Once you've decided to add a new companion to your family, you have some important choices to make. You've done your homework and have a breed in mind that will work best for your lifestyle and family, but you're concerned about pet overpopulation. You're looking for a great buddy, not a show animal. By adopting a purebred, you can have the dog you want and do your part to help stem the tide of pet overpopulation. You avoid the costs, toils, and possible disappointments of raising a puppy to adulthood, and you have an instant new friend of the breed you prefer.
Consider whether it's essential that the dog you adopt be a purebred. Some dog breeds are known to be prone to certain inherited disorders. Mixed-breed dogs are more genetically diverse and therefore are more likely to be free of such problems. Many mixed-breed dogs are available in shelters across America, and you will find adoption fees at shelters much more affordable than those of private rescue organizations. Many times, costs such as sterilization, surgery, vaccinations and health checks are included in the adoption fees at shelters.
Ask at your local shelter about dogs of the breed you're looking for, or ask local breeders to refer you to a breed-specific rescue organization. Just as there are rescues for retired racing greyhounds, there are rescue organizations for virtually every breed. Many breed-specific rescue organizations are networks of breeders who donate time to help place homeless dogs of their preferred breeds. Some breed-specific rescue organizations also will rescue mixed-breed dogs that appear to be a cross on the specified breed. For example, Bichon Frise rescue groups will take in mixed-breed dogs that appear to be Bichon mixes.
Register on a wait-list at your local shelter. The Humane Society of the United States estimates 25 percent of the dogs in shelters are purebred. This means your chances of adopting a purebred dog of the breed you seek are high. Adoption staff will call you when a dog of the type you want is available. You can also ask them to let you know when a mixed-breed dog that resembles the breed you want comes in. You could easily find a lab mix that, while not purebred Labrador retriever, has all the general characteristics and disposition of the breed. There may be a wait, but the reward is that you will be getting a purebred or a mix of your favorite breed at a fraction of the cost. The dog's temperament and health will be known, and you will be doing the dog a service by getting him out of the shelter quickly.
Visit Petfinder.org, the largest database of companion animals currently up for adoption in shelters around the country. There, you can search by species, breed and location. The search engine will return a list of all adoptable dogs within a specified radius of your zip code that meet your search requirements.
Do not despair if you find the dog you want in a shelter halfway across the country. Many rescues use a network of transport volunteers who each will drive a leg of a journey free of charge in order to see that a dog finds a home. For example, if you live in South Carolina and find the dog of your dreams in New York, you can ask to have the dog transported to you.
Be sure you meet the rescue organization's requirements before you start the adoption process. For example, breed rescue organizations or shelters that adopt out large-breed dogs usually require that you have a fenced yard. If you are a renter, you may have to provide written permission from your landlord to have a dog on the property, even if a provision for that is clearly stated in your lease.
Small-breed rescues may refuse families with small children for fear of a small child injuring or teasing a defenseless small dog. Terriers are sometimes not adopted to families with small pets such as guinea pigs or cats because of the terrier inclination to chase small prey.
You will be asked to provide a list of current and previous pets so the organization can see your pattern of pet ownership and determine whether you are a responsible pet owner. You will almost certainly be asked for personal references and contact information for your veterinarian, so the rescue organization can assess your ability to care for a pet. You may be asked to allow a home visit from a volunteer, who will ask you to show where the pet will sleep and eat, take a look at your back yard, and ask to meet the other residents, both human and non-human.
Be careful when selecting a dog. Dogs in rescue may be there because of major medical or emotional problems. If you're not sure what to look for, find a dog trainer or expert willing to help you make your selection. Dogs, including purebreds, may also be in rescue through no fault of their own. Foreclosures, divorces, deaths and many other human issues force dogs into shelters.
Put the word out on social networks, search Craigslist, and tell friends you want to adopt a specific breed of dog. You will find that people are happy to help, because you want to provide a new home for a dog in need of rescue.
- collie image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com