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Myths about shelter adoptions

Myth: Animals from shelters have trouble bonding to a new family.

Of course pets miss their families and their old routines. However, shelter animals often bond more strongly to a new family because of their experience of losing their previous one. They may have trouble being left alone at first so adopt when you can spend a few days at home. Schedule short excursions so your new pet will believe that you will always come back. Dogs reunited with owners they have not seen in years can be overjoyed to see their old friends but still prefer to stay with the new family they have come to love.

Myth: Older animals have trouble bonding to new people.

Age does not affect a pet’s ability to bond with a new family. Social animals, such as dogs, cats, horses and birds form new relationships throughout their lives with other animals including people. A very elderly animal may take longer to adjust to physical aspects of a new home (such as stairs or a dog door) than a younger pet but emotional attachment will not be hampered by a pet’s age.

Myth: Stray animals do not make good pets.

Many strays are neutered and wearing collars; evidence that they have lived as pets but were somehow separated from their family. Strays that survive on their own long enough to be rescued are usually more intelligent than the average pet. Strays that approach people for help make friendly family pets. Most are so grateful for food and shelter they are happy to comply with house rules.

Exception: “Feral” animals are domestic animals that have never been handled by people born of parents who never lived as pets. These animals are afraid of confinement and are rarely offered for adoption in animal shelters. Animal shelter staff can advise you about helping feral cats with spay/neuter and feeding programs but it may not be possible for a feral animal to fit into your household if you do not have experience handling these special needs pets.

Myth: Adopting a second hand pet is taking on someone else’s problem.

People give up pets for reasons as simple as “needs exercise” or “sheds”. Since all pets need exercise and all animals with fur shed, these are not problem pets. All pets, especially youngsters get into trouble when not supervised. Young dogs usually have annoying behaviour that can be managed through exercise and supervision. People make mistakes when acquiring pets. Some people adopt a pet on impulse or are given a pet they do not want. They may become responsible for a loved one’s pet after a family tragedy. If you have concerns about a particular animal’s history, ask the shelter staff for recommendations.

Myth: Animals from the shelter have been abused.

Don’t be fooled by an animal’s shy or frightened behaviour. Many animals cower and flinch when approached by strangers, especially tall or assertive people or excited children. This behaviour is not an indication that the animal was abused by a man or tortured by kids. In fact, many animals that actually have been mistreated are outgoing and forgiving. Ask any animal control officer! Many young animals in shelters did not receive training or sufficient exercise. This is a form of abuse called neglect. The best remedy for these pets is a new home.

When an animal is removed from her home because she has been treated cruelly, the animal shelter staff will find a very special home for her. They can help you decide if a rehabilitation case is right for you. You will need to go the extra mile and hire a professional trainer from the beginning if you choose a pet that has been the victim of abuse.

Frederick County Animal Control Center.