Better late than never!

Fetch a dog from a shelter this October

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Walk into almost any animal shelter, and you’ll see row after row of homeless dogs with wagging tails and pleading eyes, their wet noses jammed between the cage bars as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!” All of them—purebreds and mutts alike—are desperate for attention, for love and for someone to take them home.

October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month, and for people who have the time, patience, money, energy and love needed to care for an animal, there has never been a better time to take home a grateful dog awaiting adoption at the local animal shelter.

While not every dog may be perfect for everyone, every homeless dog is perfect for someone, if only that someone would come along. That’s why, as a shelter volunteer, it’s baffling to me that some people still turn to pet stores, classified ads or breeders—all of which contribute to the animal overpopulation crisis—when animal shelters across the U.S. are overflowing with lovable, friendly, healthy dogs who would make wonderful companions.

Most dogs in shelters are victims of circumstances beyond their control, such as divorce or an allergic guardian. The recession and the foreclosure crisis have flooded shelters with dogs who were given up by people who could no longer afford to care for them or who moved into living situations where dogs aren’t welcome.

Others were surrendered because their guardians acquired them on a whim and lost interest in caring for them once they discovered that veterinarian visits cost money, that dogs need exercise and something interesting to do and that cute little puppies chew and soil things and quickly grow up to be big, rambunctious dogs. Many have ended up homeless simply because someone didn’t spay or neuter his or her dog and an unwanted litter was born.

Adopting pre-loved dogs has many advantages. They are likely to be housetrained, pros at basic skills such as walking on a leash and familiar with good behavior and proper canine etiquette. And while most animal shelters have plenty of adorable puppies who need homes, with adult dogs, “what you see is what you get” in terms of the dog’s size, grooming needs, energy level and personality.

For those of you whose hearts are set on a pedigreed pup, you should know that about 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds, and Web sites such as make it possible for adopters to find the breed of their choice and still rescue a dog. Of course, mixed-breed dogs make equally great companions, and they don’t suffer from many of the genetic health problems that plague purebreds.

Another reason to visit your local shelter: Dogs in animal shelters are usually screened for health and temperament issues, and for a nominal adoption fee, most shelter dogs go home spayed or neutered, microchipped, dewormed and vaccinated.

Trained adoption counselors at animal shelters help match potential adopters with the dog who will be the best fit for their personality and lifestyle. Many shelters also offer free training classes and follow-up support to help make the dog’s transition to a new home successful.

Many people who have adopted shelter dogs—myself included—say that their canine companions are exceptionally devoted to them and that they seem to be especially grateful for a warm home, a soft bed, nutritious food and a human who adores them. So if you’re considering adding a canine companion to your family, why wait any longer? October is the perfect time to “fetch” a dog from your local animal shelter. Not only will you save a life, you’ll also make a best friend for life.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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