Fostering a cat or dog helps prepare them for their forever home (Photo by Alla Shcherbak/Shutterstock)

The numbers are staggering. Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide annually and about 1.5 million are euthanized. While the saying “Adopt, don’t shop” has gained popularity, animal shelters are still not seeing the volume of adoptions they hope for. 

Many people find visiting an animal shelter to be overwhelming or sad. Maybe believe a shelter won’t have the breed of dog or cat they’re seeking. But volunteers tell a different story and sharing their knowledge may help save some lives. 

“If a dog’s record indicates a previous bite, it may not mean what you think,” says Bonnie Zarillo, a volunteer at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter who highly recommends potential adopters stop at the front desk for detailed information about animals that are otherwise overlooked. “For intake purposes, a scratch that draws blood is considered a bite, which would not automatically mean a dog has a history of biting at all. Twenty-five percent of the dogs at the shelter note bites on their record, and when people see that they keep walking. It is imperative to ask more questions and spend actual face time with any dog that may be a match for you and your family.”

With more than 35 years of volunteer experience at several Long Island animal shelters, Joanne Anderson has helped hundreds of people find their perfect pet. 

Sometimes it takes a little time to find the dog of your dreams,” she says. “No one should settle when choosing a rescue dog. Wait until you discover that dog that makes a connection with you.  If you are looking for a specific breed, you can always contact the appropriate purebred rescue organization.”  

Once home, the dog or cat will need three to six months to settle in.

“Too many adopters want instant perfection and return pets for small transgressions,” Anderson adds. “We must remember that any dog (even puppies) that winds up in a municipal shelter or rescue has already been failed by humans at least once. Adopted rescue dogs need time to decompress, catch up on their sleep, bond with new people, and learn the family rules and routine and what is expected of them.”

Bottom line: saving a life can’t go wrong, so with an open heart and open mind, head out to a local shelter or rescue and adopt a new best friend today!

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