Please, please — “can we get a pet?” It’s a question many of us get from our kids.
Adding a pet to the home is an exciting experience that can be especially rewarding. But for many potential pet owners, the process of finding the right pet can seem a little overwhelming.
(Astro the dog is available for adoption at DeKalb County Animal Services and Tilton the cat is at Fulton County Animal Services)
Rebecca Guinn, CEO and founder of LifeLine Animal Project, a leading metro Atlanta animal nonprofit promoting lifesaving animal welfare solutions through its programs and management of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services, answers some common questions for those grappling with whether to add a furry friend to the family.
1. What you should ask yourself when adopting a pet?
Adopting a pet is an exciting experience and can bring a great addition into your family, so it’s important to find an animal that fits your lifestyle. Plus adopting an animal and giving them a forever home can be a really rewarding experience, considering the numerous stray and abandoned animals in our city. Between LifeLine Animal Project’s shelter and the county shelters we manage in Fulton and DeKalb, more than 17,000 pets enter our doors each year, including cats and dogs all of ages, sizes, breeds and temperaments.
When considering adopting a pet, ask yourself several key questions. The most important one – how long is my family regularly away from home during the day? For example, puppies – especially those that are still being housebroken – need to be let out every several hours, depending on their age, while older dogs can often be kept inside for longer periods of time. Other questions you should consider include:
· What is our living space like? Do we live in an apartment? Do we have a yard? Is our home already pet-proof?
· Does anyone in my family have allergies? Certain dogs and cats are more likely to shed.
· Are we near a dog park or other public space where my pet could regularly exercise and socialize with other animals?
· How experienced are we with having a pet and dog training?
2. What should you ask the shelter when adopting a pet?
Adoption counselors at the shelter will also work closely with you to find an animal that meets your needs, so it’s important to have very open and honest communication about your situation. Here are a few questions you should ask them about the pets you’re interested in:
· Is this pet more high energy or low energy?
· Are they good with other animals and children?
· Are there any medical needs we should be aware of?
3. What should you expect when visiting a shelter and how can you best use your time?
Before visiting your county shelter, peruse their websites and Facebook pages. At LifeLine Animal Project, Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services, we post pictures and information about all our available, adoptable animals as soon as they arrive. This way, you can identify a few pets you’re definitely interested in meeting even before you enter the shelter. We also regularly feature monthly adoption promotions.
Once you’re at the shelter, the adoption counselors will work closely with you to find the perfect pet for your family. They are there to help and are experts in their field. They can direct you to certain pets you saw online and can also connect you with other pets who might be a great fit.
Don’t forget to bring the whole family or at least those who will be most involved in the animal’s care. A pet is another family member, so you want to make sure everyone connects with the new addition. You can even bring your other pets to see how they interact.
Make sure to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with each potential pet in the play area. Most shelters have a designated space where adopters can interact with the animals. Give the pet a little time to settle down after entering the play area and then see how he engages with your family, whether she likes toys, how responsive he is to you, her energy level and more. This is key bonding time between your family and your potential pet.
After finding the right dog or cat for your family, you’ll receive an adoption application with several questions about your home situation and your experience with pets. It also requires a reference. The process is relatively short and simple, but it’s important that we spend as much time finding the right owner for the animals in our care as we do finding pets for our potential adopters.
4. What are the care items you should have for transitioning the pet to your home?
When visiting the shelter, be prepared to potentially take home a pet that day, especially if she or he is already spayed or neutered. It’s a good idea to bring a crate or carrier as well as a leash for transporting. To make the transition as seamless as possible, have a designated pet area set up at home, complete with a bed, food and water bowls, treats, toys and kitty box and litter, if applicable. Ask what type of food the animal has been eating at the shelter. If you want to change brands or type, it’s often easier to wean them off slowly.
At Fulton County Animal Services’ shelter or DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter, we provide adopters with a full packet of resources including care tips, medical information and coupons for a free first veterinary visit within 30 days after adopting and a discount on behavioral training. If you haven’t already, identify which veterinarian you will use.
If you adopt an animal from one of LifeLine’s shelters who has not already been spayed or neutered, we will hold the pet for surgery within the next few days, and you can pick up your new pet after the procedure. When you pick up your new pet, have proper post-operation care ready. The shelter will provide plenty of information, but it’s good to know in advance that your pet will not be able to exercise and must be kept indoors for 10 days.
All of our animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before joining their new family, but don’t forget to license your pet. This directly improves owner return rates if your animal is separated from you, and is a simple, low-cost registration process that can be completed online (http://dekalbanimalservices.com/register-your-pet or http://www.fultonanimalservices.com/licensing) or by mail.
Adopting a pet is an exciting, rewarding endeavor, but it also an important responsibility. We work very closely with our adopters and potential pet owners to connect them with our amazing animals at the Fulton County and DeKalb County shelters, as well as our own LifeLine shelter, and to help make the transition to the new owner’s home as smooth as possible.