Children have been known to hound their parents for a family pet. If you’re thinking seriously about bringing a pet into your life, visit a shelter. Some veternarians say mixed-breed dogs—the ones usually found in a shelter–have fewer health problems. Many parents believe adopting a pet teaches kids to become more responsible. Everyone can participate by taking turns feeding, bathing, and cleaning up after them. It also teaches empathy and affection.
Unfortunately, cats, dogs, birds, and other domesticated animals, are brought to shelters every day, when people decide they can’t care for their pet any longer. Jennifer Newman, manager of education and community services at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, hears many explanations for relinquishing a pet. Some common reasons include: being transferred overseas, building doesn’t allow animals, cost of pet care is too high, family member is allergic, and kids left for college, but parents don’t want the pet.
Newman believes new owners should understand the commitment involved in adoption. She encourages people to do thorough research: “Choose the right type of pet for your lifestyle. A high energy breed dog may not be the right fit if you can’t exercise it. Your pet may get frustrated and become destructive in the household.” The shelter staff provides information about the long term care of the animal, versus “a pet store that just wants to sell you the animal.” Newman also wants families to consider the typical life span of each pet–some cats and birds live for 20 years or longer. Lastly, new owners should anticipate the costs of keeping their pet clean, healthy and well fed. Expenses for dogs and cats are typically $700 per year.
“The economy has affected us,” explains Newman, “so some pets have been returned for cost, and some stay a little longer…No pets are euthanized unless they have a serious health or behavior problem.” The Arlington League uses creative ways to promote adoption
So, if you’re considering adopting a pet during the holidays, Newman at the Arlington League recommends the whole family becomes involved in the decision: “Spend time with the animal to make sure it’s the right fit before taking the animal home.”