Hello everyone! Our Summer Critter Camp is officially underway (update with pictures on that to follow soon!) so I thought I would give a chance to some of our amazing Houston SPCA staff to write some guest posts this summer.
Our first guest post is from our Behavior Coordinator Lisa – see her ‘Getting to Know Your Houston SPCA’ post here: https://houstonspca.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/getting-to-know-your-houston-spca-lisa-houston-spca-animal-behavior-coordinator/
– Humane Education Blog
Shelter Pets: They May Be Seconds But Not Irregulars
Lisa, Houston SPCA Behavior Coordinator
There’s a common belief in today’s society that it’s wiser to purchase a dog from a store or a breeder because you “know what you’re getting”, especially if you meet the puppy’s parents or receive the dog’s breeding papers. Many of my own friends and family hesitate to adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter because they assume the dog is “broken”. After all, that’s why their owners gave them up in the first place, right?
Truth be told, there are myriad reasons for dogs and cats ending up in shelters like the Houston SPCA. And from my point of view most of them aren’t broken, but have simply run into some bad luck. That’s not to say there aren’t animals who have problems, because sadly there are. I tend to see those as the exception rather than the rule.
Owning a pet is hard work. Right from the start there has to be a bond between human and animal, or else all the effort might not feel worth it. And what does that effort involve? There’s the monetary aspect. Animals cost money, there’s no way around it. While shelter dogs might not be as expensive as dogs from a breeder, they still require the same lifelong care. Food, equipment (leashes, collars etc.) and regular vet visits can really add up over the course of a year. And dogs can live for many years! Cats may seem relatively self-sufficient, but they need regular vet visits too, as well as scratching posts, cat trees, litter boxes and as many toys as possible. My family’s cat lived to be 21 years old, how’s that for longevity?
Beyond the financial commitment, dogs and cats require us to be active. Dogs need walks several times a day, and cats need to be entertained, too. When I used to pet sit for people in New York City, I would walk their dogs five times a day for 15 to 30 minutes each time. We’d throw in a visit to the dog park every now and again, but only if the dogs themselves enjoyed it. At the end of the day, the dogs would be tired, and so would I!
So what does this have to do with “broken” shelter pets? Well, as the Behavior Coordinator here at the Houston SPCA, it’s generally my responsibility to evaluate the adoptability of the dogs and cats who come through our doors. Thankfully, most of the animals I meet are lovely. They’re social, friendly, happy critters who ended up here because their owners were moving or couldn’t afford them anymore or fell ill, or any number of reasons beyond their control.
Sometimes, though, I come across pets who have the potential to be social, friendly and happy, but never got the opportunity to blossom. They are usually under-socialized, meaning they startle easily and are overwhelmed by novel situations. The dogs have little to no obedience training and walk like maniacs on the leash. The cats are often skittish and shy away from contact. And both frequently have more energy than they know what to do with, and no productive way to expend that energy. So now they’re sitting (or jumping) here in a kennel, waiting for the right person to come along and give them the chance to be the dog or cat they were meant to be.
I know that if some of these animals had been given the option to be good right from the start, they would never have ended up in our care, needing a second chance. I’m just so thankful that there are organizations like ours who are willing to give them that opportunity, and people like you who are willing to try.
If you are looking for a new furry family member come down to the Houston SPCA where you can find the perfect pet for you family!
You can view all of our adoptable animals online by clicking here: www.HoustonSPCA.org.