7 Things You Should Know Before Adopting from an Animal Shelter

Rancho Coastal Humane Society

The La Jolla Veterinary Hospital is a leading La Jolla vet and avid supporter of local animal shelters. Partnering with the Rancho Coastal Humane Society, they host a yearly Paws & Pints Fundraiser to raise money for FOCAS (Friends of County Animal Shelters). Before making the decision to bring a new dog or cat into your home, however, it’s important to make sure you’re ready for a new family member. John Van Zante of Rancho Coastal Humane Society outlines a few necessary questions to ask yourself before adopting.  

What should you know before adopting a shelter dog?

Adopting any pet is a lifetime commitment. A puppy is only a puppy for a short time, and after that they become adolescents, adult dogs, seniors, and geriatrics. If you’re not ready or able to make a lifetime commitment to a pet, but you want to help animals, look into volunteer opportunities, donations, participation in fundraising events, or temporary foster care options.

Is adopting a shelter dog different from getting a dog from a breeder? In what ways?

Adopting a pet from an animal shelter is different from buying a pet from a pet store. The puppies in the windows of the pet stores came from commercial breeding operations (puppy mills). Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies in pet stores or shopping malls.

Animal shelters work to match the needs of each pet with the desires of their new families.
The goal for pet stores and backyard breeders is to make a profit. Reputable breeders are dedicated to their animals and the preservation of the breeds. Buying a purebred dog from a reputable breeder can be similar to adopting a dog from an animal shelter – these breeders want what’s best for their dogs and they want to make good matches.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to tell the difference between a reputable dog breeder and someone whose only goal is to generate as many puppies as possible as fast as they can then turn them into a profit. Do your homework — ask to tour the facility, meet the animals, inspect medical and behavior histories, look online for reviews, and check with the Better Business Bureau.

What should you do in preparation for adopting a shelter dog?

Do some research about the breeds of dogs that interest you and hold a family meeting before even going to the shelter. If one family member wants an adult Labrador Retriever, another wants a Chihuahua puppy, another wants a male Great Dane, and another wants a female Poodle…you might have a frustrating visit to the shelter.

Talk about what kind of dog you want. Be realistic about the type of dog you can care for and what kind of dog fits your lifestyle.
· Puppies need a lot of time and attention.
· Some breeds require lots of exercise.
· There are some breeds that don’t do well when left alone.
· If you live in an apartment or Homeowners Association, check for restrictions.

When you get to the shelter, talk to an adoption counselor or a care provider in the kennels. They know the dogs and their personalities, and their goal is to match you with a dog that fits your family (they’re not trying to earn a commission; their commitment is to the animals!)

The adoption counselors are not there to judge YOU! They are there to help you find the dog that best fits you, your home, and your lifestyle.

How can you set up your home to be pet-friendly?

Every dog has different needs. There’s generally more involved with “puppy-proofing” a home than there is with an adult dog that has lived in a home for the previous part of its life. If you are going to restrict your dog’s access within your house, start with some “baby gates” or other items that can block doorways, stairs, etc. Make sure your yard is “dog proof.” Check for holes in fences or other possible escape routes.


The basics: leash, collar, and harness.
Pet ID Tag with accurate contact information.
Food and water dishes.
Dog food. (Start with the kind of food the shelter was feeding).
Dog toys and treats.
“Acceptable” things for your dog to chew on.
A dog bed. (Even if your dog is going to sleep with you, it still needs a bed).
If your dog needs medication, get it before you go home.

How soon should you bring the animal in to see a vet?

Right away! Most veterinarians offer a complimentary examination for the first visit if you do it within the first week or two after adopting your new dog (including La Jolla Vet!) Call for an appointment, tell them that you just adopted your dog, and take your adoption papers along for the visit. Any medical information or vaccination records that you have can help your new veterinarian get started. Your vet might have some questions that can be easily answered with a phone call or e-mail to the animal shelter where you adopted your dog.

Plan your “team.”

Your caretaking “team” includes you, your immediate family, friends, and neighbors.
You’ll need a veterinarian that you trust. Particularly with puppies – find a trainer you like that uses positive reinforcement to improve the relationship between you and your dog. Ask friends for recommendations, or look for online reviews of trainers.

Find a reliable pet supply store in your area. It’s not just the products they carry; at one time or another you will be asking them for advice, so be sure to find people you trust. Depending on your dog’s needs and your level of involvement, you might need a groomer. Ask your friends for recommendations or check online Yelp reviews of groomers.

For more information and to view adoptable dogs and cats in the area, visit RCHS’s website.

The following two tabs change content below.
Your go-to resource for everything La Jolla - in print & online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *