With animal shelters bursting at the seams with unwanted pets, the choice to adopt is an admirable one and one that will not support the highly unethical practice of backyard breeding as is often the case when buying from pet shops. This does not however negate the responsibility that comes with welcoming a new animal into your life – it is a lifelong commitment (even if only based on their life span), after all – so it is a decision that should be considered before it is put into action.
The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) urges potential new pet owners to consider the following before deciding on their new companion:
Consider your lifestyle and home environment and adopt according to what suits you:
Consider and research the natural needs of your potential new pet – meeting these needs, which do change with each life stage, is crucial to ensuring a happy, well-balanced pet and will limit the likelihood of behavioural issues arising. Think about their social, grooming, training, playing, exercising, nutritional and shelter needs and then ask yourself if you’ll be able to meet these on a daily basis
Consider your finances to ensure that you can afford to care for a new pet – this will not only include shelter and bedding requirements, grooming, healthcare (which pet insurance can significantly assist with) and the costs associated with preparing your property for a new pet, but also includes being able to afford a good quality pet diet. Members of the PFI span across a wide variety of price brackets and by choosing a PFI member brand you can be assured that you are feeding the best quality product to suit your pocket
Adopt according to your home dynamic e.g. if you have children, and especially if adopting an older pet, it is imperative that you confirm that the pet is comfortable around kids
Be prepared to make provision for the expected lifespan of your new companion animal – these vary according to species, breed and living conditions. A responsibly cared for dog or cat will most likely live for one to two decades. Other pets, like parrots may even outlive you. For the duration of their life you will need to consider them in all the plans you make, such as ensuring they are cared for should you wish to go away on holiday.
Be intent on exercising responsible pet ownership:
Ensure that your pets are not the cause of issues with neighbours and their pets and others around you when out and about. This ultimately allows pets and people to live together harmoniously
Consider your new pet’s temperament and history and manage any “quirks” to limit stress on your pet and those around you. If, for example, your rescue dog was taken from his litter too early, he may not play nicely with other dogs – be conscious of this and try train him to behave in an appropriate way with the help of a professional behaviourist or aid in the management of interactions to ensure they do not escalate into fights
Ensure that your pet, especially dogs, are securely enclosed in your property and that their environment is free from potential hazards
Provide adequate shelter from the elements, such as shade during hot days and warmth during colder months. A dog that stays inside at night is safer and warmer and has also proven to be a deterrent for criminals
Ensure that your pet is sterilised, visits the veterinarian for annual inoculations as well as any other ad hoc health concerns and that you provide preventative care for parasite control, such as ticks and fleas
Adopt with an open mind:
Some people shy away from a shelter dog because of their mixed breed nature, thinking thoroughbreds are a “purer” form of dog, when, in actual fact thoroughbreds are a consequence of human intervention in dog reproduction. Thought of this way you could argue that they’re further removed from the original dog species. It is however true that understanding the breed makeup of your dog can give you some certainty of the type of temperament your new dog will have (remembering that all animals are individuals).
Don’t let suspicion get the best of you – there are many loving black cats that make wonderful pets but are often overlooked because of certain beliefs
Don’t rule out kill shelters – you personally may not support the idea of them but there are many reasons why this process is necessary. By giving them a chance you could be saving a life
Older dogs have often been given up after many years with a single family, upsetting their routine and security. They’re often already trained, calmer and require less regular exercise (depending on their age).
Prepare yourself for setting boundaries when the new pet comes home:
The sooner you can get into a routine with your new pet the better – have all family members understand the new routine and what behaviour is acceptable and what is not, and be consistent with your approach to limit confusion for your pet
No matter what the age, dogs will always benefit from positive training methods – through attending classes and teaching your new pet boundaries in the new home
Be patient, understanding and consistent with your new pet – rescue pets have often been through neglect or abuse, so it’s expected that they may need a little more love and care to settle in to their new home and build trust with their new family. Be patient with them and make every new experience as positive as possible, by using a calm voice, treats for good behaviour and always remaining consistent with the feedback that you give them
Remember that no other person is in a position to make the above decisions for you and you, too, should not make these decisions for someone else. Buying pets as gifts is therefore never a good idea.