Pet Adoption: A Lifetime Commitment

(Family Features) - How much will owning a pet cost? How much time do I really need to devote to a pet? These are questions potential pet owners should ask prior to adopting. However, not everyone takes the time to assess the responsibilities and requirements associated with pet ownership, increasing the likelihood a pet will be surrendered to an animal welfare organization. Sometimes a pet is given up for hardship reasons such as displacement after a natural disaster or home foreclosure. But one of the biggest and more controllable factors affecting pet relinquishment is a lack of knowledge on the owner's part.

The good news is pet relinquishment is often preventable through education. Potential pet adopters who truly evaluate their situations and get answers to important questions before bringing pets into their homes can increase their chances of a permanent pet adoption. is North America's largest non-profit pet adoption Web site, with more than 5,766 public and private animal welfare organizations posting information on adoptable pets. Their vast resource of shelter and rescue organizations provides thousands of pets with loving homes each year. These organizations serve as local experts to anyone in search of the perfect furry friend. Recently, Purina Pets for Pet People surveyed more than 180 Adopt-A-Pet animal welfare organizations nationwide to develop a "Permanent Pet Adoption" checklist of the Top 10 most important things pet adopters should consider to ensure they have a successful adoption experience.

08590bMaking a lifetime commitment is key

According to the survey, the number one thing a prospective pet owner should consider to ensure a permanent adoption is whether they're ready to make a real commitment to care for the new pet for its entire life, just as they would with a child. Another important factor to consider is that a pet affects other parts of their lives, such as housing and travel, for as long as they have the pet, up to 15 years for dogs and 20 years for cats. More tips from the "Permanent Pet Adoption" checklist can be found at

Victoria Stilwell, a respected dog trainer, author and host of the television program "It's Me or the Dog," believes that potential pet owners need to ask the right questions prior to adopting, so they are prepared for the rewards and challenges that come with pet ownership.

"Education prior to adoption is one of the best ways to reduce the number of pets surrendered by their owners," says Stilwell. "Prospective pet owners need to clearly understand how a pet will fit into their lives for the long term, and whether or not it's a good fit before they adopt. It's my goal to keep as many deserving dogs and cats in forever homes as possible, and it starts with proper education."

08590cDeserving of a permanent home

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 5 to 7 million pets enter shelters every year. They are not typically bad pets, but often victims of unfortunate circumstances or a lack of education on the part of their former owners. The solution for keeping pets in forever homes lies in education, and the "Permanent Pet Adoption" checklist can be a valuable resource for potential pet adopters. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy cites proactive educational efforts as essential to reducing the number of pets that are relinquished to shelters and rescue organizations.

"Selfless animal welfare organization workers are extremely knowledgeable on the pets in their care," says Brenda Bax of Purina Pets for People. "Whether they're mixed or breed-specific organizations, they can offer advice, resources and valuable information to anyone interested in adopting a dog or cat. The better educated prospective adopters are about the pet they are bringing into their lives, the greater the chances that the pet will have a loving permanent home."

Current and prospective owners can visit to search for adoptable animals in shelters and rescue organizations in their area. While visiting the Web site, potential pet owners can download the "Permanent Pet Adoption" checklist and watch a video featuring Stilwell offering pet adoption tips. Current pet owners, who have made the commitment to have permanent pets in their homes, can keep an eye out in their local papers for Purina Pet Lover Savings coupons on pet food and treats.

Permanent Pet Adoption Checklist

A Purina Pets for People survey of the Adopt-A-Pet network of pet-shelter employees and rescue workers revealed the Top 10 most important things pet adopters should consider prior to adoption to ensure a permanent match.

Before you adopt - give this list some thought:

  1. When you adopt, you need to make a real commitment to care for your pet for its entire life, just as you would with a child.
  2. Be prepared for a pet to affect other parts of your life for as long as you have the pet, which can be up to 15 years for a dog and 20 years for cat. Your pet's well-being will have to be considered in all decisions, including travel, social life, relocation, adopting other pets, having children, etc.
  3. Verify in advance you're allowed to keep a pet where you live, especially if you rent or belong to a homeowners' association.
  4. Make necessary modifications to your yard and fence, if you have one, to provide for your pet's safety and to prevent your pet from escaping.
  5. Never give a pet as a gift.
  6. Choose a pet appropriate to your living situation and lifestyle. Figure out what size, age and energy-level pet is most appropriate.
  7. Never adopt a pet on a whim or because it's love-at-first-sight. Do research and carefully consider every aspect and implication of adopting before you make a decision.
  8. If you're adopting a pet for your kids, understand the responsibility is yours. Kids often tire of things that were once new and exciting, and this includes their pets. You will most likely end up being the one who provides most of the pet's care.
  9. Plan for a several-week adjustment period during which there will be challenges.
  10. Provide sufficient exercise and stimulation. For example, walk dogs according to individual need, provide playtime and appropriate toys, spend time just petting and talking to your pet, and include your pet in family activities.

To download this Top 10 checklist, visit


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