By Shelby Evans
August 1, 2013
Whether they keep our laps warm when we curl up with a book, or prod us out of bed with a cold nose for a morning run, pets are part of many of our lives—62 percent of American households, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nationwide, we own more than 70 million dogs and more than 80 million cats. Because there are so many options, it can be challenging to find the right match. Physical attributes—size, grooming requirements and exercise needs—as well as behavioral traits like sociability vary widely and affect compatibility between an animal and owner.
Amanda Blubaugh, adoption center supervisor at the Humane Society of Chittenden County, specializes in placement.
“We like to consider ourselves matchmakers,” she said. Adopters complete a profile that “paints a picture” of their home life, including activity level, age of children, other pets and home and yard space. “We ask, ‘how do you picture this animal fitting into your home?’”
“Time is a main thing,” she said. “If somebody’s coming in for a kitten or puppy but they don’t have a lot of time to spend with the animal, we try to steer them toward a more established adult.”
The key to the right pet is matching the needs of the owner to the needs of the animal. Debbie Johnson of Golden Huggs Rescue, a nonprofit based in Williston that places retriever and lab mixes throughout New England, employs a thorough process of applications, interviews and site visits to ensure adopters are well-suited and prepared. Adopters should evaluate their lifestyles critically and recognize it will likely be a 10-15 year commitment, she said.
“What people have to consider when they’re rescuing a dog is that it at one time belonged to somebody, and then it was abandoned,” she explained. “Some of the dogs have trust issues, and they need time to bond and to transition.”
Whether to choose a mixed breed or purebred animal is another consideration, and there are advantages to each. Many people opt for purebred cats and dogs because of allergies or because a dog will do work such as herding or hunting. Responsible breeding creates predictable physical and temperamental traits, which can help owners select an animal that will suit their lifestyle.
Rodger Deth, owner of Gun Dog Kennels in Lyndonville, breeds and trains German Shorthair Pointers specifically for the “soft mouth” and behaviors ideal for hunting fowl.
“You’re getting a dog that is very smart, very quick to train, and has a lineage of really good hunting dogs,” he explained, noting that his dogs require active owners who are prepared to own the athletic breed and provide frequent exercise.
The downside of purebreds is that improper breeding can perpetuate undesirable traits. By contrast, mixed breed dogs and cats possess a genetic diversity that tends to temper breed-specific size, temperament and behavior, as well as the health problems associated with certain breeds. With a mixed breed, however, particularly if it is young, it can be difficult to predict the eventual size and attitude, which may affect how it fits into the owners’ family.
Whether a companion is big or small, furry or scaly or feathered, the new pet relationship will be most successful if considered thoroughly, and based on the needs of both the animal and owner. It’s a commitment to provide care for the life of the animal, and the right match is crucial for household harmony.
To Adopt or Shop
Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, the next step is where to find “the one.”
“I implore people to do research on who you’re getting your pet from,” advised Joel English of River Cove Animal Hospital in Williston. “That’s true for both breeders and rescue groups.”
“And also make sure they’re doing their research on you,” he suggested. “Anybody who isn’t asking as many questions of you as you’re asking of them, you should be leery of. ”
Often, dogs and cats from pet stores and online sellers hail from “puppy mills” or “kitty mills.” English explained the problem with these operations is a lack of concern about proper breeding, unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition and minimal veterinary care.
In contrast, responsible breeders are devoted to preserving the breed and the health of the animals. They seek not only to preserve desirable traits, but also to exclude genes linked to poor health or behaviors, and they encourage buyers to meet their animals and tour their facility.
Both purebreds and mixed breeds are available for adoption from rescues or shelters.
“The main argument for adoption is you’re giving a homeless animal a home,” Blubaugh said. Blubaugh noted that shelter animals are spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and often come with information about their history.
“We treat every animal as an individual,” she said. “And we are also a source of information if you’re having concerns about a pet. We’re more than just adoption.”