Looking for a pet? Choose the facility carefully!
From experience, you will quickly bond and become attached to any pet you bring home. However worthy of your affection though, in some cases a particular pet may not be the best fit for your family, or it could develop behavior problems or health issues that can eventually become serious, putting the whole relationship in danger. There is no fool proof method when selecting a family pet, but one of the golden rules to is to be very careful where you get the animal from. This will help minimize the risk of future problems and heartbreaks and it will also serve to promote higher standards of care, which will then have an impact on overall animal welfare.
There is currently much attention in the media on whether to adopt an animal from a refuge or go through a breeder. Pet stores are also being pressured to stop selling animals, while at the same time there is a large increase in the number of animals being sold or put up for adoption over the internet. There is much debate about the ethics of some of these practices but still very few laws regulating any of them. No individual or facility, regardless of its title or mission, should be supported or encouraged to stay in operation if it is keeping animals in sub-standard conditions. At the moment, it is up to the consumer to beware and choose carefully.
Regardless of the source, the same basic rules apply. Stay away from any place that looks overcrowded or dirty. Though the price can be very attractive, it is highly advisable not to buy a pet over the internet unless you may go and visit first, in order to avoid inadvertently getting an animal from a disreputable seller. Ask about the basic care that was provided for the animals and take the time to meet and interact with the animal and the seller.
Do not be swayed by pressure tactics or be made to feel guilty for not taking a particular animal home. Remember, you cannot save them all, and you shouldn’t be there to save any of them in the first place. If you feel someone is not providing adequate care for the animals, then you should report it immediately rather than end up bringing home a sick animal. There are now new, stricter laws regulating animal care and abuse and you will have more impact on animal welfare by reporting a poorly run operation than by saving a single animal from a bad situation.
If you cannot see where the animal is housed and how it is cared for before you adopt or buy it, then don’t do it.The housing environment provides numerous clues to the potential health status and care that the pet receives. All this can be evaluated in a few short minutes without having to ask any questions. Check if the area is clean, free of foul odors, and look at the animal to assess if it looks bright and lively. The fur of an animal can be a good clue to poor health status if it is dull or looks unkempt. Does the animal appear to have enough space to move around or not? If it is caged, is the cage big enough and of good quality and is it well maintained? Wood and carpeting, for example, are materials that cannot be properly disinfected. If the place fails to meet even a single one of these criteria, go elsewhere.
If possible, it can be a good idea to get references, or at least choose an establishment that is transparent and straightforward in their dealings with you. It is extremely important to ask what kind of medical attention and prevention the animal has received. As a general rule of thumb, the more animals in a facility, the higher the potential for disease transmission and epidemics. It would be best to stay away from people that say they don’t believe in prevention, and be especially wary of the vaccination status of the animal if you are not provided with a certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian. If you are given medication at the time that you pick up the animal, make sure it is clearly identified with the name and the dosage of the product, and find out why it is being administered. This can all be very useful information when you later have the animal examined. Proceeding this way, you will quickly find out that in some cases it may be better to simply walk away.
It is ill-advised to adopt or buy a sick animal, it would be like buying a broken car on purpose. If you do so, you will be encouraging an organization that maintains low standards of care and you will be committing to extra expenses in the future. This is true regardless of whether you are provided with some support and medication. In some cases, the animal could even be contagious and you would then be putting other animals at risk, and perhaps humans as well, you included.
Adopting special needs pets is gaining in popularity, but you should be well informed before embarking in such a venture. You absolutely need to be aware of the long-term prognosis and the special care such a pet will require. If you feel you really must, then do so because you want to, because you have bonded with the animal, and not because you simply feel sorry for it or feel guilty. Very sadly, with the pet overpopulation problem, there are too many healthy ones in need of homes. Pet care and maintenance is an expensive commitment and adding a chronic illness to the equation increases the long-term costs and stress to the adoptive family.
In short, do your homework. For those who are interested, you can consult the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ guidelines. They describe the ideal standards of care for animals in shelters, standards that can be applied to any animal facility. It covers more than you need to know, but it will highlight the notion that maintaining the health and well-being of the individuals in an animal facility is a complex undertaking in which cutting corners is not acceptable. We need to demand higher standards of care for all facilities.
Take the “Adopt! Don’t buy!” motto one step further and don’t support any substandard facility. This will help reduce some of the behavior and health complications encountered when bringing home a new family pet and you will be helping by encouraging higher standards of care for our beloved furry friends.