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The Adoption Process: Questions to Ask the Shelter Staff

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The Adoption Process: Questions to Ask the Shelter Staff

Adopting a new pet is exciting and stressful. You're about to add another member to your family and your life will be changing.

The adoption process has many variables and requires patience. For example, there may be family members who need to meet the animal, consultations with shelter staff about behavior or medical issues, paperwork to be reviewed and signed, and other steps. But you can navigate the sometimes confusing adoption process by knowing the right questions to ask.

Animal's history

Ask about the animal's background if it's not clear from the cage card. Did the pet arrive as a stray or was she given up by her previous owner? If so, why? How long has the animal been at the shelter?

Medical and/or behavioral assessments

Shelters continue to raise the bar in terms of their testing and vaccination protocols, as well as their behavior modification programs to make animals more adoptable. Inquire about any medical or behavioral evaluations and make sure you understand what type of treatment is required for any problems that have been identified. In addition, you may want to ask about the animal's behavior at the shelter and how it may be similar to or different from what you can expect at home.

Timeline of adoption process

Some shelters are eager to send animals home the same day adopters visit them. This turnaround enables shelters to make room for new arrivals and is helpful for people who have traveled a long distance to meet an animal. Other facilities take a slower approach (e.g. ensuring that children and/or a spouse have met the animal). Familiarize yourself with the adoption timeline at the beginning of the process so you'll know what to expect before emotions are running high and patience is low.

Spay/neuter

Virtually all animal shelters have policies to ensure that their animals are spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters. A number of facilities have animals sterilized before they're available for adoption. In other cases, this procedure is scheduled when an animal goes home, and then the adoption is finalized once the surgery is performed. And some shelters rely on spay/neuter deposits that are refunded when proof of spaying or neutering is provided.

Whatever your concern, don't be embarrassed to contact the shelter and ask for help. Too often, adopters struggle with behavior issues on their own and decide to return a pet because of an issue that could have been resolved. 

What if my animal gets sick shortly after adoption?

Despite robust cleaning routines, animal shelters inevitably harbor germs. Unfortunately, infectious diseases can spread quickly through populations of animals that are housed in close proximity. The good news is that common conditions such as upper respiratory infections in cats and kennel cough in dogs are very treatable.

If your new companion becomes ill, check your adoption agreement to see if it addresses this issue and notify the shelter promptly about changes in your pet's health. Sometimes a little encouragement and reassurance are all that's needed as you nurse your kitten through a bad case of the sniffles; other times a visit to the vet may be in order. Some shelters have a vet on staff and others may refer you to a local clinic.

It's common for adopters to bear some or all of the cost of veterinary treatment because shelters have such limited medical budgets. Exceptions may include animals with pre-existing medical conditions that are already being treated by the shelter or other special cases. Some facilities may also provide a short-term pet health insurance policy or cover specific conditions that arise within a certain period of time after adoption.

What if I have questions about my new pet's behavior?

Whether you're a first-time pet owner or a seasoned pro, there's no question that the transition period can be bumpy. New surroundings, new people, other animals, and an unfamiliar routine can be stressful for your adoptee.

Whatever your concern, don't be embarrassed to contact the shelter and ask for help. Too often, adopters struggle with behavior issues on their own and decide to return a pet because of an issue that could have been resolved. Housetraining, chewing, barking, separation anxiety, litterbox issues ... these issues and more will be familiar to the shelter's staff.

Ask about resources to resolve behavior problems at the time of adoption. Some facilities offer behavior help lines and training classes, and most organizations can provide basic troubleshooting.

The adoption process can be filled with opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding. After all, animals inspire strong emotions in people on both sides of the counter. Most adoption stories have happy endings, but occasionally customers will find themselves being denied an opportunity to adopt an animal, either because of an issue with their adoption application or because more than one potential adopter is interested in the same animal.

Keep in mind that animal shelters can be busy, chaotic places without much opportunity for privacy. It may be helpful to follow up with the adoption counselor or shelter manager by phone when both of you can speak without distractions.

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10 Great Reasons to Open Your Heart to a Senior Pet

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10 Great Reasons to Open Your Heart to a Senior Pet

Imagine a pet that loves sharing quiet moments with you… one that doesn’t chew or scratch everything in sight… one that’s calm and more focused on only you.

