Thinking about acquiring a new pet in the near future? What first comes to mind — maybe a new puppy? OK, puppies are undeniably cute, but you might want to give some thought to adopting an adult dog or cat, often referred to as “rescue animals.” Every animal shelter has an abundance of adult animals looking for a home, waiting to be rescued.

Despite what many believe, adopting an older pet does not mean you’re adopting someone else’s problems. The shelter personnel do a good job of screening before you arrive. Pets lose their homes for all sorts of reasons that have little to do with a flaw in the animals; people move, they have babies, work schedules change, they develop allergies, they die, etc.

Adoptable adult pets can be great, but unfortunately they are harder to adopt out than puppies are — hence the surplus. I believe one of the reasons that a majority of people reject an adult pet over a puppy is because they have preconceived negative ideas about adult-animal adoptions. These preconceptions cause them to reject the overriding benefits of adopting an adult pet. 

The benefits and special qualities that older pets can bring to our lives are numerous. Here are just a few to consider:

• With an adult dog or cat you know what you’re getting in terms of size, physical appearance, health and temperament.

• Older dogs make great companions for older people who don’t have the stamina to keep up with the puppy phase.

• Older pets are less demanding and time consuming than a puppy.

• Shelter adoptions come to you already neutered, health checked, wormed and all shots current.

• Adoptees generally adapt quickly and completely to the new environment, and this is no small consideration. Older dogs have learned what “no” means and how and why to leave the furniture, carpets, shoes, and other “chewables” alone. If they hadn’t learned that, they probably wouldn’t have gotten to be “older dogs.”

By adopting an older dog or cat one can make a statement about compassion and the value of all life. What could be more rewarding than knowing that you helped an older pet preserve its dignity by providing a welcome shelter?      

The pet overpopulation problem is still very real. Around 20 million animals end up in shelters every year in the United States. About five million of those are purebreds. And if you’re wondering if you can teach an older dogs new tricks — contrary to common belief — the answer is yes. They love the attention and recognition that goes with training.

Here’s a chance to make a feel-good decision. If you’re looking for a new dog, skip the puppy kennels this time and check out your local animal shelter; they often have the best companion you could ever find waiting for you. If cost is one of your considerations, you’ll love this — It’s the best bargain in town.

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