So you’ve decided to adopt a pet, congratulations! Adding to your family by adopting a pet can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. However, it is not without its challenges.
Ensuring you choose the right pet for your circumstances or have the skills needed to help your new pet adjust are essential. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just contacting the RSPCA to adopt a pet or visiting your local shelter.
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While you may be able to find a pet to adopt, not taking the time to prepare your home, and understand the needs of the pet or your own for that matter, can lead to a less-than-fulfilling experience.
So what should you do before adopting a pet to make sure it is as successful as possible for both yourself and your new furry friend? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the details of how to adopt a pet in Australia and set up your pet adoption for success from day one.
Why Adopt a pet?
Every year, in Australia and overseas, thousands upon thousands of pets are surrendered to adoption shelters. There are many reasons that pets (usually dogs and cats) are surrendered, but whatever the reason, the reality is that if a new home is not found, they face being euthanised.
Adopting rather than shopping for a pet from a commercially operated pet breeder helps save vulnerable animals' lives, giving them a second chance. It also helps to provide essential funds to these shelters so they can continue the wonderful work they do.
Aside from the altruistic aspect of adopting, pet adoption is also cheaper than buying a pet via a pet store or breeder and gives you a choice of breeds and ages. Helpfully, as the dogs are older it is also easier to determine their character which facilitates a better matching with the right family.
6 Steps For The Best Pet Adoption Experience
Wondering how to begin? Whether you want to know how to adopt a pet in the US, Australia, the UK or Europe, the process is much the same.
1. Take Your Time
Hopefully, before even getting to this stage, you have thought about your lifestyle and home and whether they are suitable for a pet. The sad truth is many pets that are adopted are returned to their shelter as the adoptee did not review all aspects properly.
You should consider things such as:
- The size of your yard
- How long you’re away from home each day
- Available time for exercising or playing with your pet
- Your travel commitments
- Any possible allergies
- Ongoing costs including grooming, yearly vaccinations, flea and tick treatments, food and more.
Asking yourself questions about these things can help you pick the right pet and ensure that you have a rich, happy life together.
2. Choose A Reputable Shelter
Unfortunately, there are those who would try to operate a shelter purely for profit. This means little care is given to the correct matching of a pet to a family, minimal background information is provided and the animals may not be properly being cared for.
Always check reviews online for your chosen shelter and enquire about how they approach adoption. Ideally, a shelter should have profiles available for each pet with photos and key information about their character, likes and dislikes.
Knowing something essential such as a dog not being suited for children or a cat not liking the company of other animals can save you time and heartache on mismatches.
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3. Chat With The Shelter
While a pet profile and great reviews are a must, you should still speak with the shelter before visiting. Some great questions to ask a shelter include:
- How do they acquire new animals? Are their methods ethical, reasonable and legitimate?
- What is the adoption application process? What fees are involved and is an assessment of your suitability required for approval?
- What do you need to do to make your home ready for your new pet?
4. Visit The Shelter and Meet Your Pet
Whether you have chosen your pet or have a few to meet, it is important to take ample time to simply sit with your potential pet and get to know them. This includes not only yourself but any children or immediate family members who will be sharing the household with the pet.
Remember that the circumstances of their surrender may mean some pets are more timid or anxious. It will take time for your pet to learn to trust you and play with you. Do not rush this process, it may take more than one visit to be sure your pet is right for you.
5. Start The Process
Once you have decided on your pet, be sure to check with the shelter what you need to do to start and finalise the adoption process. In most instances, you’ll be asked to pay a deposit and wait while your application is processed.
The shelter will explain the timeline involved and when you can return to collect your pet once approved. This could be anywhere from a few days to a week or more.
While you’re waiting, you may like to get your home ready for a warm welcome. This stage is usually pretty exciting and can involve:
- Shopping for new toys, bedding, food and water bowls, grooming products and food
- Investigating whether you would like to purchase pet insurance
- Finding your local vet and making a booking for an initial health check for your new pet
- Seeking out any local pet community groups such as your local dog park
- Booking some annual leave for when your pet arrives. We recommend not leaving your new pet alone at home for long periods in the first week of their adoption.
- Perform a safety check of your house. Install safety gates, tidy loose cables or wires and generally remove any hazards that you feel may pose a risk to a pet.
The most exciting day, bringing home your new pet. We recommend keeping your house quiet and free of any extras visitors and allowing your pet to explore in their own time. It may take a while before they are entirely comfortable, but soon enough you should start to see some playfulness and affection.
Pet adoption can pose some challenges that bringing home an animal directly from a breeder may not.
As mentioned above, there can be many reasons why a pet is surrendered. Sometimes, it could simply be that the former owners' circumstances have changed and they cannot provide them with the home they deserve.
Occasionally, it could also be due to behavioural challenges in the pet or their being unsuitable to households with children and other pets. You must be aware of these issues before adoption and be prepared to engage in intensive training to support the animal's needs as well as to keep other household members safe.
Statistically, when looking at dogs that have been surrendered, they are between 5 months and 3 years of age when they arrive at a shelter. Many have not been given the level of attention or training required during this key developmental period and as a result, are often considered difficult.
However, if you are willing to invest time into training your pet, many of these concerns can be overcome. Your shelter should have the details of trusted trainers in your area that can support you in this.
If you do not have the time or willingness to engage in training, whether you’re adopting a puppy or an older dog, consider this when choosing your pet.
Children And Pets
There is something so special about watching your children grow up with a furry friend. Several studies globally point to the benefits of having children grow up in a household with pets. From therapeutic support to boosted immune systems, there is much to recommend for their pairing.
When it comes to adopting a cat or dog, it can be hard to know their background and whether they will be patient and gentle with children. If your shelter indicates a pet is not suited to a household with children or has no experience with children, do not ignore this.
Just as your children deserve a safe home free of anxiety, so do your pets. With instances of injuries to children from dogs on the rise, it is vital that you only choose pets that genuinely love being with kids.
Supervision of your children and any new additions is also critical. For safety, especially when adopting a dog, be sure to teach your children about gentleness and reading the animal's body language.
Need Further Support?
Wanting to be properly prepared and across all aspects of pet adoption is the first step in being a responsible and loving pet owner.
If you’re hoping to adopt but still feeling overwhelmed about where to begin or how to best prepare, your vet, alongside your chosen shelter will be happy to help. Here’s to your new family member!