Not all animal shelters are alike. Some shelters are operated by cities or counties and are supported by resident’s tax dollars. Animal Control Officers are usually the ones responsible for bringing abandoned or stray animals to these shelters. Some shelters are independently run and rely on charitable contributions to pay expenses. There are even shelters associated with national groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) which provides guidelines on operating the shelter.
Shelters also differ in the kinds of services they provide, which are usually dependent on their operating budgets. Unfortunately, many shelters supported by local taxes have small budgets. Other shelters supported by animal rights groups and ones that receive private donations, have bigger budgets and are able to provide more services to a larger number of dogs.
But no matter where the financial support for a shelter is coming from or the size of its budget, there are dedicated staff members and volunteers in every shelter who truly care about the welfare of the animals in their care.
There are many reasons animals end up in a shelter. Some pets are there simply because their owners can no longer care for them. Owners will bring their dog to a shelter for a variety of reasons. They may be moving and can’t take their dog with them; the dog may have serious health problems and an owner cannot afford to pay the costs; a family no longer has time for the dog because they have a new baby; or the family member who was the pet’s owner has gone away to college, or perhaps has died.
Some unfortunate dogs are brought to animal shelters because they are homeless or they were rescued from an abusive owner.
The extent of care an animal receives after being surrendered to a shelter depends on the shelter staff and the financial status of the shelter. Some shelters will do an in-depth evaluation which includes obtaining a history of the dogs health and its behavior in its former home, if it had a home. Most shelters have a part-time veterinarian on staff, or if they cannot afford it, will have vets who volunteer their time to help these defenseless animals. Dogs will be screened for different diseases and an assessment will be made of the animal’s temperament and behavior in the shelter. Shelters with budget constraints are able to provide only a minimal evaluation.
If you want to adopt a dog from a shelter, there are several steps you must take. These usually include filling out an application, choosing the right dog for you, signing a contract for adoption, and paying a fee. Some shelters have a waiting period of 24 hours before a dog can be picked up by its new parent or parents. The purpose of this “waiting period” is to give the adoptive parent or parents time to think about their decision and voice any concerns they may have about the dog they chose. During the waiting period, the shelter will put a ‘hold’ on the dog you have selected so no one else can adopt it while you are waiting for the 24 hour time frame to end.
If you do adopt from a shelter, it can be overwhelming to see the number of dogs you have to choose from. A dog’s size, temperament, age and sex are important traits to be considered when deciding on the “right” dog. Be aware that a caged dog does not always display the same behavior it would if in a home. Don’t do yourself a disfavor by overlooking the dogs that are quiet, scared, or very excited. Once a dog is in the loving environment of your home, the chances are excellent that you will have adopted the best friend you’ve ever had. The shelter staff should be able to tell you about each dog’s temperament and personality.
Many shelters will neuter and spay all dogs before they can be adopted. Smaller, less well-financed shelters may only be able to provide you with a certificate that will pay for a portion of the surgery. Most of the dogs will have been wormed and vaccinated before being put up for adoption.
In most cases there will be an adoption fee that has to be paid to the shelter and you will be required to spay or neuter the dog if it has not already been done. If the dog has had any health problems while at the shelter, you may be asked to help pay some of those costs. This will be different at every shelter.
Some shelters will offer a trial period or “trying out” period to let you take your chosen dog home and see how it behaves in the new environment. It’s very rare that you’ll take home a dog with serious behavioral or medical problems. These things are usually discovered while the dog is still in the shelter.
Adopting a dog from an animal shelter can be incredibly rewarding. Most adoptive dog parents say they are happy that they were able to save the life of a wonderful animal by giving it a new and loving home. The sad fact is that between 4 and 6 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters every year. Every shelter is filled with dogs who were wonderful, loving pets and will continue to be great pets once they become a beloved member of its new family.
Animal shelters provide an invaluable service by providing safe havens for pets and matching them up with new, loving owners. Adopting an animal from a shelter can be a wonderful experience. If you’re looking for a new “best friend”, a shelter is a great place to find the right dog for you.