Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How To: Meet Your Match

Todd Cramer

Adopting a pet can be a complex thing for all types of households. This week, we chatted with Todd Cramer, Executive Director of Noah's Ark Animal Welfare Association, Inc. in Ledgewood, about what everyone should know about the pet adoption process and how to ensure that it is rewarding for you. 

MK9 Campus: What factors should people consider when choosing to adopt?

Cramer: Adopting a new pet is an exciting event in our lives. To ensure you select a pet that will fit your lifestyle for years to come, folks should ask themselves how they see a pet fitting into their home. Consider size of the pet, activity level of the family and the pet, time away from home each day, food and veterinary costs. Ask yourself what qualities you would like your pet to have. For example, do you want a dog who wants to play a lot or a dog that doesn't want to play much, if at all? Would you appreciate an independent cat that desires little attention or a social butterfly that will want to be where you are every second of the day?

MK9 Campus: How does the adoption process work?

Cramer: Folks looking to adopt from any organization should expect to be screened so that the organization can feel good about the adoption. It is our job to place the pets in our care in a responsible fashion. At Noah's Ark Animal Welfare Association, Inc. we screen conversationally and in a manner that asks the adopter to tell us how they see a pet fitting into their home; rather than us telling the adopter what is best for them. We then work to make the best match. Come in to Noah's, complete a quick survey and we will chat with you a bit and help you select the pet that is right for you.

MK9 Campus: What types of pets should people expect to find at animal shelters? Where do they come from?

Cramer: It is a myth that shelter animals are "broken" so folks should expect to find all sorts of healthy and happy pets in all shapes, ages and sizes. Although many are purrrfect just the way they are, you will find some pets that need extra special TLC or a commitment to training. Some pets still need to learn their manners and others, such as dogs raised in puppy mills, need time to learn how to be social and live outside a kennel. Pets come to live in a shelter from a few sources. Some are surrendered by guardians who are victims of varying life circumstances and just cannot care for the pet anymore, others are strays saved from the streets by caring animal control officers and others are transferred to our area from shelters in other areas of the country that have more animals than they can place in their communities.

MK9 Campus: Are there specific health or behavioral issues potential adopters should watch out for when adopting?

Cramer: Because we often don't know the pets' histories when they arrive, and we will only be aware of health issues that exhibit signs and symptoms, it is impossible to guarantee a completely healthy pet. Since living at an animal shelter is not the same as living in a home, behavior in a home cannot be guaranteed. However, all shelters and rescue groups should be providing regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and exams and should be performing a behavioral evaluation on every dog before placing it for adoption. Vaccinations will help prevent diseases that are common to dogs and cats, and the behavioral evaluation will generally tell us how a dog will respond to handling and other dogs, and if he or she is protective of toys and food (we call this resource guarding). Diseases which can be common but are not life threatening when treated (and not contagious to humans) are Bordatella (canine cough) in dogs and U.R.I (Upper Respiratory Infection). With good
cleaning and disinfection of the shelter, animals will be protected from these diseases.

MK9 Campus: How are adoption prices determined? Where does the money go?

Cramer: Cost of care per animal, including vaccinations, microchips and spay or neuter surgery are factors that are considered as well as what the public is willing to pay. The adoption fees and other fees for services rendered rarely cover the total cost of care - hence the need for fundraising. Folks should also consider that if they were to obtain a pet from another source and have the vaccines, surgery and microchip done at their local veterinarian, it would  cost them more than the fee they pay at a shelter. 

MK9 Campus: What resources or support do animal shelters provide after adoption has occurred?

Cramer: This will vary by organization. Most will be able to guide you if you have behavior or training issues, such as a cat that won't use the litter box. At Noah's, if we cannot assist directly we will connect the adopter with the appropriate support. Shelters often times offer support to folks who already have a pet and need assistance. At Noah's we can assist you with any needs related to your current pets as well.

MK9 Campus: What should a person do if he or she determines that the pet they have adopted is not a good match for them?

Cramer: When a person determines that a pet they have adopted is not a good match for them, they should follow the stipulations of the agreement they signed at the time of adoption. Many groups ask that adopters return the pet to their organization. At Noah's, we ask the adopter to call us with concerns so we can assist before the adopter determines the pet is not a good match. Once the decision is made to rehome the pet, it can be a good idea to try and rehome the pet on your own before returning the pet to the shelter system. Rehoming directly from the adopter's home to a new home is less stressful for the pet and leaves space available in the shelter to assist other animals. All potential adopters should be screened to be sure that their home will be a good match for the pet. We can provide coaching to anyone looking to rehome their pet.

MK9 Campus: In what ways can people help their local shelters?

Cramer: The local shelters and rescue groups need the community support. Donating needed items, volunteering time and spreading the word about the great work that is being done is always helpful. Of course, we still have to pay for the animal care and other expenses, such as heat and water costs, so a monetary donation is always appreciated. Most shelters and rescues are private organizations and receive no government assistance.

Thank you so much to Todd Cramer for this wonderful information! Please visit Noah's Ark at 1915 Route 46 West or its website to see the many wonderful cats and dogs available for adoption right now. 

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