The Purr-fect Match

By Cindy Cafferty

January 16, 2009 5 min read

THE PURR-FECT MATCH

Picking the right dog or cat takes serious consideration

Cindy Cafferty

Creators News Service

You've got love to spare and have decided to make an addition to the family or, perhaps, start a family by bringing a pet into your life. It's a noble venture and long-term commitment producing a bond that, to some, is parallel to having a child.

You may be committed to fostering a furry friend, but now the inevitable question arises of how to go about fulfilling that commitment and what to be aware of in the process.

"Shelters and adoption centers have a vested interest in making a match, pairing you up with a cat or dog that suits your personality and lifestyle," said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In a time where potential pet owners have a plethora of pet options at their disposal and many stranded pets are at risk, soon-to-be pet parents have myriad options for not only expanding their family, but also offering an otherwise orphan creature a loving, stable environment.

"I'm a little biased on why they [pet owners] should make adoption their first option. Animals across the nation are being destroyed from sheer homelessness," said Buchwald, "But if a prospective parent doesn't find their dream pet at a shelter, a responsible breeder is a good second option."

Buchwald offered key advice for pet parents to be, what some shelters offer, and what to look for in a breeder.

"Remember, a pet is a long term investment," advised Buchwald. "They can live 15 to 20 years, so take the same care and time in choosing a pet as you would in choosing a mate or a house."

Buchwald emphasized things to consider when "shopping" for a pet:

* Don't base your decision merely on appearance. Consider your lifestyle, take into account what you're looking for in a pet and be realistic about your expectations.

* Fill out a canine or feline personality profile if possible. The ASPCA implements a pet-owner match program called Meet Your Match. Other shelters may offer similar programs. According to Michelle Friedman, a spokesperson for PetSmart, its stores also offer help with their adoption services. Take advantage of these programs and find the pet that's right for you.

* Time is important to adoption. Don't expect to find your pet the day you enter a facility. Your perfect match may not be available immediately, so come back in a week or so. Make multiple visits and, if possible, spend time with the pet you plan to adopt. Most importantly, have patience. A successful pet adoption can take months.

* Regardless of the shelter or agency, ask questions of the staff. How well do they know the pets? What kind of testing, behavioral and medical, has the pet received? What are the fees to adopt, and what is included in those fees? If the match isn't what you thought it would be or you fall on unfortunate circumstances, is there a return policy/option, and what happens to the pet should you have to return it?

Buchwald listed three primary criteria responsible breeders should always abide by:

* Breeders should always show where the puppies are raised. You want to make sure the puppy and the surrounding puppies of your choice are in good health and, if possible, meet their parents.

* You should have the opportunity to bring the puppy back for whatever reason within a reasonable time frame.

* A spaying/neutering requirement, to be fulfilled by buyer, in the purchase agreement.

The American Kennel Club offers further advice for buying from breeders on their website (www.akc.org). According to the AKC, breeders should: Answer any questions you have and ask plenty of you, show genuine care for their puppies and adult dogs and provide appropriate documentation of the dog's pedigree.

Animal advocates and pet experts across the board have expressed negative feelings towards purchasing puppies from pet stores. In the past, pet stores have been accused of buying their puppies from puppy farms. In addition to potentially unethical practices in breeding, many of the dogs that come from there could be sick or have other complications. Pet experts caution many pet stores offer no recourse in those cases. If you decide to purchase from a pet store, be cautious, do your research and ask plenty of questions regarding where the puppies came from.

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