Pet Adoption is Good Parenting

Posted by Pia

Adopting a companion animal provides a fertile opportunity to teach important values to children. The decision to devote your resources and care to an animal in need sends a very clear message about the identity of a family and its underlying values. It is a great time to explore who you are as a family and what you stand for.

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Why not consider a senior cat? Meet Subira, who insists she is not a cat. "I am much more special than a mere cat," she says. "Just look at this irresistible face!"
Feline Rescue, Inc., St. Paul, MN: Contact at 651-642-5900;

It is through this process that a child learns things like, "We are a family with an important choice to make, and we are going to use the power of this choice to save a life." This teaches kids about personal responsibility and their impact on the greater good as they make choices in life.

Children need to feel they can impact their world. We need to give them opportunities to do so in positive, pro-social ways. Adopting and caring for an animal can plant the seeds for that ethic.

Conducting a family meeting to determine if you can meet an animal's needs, is a good place to start. You should explore issues such as whether a landlord permits animals, how much exercise the animal needs, how to provide for medical care, who will be responsible for feeding, training and walks, who will care for the animal on vacations, whether you have imminent plans to move, etc. Such a conversation conveys the importance of planning for the long term Navigating potential obstacles and committing to get through them-- for better or worse-- is an important step in conveying to your children, the inherent value of this new family member's life and wellbeing.

Answering these initial questions will also help determine what sort of animal would be a good match for your family. Don't hesitate to enroll the help of a local rescue group in making this decision.

The decision around which animal companion to add to a family can provide for fruitful debates about your family's values. Perhaps yours is a family who is willing to provide a home to an older pet who has found himself in a shelter due to a move. Or perhaps you are willing to provide for a cat who has lost an eye or even a limb. This conveys that you see past age and physical 'limitations' and can appreciate another being's inherent worth. This teaches about acceptance and offers children a chance to witness the inspiring resilience in all animals.

Perhaps your family is willing to provide a home for a pit bull or other breed disadvantaged by misconceptions and negative stereotypes. This teaches kids about pre-conceptions and difference. It also encourages them to learn for themselves and not buy into a public perception that may be biased or misinformed.

Finally, for kids who are adopted themselves, adopting a pet provides an opportunity to talk about their feelings while also confirming a family's positive regard for others in need. Similarly, for a child who is hearing impaired, or who has a condition such as diabetes, adopting an animal with a similar condition (provided the resources exist to properly manage it) can be therapeutic and enriching for all involved.

There is no limit to the great lessons that you can teach when you opt to adopt. It benefits all involved and lives on in the growing minds of the children who participate. The ripple effect of this family activity will undoubtedly foster compassion for generations to come!

In Kinship,

Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (8)

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    It seems that everywhere you look you find pets who need homes. With the way things are today, more and more people find that they can not afford to keep a pet. These people are, for the most part, taking their pets to shelters. With the peace, love, happiness, and companionship I bring to my family, I don’t see how someone can not afford not to have a pet no matter how small it is. If you don’t have a pet now, think real hard about adopting one. First of all, consider the small cost of keeping a pet. I’ll bet that it is small compared to having a pet.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • Good morning Dr. Pia: It's me, Gracyn and I wanted to say how wonderful it is that you are promoting pet adoption. My momma adopted Sweet Tater (she lived for 15 yrs and 7 months). I almost have as many toys as she had.

    Mom said Tater had a really bad heart murmur beginning in her 4th year and some other assorted health problems that mom didn't know about when Tater was adopted. She always got the best Vet care and the best medicine. Tater wasn't even weened yet and weighed only 1.5 lbs. Mommy taught her how to eat from a bowl too. She grew up and finally weighed 60 lbs. When Tater went to heaven, mom waited for a few weeks and then she saw me on the computer (TriBeagle Rescue of NC) and she started the adoption process. I live in a really swell place and get treated really nice. Adoption is the way. I love my home and I love my parents. Well, it's time for my early morning nap and a snack. See ya later. Love, Gracyn.

  • oh i pray for those animals, my heart aches to see so many homeless...I wish we could adopt another pet, but are not in a position right now to do so...
    just a note:
    my mommie delia went for an afternoon walk and fell stepping on a small rock, she fractured her right wrist and hurt her hip...poor mommie she had 3 Plein Air events to do...this is the third fall in two month! she said, maybe I am getting old! anyway she will have to help me type with her left fingers....sooo slow!

  • We've had 8 dogs through the years, half of them adopted from a shelter, couple from the beaches here in Dominican Republic. My friend who lives here too is helping all (or almost all) of the stray dogs running on local beaches. The biggest help - she is spaying / neutering them so they don't multiply as much. I've never met a person like her before

  • Again, in kinship indeed Dr Pia!

    I affirm your every word today, and while I'm not actually an exact product of your presented material today, my love for animals this very day is a result of having had a family pet as a child (ones bought from Boxer breeders). What better way to teach a child responsibility, such as monitoring food and water bowls, or brushing and grooming and walking Fido (or even Fluffie)...not forgetting the 'cleaning up' after them too (inside [vacuuming] AND out [keeping the yard 'picked up'] !) Children must learn that this goes along with owning pets, too - that it's not just about the fun times, but also commitment to and steadfastness in caring about the welfare of our furry (or other) family members!

    I forget this sometimes and discount it in my mind, but in addition to our beloved Boxers in my immediate household growing up, my grandmother had a small kennel of toy/teacup Poodles and Yorkies that were cared for impeccably, each in their own immaculately clean cage. Each one knew which cage was theirs, and when my brother and I would visit (which was often - she only lived a couple blocks away), our job was to let them out to go outside, and each would return back to their own little abode, as if their name were on it! Ahhh, what memories well up, as I write this today!

    EVERY child needs to experience this joy, if the family lifestyle and budget would allow!


  • Well said Cindy! A big hi and hug for Mandy...

  • Hello Dr. Pia,

    Please allow me to introduce myself...I'm Fisher Jimmy, the proud adopted dog of Jackie, Veronica and Jackson. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading your column. I couldn't agree with you more that adopting a pet just doesn't increase the love and happiness a family shares, it teaches a family how to be better humans all around.

    My Mom has always adopted her pets. From the time she was a little girl, she would bring in animals she found wandering around and make them her own. Today she is no different.

    Mom rescued me when she saw me being beaten in the street. She stopped her car, yelled at my attackers, and then scooped me up. After I returned to health, she took me home where I have lived for the last two years with an adopted kitty, Princess Harry, and my baby brother and sister, Jackson and Veronica.

    When I got to my new family's home, I was scared. That soon ended when I found out how much everyone loved me. I was included in all family activities and my birthday has been determined to be on Halloween so I had a big party last year. My baby brother and sister are even throwing me another bash this year.

    I cannot urge the readers enough to adopt and/or foster as many pets as possible. This is truly one of life's most rewarding experiences and can benefit every member of the family regardless of how many legs he/she may walk on! Mom continues to foster pets, but I haven't found one yet that I'm willing to share my room with. Even so, the friends that pass through our house are always fun to play with until Mom finds them a great home too.

    So if you haven't already done so, please adopt or foster a pet today! You won't be sorry you did.

    Fisher Jimmy

  • Hi Dr. Pia, You are a wonderful person to do all that you do to help ALL animals in what ever way you can. I wish to God everyday that more people cared as much as we do about these animals. Let's all hope that more and more people will learn to care and take care of all of these animals who just want some love and attention. Thanks for all you do and inspire others to do. Jan (Dudley Do Right's Mom)

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