Gimme shelter - pet adoption from animal shelters

Gimme shelter - pet adoption from animal sheltersit's no big mystery why many people have dogs and cats. Besides giving us unconditional love, providing loyal companionship and helping to relieve the stress of a bad day, they're just so darn cute. But the decision to adopt is a big one--pets require an enormous amount of time and energy to care for. So before you bring home that puppy in the window, ask yourself if you're willing to accept responsibility for an animal for the next five, 10 or even 20 years.

Once you've decided that you are ready for a pet, consider this: Four million pets are killed by shelters across the United States each year; that's roughly the human population of Kentucky. Adopting from a shelter or animal rescue group will save the life of an animal, which is a worthy aim indeed. But adopting from a shelter doesn't mean you have to settle for a mangy mutt. In fact, the Humane Society estimates that 25 percent of all animals in shelters are purebred. Some shelters keep waiting lists of people who are looking for specific breeds. But do bear in mind that mixed breeds tend to combine the attractive traits of their parents and statistically live longer, healthier lives than many pedigreed animals.

Finding a pet used to be as simple as looking up "Animal Control" or "Humane Society" in the yellow pages. That's still a great way to find a pet, of course. But these days, you don't have to leave home to find the pet of your dreams: An increasing number of shelters have web sites, many with pictures. Some sites even have links to rescue groups that specialize in finding homes for specific breeds of dogs.

Nothing can substitute for meeting and interacting with an animal, though there are some things to look out for. When you visit a shelter or rescue center, choose an animal with bright eyes, a shiny coat and one who's playful, active, alert and comfortable being touched or held. And finally, trust your intuition. It may be that a scrawny tabby with a crook in her tail is the perfect pet for you.