adopt a shelter dog

Happy National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day!

By Teeda Tangprasertchai Stiles, Board Member, Palo Alto Humane Society

PAHS strongly encourages anyone considering adding a pet to their family to adopt from their local shelter, whether public or private, or a local rescue group. These organizations are full of pets eagerly awaiting their forever homes. As important as it is to adopt, it’s even more important to remember that adding a pet to your family is a lifetime commitment. This commitment averages 10–13 years for dogs, but this varies by breed and more than 20 years for cats. Some pets have a surprisingly long lifespan: forty-plus years for turtles (depending on the species!) and nearly 100 years for parrots!

If you and your family aren’t ready to commit to a pet for a lifetime, consider helping shelters and rescue groups by fostering a pet until he or she is ready for his forever home.

When you adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue organization, you’re in good company—approximately 3.2 million dogs and cats are adopted from shelters each year!

1. Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized every year, primarily due to overcrowding in shelters. By bringing home your new family member from your local shelter or rescue group, you’re freeing up space for another animal to be saved from abuse or neglect. You are also helping to stop the cycle of animal overpopulation, meaning that fewer animals will end up in shelters. Adopting really does save lives!

2. Pet stores often obtain their animals from illegal, unsafe, and inhumane puppy mills or poorly run backyard breeders. Conditions are oftentimes so inhumane and deplorable in these puppy mills that states like California and Maryland already ban the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores; more than 300 cities and counties across the county have similar laws in place.

“Animals such as puppies, kittens, and bunnies in mills live short, tortured existences; their offspring, usually the animals offered for sale at pet stores, are often riddled with congenital issues as a result of the poor conditions and breeding practices employed,” said bill sponsor Assemblymember Rosenthal of New York.

If we truly want to build compassionate communities, one way we can start is to make sure that puppy mills are banned to prevent the needless suffering of innocent animals. One way people like you and me can help is adopting your next pet or volunteering with your local shelters to foster animals looking for their forever homes.

3. Many breeds and ages are available. If you think you can only find your forever pet by going to a breeder, think again! If you’re very specific about the breed you wish to rescue, you can search for breed-specific rescues in your area. Within the Bay Area, Golden State Greyhounds and Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue are just a few examples. Directories like Petfinder let you search for pets by breed, age, and temperament available for adoption at many different shelters simultaneously. As of this writing, Petfinder has nearly 2,000 dogs and more than 1,000 cats available for adoption near Palo Alto!

Many shelters have seen outpouring support from people fostering pets while they’re safely sheltered at home. Some shelters have had increased adoptions since the onslaught of Covid-19, while others are seeing an increase in surrendered pets, possibly due to increased hardship as some family members lose their jobs.

4. Adopting from a shelter or rescue group supports local 501c3 organizations. Oftentimes, private shelters and rescue groups are privately funded, meaning they don’t receive any funds from the government and rely on donor support. These organizations usually provide important services to their local communities, such as low-cost vaccinations and spay and neuter and educational programming for youth. They also provide outreach and education resources to the community. Importantly, they often work with publicly funded “pounds” and humane societies in order to free up valuable kennel space. Shelters and rescue groups help to reduce the number of animals that must be euthanized due to overcrowding.

5. Every pet deserves a forever home! Dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets don’t deserve a life in a shelter. Several of our board members, volunteers, and staff have adopted pets from local shelters and rescues. Here are just a few of their stories. Although these stories feature dog adoptions, know that Petfinder and other animal shelters such as Peninsula Humane Society and Humane Society Silicon Valley are looking for forever homes for rabbits, birds, small reptiles, and other small pets as well! House Rabbit Society works specifically to find forever homes for rabbits.

Li’l Sebastian & Sue

Sue (PAHS Board President) and her family adopted 10-year old Li’l Sebastian from Muttville, a dog rescue organization in San Francisco specifically looking out for the welfare of senior pets. Older animals are often (wrongfully!) considered unadoptable and are routinely euthanized in shelters.

Sue wanted to share joy and companionship with a dog who needed a loving home, and might not have otherwise found one.

adopt a shelter dog

Sebastian, on the left, with his fur-brother, Sam

Sadly, Sebastian passed away in February, but he enjoyed so many special times with Sue, including ladies’ weekends in Carmel, where he played on the beach with his canine siblings and strolled through dog-friendly towns. Sebastian was an easygoing old fellow who wagged his tail at every creature he met. He moved very, very slowly but never seemed tired of going on walks. One of Sue’s neighbors thought he looked very dignified on their daily strolls and dubbed him “the mayor.” He is dearly missed

Coco & Family

Coco and her forever family

Coco, an Australian Shepherd mix, was rescued as a puppy from the Moab Indian reservation in southern Utah. Coco had been abandoned in a cardboard box at a gas station with her sister (they were named Thelma and Louise at the time) when they were six weeks old. Her family saw a post on Facebook from a local Utah rescue that “Thelma” or “Louise” were available for adoption. Initially, her family gravitated toward Coco’s sister, Thelma, because of her beautiful brindle coloring. However, when arriving at the shelter, one of Coco’s pawrents was immediately charmed by Louise’s personality and affection.

Her sister, Thelma, had already been spoken for, and Coco’s forever family, the Carters, were so thrilled to have her join the family, which included Mom, Dad, and their 7-month-old son, Weston. She was renamed Coco, after Coco Chanel. The family’s “res dog” (short for “reservation dog”) is now a year and a half old and is best friends with her older human brother. She’s well-trained, obedient, and loyal. The Carters couldn’t ask for a better dog for their young family!