You to the Rescue
The axiom goes that the world is divided into two groups: you’re either a dog person or a cat person. Whichever it is, and for all those horse people and guinea pig lovers, you know that your life and your home would not be complete without your four-legged or two-winged buddy.
In this series of articles, we’re examining both the joys and responsibilities of being a pet parent. The desire to have a pet is a common one: more than 58% of Canadians count one – or more – as a member of their household. Whether you have always owned a pet and are looking for a replacement, whether your home-alone guardian needs a companion, or whether you’re considering it for the first time… once you have decided that the time is right, and you’re in the market for a new pet, there are a few options to consider.
A Friend in Need
We’ve all been in a situation where a friend’s pet has a litter and they need to find good homes. Or someone in your community who can no longer keep their pet posts their photo on kijiji – Canadian online classifieds – and asks you to take them in. Or the classic “Can you babysit my cat for the weekend” trick, hoping that the unsuspecting sitter will fall in love with the animal and beg to keep it. I fell for that once; in hindsight, I should have known from the boxload of supplies and paraphernalia that arrived with the cat that it was not a 3-day plan. In defense of my friend, his new step-son was allergic to cats. He knew I would love Tigger and I did – for 21 years!
Pick Me. No, Me! No, Me!
The pet retail business in Canada is huge. You cannot pass any destination mall in any Canadian city without seeing one of the major retailers like PetSmart, Pet Valu, Global Pet Foods, Mondou in Quebec, or Pet Planet in Alberta. In addition to food, supplies and accessories, many of these companies offer animal adoption services. For me, no trip to PetSmart is complete without a quick visit to the Adoption Centre. The mix of exuberant puppies vying for your attention, nonchalant cats watching your every move and all those pairs of pleading eyes makes me want to take them all home.
The same thing happens at The Humane Society but on a much bigger scale.
Humane Canada is the largest community of animal welfare organizations in Canada. It is made up of 170 provincial Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs) and Humane Societies. These are registered charities that have been providing care, comfort and compassion to animals in need for well over a century.
These Societies value all animals and advocate treating them with respect and kindness. They strive to keep pets and families together through a variety of community support services, such as sheltering and adoptions, emergency sheltering, feral cat management programs, animal transfers, food distribution, humane education, animal advocacy, and spay/neuter services.
According to the Humane Canada Report published in 2019, more than 78,000 cats and around 28,000 dogs took refuge in animal shelters. During that year, shelters also took in 11,000 animals of other species. These included small mammals, like mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits, and more exotic pets, like parrots, pythons, and tortoises.
With the help of ID tags, microchip identification, advanced alert networks, and social media, 28% of shelter dogs and 5% of cats were successfully reclaimed by their owners.
But know this: the most common outcome for surrendered pets in shelters is adoption, at the rate of 60% for cats and 45% for dogs.
You can contribute to that phenomenal success! Here’s the process for Ontario, as an example:
- View all animals available for adoption via ontariospca.ca/adopt
- Complete the Meet Your Match® survey online to help match you with compatible animals
- Contact the animal centre where the animal you are interested in adopting is located
- Arrange an appointment with the animal centre to conduct an in-person or virtual meet and greet
- Complete adoption paperwork virtually
- Arrange a time to pay the adoption fees below and pick up your new pet
The process could not be easier and it makes for a great family experience. The Humane Society makes sure that adopted pets are health-checked by a veterinarian and fully vaccinated, and passes on these expenses with fees to new pet parents as follows:
- Dog/Puppy: $585
- Cat/Kitten: $260
- Senior Cat (10yrs +): $100
- Rabbit: $130 (spayed or neutered)
- Small animal: $26
- Bird: will vary depending on the species
If you have your heart set on a specific breed of cat or dog, or other animal, there is a vast network of private organizations that specialize in breeding and selling animals. Good breeders put a great deal of time into caring for their animals and screening potential buyers. To find a reputable breeder, go to a national or regional breed club; they should have a code of ethics that members must meet in order to join. You can also find rescue dogs available through breed clubs.
Dog breeding is a big responsibility and also big business. Those who don’t have the knowledge, time, space, love and money to breed and care for dogs at a high standard should not be breeding. Unfortunately, many people do it anyway because they can make a lot of money. So it is extremely important that you do your research carefully to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business and not connecting with a puppy mill or illegal, unlicensed group. Very specialized breeders may not be local, which can increase the unknown. Proceed with caution:
- Ask for registration or applicable certifications of the organization
- Ask for references, and contact them
- Try to visit their premises to meet the animal and inspect the conditions
- Gauge their interest in asking you about your experience with animals and your lifestyle to try to make the best match
- Be wary of someone who insists on meeting you in a neutral place or on shipping the animal to you sight unseen
- Be wary of online classified ads that are commonly used by unregistered sellers
- Ask for information about the parents
- Before paying, make sure you receive veterinary records, a health guarantee or a return policy in the event that health issues arise
If you are not quite ready to make the commitment to a permanent adoption, volunteering at the Humane Society is a great way to be around animals, make new friends, share your skills and learn new ones. As long as you are at least 14 years of age, there are lots of ways to contribute. Training is provided for many tasks including temporary foster care, kitten feeding, delivering Humane Treatment Education in the community and general help in the shelters and clinics.
And, once you are settled in and know your family is ready to love and care for a full-time pet, chances are you will have bonded with a furry creature ready to love you back!
Sources: Facts and statistics cited in this article were sourced from a variety of pet retailers’ websites in addition to:
All PASSION. All PETS
- Benefits of having pets. Joy’s interesting story
For many, having a pet goes beyond having a “pet” at home, but having a new family member. In Canada, it pays to rescue an animal from the local Humane Society. After all, he’s ensconced there through no fault of his own. If you want a pet, this is for you.