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Small Pet Adoption

small pet adoption

In this blog, I will discuss something near and dear to my heart – small pet adoption! 

Small Pet Adoption in United States Shelters

First of all, you should know that it’s not just dogs and cats who are waiting in shelters to be adopted; lots of critters are too. For example, rabbits – they are the third most surrendered pet in United States shelters. 

An estimate of exactly how many are surrendered is difficult, but a low estimate is at least 35,000 every year to shelters alone (not counting rehomed from private individuals) (1). As of this writing, on Petfinder alone, there are currently 5,800 rabbits up for adoption (2). 

As far as guinea pigs go, there are at least 10,000 surrendered each year in the United States (3). On Petfinder, as of this writing, 2,278 pigs are listed. Also right now are listed 331 rats, 255 hamsters, and 175 chinchillas, among other small mammals – 3,400 total (2).

small pet adoption

Why Critters End Up In Shelters

There are lots of reasons small pets are surrendered to shelters or rescues. Sometimes the causes are beyond an owner’s control and can’t be helped, for example, someone lost his or her job, developed a health issue, or had to move to a different country

Many times the critter could be helped if the owner reaches out to an expert for help, for example, because of behavioral issues of the pet (spaying or neutering can usually help!), lack of experience of the owner, or allergy problems (sometimes it just takes a little time for the person’s system to become used to the pet, and sometimes the allergy is actually to the brand or type of hay, not to the pet itself). 

small pet adoption

Most surrenders, unfortunately, are due to some sort of neglect. People often buy critters as “impulse buys” at Easter (see below) or when seeing them in a pet store, or they think that they will make “starter pets” for their kids. Or they don’t realize that any pet involves work and time for both attention and care and requires an adult to be the primary caregiver

If purchased for a child, that child can lose interest in the pet as he or she gets older. If both a male and female are purchased and not neutered or spayed, babies can be born, and they may be surrendered.

And occasionally, sadly, owners may choose to move to a new place that won’t accept their pets or they may accidentally lose them, especially if they are let outside for “playtime.”

What Is Small Pet Adoption?

Adoption is giving an animal who was surrendered to a shelter or rescue a second chance at love, life, and a forever home. I sometimes hear from people that they “adopted” an animal from a pet shop or breeder. This is considered “buying,” not “adopting.”

Getting a pet from a friend or neighbor is also not considered adoption, although it can certainly help both the person and the pet.

There are different types of shelters you can adopt from – city-run shelters or humane societies, independent shelters or humane societies (some of which are privately run, some of which have city assistance), rescue organizations (some with actual buildings and some with networks of fosters), and sanctuaries.

small pet adoption

Most sanctuaries are places that house animals who for whatever reason are not able to be adopted, but some have animals available.

Some shelters or humane societies are listed as “no-kill.” No-kill does not necessarily mean no-euthanasia, however, particularly in those that are city-run. In order to be considered no-kill, a shelter has to have a 90% placement rate of animals in their care (4). If animals have untreatable or severe illnesses or behavior issues, the shelter may make the difficult choice to humanely euthanize.

Benefits of Adoption

When you adopt, you save the life of an animal who may otherwise be euthanized! In addition, since often shelters or rescues are full and don’t have space to take in another surrendered pet, when you adopt you make room for a new pet to be rescued!

With small shelters and rescues, and sometimes even with larger humane societies, volunteers will know the personalities of the pets and can help you choose the pet that best matches you. They can also sometimes help with bonding with other pets and provide you with beneficial resources.

Often, pets who are up for small pet adoption are already spayed or neutered. If not, the shelter can recommend a veterinarian qualified to perform the procedure. 

Sometimes the small pet adoption fee is more than it would cost to buy the pet, but this small pet adoption fee includes having a vet examine it (so you know your new pet is most likely healthy!), volunteers working with it, any vaccinations and parasite treatment, and often the spay or neuter cost. Considering these things, adoption is actually almost always less. 

What Can You Do?

Well, adopt! Just perform an internet search, and you can pretty easily find pets in your area available for adoption. There are even some breed-specific rescues if you are looking for something particular. 

Don’t get a pet as a “gift.” Gifted pets are often abandoned. For example, around 75% of rabbits purchased as Easter gifts are either surrendered or die within the first year (5).

If you are interested in a certain kind of pet, research to see if it is right for you. For example, if you want a pet just to hold and cuddle, don’t get a rabbit; most don’t like this.

Never “set your pet free!” Domesticated critters are not designed to live outside, and they will likely, sadly, not survive. If you hear of people who want to surrender their pet, please tell them this and point them to a shelter or rescue.

Volunteer! Shelters often have a need for people to help with cleaning, giving attention to critters, talking with potential adopters, and fundraising. Sometimes shelters need towels, special cleaning supplies, toys, and certain types of food donated. See what you can do to help!







Copyright 2024 Amy “Brem” Bremers, DVM

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