Dr Felicity’s Topics – Shelter animal or not?
Everyone has their opinions on how one should acquire a pet. Some people will only adopt from a shelter, other people will only ever consider one particular breed and therefore purchase from a breeder.
Some people will simply see an animal somewhere and be unable to walk away from it, whether it be on the roadside, in a shelter or in a pet shop. Other pets just turn up and choose their owners – cats tend to do this but I know of dogs that have chosen their owners too.
So, what is right? At the end of the day, the bottom line is that anyone with a pet should have an animal that is appropriate in their household. Some temperaments, for example, are not suited to children and some animals just will not get along with others of the same or different species.
Many a pet owner will battle for years with cats that do not get along and must be kept literally in separate rooms of the house. Others deal daily with dogs that cannot be contained and continually escape and cause trouble in the neighbourhood. These situations are sources of ongoing, prolonged stress for both owners and pets.
It is of great importance to be very clear about what type of animal will fit into your home and lifestyle well before you choose it. Beyond that, the source of the animal is somewhat secondary.
Of course it is important to know where your animal is coming from in an ethical sense – for example most people do not want to support puppy farms – however “rescuing” that gorgeous mixed breed puppy that eventually turns into a horse when you live in a small space and are unable to provide adequate exercise and environmental enrichment due to your career commitments is a big mistake.
Once you know what type of animal you are after, you need to think about getting the right pet. If you are after a small or non-shedding dog, you may need to consider locating a breeder that can provide you with exactly what you are after. These types of dogs are statistically less common in shelters. Specifically bred puppies will usually provide more predictability regarding adult size and temperament while adopting an adult dog will allow a pretty good insight into the mature personality of the dog after the first meeting.
Kitten personalities can be tricky to assess so adopting adults can give a better guarantee of temperament. Certain cat breeds have particular stereotypic behaviours so sometimes knowing the breed temperament you are after can help you choose the right cat.
The golden rule
Know what you are looking for and wait until you find it! A pet is a huge commitment and they will share your home for years. Don’t start off on the wrong foot by ending up with an animal you don’t want.
Don’t end up with the enormous rescue dog in your apartment or the stunning but timid kitten that became the nasty adult cat that absolutely cannot be in the same room as your young children.
Whatever you choose, you must be prepared to lay the groundwork, put in the training, potentially adjust your housing arrangements to be pet-friendly. Good pets are a reflection of consistent effort.
If you don’t know animals, find someone who can help you assess potential pets and stay objective. If you are keen on the idea of a rescue animal, consider fostering for a rescue organisation first. This will allow you to “try before you buy”. If you are buying from a breeder then do your research, make sure their animals have had all the necessary breed specific health screening done. Ideally view the parents first and bear in mind that animals bred for show are not always the best pets as they can often have dominant personalities.
This is my Panda Bear. She is literally a pound puppy, born at the Rockhampton pound in August 2010. She is 38kg of energy on two acres of fully fenced yard. Last year she hit the pool fence at a million miles an hour and ruptured two ligaments in her knee (although now post-surgery you’d never know). She is also the gentlest dog I have ever met. A few years ago we had to keep her in town for a couple of weeks after a cyclone. She was an absolute nightmare – difficult to walk, stressed and naughty. This dog could never have been a good pet in a small backyard in a city, but she is perfect for us on a bit of land.