When looking for your tween's first or additional pet, an animal shelter may not be the first place you think of. Should it be? Are shelter pets dangerous for kids? After reading my recent article, Teaching Kids How to Respect Animals, several readers questioned me about one aspect. I mentioned how my kids and I visit the shelters regularly and own adopted animals. Readers wondered if kids could be in danger around shelter animals. Are shelter pets safe for tweens?
Will shelter pets give my kids diseases? Most illnesses that a pet would have are not transferable to humans. However, some definitely can be. The good thing about adopting an animal from a shelter is that they have generally been checked out by a veterinarian, as well as received any necessary vaccines. Talk to shelter personnel to be sure your tween is choosing a pet that has been examined and vaccinated. While this of course won't prevent every issue, it will help. Did you know that many of the animals that come from pet stores have not had veterinary care as thorough as some in shelters?
Can't shelter animals be violent toward my tween? Before animals are ever able to be put into adoption status, they must pass both physical and behavioral tests. If an animal is aggressive upon entrance to the shelter, some shelters turn them away. Others give them training to help them overcome behavioral issues and become suitable adoption candidates. Just like any other animal, they are still animals and no method is fool-proof. However, it stands to reason that animals who are upheld to certain standards will likely be proven more safe than those who aren't.
Don't shelter animals come from the streets? Are they feral? While some shelter animals have in fact been strays, not all of them are. Also, not all stray animals are feral. Trained professionals evaluate the animals to see which ones make good candidates for adoption. Feral pets can be domesticated. But it takes extra attention. A feral animal is very highly unlikely to be adopted out to your tween as a pet. Instead, that animal may be placed into a trained foster home until ready to be placed. Some may never be placed. This is also only true if the shelter even accepts feral animals. Some do not accept animals in this condition.
What if the shelter pet came from an abusive home? Not all animals from abusive homes are going to be aggressive or otherwise difficult for a tween to care for. For instance, one of the hamsters our family has adopted came from an abusive and neglectful home. This hamster belongs to my tween. At first I was the one to handle him just be safe. But with love and care, he is as loving as (if not even more loving than) the other hamsters. Not only do my weens play with him, but the younger children do as well. An animal from an abusive home can sometimes mean double the responsibility. Safety should always come first. But an animal's previous situation doesn't necessarily have to mean they won't be a good pet for tweens.
How do I know if my tween should adopt a shelter pet? This decision is just like any other pet adoption decision. Be sure your tween is ready for the responsibility and knows how to respect animals. Talk to shelter staff to figure out which pets match your child's personality. Have your tween interact with potential pets to find one that fits in with the family. When your tween meets with the pet, it will become obvious which one is a good choice, based on that, as well as a professional evaluation. Pet adoption is similar to child adoption in that the decision is based upon both what is good for the animals as well as the potential family.
Before taking any animal into your home, always consult with a trained professional first and be sure your family has the proper resources and knowledge.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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