Adopting A Pet In California

Adopting a pet

Adopt—Don't shop. Open your heart to a homeless pet.

Thinking about adopting a pet? There’s a homeless animal in California waiting for you to make them a part of your family. Every year millions of animals end up in shelters across the United States. About 50% are adopted. However, up to 10% are returned to shelters. There are many reasons for this, but often it’s because the pet did not match well with the adoptive family. Before choosing a pet, it is good to know what questions to ask. This makes the adoption process easier and more likely to be a success. 

Save A Life, Save Some Money

Adopting a petThere are 1158 shelter and rescue organizations in California. Often these places are short on space. Adopting a pet allows room for another animal who needs help. California has the highest rate of animal euthanasia, with 100,239 dogs and small pets euthanized in shelters in 2019.

Usually, a veterinarian has examined the dogs, cats, or other pets up for adoption. Animals are also spayed or neutered, microchipped and flea-treated. Most of the time, this is all included in the adoption fee. Many shelters and rescues also take care of vaccinations and any additional necessary medical procedures/ treatments. Some rescues may start you off with a goody bag for your new companion.

Deciding To Adopt A Pet Adopting a pet

Adopting a pet involves taking on the responsibility for its care for the rest of its life—possibly up to 18 years or more. It’s important to take that into account. It’s a big commitment. Especially if this is your first pet. All family members should be on board with the decision and understand that the care includes feeding, exercising, toileting and socializing your dog, cat or other pet.

There is also the aspect of being financially responsible for the pet. Feeding, medical care, and all the things needed for security and happiness are part of the equation. It’s also a good idea to have the local veterinarian examine your new pet within a week of the adoption.

If you are likely to move homes in the future, make sure your pet can go with you. Moving is a top reason why pets are surrendered to shelters and rescues. Make sure you select your new home with all your two-legged and four-legged family members in mind. New landlords may have a ‘no pet’ policy. The new house may be significantly smaller and/ or have no yard. The moving process itself can unsettle your pet. These are issues to consider especially if you decide to adopt a large, energetic dog like a rottweiler or retriever. So be prepared to spend extra time with your dog, cat and/or other pets before, during, and after the move

The Best Pet For Your Lifestyle

Adopting a petThe choice of pet needs to be based on how you and your family lead your lives. Consider how much time you have for taking care of a pet. Do you or your partner work long hours? Will someone be home? Do you travel for your job? A pet needs daily care and social interaction. 

A pet should have similar energy levels as you and your family. If you all like being outdoors, running, hiking, or taking long walks—then an active, fit dog is a good choice. On the other hand, if you’re happier at home and relaxing, think about a senior dog, cat or other small pet. 

Another consideration is where you reside. If you live in a big city, is there a park nearby? Are your neighbors dog-friendly? Is your street cat-friendly? Are there coyotes in your neighborhood? Is there a recommended veterinary clinic in your neighborhood? Asking yourself these types of questions helps you to think about how best to fit a pet into your life.

Adopting a pet should not be an emotional decision. Almost every animal in a shelter or rescue can steal your heart. Stay focused on the practicalities of selecting your new family member.

Shelters Vs RescuesAdopting a pet

Animal shelters are generally government-funded, high-volume facilities with a paid staff. Animals in their care were surrendered by their owners or picked up as strays by animal control officers. The goal is to re-home quickly. This way sanctuary is provided for other animals in need (and euthanasia avoided). The staff may not have as much knowledge on every individual animal, so make sure to ask a lot of questions. Don’t feel rushed to make a decision, and try to leave emotions out.

Adopting a pets

Rescues are private organizations that are financed by donations and fundraisers. The staff is mostly volunteers. The animals in their care were surrendered or rescued from abusive situations. Animals are then often placed in foster homes (vetted by the rescue) where they remain until re-homed. Rescues also tend to take longer to ensure that an adoption is a good match for both pet and potential owner. They perform interviews and home inspections. Since the animals are fostered, the rescue has knowledge of their temperaments, habits and behavior in a home environment.

Shelters and rescues both have beautifully-natured dogs, cats and other pets. One place is not better than the other. However, it’s helpful to know how each works.

Potential Pet Questionnaire

It is imperative to learn as much as possible about your potential pet’s history and what you may have to deal with. Do your research. The more information you have, the easier it will be to integrate your new companion into your household. Here are some pertinent questions:

  • How did the animal come to be in the shelter or rescue, and how long has it been there? Did someone surrender the animal? If so, why? You need to know of any traumatic experiences and/or problem behaviors.
  • Is the animal house-trained? Does it shed a lot? Does it molt?
  • What was the pet fed while at the shelter or rescue? It’s a good idea to continue with the same food, gradually replacing it with your preferred type. This method is best for their stomach/ digestion. It also helps to have something familiar while they settle into their new home. 
  • Did a veterinarian examine the animal? Is it spayed or neutered? Microchipped, vaccinated, and flea-treated? Are there any medical issues that need attention?
  • Is it possible to foster the animal for a trial period? What is the return policy if things don’t work out?

Adopting a petSome shelters and rescues perform behavior assessments, although the results may not be very reliable. It’s difficult to judge animals who are in unfamiliar territory. Keep in mind that they may feel stressed and fearful, regardless of their natural temperament. 

The Ultimate Reward In Adopting A Pet

Enjoy the adoption process, then jump wholeheartedly into taking good care of your new pet. And remember to be patient. It may take a little time for your new family member to bond with you. Your pet needs to adjust to a new environment, different routines, and most of all, to learn to trust you. In the end, the reward is a lifetime of unconditional love and companionship.

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Laura Horton, MSc — Guest Contributor

Laura Horton is the founder of She created the website as a helpful hub of knowledge. Her mission is to provide trusted information, so owners can confidently make informed choices for themselves and their hounds.

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