5 + 5 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Pet

All of my dogs and cats came from shelters or rescue organizations.

Jasper and Lilah

Jasper and Lilah were pulled from high-kill shelters in Louisiana and brought to New Jersey, where they were fostered by a volunteer from Husky House, where I found them through Petfinder.com.

Jasper and Lilah were adopted at the same time, through the same foster home, and rescued from the same shelter in Louisiana. Husky House was told they were littermates and Husky mixes. It's obvious they weren't, but one more life was saved, and we wound up with two delightful doggies that love each other.

Jasper and Lilah were adopted at the same time, through the same foster home, and rescued from the same shelter in Louisiana. Husky House was told they were littermates and Husky mixes. It’s obvious they weren’t, but one more life was saved, and we wound up with two delightful doggies that love each other.

Dawn and Athena

Sisters Dawn and Athena were rescued off the streets of Camden, along with two other siblings and their three-legged mother. We found them through Lifeline Animal Rescue.

Back in the day, Dawn actually tolerated Athena's presence.

Athena and Dawn. The other two kittens in the litter looked a lot like Dawn — dilute tortoiseshell tabbies. Athena is a dilute tortoiseshell color.


I found Tucker through AdoptAPet.com. He was rescued from a high-kill shelter in North Carolina, fostered there, and brought north to us through Saving Fur Kids Rescue.

Tucker at back door cute

Tucker is pure terrier.

Calvin and Elsa Clair

And Calvin and Elsa Clair jumped into my heart when I found them through a rescue organization that worked with my veterinarian.

Life with Dogs and Cats: Calvin and Elsa Clair as kittens

Calvin and Elsa Clair as kittens

I’m a firm believer in rescue and adoption. I will never tell someone not to get the purebred Golden Retriever puppy or Siamese cat she has her heart set on. BUT, I would love to open his or her eyes — and heart — to the possibility of adopting from a shelter or rescue organization.

Allow me to give you 5 + 5:

  • 5 reasons for not adopting a shelter or rescue pet, and a reasoned and thoughtful response.
  • 5 reasons why you should consider a shelter pet the next time you want to add a non-human to your family

Five reasons for not adopting a shelter or rescue pet — and a response

1) “There’s probably something wrong with the dog / cat / guinea pig / rabbit, or they wouldn’t have been given up.”

Actually, if you look at the statistics, the most common reasons people give up their pets are because they’re moving, they can’t afford them or aren’t allowed to keep them. Or maybe someone in the household has allergies. A recent study showed that, of the dogs surrendered, 96% had not received any obedience training.

Top Reasons People Surrender Their Dog or Cat


  1. Moving (7%)
  2. Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
  3. Cost of pet maintenance (5%)
  4. [TIE] (4%) Owner has personal problems / Inadequate facilities / Having no time for pet / Too many animals in the household / Pet illness


  1. Too many animals in the household (11%)
  2. Allergies in family (8%)
  3. Moving (8%)
  4. [TIE] (6%) -Landlord not allowing pet / No homes available for littermates / Cost of pet maintenance

All statistics in this post come from a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) and published in the July issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), and reported on Petfinder.

What does that tell you? It’s not the pet’s problem. Many shelters can provide you the history of the animals, and why they were surrendered. Sometimes those stories will break your heart. You can adopt a dog whose family lost their home to a fire. Or a cat whose human died suddenly.

2) “But I want a specific breed.”

This is an easy one. If there’s a dog or cat breed out there, chances are there is an organization dedicated to rescuing that breed. For example, if you Google Golden Retriever Rescue, you get 2.8 million results.

Google results Golden retriever

Google any breed and the word “rescue” and you’d be amazed at how many groups are out there saving purebred pets.

Looking for a Siamese Cat? Check out Siamese Cat Rescue. Or go to Petfinder.com where it is easy as pie to search for a specific breed. Unless you are planning to show the dog or cat, you may want to ask yourself how important it is that your pet is registered and has papers.

And consider whether the premium price is worth it; does a dog or cat care whether he or she is a name brand? Nope. Cobe wants to play with his favorite squeaky toy. And Onyx just wants to be petted.

Cobe and Onyx are staying the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter while they wait for their forever homes.

Cobe and Onyx are staying the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter while they wait for their forever homes.

3) “I want a puppy / kitten!”

Okay. That’s also easy. Many shelters and rescue organizations have tons of puppies and kittens. But before you run out and bring home that tiny ball of fluff, cuteness and destruction, think long and hard about whether you have the wherewithal to take it on. Babies — human or not — require lots of attention. Are you home during the day? Do you mind waking up in the middle of the night to take a puppy with a small bladder outside? Consider an adult dog or cat. Studies show that the majority of surrendered dogs and cats were between 5 months and 3 years old. On the lower end of that scale, you’re past the potty training stage. On the upper end, you’re past the dog and cat teenager stage (which, trust me, can be as exasperating as with human teens.)

4) “I don’t know what I’m getting with a shelter pet.”

Actually, you don’t know what you’re getting with any puppy or kitten. You’re getting potential. A reputable breeder can tell you about the parents of the animal, which may help predict some aspects of future temperament. There may be some indications in puppy- and kittenhood about what an animal may be like when he or she is grown. However, we (humans and animals) are a complex mixture of nature and nurture, and not a single scientist has cracked that code yet. Most shelters have volunteers who work with the animals, or fosters who take homeless pets into their families. (These people are saints, as far as I’m concerned.) And they can tell you so much about Lady, the spunky Terrier mix who loves attention. Or Strawberry, an elegant kitten who likes to be petted, enjoys affection and gets along with other cats. She came from a hoarder’s house.

