We talk to the experts about why, if you’re thinking about a new four-legged addition to the family, you should think about rehoming a rescue cat or dog.
There’s plenty to consider when getting a pet, from finding a vet to getting the right pet insurance and of course, choosing the perfect name. But one of the biggest decisions is whether or not to get a rescue pet. If you do decide to go down the adoption route, Rachel Spencer talks to the experts to find out more about the many advantages.
We’re a nation of animal lovers. Nearly half the population (44%) owns a pet, according to recent data from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, there are nine million pet dogs living in the UK and eight million pet cats.
However, pets sometimes still find themselves in need of a new home – in 3017, the RSPCA rescued 114,584 animals.
While adopting an animal isn’t an option for everyone, giving a loving home to a pet who might not have had a nice start in life can have its rewards.
So, here are 10 reasons to consider rehoming a feline friend or canine companion...
Many animals end up in shelters through no fault of their own; their owner may have died, or they may have been abandoned.
‘By adopting an animal you’re making a real difference to their life,’ says Kim O’Meara who has helped rehome 50,000 dogs since setting up dogsblog.com in 2007. ‘It’s a selfless thing to do and you’re giving them that second chance of happiness.’
An adoption centre will make sure that the animal is healthy and microchipped before they leave – a legal requirement for dogs and cats.
‘If you adopt from Mayhew, the animal will be neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and will have had flea and worming treatment,’ says Caroline Yates and this is the case in most shelters. They will have had a full health assessment so you will be made aware of any conditions.
Many people go into a shelter with a specific breed or type of animal in mind and leave with something completely different because their idea of the perfect pet wasn’t quite right for their situation.
‘Every reputable rescue centre wants to make that perfect match because we don’t want the animal to go through the distress of being returned,’ explains Caroline.
Lisa Hens from the RSPCA agrees, saying that the charity finds out as much background information as possible.
‘You might be looking for a pet who is good with children, or a dog who is very active if you have an outdoorsy lifestyle, or a cat who loves snuggling on the sofa,’ she says. ‘The centre will know which animal is perfect for you.’
Most shelters ask that everyone in the household visits the pet to see how they get on, which includes furry friends who are members of the family already.
‘If you already have a dog or cat, you can bring them to the centre to see the new pet,’ explains Lisa. ‘We make sure everyone meets them, whether it’s the kids or the family guinea pig. We want everyone to be happy and feel confident the new pet is the right fit.’
Each pet is assessed to see at what stage they’re at with training when they go into the shelter.
‘With dogs, the rescue will spend time teaching them the foundations,’ says Kim. ‘They may be fully trained, or in the case of young dogs or puppies the rescue will have done a lot of work with toilet training and teaching them to sit and walk on a lead, so you’ll already have the foundations to build on.’
Both dogs and cats are also likely to be toilet trained which is always a bonus!
‘One of the best reasons for taking a rescue pet is that it frees up a space for the organisation to help another animal,’ says Caroline.
So you’re not just helping the pet you rescue, but the one that takes their place.
Animals of all shapes, ages and sizes, mixed breeds and pedigrees are handed in at shelters, so a breeder may not be the only option if you have something specific in mind.
‘There are many breed-specific shelters and charities, so whatever dog you’re looking for, you can find one needing a home,’ explains Kim. ‘Buying a rescue animal will usually only cost a couple of hundred pounds.’
Caring for a living creature can be challenging, but the shelter will want to help you.
‘We have adoption support volunteers who visit people who have adopted pets to see how they are getting on,’ says Lisa.
Kim adds: ‘The rescue centre has a vested interest in their future; they want a happy ending.’
Intelligent and eager to please, pets who have a bad start in life can go on to do amazing things, such as working as sniffer dogs, Medical Detection dogs or joining the Pets As Therapy scheme.
‘We’ve had dogs who have become Assistance Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs and Dogs for the Deaf,’ says Caroline. ‘It’s great for the rescue community as it shatters the myth that rescue dogs have something wrong with them, or they’re rejects, because that’s not the case.’
All pets have so much to give, but with a rescue animal, seeing them gain in confidence and build their trust cements that special bond.
‘They desperately want someone to love and to love them,’ says Caroline. ‘After all they’ve been through, they’re very grateful for a loving home, will give you their all and be a friend for life.’
They say you won’t change the world by saving an animal, but you will change that animal’s world. So, if you’re thinking of getting a pet, why not consider a rescue?