Adoption options |

Adoption options

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

I’ve never paid for a pet in my life.

Well, unless you count what I’ve paid for veterinarian fees, and food, and pet sitters, and beds, and toys, and treats, and health supplements, and grooming and dozens of other gizmos too numerous to mention, much less remember.

But the point is, I’ve never bought a pet.

That doesn’t mean I’m a better person than someone who’s purchased a pet through a reputable breeder. It simply means that for my circumstances, my lifestyle and my principles, adoption has always been my option of choice.

When you allow your pet to breed, you become part of that problem; when you adopt, you become part of the solution.

So, let’s talk about why I believe so strongly in adoption.

First, adoption means you’re giving an animal a second chance in life.

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my own life when I’d have loved to have a second chance, and when that opportunity might have made a huge and positive difference in my life.

Of course, I wasn’t at risk of being euthanized if I didn’t get that second chance, unlike the estimated 4 million unwanted pets destroyed each year simply because they couldn’t find a permanent home.

Adopting a pet also enables you to have a genuine impact on the problem of pet overpopulation. Think about this: every year, an average pair of cats can produce up to 12 kittens and a pair of dogs can produce up to six puppies. This means that in as few as six years, one unsterilized pair of dogs and their offspring can produce as many as 67,000 puppies, and in seven years a single pair of cats and their litters can produce almost 420,000 kittens.

When you allow your pet to breed, you become part of that problem; when you adopt, you become part of the solution.

Another reason to adopt rather than buy is financial.

Buying a purebred dog or cat can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and there’s no guarantee that he or she will have any better temperament, be any healthier, or bring your family any more joy than a pet you’ve adopted.

There are several choices for those who choose to adopt. First is your local animal shelter. In every season, shelters are filled to the brim with healthy animals just begging to become a forever part of your home and family.

If you haven’t been to a shelter lately, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. For the most part, gone are the days of bleak, gray-walled facilities filled with wretched animals hiding in the corner of cramped and filthy cages.

Most shelters today are warm and welcoming for both animals and their human visitors. They take great pains to ensure their animals are as happy as possible in their temporary homes.

It’s a common misconception that you’ll find only mixed-breeds in shelters, when, in fact, fully one-quarter of the dogs in shelters are purebred.

Purebred shelter cats are more rare, but keep in mind that for both cats and dogs, mixed-breeds typically have fewer of the hereditary diseases seen more often in purebred pets.

If you do want a particular breed, however, there are rescue organizations for virtually every breed of dog and cat. Ask your veterinarian, or simply do a Web search for the particular breed and the state (for instance “Golden Retriever rescue California”).

There are also organizations in almost every community with a mission to rescue dogs or cats, regardless of breed. These volunteers take in unwanted, abandoned, abused, or stray pets and try to find them loving, permanent homes. To locate them, just search for “animal rescue groups” and your city or county.

Both rescue organizations and shelters make sure their animals are examined, vaccinated, and spayed and neutered before being adopted. While breed rescue groups have always endeavored to assess each animal’s temperament and match it with a potential owner, this kind of personalized attention is becoming increasingly common at shelters, too.

The last thing anyone wants is for an animal to be returned because it was terrified of your two-year-old child or was intent on tyrannizing the family cat.

So, if you’re looking for a new companion animal to join your life, make adoption your first option.

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her golden retriever, Casey. You can reach Joan at And if you’re looking for a golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.

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