Know your obligations before adopting
The recent analysis from the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division on changes in the number of pet adoptions1 has prompted me to write about my own concerns related to the adoption of pets from animal shelters.
Animal shelters have embraced a number of advertising methods to encourage the adoption of dogs and cats, sometimes in connection with reducing or waiving adoption fees for a limited time. These tactics are specifically designed to tug at people's heartstrings, but they may, I fear, be inducing some individuals to make uninformed, hasty decisions.
I am not aware of any shelter advertising that specifically informs individuals that adopting a puppy or kitten requires a 12- to 15-year commitment or that food, medical expenses, and basic routine care could cost $1,200 to $1,500 a year. In my experience, many people don't give these issues much thought. I've been in private, small animal practice for 53 years, and every day, I deal with clients who are faced with veterinary services they can't afford or for which they are unwilling to pay.
I see clients on a regular basis who prefer to adopt senior pets, ranging from 10 to 15 years in age. Unfortunately, many of these well-intentioned clients are unaware of existing or soon-to-come medical and age-related issues that can be quite costly, such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and dental disease. Cats and dogs adopted from shelters may have been relinquished because of behavioral issues, such as litter box avoidance or aggression, that need to be addressed, and many animals, regardless of age, can have ongoing minor or major medical issues that add to the cost of ownership.
Animal shelters have an obligation to inform clients about responsible pet ownership. Individuals looking to adopt dogs and cats should be fully informed before they do so. Pets, pet owners, veterinarians, and veterinary staff members would be the beneficiaries.
Ed Wolff, dvm
1. AVMA Veterinary Economics Division. Are pet adoptions really skyrocketing? J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;258:114–115.
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