Lady and Strawberry from Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

Lady and Strawberry would love to go home with you. Until then, they’re waiting at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

5) “The shelters ask too many questions — and they want to visit my home!”

Want to guess why they do that? They want to prevent homelessness among pets. They want to know if you know how to take care of a new pet — or are willing to learn. They want to make sure the animal gets veterinary care. They want to place that dog permanently and safely, so she doesn’t run away and get hit by a car. They want to make sure that you won’t give up and surrender the cat the minute he pees outside the litter box.

Five reasons why adopting a shelter pet is not just caring, but smart

1) You know who you’re adopting.

As I mentioned previously, if you’re not set on getting a puppy, most of the dogs in shelters and rescue organizations are past the house-breaking stage. Many are past the destructo phase as well.  As for cats, I think the best way to adopt a cat is to get an adult from a reputable rescue group. They know the cat’s personalities and quirks, and can help you find a quite compatible feline companion. And all are grateful for a home. You can see it in their eyes.

Lilah, one of the dogs from Life with Dogs and Cats, is a sweet Border Collie mix.

Sweet Lilah, every grateful.

2) You are not supporting the horror of puppy mills.

Whatever you do, please, please do not buy a dog that came from a puppy mill. If you want to know why, take 20 minutes of your time and watch this TED Talk from Theresa Strader, the founder of Mill Dog Rescue. Don’t have 20 minutes? How about 18 seconds to watch a dog rescued from a puppy mill experience a soft bed for the first time in her life.

3) Many rescue groups will take the animal back if it doesn’t work out.

It’s usually written in the contract you sign when you adopt. They won’t give you your adoption fee back, but if for some reason, you cannot keep Fido or Fluffy, due to any one of those reasons listed above or any other, you can be assured that your pets will land safely and find forever homes. More than likely, they have programs such as those found at Somerset Regional Animal Shelter (in my county), that can help with training, behavior problems, expenses and other issues, to help keep pets in their homes.

4) You’re getting a bargain.

Most rescue organizations will perform complete exams on each animal they care for, provide all necessary vaccinations, and spay or neuter them. From recent experience, I can tell you that adds up. It can be as much as $1000. The highest adoption fee I paid was $250 — and all that vet care was not only included, but already taken care of.

5) You know you saved a life.

Every adoption makes room in the shelter or foster home for someone else to be saved. You feel good. You get bragging rights. And you get a best friend.

Make a wish come true. Adopt.

Make a wish come true.

How did you and your pet find each other?

You may also like:

For National Adopt A Shelter Pet Month, we’re joining a bunch of other blogs to support adoption. Check out some of the great blogs below.


35 Comments on "5 + 5 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Pet"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Daisy says:

    Great lists! We’ve never had any issues with shelter dogs we’ve adopted; in fact, we enjoyed the true mutts – those that they could only guess at which breeds lay within. It was fun watching signs of a few different breeds emerge, they had great personalities and they were all very healthy pups. Wonderful post! 🙂

  2. Cathy Armato says:

    Terrific post! You hit every nail on the head – couldn’t have said it any better. Sharing.

  3. Deziz World says:

    Gweat posty and weez hope dat all da animals in da shelters get homes. Weez purray fur dat everyday.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  4. Both my dogs were rescued from shelters. I would always get a rescue of some sort. Love this post. It really takes on some of the reasons people hesitate to get shelter.

  5. These are great reasons and I am so glad that you were able to answer all of the excuses people have for not adopting. I follow several Basset Hound rescues and will probably adopt my next Basset Hound whenever I can get one. ☺

  6. Wonderful post ! Purrs

  7. MattieDog says:

    A truly beautiful post! We all B rescue animals in our house – and look at us, perfectly wonderful fuzzy dogs! Momma and I totally support and work to advance knowledge of rescued and adoptable animals – so we just ‘lub’ your posting!!

  8. What a great list! My cat didn’t come from a shelter, but directly from the streets. He was abandoned just outside my workplace when he was only 5 months old. he was a beautiful tiny kitty and I just couldn’t resist bringing him some with me. Every animal deserves a second chance!

  9. Great post- It is similar to the outline we wrote for our TV episode Rescues Rock. So important to share these facts and clear up misconceptions. I have always had rescues (dogs and cats) my whole life and they give so much love. Kilo the Pug has a few issues we are working through, but he is absolutely adorable. XS

  10. Kia says:

    Those are awesome reasons! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Beth says:

    This is a great post, I shared it on my facebook page. Thanks for helping to clear up some of the misconceptions!

  12. Liv & Spark says:

    LOVE this post. We were rescues, and my mom volunteers tons of time with a local rescue. Thanks for helping to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions. #RescuesRock #Liv

  13. Thank you for giving all your beautiful babies a home! I love that you took Jasper and Lilah together!

    There are many misconceptions about shelter animals, that is true. I am SO fortunate to live in a city full of all sorts of wonderful rescue organizations and shelters. The Richmond SPCA especially. They do so much to educate the public about adoption (plus provide behavior hotlines, training classes, low-cost vet services and a pet food pantry, just to name a few other things). Thank you for this article. Education is everything!

    • Exactly! I love when organizations like the Richmond SPCA and my local shelter, Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, provide education, behavior support, training, and help with veterinary expenses and food. The goal is to keep pets in their homes. Whenever there’s a food drive in my area, I like to include pet food. Because it helps everyone.

  14. Dogvills says:

    This is great information and thank you for clarifying those misconceptions about rescue animals.

  15. Val Silver says:

    Great list. I for one don’t want a puppy. I’m delighted to adopt adult dogs and my cat too. Easier than babies and you know what you are getting. My adopted boy is the best!

  16. Great info! The wishing dog at the end broke my heart, I wish I could adopt all of the dogs in need!

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: