Choosing the right dog for your family and lifestyle takes time and research. Many potential pet owners are torn between the longing to rescue an animal from a shelter and the desire to own a purebred pet. It is possible, however, to fill both needs by visiting your local humane shelter or rescue organization.
"Animal shelters are a great source for purebred pets," said Betsy McFarland of The Humane Society of the United States. "Not only do they have a wonderful selection of adult animals for adoption, but they also have kittens and puppies. In fact, 25% to 30% of the dogs in shelters are purebred."
The purebred facts
Before considering a purebred pet, it’s important to understand what the term means. Purebreds conform to a specific "breed standard," offering the advantage of knowing what general physical and behavioral characteristics– including size, appearance, and temperament — that breed is likely to have.
However, purchasing a purebred is not a guarantee of good health and temperament. The only thing the "papers" from purebred dog and cat registry organizations certify is that there is information regarding the lineage and identity of the pet. Purebred papers are also not an assurance that your pet will be exactly like his breed profile.
Benefits of shelter adoption
Shelters want to be sure that the adoption is permanent, so they will provide lots of support in the adoption process. Shelter counselors will assist you in determining which type or breed will be best for your family’s lifestyle. Many shelters also provide follow-up assistance, such as pet parenting and dog-training classes, medical services, and behavior counseling. If you prefer, they can refer you to providers of these services.
Shelter adoption fees vary, but are much less than a breeder’s or retail pet store’s purchase price. Additionally, if you adopt your pet from a shelter, he has most likely already been vaccinated, dewormed, and spayed or neutered, saving you hundreds of dollars in veterinary expenses. A growing number of shelters now microchip pets as well.
Try a breed rescue group
An excellent source of purebred animals is a breed rescue group. These organizations are usually run by local or national breed clubs, or dedicated individuals who are advocates for a particular breed.
Good rescuers will try to match each applicant with the appropriate dog, so be ready to answer a lot of questions about your home and lifestyle. Most rescue groups require an application to be completed by potential adopters before even meeting a pet.
In general, rescue dogs are more than six months old and are housetrained. They often end up as rescues because families were not prepared for the temperament or care of the particular type of pet. Many dogs are placed in rescue when their original owners are unable to care for them due to financial or lifestyle change or illness.
If you decide to adopt from a shelter or rescue, don’t be surprised or discouraged if there are no animals available on your first visit. Speak with a counselor about your choice of pet, and have your name put on a waiting list. The shelter will call you when an animal matching your preference becomes available.
To learn more about purebred rescue, visit the AKC website at www.akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm. Petfinder (www.petfinder.com) also features a searchable database of over 100,000 animals that need homes from over 5,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the USA and Canada. Your local Best Friends center also works closely with neighborhood rescue associations, and would gladly put you in touch with these organizations.