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How to adopt a pet in 9 steps

by Allan Tong​

Adopting a cat or dog is a little more complicated than simply picking up an animal from a shelter or rescue. All it takes is some diligence to find the right pet for your home. Here are some tips from two animal rescuers and a pet owner: 

1. Adopt from a rescue or shelter  The Golden Rule. Never buy. There are many animals out there waiting for a home. “Many people warned me about adopting a rescue dog and how it will not be the same as getting a puppy,” recalls adopter Lamara Mkheidze (her Lucky and Sparky are above) of Montreal, “but after going though the experience I can very comfortably say they were totally wrong.”

2. Select a reputable rescue Start by finding a rescue or shelter near you by searching our directory for Ontario or Quebec. Lamara scoured Petfinder for Montreal rescues, then followed up with Google. “I read through one-by-one to see which had a Chihuahua I felt drawn to.” Talk to people in the animal rescue world, adds Susan Mackasey (below with Frederique) of PetitsPawz, a Montreal cat rescue. “Call your local SPCA/ Humane Society to get a list of reputable shelters, and talk to vets.” Once you narrow down your search, “do lots of due diligence and look up the rescue on all fronts--online, in person and contact references,” advises Mikheidze. “Exhaust all avenues.” 

3. Interview the rescue “We are all very busy, but make sure they will meet you,” advises Louise Makovsky of Montreal's Loulou's Rescues. “If they won't and instead send you to a foster to pick up an animal, I would be a bit more wary. If they are in a rush for you to take an animal, I would also question them.” See if the rescue is upfront and knowledgeable. Ask what food they feed their animals. It's a good way to see if they provide quality care. 

4. Visit the rescue A real rescue is transparent, says Mackasey of PetitsPawz. "Ask to look around. If they allow you only in a small area, ask to see the rest. This way you can check out the conditions." Does the rescue have ample space? Are there hundreds of animals roaming around or are many locked in cages? If so, ask why and for how long? If the rescue/shelter won't even let you inside, avoid it. In the province of Quebec, many animal rescues operate unlicensed, notes Mackasey. "A valid animal rescue does not hide its address from the public."

5. Check the health of the animals Do the animals have dull fur, runny eyes and low energy? Are they clean or filthy? “Ask if the animals are sterilized and vaccinated,” advises Mackasey. “Reputable rescues treat the animals at the vet and quarantine them in proper areas.” If a rescue falls short, forget it.

6. Let the rescue get to know you A rescue spends time and labour caring for a distressed animal and wants to know that it's passing that animal into kind hands. Loulou's Makovsky actually visits the potential adopter's home, especially when children are involved. “I like to meet the family so I can see if the kids are well-behaved. I tell the kids what I expect and I help support the parents to make sure the kids listen. I pay great attention to how the kids act with the parents.” Makovsky (below with Mango) also asks for a reference, such as their vet. 







7. Pay a small fee Once you check out the rescue and find a pet you love, pay for a few expenses. But you said don't buy. True, but an animal will likely need to be vaccinated, de-wormed and/or sterilized; some may need dental work or be treated for an infection. “An adoption fee helps cover the veterinary costs,” explains Susan Mackasey. Louise Makovsky ballparks $175 to cover a cat adoption, and $400 for a dog, though each animal is different. Remember that rescues and shelters are non-profits, so these fees cover their hard costs. Says Makovsky, “Anyone adopting from a rescue that provides quality care...will save money, along with saving a life.”

8. Start a trial period If both parties are happy with each other, then the rescue may hand the pet to the adopter for a initial period, like Loulou's. “We sign a foster contract and the owner takes the animal for two weeks,” explains Louise Makovsky. She provides all food and other needs for the animal. If there is not a formal trial period, then there will be a transition period. A good rescue will help a new owner adapt. Recalls adopter Lamara Mikheidze, “The rescue helped with dog food, moral support (which as nervous first time fosters we needed a lot of ), as well as all the vetting and medical concerns that arise.” Mikheidze made sure she get her dog, Lucky, to the vet for his appointments, made him feel loved and secure, and give him a safe and comfortable place.

9. Home! If goes well between the adopter, rescue and pet, then the adopter and rescue will sign an adoption contract. 

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