Shelter Animal Myths, Part II

Posted by Pia

Last week we explored the reasons why animals end up at shelters, so this week we are properly armed to debunk the myths that exist about shelter pets themselves.

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Myth 1: You don't know what you're getting

The real myth here is the idea that when you buy a puppy or acquire a pet whose lineage appears to be documented you somehow have a guarantee regarding their health, demeanor and personality. While it is true that one breed may exhibit certain characteristics over others, you are looking for an animal, not a whole breed. The individual animal is what matters most. It is important to look for a good fit for your family and lifestyle.

Because shelters and rescue groups are typically not operating to make a profit, they are freer to focus on assuring a long term fit for both the animal and the adopter. This, coupled with the fact that they have often had the animal in their care for a period of time, enables them to offer an informed and candid description of an animal’s history, health needs and personality.

Another point to keep in mind is that adult animals are a better bet when it comes to a known quantity for an adopter to assess. They have reached full size, and their temperament and personality is largely established.

Myth 2: Shelter animals have more behavior problems

Behavior problems are not seen more often in shelter animals than in those acquired by other means. And shelter animals can learn as well as
any of the competition -- in fact, many of them have already been trained by former owners.

Many behavior problems result from animals not being altered. Since most shelters require spay/neuter before adoption, that issue is taken care of for you.

Additionally, many behavior issues are caused by over-breeding within a breed or being weaned too young. Sadly, these practices are frequent among irresponsible breeders whose profit is based on turning around new litters quickly.

Myth 3: Shelter animals have more health problems

Also not so! And just FYI, most experts assert that mixed-breed animals are heartier and less susceptible to health issues due to the natural benefits of genetic diversity. One is apt to find many great mixed breeds and pure breeds alike at the shelters.

Oftentimes, animals purchased are too young to be vaccinated, or weaned before gaining the natural immune protection supplied in their mothers' milk. Shelters require vaccination prior to adoption and will typically not wean or separate a mother and her litter before it is physically and emotionally healthy to do so.

Myth 4: I can't find a purebred at the shelter

Wrong again! According to multiple empirical studies, 25% to 30% of animals entering shelters are purebreds. Many purebreds are sold unaltered and given as gifts that a recipient can't keep. Sadly, gifted pets and un-prevented litters often end up at ashelter. So if you have your heart set on a certain breed, ashelter or a breed-rescue group are great ways to get one. And what better way to show appreciation for a favorite breed than to save one? It's much cheaper, too!

You can search for a specific breed in Martha's Adoption Center

Myth 5: Shelters and rescues have cats and dogs only

Not so at all. Shelters are filled with all kinds of animals. You need not go anywhere else to acquire a best bud. City shelters house hamsters, guinea pigs, bunnies, reptiles, birds of all feathers, and even pigs, goats, horses, etc. And there are rescue groups for all categories and species of critters. You can search for other species of pets at

Ok friends, you are now equipped with the life saving facts! Ready to get out there and bust some myths?

In Kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (8)

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    Years ago mommy and daddy took in a stray dog. It was young and someone who didn’t want him just dropped him near where mommy and daddy lived. It was on George Washington’s birthday, so they called him G W. I guess he was the best dog they had every had up until that time. He was a very faithful and loving dog of a mixed breed. It’s been 40 years now, and they still remember, and talk about, G W. I guess what I’m saying is that when an animal becomes unwanted, they will be very loving to someone who will take them in and give them a good home. Thank you for telling the truth about those myths.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • this was a great article Dr.Pia, I have forwarded this to friends in the hopes they might learn and understand, and possibly adopt a pet.
    Thank You for sharing...

  • I honestly believe in and concur with what Kirby Bear is saying today - when an animal becomes unwanted (sometimes for very valid reasons), they become very loving to their new owner and adjust quickly to their new surroundings. I have read stories about sheltered cats who have come home to their new home without the usual hesitation and hiding that occurs when a cat's environment changes. This, I feel, c-l-e-a-r-l-y indicates to me just how much intuition these animals have - cats, OR dogs. I believe they know real fear - from their unfortunate experiences they've had no control over, and I believe they are able to sense love and a safe haven when changing circumstances are presented (in a positive light.)

    This is my heart's desire - that (when I am ready) my eyes will meet with a sheltered adult kittie's eyes, and it will be love at first sight. I have a premonition, too, that he/she won't even have the color of fur that I ideally have in mind! After the introduction, that won't even matter! [brushing a tear, as I envision it...]

    I am r-e-a-l-l-y enjoying my Mandygirl and am concentrating on deepening our existing bond, since Edgar's passing 4 weeks ago. My heart will know when the time is right in adding on to our little [husband+wife+cat=] family.

    ...deardear sweet little Edgar!


  • Dear Dr.Pia

    I must be honest and admit I have heard these things all my life and pretty much believed them without doing much research if at all to prove them wrong. I wonder how all the rumors start because they do make people leary of getting shelter pets for adoption. I am glad you have cleared up some of the myths and hopefully education/educating readers at The Daily Wag will encourage more animal adoptions from overcrowded shelters and rescue groups in the near future.

    I have learned from you the truth versus myths>~

    Thank you,

    Until next time.

    Pam from California(Mrs. Bosley's human "Mama")
    Mrs. Bosley Chow Chow

  • The pets from many shelters are already spayed/neutered and most have been fully housetrained! What more could you ask for? After having saved my first dog (purebred Yorkshire Terrier), I will always look to give dogs a second chance. In my opinion, mixed breeds have their own unique looks!

  • Adoption is the only way to go if you are looking for a furry compainion. There are thousands of loveable, adoptable pets just waiting for a good loving home. If you are looking for a certain breed, don't buy while homeless pets die......Go to your local animal shelter. And please, do not buy dogs or cats from a pet shop, because then you will be supporting puppy mills and backyard breeders.
    We adopted our Shepard/Lab mix from our local shelter ( well, she actually adopted us!!) 5 years ago, and just recently adopted a two month old Shepard/Lab mixed puppy. We also have three cats which are all adopted. I wouldn't get a dog or cat from anywhere except from a shelter. These dogs, cats and every other kind of creature you can think of deserve a chance at life instead of being put to sleep, because someone didn't get their pets spayed or neutered.
    REMEBER: Please get your pets spayed or neutered. Don't add to the problem of homeless pets.

  • Thank you Dr. Salk for clarifying the myth about adopting a shelter dog. We've adopted an older dog, a 7 year old chihuahua. This is the most mild mannyer, non-yapping chihuahua that we've met! Not only was he trainable, which we've been able to (and I don't have any dog training background either), but we were able to "communciate" with the dog to the point that he'll obey commands and understand what we say to him. He's now 11 years old and still kicking and happy! He is totally house-trained. I've met many of my friends dogs who have bought them from breeders, and I have to say that they have many behavioral issues from the very beginning. I wish more people would adopt rather than purchase them from breeders, especially BYB.

  • Hi Dr. Pia, Thank you so much for clearing up all of these myths that I also thought were true. It helps me feel more comfortable going to a shelter to find a great new dog friend for my precious little Dudley Do Right. Speaking of DDR, his last trip to the vet was successful-no more crystals in his bladder and his PH was back to normal! He says Hi to his girl friends. Jan

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