There’s very little truth to the claims that the pets found at animal shelters are there “for a reason”—meaning they’re difficult, unadoptable or untrainable. What is true is that pets end up in animal shelters for many reasons, including an unplanned litter, owners moving and animals that get lost without a microchip.
Thankfully, the myth that shelter animals are “faulty” is slowly being debunked.
“Pet adoption has been on the rise over the last decades,” says Julie Bank, president/CEO of Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA. “More and more people visit animal shelters to find their new best friends.”
If you’re looking to adopt a new furry friend, here are some facts about rescue dogs and cats that will make you consider a trip to your local animal shelter.
1. Shelter Animals Make Great Pets—And Sometimes Great Stars
Perhaps one of the coolest facts is that many famous Hollywood dogs were found in pet shelters and trained to become stars. This was the case with the original Benji and with Mauri, the dog that played Murray in the TV sitcom “Mad About You.” The Australian Cattle Dog, Trike, that hits the road with Mel Gibson in the original “Mad Max” movie was also found by a dog trainer at a local animal shelter.
There are also several Internet-famous felines that came from shelters. One of them is a Siamese and Tabby mix named Nala, who is Instagram’s most popular cat with over 3.5 million followers. Nala was adopted from a shelter when she was just 5 months old and has since charmed literally millions of people.
2. You Can Find a Trained Pet at the Animal Shelter
While many people go to pet shelters looking for puppies and kittens, adult dogs and cats are sometimes a much better choice for certain families—and animal shelters are the perfect place to find them.
“Many adult dogs will come to you with some training and may already know basic commands like sit, down and stay, or be housebroken,” Bank says. “If they haven’t learned proper potty manners, adult dogs are often easier to house train as they can ‘hold it’ longer than puppies.”
Adult dogs are generally easier to care for than puppies too, according to Bank. “Medically speaking, puppies require a series of vaccines to become fully vaccinated, and they are more prone to illness,” Bank explains. “Behaviorally, puppies require a lot of time and training as they develop to become well-socialized dogs.”
Kitties might not be as hard to potty train as puppies, but they do come with tons of energy and an incredible ability to get into trouble—so adopting an adult cat might make it easier for you to sleep through the night. The shelter staff is also able to tell you more about the cat’s personality when they are an adult, so you can find a cat that best suits your lifestyle and family.
3. You Can Find Lots of Purebred Dogs at an Animal Shelter
While there’s nothing wrong with “mutts,” some people might have their heart set on a specific breed—and think that they have to buy them from a breeder.
But pet shelters often have purebred dogs available for adoption if you are patient and keep searching.
“There is a lot of debate about what percentage of dogs in shelters are purebreds, but I will tell you that in my experience we see all types of dogs at the Pasadena Humane Society, both purebred and mixed breed,” Bank says. “Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Boston Terriers are regular guests, and we even have the occasional designer dog, like a Labradoodle, adopted at our shelter.”
Plenty of pet rescues also cater to specific breeds that they pull out of the shelters.
And while you might be less likely to find a purebred puppy at a shelter, they do show up once in a while too.
When it comes to cats, the same rules apply. Sure, you’ll find plenty of domestic shorthair cats (the feline equivalent to a “mutt”) at your local shelter, but purebred cats abound, too.
4. Shelter Pets Are Health-Screened Before Adoption
Some of the major expenses connected with bringing a new pet home are included in your adoption fee when you take a pet from a shelter.
“Adopted pets most often come spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped,” Bank says. “Cats are often tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV.”
Depending on the area you live in, your pet may have also received treatment for fleas and intestinal parasites, as well as a heartworm preventive.
“Many shelters also have partnerships with local veterinarians where you may get your first exam free or other discounts,” Bank adds.
5. Animal Shelters Offer a Huge Variety to “Shop” From
One of the great things about adopting from a pet shelter is that you have such a huge variety of animals to choose from.
“When you walk through the kennels, you’ll see animals old and young, big and small, short-haired and long-haired,” Bank says.
In addition, Bank says that at many animal shelters, staff can assist you with information about a pet’s medical and behavior history. This is a huge advantage over getting a pet from a backyard breeder or a store, where you might not know much about the past of the animal and what you can expect.
“You may also get to spend time with your prospective pet outside of the kennel to see if you have a connection,” Bank says.
In fact, many shelters have special meeting rooms where you can spend one-on-one time with the dog or cat you’re considering, so you can get to know them better.
6. Adopting a Shelter Pet Means Saving a Life
If you need one final, powerful fact about shelter pets, here it is: Every animal you adopt is a life saved.
Even if you adopt from a no-kill shelter, you are still providing that pet with a life full of love and security only a family can provide. And there’s no more grateful pet than one whose life you’ve completely changed.
“You are also supporting your local community in their efforts to end pet overpopulation,” Bank says.
- Training Tips for When You Adopt a Rescue Pet
- Dog Adoption Checklist: What You Need to Know
- 5 Pet Adoption Stories That Just Might Inspire You to “Clear the Shelters”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.