issues, the shelter staff won’t neglect to tell you what they know about a pet’s back story, so you can decide what you’re willing to take on. Besides, every pet has a distinct personality; you won’t necessarily have an easier time with a pet who didn’t come from a shelter versus one who did.
5. People think shelter pets are dirty
Another pernicious myth about animal shelters? That they and the animals inside them are dirty and unkempt. In most cases, the myth proves completely wrong. Shelter staff routinely groom animals. For instance, a shelter dog probably gets regular baths, brushings, and nail clipping sessions. And animals who live at a shelter generally live in conditions that are much cleaner and safer than what you’d find at a puppy mill. Sure, an animal shelter might smell, well, like animals. But when there are dozens of animals under one roof, can you really blame them?
4. They assume that pets at the animal shelter will be difficult to train
Potential pet owners who would prefer to work with a breeder or head to the pet store often think that a pet from the animal shelter will be difficult to train. However, that’s certainly not a universal truth. Most animal shelters have a couple of animals who were neglected or abused by their previous owners, and those animals may have a few behavioral issues (or they may not). Every pet needs proper training, and fortunately, the process likely won’t prove any harder with a shelter pet.
3. People think an animal shelter pet won’t bond with a new owner
Everybody wants a pet who will bond with them and their family. Too many people assume that won’t happen if they adopt a pet from the animal shelter. An older dog or a cat who was a stray won’t be any less likely to love you than an animal who came from a breeder or from a pet store. A shelter will typically let you spend lots of time interacting with an animal before you consider adopting. Some even enable home visits. So you can easily tell whether you and a particular cat or dog are a good match. And trust us, you’re incredibly likely to find a pet who will love you if you head to the animal shelter.
2. They think that only animals who aren’t good pets end up at the shelter
One of the biggest misconceptions of all? The idea that shelter animals are somehow “less than” other pets. People assume that cats and dogs only end up at the shelter because they don’t make good pets. But that’s simply untrue. People often give up animals because they’re moving to a new residence that doesn’t allow pets. They take unwanted litters of puppies or kittens to the shelter. And they also give up their pet if they can’t afford to take care of the animal, or if they simply don’t have enough time to spend with the animal. Pets you can adopt from the shelter are often just as loving and lovable as pets you can obtain anywhere else.
1. People assume it doesn’t make a difference if they go to the animal shelter
Most people know that animal shelters have more pets than they can accommodate. But they still justify going to the pet store or seeking out a breeder by telling themselves that it doesn’t make a difference if they adopt one pet from the local animal shelter. However, adopting a pet instead of buying one makes a huge difference to the animal you bring home. You don’t have to get your next pet from the animal shelter. But if you do, you can feel confident that you’re making a difference.