I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in animal shelters, so I know all about the misconceptions surrounding shelter animals. For instance: Many people think shelter animals are put there because of aggression or behavior problems. Wrong! According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, the top two reasons for an animal to end up in a shelter are (1) moving/financial and (2) landlord issues. Here, I’d like to clear up some of the myths and point to my top five reasons why adopting from a shelter is the absolute best decision you can make:

1. You’re saving TWO lives: You save the life of the animal you bring home, plus you make room in the shelter for another animal to take their place. This is true even if you’re adopting from a no-kill shelter. The no-kill shelters save animals from the kill shelters whenever they can.

2. You have a better chance of knowing the animal’s personality: Animals in shelters sometimes live there for months or even years. That time gives the caregivers a good handle on the dog or cat’s personality: if they’re sociable, loving, shy and so on. When you buy a puppy at a breeder or a pet store, you truly don’t know what you’re getting until they grow up and their adult personality emerges. Shelters are also invested in helping the animals find forever homes, so there will be many opportunities for you to spend time with the animal before bringing them home for good. (I encourage my readers to please not support pet stores. You can read about puppy mills here.)

3. Shelters offer more options: What do you want, a puppy or a kitten? A calm dog that has outgrown the tiring puppy stage? A cat in her senior years? A purebred golden retriever? Whatever kind of furry family member you’re looking for, you can likely find the perfect fit at one of your local shelters. You’re not limited to just puppies or kittens. And, yes, plenty of purebreds end up in shelters, too. Next time you go for an adoption, keep this startling fact in mind: Black cats and dogs are most often overlooked in shelters, so give special consideration to these little cuties, which are more difficult to rehome.

4. Shelters save other animals, too: Maybe you’re not a dog or cat person; you’d rather save a rabbit, hamster, ferret or bird. Yes, cats and dogs make up the majority of available animals at the rescue—but don’t forget there are other critters, too!

5. It’s less expensive and a good value: Breeders charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single animal. When you adopt from a shelter, they’ve had a health checkup, their shots, may be spayed or neutered (or even microchipped!), come with a collar and ID tag, and sometimes they’re even potty trained.

I hear all the time that rescued pets make the best animal companions. Did you adopt from a shelter? I’d love to hear your story!

12 thoughts on “5 compelling reasons to adopt from a shelter”

  1. All three of my dogs are rescues. My 4th dog passed away in February but not before she taught me the power of love. Tulip (formerly known as Blue) came to me after spending 4 years in the shelter. She was a Chow that had been a backyard dog. She and her brother were dumped at the shelter at the age of 8. She remained there for 4 years. She became aggressive and depressed. Her brother died at the shelter and she stopped eating and went into a deep depression. Other dogs were put in her kennel, but soon they would be adopted and she would be alone once again. Tulip had a terrible skin infection and very severe arthritis. The volunteers were afraid to walk her. When she came to my home she ran outside and would not come inside. It took two weeks to be able to get a lead on her and bring her in the house, but that is where the transformation happened. Tulip lived in a Reiki home. She received holistic medical treatments for her pain and health issues. She had a pack to care for and a home to watch over for the first time, and she bloomed. She was the most loving, gentle, friendly dog I’ve ever known. She was also an old soul. She taught me that love transforms everything. She lived with us until she was 16. Even in her transition, she gave me a gift that was greater than the pain of her leaving. Tulip is always with me and I’m so grateful she decided to trust me and join our family.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Tulip’s story Jamie! I know that not many people would have been willing to take a chance on her – but I am so glad you did, you were her Reiki angel – and yet she gave you such a beautiful spiritual teaching about love and healing in return! Truly: who is rescuing whom? 🙂

      I know that Reiki played a beautiful role in your bond with each other and her blossoming. Such a touching, happy story! Blessings love and light!