That’s a senior pet.

Senior pets still have a lot of love to give.  They can and do bond very strongly with their humans.  Many seem to understand that they’ve been given another chance at a happy life… and they’re grateful for the opportunity to love someone and be loved back.

So if you’re considering a new addition to your family, why not give some thought to giving a deserving senior a second chance?  Instead of passing by the older pets, stop and spend some time with them- you might must end up finding a new best friend.

Wouldn’t it be nice to give a deserving senior a place to live out their golden years?

Benefits for the senior human:

Research has shown that companion animals can help improve physical and mental health.  By adopting a new furry friend, seniors can experience the benefits of decreased heart rate and blood pressure that so many people feel when they are relaxing with their pet.
Cats provide friendship for lonely individuals, offering an opportunity for care taking and interaction that an older person may miss if family is not nearby.
The company of a pet has been proven to reduce depression in the elderly, often delaying the onset of confusion and reducing the length of the average hospital stay.


  1. Older dogs have manners. Unlike puppies, many grown-up dogs have spent years living with a family and being socialized to life with humans.
    They may have received obedience training and respond to commands like Sit, Stay, and Down. 
    Many are house trained and it takes a matter of hours or a day or two to help them learn the potty rules in their new home.
  2. Senior pets are less destructive. Most older adoptive pets are well past the search-and-destroy phase. 
    You don't need to worry so much about finding your favorite pair of shoes or a table leg chewed beyond recognition. Chances are your senior kitty has no urge to overturn your potted plant or shred the handmade quilt your grandma gave you.
  3. What you see is what you get. A senior pet holds no surprises as to how big he might get, what color his adult coat will be, or whether his hips will be healthy. A senior pet comes to you with his own history, which makes his future much more predictable than that of an 8-week old puppy or kitten.
  4. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Adult dogs can focus on the task at hand (unlike many of their much younger counterparts). If your adopted older pet needs to learn a few things in her new life with you, not to worry. Enroll her in an obedience class, contact a trainer, or go the do-it-yourself route. Older dogs are more attentive than puppies, and more eager to please their humans.
  5. You can custom order your senior pet. If you're looking for a short-haired cat, for example, or a kitty with no history of dental disease, you can search until you find an older pet with exactly those attributes. If you already have a cat and need your adoptive dog to get along with cats, again, you'll have a much better chance of finding an older adoptive dog who is a perfect companion for your family.
  6. You can adopt a purebred pet if you want. If you really love a certain breed of dog or cat, chances are there's a breed rescue club that can point you in the direction of older purebred pets in need of homes.
  7. Senior pets are great company for senior citizens. Many elderly people find the calm presence of an older pet very comforting. They appreciate having a companion who is also 'getting up there' in age, doesn't mind hearing the same stories again and again, and is content to move through life at a slower speed.
  8. Older pets are relaxing to hang out with. Senior dogs and cats have all the basics down and aren't full of wild energy to burn. Because you're not constantly chasing around or cleaning up after your older pet, you have a lot more time to spend finding fun things to do or just relaxing together.
  9. Adopted senior pets are grateful for your kindness. Somehow, older pets seem to know you gave them a home when no one else would. Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them a level of attention and devotion that is unique to older adopted animals.
  10. You can be a hero to a deserving dog or cat. Almost without exception, people who adopt older animals feel a special sense of pride and purpose in opening their heart to a hard-to-place pet. Doing a good thing really does make you feel good!


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The Adoption Process: Questions to Ask Yourself

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The Adoption Process: Questions to Ask Yourself

Are you ready to add a pet to your family?

It can happen to the best of us. You see a cute, tiger-striped kitten with white paws and green eyes, just begging for attention. Or maybe it's a gorgeous Labrador mix whose tails seems to be wagging just for you. You take one look, and the next thing you know, you're walking down the pet food aisle at the supermarket.

If you're like most of us, falling in love with a pet is easy. And no wonder!

Sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life's greatest joys. Dogs, cats, and other pets give us unconditional loyalty and acceptance, provide constant companionship, and even help relieve stress after a hard day's work.
But adopting a pet is a big decision. Dogs and cats require lots of time, money, and commitment—more than 15 years' worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be rewarding, but only if you think through your decision before you adopt a companion.

