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Do's and Don'ts of Pet Adoption

Adopting a pet is a selfless act thousands and thousands of animal lovers commit each and every year. Caring for an animal can be a rewarding experience, and adopting a pet from a local shelter often makes the bond between pet and pet owner that much stronger.

As rewarding as adopting a pet can be, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach pet adoption. Before signing any papers, consider the following do's and don'ts of pet adoption.

DO

* Know why you're adopting a pet. The ASPCA recommends that prospective pet parents ask themselves why they want to adopt a pet before beginning the process. Men and women have all sorts of reasons for adopting a pet, be it companionship, a gift for the kids or to fill the void left by a recently deceased pet. Before beginning the process, prospective parents should determine their reason for adoption. If the reason is viable, continue with the process.

* Honestly assess your lifestyle. Just because you love animals does not mean your lifestyle is suited to having a pet. Today's men and women are arguably busier than ever before, something that can be detrimental to pets, who still need lots of affection and attention regardless of how busy their owners are. An honest lifestyle assessment should give people an idea if their lifestyle is conducive to pet ownership.

* Choose the right pet. Choosing the right pet involves more than finding the friendliest puppy or the cutest kitten. While compatability is important, it's often additional factors that determine if a pet and pet owner are a good match. These factors include space restrictions in the home, amount of time spent in the home and the presence of others, be it children or roommates. For example, a big dog like a St. Bernard is likely not an ideal fit for a man or woman who lives in a studio apartment, nor is a pet who requires lots of attention good for a person who is rarely home. Individuals who don't spend much time at home might be better off with a cat who prefers solitude, while those who live in small apartments might be best suited to a small dog or cat. Choosing the right pet involves careful consideration of these external factors.

* Be willing to train the pet if need be. The ASPCA notes that lack of training is one of the most common reasons men and women cite when returning an animal to a shelter. Pet adoption candidates should be willing to train the animal, as effective training opens the channels of communication and results in a longer, healthier relationship.

DON'T

* Adopt on a whim. Adopting a pet without carefully considering all the pros and cons is a great way to find yourself returning the pet to a shelter. Shelter animals are often most victimized by adopting on a whim, as the cost of adoption greatly pales in comparison to purchasing an animal from a breeder. Because those adoption fees are so low, it's not uncommon for men and women to write off the fee as a loss and return the dog to the shelter. This is cruel to the animal and can be easily avoided if people who want to adopt do so after carefully considering everything that goes into being a pet owner, as opposed to adopting a pet after a weekend visit to the local shelter.

* Adopt if finances aren't great. Pets make great companions, but they can also be expensive. Men and women considering adoption must make an honest assessment of their finances to determine if they can truly afford having a pet. The cost of pet ownership extends well beyond the initial adoption fee, as pets need food, shelter and sometimes medication just like their human counterparts. Prospective adopters can visit the ASPCA "Pet Care Costs" chart at www.aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx to get a better idea of just how much caring for a pet will cost.

* Consider pet adoption a minor commitment. Pet adoption requires a significant commitment that will no doubt alter a person's lifestyle considerably. Men and women who enter the adoption process with a carefree attitude are likely to be among the many people who unfortunately return their animals to shelters every year. If you're not willing to make that lifestyle change or commit fully to the animal, don't adopt.

For more adoption tips or information about adoption, visit the ASPCA at www.aspca.org.