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* * * Dispelling the myths about shelter pets

There are many misconceptions about the quality of animals found in rescue shelters. The stigma that shelter animals are "damaged goods" is ill-informed and outdated.

Also see: Adopting Senior or Special Needs Animals by Shelagh MacDonald

Myth: There is something wrong with shelter animals or the original people would not have surrendered them.

If the actual reason for surrendering an animal is because he or she is *bad*, then the problem of unwanted animals would be utterly solvable--and minute in comparison to the problem of overcrowding we see today. Animals are brought to shelters for a variety of reasons, some of which are:

  • Their elderly/ill caretaker has passed away or was forced to move into a controlled housing facility.
  • An animal had not been spayed and so produced an unwanted litter unable to be privately homed.
  • The animal came from an abusive situation and was removed for his or her own protection.
  • Poor judgement (such as not checking rental agreements) forced the surrender of the animal to a facility for re-homing.

    None of these reasons reflect anything derogatory about the animal. They are situations completely unrelated to his or her health or temperament. Behavioural or health issues, if known, will be openly discussed with prospective adopters.

Myth: Animals from abusive homes will never be good companions because they have been mistreated for so long

Most animals coming from abusive homes will typically make a profound emotional recovery - with proper care and attention. In fact, many of them bond very quickly to a kind person in a positive environment. Shelter and rescue workers can be invaluable in assisting in the smooth transition to a new and better situation. The rewards of such an adoption are unequalled.

You never know what you're getting with shelter animals.

Although it is true that the past medical history of an animal adopted from a rescue shelter cannot always be tracked down, information about the animal’s current medical condition and socialization is more extensive after having been observed by the foster guardians, staff, and examined by the shelter vet. There are no such procedures and observations available regarding animals bought from stores or newspaper ads. The animal is a complete unknown in practically every respect regardless of what the merchant claims.

Myth: All animals in rescue shelters are sickly or unhealthy

Animals in stores are there to make the proprietor money. The cute, cuddly animals you see in the glass enclosure are placed there from the “stock” located elsewhere (likely a crowded shed or basement) and have never even seen a vet. What you see is not a true indication of how the animal has, and does, live his or her life. In order for the shopkeeper to make money he or she must buy significantly more animals than you see on display. Customers are forbidden from seeing the “stock” they keep to replace the animal you just bought. Although the facilities in pounds and shelters are not always optimum, ALL the animals up for adoption are on display. The facility is open to the public and, generally speaking, the staff is more than happy to talk to you about their temperament, sometimes take them for a walk, and can inform you regarding how the animal gets along with other dogs, cats and children etc. And, they will certainly alert you to known health issues so you can make a more informed decision.

Getting from a commercial source is the true “crap shoot” both temperamentally and health-wise.

Reprinted with permission from Pet-Abuse.Com Edited by AAAC.


Shelagh MacDonald, of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, feels a special commitment to highlighting the value of senior or special needs animals:

Senior and Special Needs Animals

Adopting a new companion from a humane society or a rescue organization is a heart warming experience, just knowing that you are giving a new lease on life to an animal in need of a 'forever' home. Many of these animals were given up or abandoned through no fault of their own, but rather because their previous owners had no idea how to care for them.

Adopting a senior animal or an animal with special needs can be one of the most rewarding experiences. These animals often respond well to a loving hand and seem to be extra appreciative of having someone to care for them in their twilight years or in their time of need for special needs animals. You should expect an adjustment period that may be longer than for a younger and healthy animal. They may be mistrusting, sulky and unresponsive for a few weeks, or even longer, as they brood the loss of their previous family or owner. Just be patient, doing what you can to meet their needs, and wait for them to come around and seek affection and comfort from you. Make sure you are not overly permissive and allow them to walk all over you; this could lead to behavioural problems resulting from having no boundaries. You can be extra kind and loving, while still maintaining your household rules.
by Shelagh MacDonald (CFHS)


There are often "special needs" animals posted at many of the rescues and shelters. Please look into their eyes and see if you can find room in your home and in your heart for these, often, abandoned animals who have given a lifetime of loyalty or parented dozens of litters in squalid conditions and whose only wish would be to be quietly loved for the remainder of their time here. They have certainly earned it. These animals often make excellent companions for senior citizens who, too, only seek quiet companionship and a warm heart. Their time left is limited so the need to find adequate housing for them if an elderly person needs to go to a "home" without them, is far less likely to be an issue.

Please consider older animals as loving, quiet, companions. They are very often, the *true* gems.

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