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Furry Friends – Adopt a Pet, Save a Life

By Mindy Ragan Wood

According to the Humane Society of the United States, a 2012 survey showed 62 percent of American households own a pet. While those numbers may seem impressive, to those who work in animal shelters and with pet adoption groups, it just means there’s more work to do.

Animal overpopulation is still a problem. Between six and eight million dogs and cats enter American shelters every year. The Oklahoma City Animal Shelter accepted 26,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats, in 2014. In 2007 they began partnering with local pet adoption organizations, now more over 100 groups, who take in the animals and see that they are adopted. They also offer adoption directly through the shelter.

“In 2007 only about 20 percent of our animals left alive, now we are 68 percent being adopted. Our ultimate goal is 75 percent, just because we know that a percentage of those animals can’t be adopted due to temperament or health issues. We do know some shelters are hitting 80 to 85 percent,” Jon Gary, unit operations supervisor of the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter, said.

The Central Oklahoma Humane Society takes about 85 to 95 percent of their animals from the shelter.
“We think it’s important to go to the source with the greatest number of intake, where we can help the most,” said Sue Della Maddalena, executive director of the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter.

Why should prospective pet owners consider adoption instead of a purchasing from a breeder? While there are reputable breeders, there are many who are not. Pets who come from a puppy mill or irresponsible breeders can have behavioral and health problems. Adoption fees are less expensive, ranging from $60 to $150, compared to hundreds of dollars for purebred dogs and cats. As many as 25 percent of animals in shelters are pure bred, according to the U.S. Humane Society.

Katie Boren, spokeswoman for Best Friends of Pets, said saving pets is one of the best reasons to adopt.
“You’re truly saving a life if you adopt. A quarter of the pets being euthanized every day are puppies and kittens because there are not enough homes for them,” she said.

Adopted pets come with perks. Your dog may already be housetrained, have good household manners, and you’re more likely to get a pet that’s right for the family. Most pet adoption services require a questionnaire or interview to determine a good fit for the pet and owner to reduce the chances of the animal becoming homeless again.

“Because the majority of the time animals go into foster care and then our adoption center, the foster families can tell us if a dog is good with cats, with kids, or with other dogs and if it’s house trained,” Maddalena said. “We have a communal cat room at the center, so we learn about the cats while we watch them. Are you looking for a playful cat, a laid back cat, or an affectionate cat? We have a lot of people who are looking for very specific things.”

Shelters and pet adoption groups typically deworm, vaccinate, and sterilize their animals, which easily saves a couple hundred dollars for the new owner. For example, the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter offers vetted pets for $60, or if the pet is over age 4 or has been in the shelter two weeks, the price drops to $30.

Because the secondary goal is to reduce overpopulation, adoption agencies also offer affordable sterilization services for pet owners who haven’t yet spayed or neutered. Best Friends of Pets partner with 300 metro area veterinary clinics to offer affordable sterilization for low income households at $20 for dogs, $10 for cats. Central Oklahoma Humane Society has a sterilization clinic and routinely runs promotions. In February for their “Beat the Heat” special, a female cat can be sterilized for $20. They will also offer free pet adoption on February 14 for their “My Furry Valentine” special.

Pet adoption groups are also a resource for people who can no longer care for a pet. Life changes like illness, divorce, job loss, or loss of a loved can sometimes force an owner to rehome their pet.
For more information about pet adoption or sterilization services, visit bestfriendsokc.org, okc.gov/animalwelfare, and okhumane.org. The Central Oklahoma Humane Society has an adoption center at two PetSmart locations, 7500 N. Western in Oklahoma City and in Edmond at 1921 N. Broadway.

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