October, besides being a crazy Halloween month in Salem, is National Pet Adoption Month. After you have made sure that your pets are secured indoors so they are not kidnapped by some nut for an animal sacrifice ritual, you might consider adopting another pet.
Maddie’s Fund, a national pet rescue foundation, says that all treatable and adoptable pets from shelters could be saved with just two more pets being adopted from each shelter every day.
Puppies and kittens are available at shelters, as well as some beautifully socialized and purebred cats and dogs. There are also many rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and ferrets up for adoption. People may be concerned that a shelter pet comes with behavioral or health issues. Usually, this is not the case. The fact is that many shelter pets were relinquished because of owner issues, not animal issues. Some owners ended up being allergic to the dog; others found that they didn’t have time; and sadly, many weren’t prepared for the costs of a pet. Sometimes an owner has passed away and their very devoted pet loses its home.
Our hospital adopted a pet in a situation where one of our clients died. We had seen her cat Muffie for years on house calls. Muffie was an attack cat when a stranger came into the house. She would puff up her body to three times its normal size and lunge at me with teeth bared and claws flying when I arrived to perform her physical exam, vaccines and lab work.
Needless to say, she needed to be sedated so we could do her examination. Her owner was a lovely older woman who used to be a nurse and kept fit doing lots of laps at the local YMCA. When she died, her son called me in to perform a physical exam before Muffie went upstairs to the neighbor who was adopting her. Muffie was in the pink of health. Her son and I spent some time remembering his mom and what an independent soul she was before I headed home.
Unfortunately, the next day, the neighbor called to let the son know that Muffie had sunk her teeth into her and drawn blood, so she did not want her as a pet anymore. I was then called out to put Muffie to sleep. The day I left for the house call, we had some very sad technicians at our hospital. We all have difficulty euthanizing pets when they are essentially healthy, but if they pose a danger to humans, we have to do it. We knew we had a responsibility to keep people safe, but we also knew how much Muffie had been loved so recently by her owner. My techs persuaded me to bring a carrier in case we could get her into it instead of euthanizing her.
I arrived at the neighbor’s house with the carrier. Amazingly, as she lunged at me, I managed to swing the carrier with the open door toward her and scoop her up into it. The neighbor allowed me to take her back to the practice. She has now taken up residence at our practice and over time has become an affectionate mush of a cat that rubs up against your legs and purrs loudly when patted. She underwent a complete personality transplant.
At many shelters, dogs and cats are temperament-tested and their behavior is evaluated before they are put up for adoption. The shelter volunteers and employees can help point out possible good matches for you.
If you have your heart set on a special kind of dog or cat, another possibility is to look into pure-breed rescues in your area. These groups specialize in particular breeds and have great connections among quality breeders and other rescues across the country.
Take your time to research and visit the shelters and rescues in your area. Although most are legitimate and working hard to save pets, there are always cases of hoarding and some people looking to cut corners and make money from good-hearted individuals.
Don’t forget to use your veterinarian as a good resource when deciding on a new pet. He or she may know the reputation of local shelters and rescues and, of course, can also help you understand the unique personalities or health issues of many dog breeds. Before you know it, with a little planning, you may have a wonderful new addition to your family.
Dr. Elizabeth Bradt is a 1986 graduate of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and is the owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem (www.creaturehealth.com). She is a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. Email your pet questions to email@example.com. Please title your email “Vet Connection.”