Maybe you have your heart set on a golden retriever — that shiny, glossy coat, goofy grin and playful personality. Or maybe you are looking for a calico cat with an attitude as unique as her abstract coat. You’ve done the background research and know this type of pet will suit your lifestyle and family (if you haven't made up your mind yet, click here to take a quiz to find your perfect breed here or here .) But now what? How do you find that perfect pet?
The following tips can help you find a healthy pet from a breeder (and understand the warning signs of puppy mills) or make a love connection at a shelter.
SCOPE IT OUT
If you have your heart settled on purchasing a pedigreed puppy, a thorough vetting of the breeder is key — including observing the living environment and attitudes of both the breeder and other animals onsite. The American Kennel Club or AKC recommends potential buyers follow these steps before taking any puppy home:
- Meet the parents:Seeing your puppy’s parents can give you an idea about the dog she might grow into. Breeders should be forthcoming about the health of the parents as well as the puppy.
- Observe, observe, observe:How clean is the kennel? Do the other animals appear lively and well-fed? Are there any signs of illness? Do they interact well with the breeders or shy away?
- Ask away:Breeders should be willing to answer any questions you have and be willing to keep an open line of communication with you throughout the puppy’s life. Make sure your breeder is knowledgeable and you feel comfortable with them.
- Paperwork, please:Don’t leave without AKC documentation of the dog’s pedigree and be wary if the breeder hesitates or says they will mail papers at a later date.
As awareness has spread, people now know that puppies from pet stores mostly come from puppy mills — large-scale, commercial breeding operations where the health and welfare of dogs is put second to profits, leading to squalid living conditions and misery for the animals. However, even if you avoid pet stores, make sure you avoid other buying situations where the dog may have come from a puppy mill.
- Beware of organizations selling large quantities of puppies, dogs listed in newspaper advertisements, and people selling on the side of the road or at events like flea markets.
- Be skeptical of any breeder who won’t disclose the name of their veterinarian, won’t allow site visits to their home or won’t make the parents of the puppy available to meet.
- Avoid sellers who want to meet in a public place for the sale, demand cash, says he or she is acting as an “agent” for a breeder, or sells puppies before they are 8 weeks old.
If the sale seems shady, it probably is! For more information on how to avoid puppy mills and scams, see Petful’s full article here.
As with dogs, it is important to do a little research when in the market for a pedigreed cat. The Cat Fancier’s Association, a registry of pedigreed cats, offers cat breeder referral services that can help you find a reputable breeder. As with dog breeders, a good cat breeder will also be open about how they raise their animals, happy to answer questions, will provide documentation from veterinarians and will want to enter into a written agreement with a purchaser.
If you decide to adopt a shelter pet is right for you, fantastic! However, walking into a shelter with so many needy animals can be overwhelming. Help prepare with these tips for adopting cats and dogs from a shelter or rescue group:
- Research ahead of time:Visit the shelter’s website or social media accounts. They often post pictures and profiles of available animals. Give them a call to talk to the caretakers themselves about what kind of pet you’re interested in.
- Take the family along:Bring anyone who will be living with the new pet and observe how the animals react to you and your spouse, children, etc.
- Ask questions:Staff and volunteers at shelters spend countless hours caring for these animals. They can offer insights on personality and disposition you may not be able to discern yourself from a single visit.
- Avoid rush hour:Weekends and afternoons can be busy, which means the animals might be more agitated than usual. During a quieter time, you can take your time meeting and interacting with potential pets.
- Take a walkabout:If possible, take your canine candidate for a short walk on a leash. It can tell you a lot about their personality!
- Consider the older animals:Senior cats and dogs are both at higher risk to be euthanized. Their calmer demeanors and house training may be just what you’re looking for!
Getting one step closer to bringing a new pet home doesn’t have to be daunting. The key here is doing some research, asking questions and trusting your instincts — toward breeders and the animals themselves —can go a long way in helping you find the perfect pet for your family.
To Your Pet's Good Health,