Ten things to consider

The fact that you're thinking of adopting from an animal shelter means you're on the right track; homeless pets in your community are counting on people like you to give them a chance. Here are some things to think about before you make a commitment:

  1. Why do you want a pet? It's surprising how many people don’t ask themselves this simple question before they get a pet. Adopting an animal because of a chance enounter at the shelter or because the kids have been pining for a puppy (without buy-in from mom and dad) often ends up being a big mistake. Don't forget that pets may be with you 10, 15, even 20 years.
  2. Do you have time for a pet? Dogs, cats, and other animal companions cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day of every year. Many animals in the shelter are there because their owners didn't realize how much time it took to care for them.
  3. Can you afford a pet? The costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Licenses, training classes, spaying and neutering, veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, kitty litter, and other expenses add up quickly.
  4. Are you prepared to deal with the challenges that a pet can present? Flea infestations, scratched furniture, accidents from animals who aren't yet housetrained, and unexpected medical emergencies are unfortunate but common aspects of pet ownership.
  5. Can you have a pet where you live? Many landlords don't allow pets, and most rental communities have restrictions. In addition, certain types of dogs (e.g. pit bulls, rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and other imposing breeds) are often excluded from homeowner insurance policies, or the owners aren’t allowed to renew or continue their coverage. Make sure you know if and how you are limited by housing-related policies before you bring a companion animal home.
  6. Is it a good time for you to adopt a pet? If you're a student, in the military, or travel frequently as part of your work, for example, waiting until you settle down is wise. If you have kids under five years old and you’re thinking about adopting a small mammal like a hamster or gerbil, you might consider postponing this decision since many small mammals present a risk of Salmonella.
  7. Are your living arrangements suitable for the animal you have in mind? Animal size is not the only variable to think about here. For example, some small dogs such as terriers are very active—they require a great deal of exercise to be calm, and they often bark at any noise. On the other hand, some big dogs are laid back and quite content to lie on a couch all day. Before adopting a pet, do your research—surf the Internet, talk to pet-owning friends and neighbors, and use shelter staff as a resource. That way, you'll be more likely to choose an animal who fits your lifestyle and living arrangements.
  8. Will you be a responsible pet owner? Having your pet spayed or neutered, obeying community leash and licensing laws, and keeping identification tags on your pets are all part of being a responsible owner. Of course, giving your pet love, companionship, exercise, a healthy diet, and regular veterinary care are also essential.
  9. Do you know who will care for your pet while you're away on vacation? You'll need either reliable friends and neighbors or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet-sitting service.
  10. Are you prepared to keep and care for your pet for the long haul? When you adopt, you are making a long-term commitment to care for an animal. That said, good people sometimes find themselves in unfortunate circumstances that prevent them from holding onto their pets. If this should happen, be prepared to take a proactive role in finding a new home for your animal companion.


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Protecting Your Pets Paws This Winter

Most aren't aware and even I wasn't before joining Little Shelter, most ice melt is toxic to animals. I've seen my dogs and others on walks this winter suddenly stop or begin to hop on 3 legs to avoid stepping on salted roads.

There are some solutions available to pet owners who want to continue walking their dogs in the frosty winter. One such method is making your dog wear doggie boots. I've seen many hilarious attempts as dogs try to figure out how exactly to walk. To get your pet use to boots put them on for a few minutes each day, allowing your pet to become more comfortable with them.

Another solid solution is to apply a protective balm to your pets paws. Applying the balm allows your pet to avoid the dangers of walking on the toxic salt, just make sure your pet doesn't have issues with you touching their feet! There are a few brands sold in pet stores as well as even petroleum jelly is a solid alternative.

Make sure after every walk to wipe off your pets paws, removing all the harmful chemicals and salts that have accumulated during the walk. Not doing this could have some health concerns for your pet after time.

Of course, if your pet mostly walks around your backyard there are salt brands that are non-toxic and do not harm your pets feet. These brands are often found around the same price as toxic pet salts, so the cost isn't a big difference. Whenever we need to get ice melt to keep our animals, staff, and volunteers safe we only buy pet approved brands.

 

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