  2. I volunteer at Nevins Farm animal shelter in Methuen, Massachusetts…I spend all my time with the cats…I offer Reiki to the groups of cats and individual cats…I absolutely love being there. I really believe I am helping the shelter cats receive calming energies and helping them to feel more comfortable during their stay until their forever family finds them. Starting in June I will be there 3 days a week and this shelter believes in Animal Reiki but I also do much more of course! Words can not describe how much I love what I do. I am a SARA member. I found my purpose…

    1. Hi Nancy, Thank you for being such an angel for the kitties at the shelter – and for being a part of SARA! I think it is SO important for us to be bringing peace to this time in the lives of these animals – such a service – but it is not so easy. That is why our daily practice really helps us to be grounded and able to hold this peacefulness. Keep up the great work!

  3. Our sweet Tigger dog passed away at the age of 18 last October. We adopted him from a shelter when he was 13. He gave our whole family great love and joy and was the perfect dog for us. Last year we also took four kittens into our home from a feral family and trapped the mother and tomcat and had them spayed and neutered. We still feed them outside, even though they won’t barely let us pet them. My husband built the cutest insulated little houses for them and they moved in promptly. Rescued pets are truly the best. They are so grateful for a better life and we are better for their love and companionship.

    1. Hi Linda, Thanks for sharing about your sweet doggie and the family of kitties that you took in. I think it’s wonderful that you accept them (tame OR feral) and that your husband built little houses for the wild ones 🙂 Thanks for all you do or the rescues in your life!

  4. We currently have 4 cats. The first was a stray, the second came from a rescue group, and the last was a ‘failed’ foster who adopted us.
    The third was one that, while we got her through a rescue group, was in a high kill shelter in western Virginia until we agreed to adopt her. She was freshly spayed when we picked her up, and scared of everything and everyone. She was underweight and would panic if no food was available.
    She spent almost 3 months in my bedroom, and the first several weeks were spent hiding behind boxes. I just gave her as much time as she needed. Once she felt comfortable in the room, we started opening the door and letting the other cats in for short visits. It was all a very gradual process. We had her for at least a couple years before she lost the food panic. At the beginning she ate a lot and gained tons of weight, going from 7 to about 14 pounds in a matter of months. I didn’t interfere a whole lot in the hopes that she would self regulate, and she has. At first she would eat every time she saw food, then at some point she’d just nibble, then months later just check to make sure food was available. Now she’s fine even if no food is out for a while and she’s gradually losing the excess weight. She sleeps with us, purrs madly when held, and we wouldn’t trade her for anything.

    Depending on the animal you pick, some extra time and TLC may be required at the beginning, but it is totally worth it.

    1. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story Lori! Each animal is so unique and has so many lessons to teach us 🙂 Our dog Mystic is from a local cattle dog rescue and is “special needs” in many ways, yet we adore her and she has brought so much love to our family.

      The other day my 8-yr old daughter was talking to Mystic and I overheard her saying, “You are the light of my life!” 🙂 It was sooo cute 🙂

      Yes, as you say, TLC and patience are really important to help heal some animals, but so worth it! We love our Mystic, or as we call her, “our little mee-chee.” 🙂 Reiki has been a wonderful support for us too!

      1. I love what your daughter said, Kathleen. How beautiful! Having cats has been wonderful for my son as well. We adopted Friskie (our shelter rescue) before I even knew that Reiki or Animal Communication existed. I have used them since with my animals and with the many fosters that have come through our doors, and the combination can make such a huge difference. It helps relieve their fear, and knowing that they are being heard is so very healing. Thank you for the wonderful work you do in helping others learn to heal the relationship between humans and animals.

        1. Thanks for your kind words Lori. There is nothing better than Reiki to deepen our relationship with animals and isn’t it wonderful to get kids thinking about animals in a deep and kindred way from the time they are young!

  5. We have adopted from shelters for all our dogs – 3 black dogs – they have all been the best animals in the neighborhood – everyone has loved them and commented on how lucky we were to always have such lovely animals. Each grew to an old age (approximately 14 years) and gave us such love and great memories. I encourage anyone to choose an animal from the shelter.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience JoAnn. It’s wonderful that your dogs could be ambassadors to your community about what great companions shelter dogs make!

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